GENE 100 The Making of the Christian Mind
Professor Laura Latora
18 February 2012
Today’s cultural landscape has been shaped by the likes of MTV (entertainment), Steve Jobs (technology), and Mark Zuckerberg (social networking). Society often prefers accepting the “worldviews” of these and other influential people, rather than hearing the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ which offers redemption to a “fallen” world. We cannot ignore the reality that a vast majority of cultural advancements are produced by “non-Christian culture-makers, who, as they become more self-conscious and consistent with their anti-Christian stance, will express their unbelief in their artifacts with increasing boldness.” Christians cannot dismiss the impact and relevance these contributions have made on society. One of the great challenges believers are confronted with is developing an understanding of the importance of expressing and sharing our Christian worldview in the midst of various competing ideologies. One of the hidden ideologies that secular culture promotes is that we can “take care of ourselves” thus, refuting any notion that we are dependent on Christ to meet every human need, including the need for salvation. Christian disengagement from culture is contrary to Christ’s example of Incarnation. Christ did not consider human culture unworthy of his attention and love. He set aside his divinity and put on human flesh so that he could engage us on a social and cultural level. The great commission is an affirmation of Christ’s desire for his followers to “go into all the word”, engaging culture and preaching the gospel.
What is “Culture”?
Culture can be defined using three different approaches: agricultural, sociological, and anthropological. The agricultural approach to defining culture “is derived from the Latin cultura… meaning to plow or till.” Culture is understood from a farming or agricultural perspective which entails the “practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock.” The reference to someone being “cultured” is drawn from this farming metaphor. Education in this sense is the “cultivation” of the mind. The sociological approach to defining culture deals with social class distinctions of “high” (elite) and “low” (mass) culture. This aesthetic standpoint is mainly concerned with the “intellectual and artistic achievements of a society.” High culture is associated with the highest ideals of what is (in a subjective sense) “good”. A cultured person is one who has been acquainted with and educated in the “finer things” of art, literature, music, etiquette, socialization, as so on. The anthropological perspective regarding culture is concerned with “the whole way of life of a group or society, not just its better achievements.” Unlike the sociological perspective, this approach does not make distinctions between sophisticated and primitive social groups. It simply acknowledges that all “activity” which is produced by a social group (texts, art, music, food, artifacts, philosophy, ethics, etc.) is that group’s culture. H. Richard Niebuhr states, “[S]ocial life is always cultural” and culture is the product of “human achievement”. Humanity Was Created For “Good Works”
Culture, as expressed by the creativity of human activity, is a reflection of God who Himself is a creative being. Human understanding of order and beauty is only possible because of God’s magnificent creation of the heavens and the earth. God validated the beauty of creation when He “saw all that he had made… was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Man and woman were created in the divine image and likeness (imago dei) of God and were entrusted by God to care for and tend to His creation. Man was given the responsibility of “cultivating” the Garden of Eden and in doing so bringing glory to the Creator. Here we should take notice between the similarities of the word cultura...