Posts belonging to Category Culture



Culture, Conversion, and Post-Christian America

Jonathan Dodson explains how various cultures experience conversion differently and what that means for evangelism in the United States today.

Gospel change in some cultures is more gradual than instantaneous. The American Evangelical tradition of “deep consciousness of personal sin followed by a sense of joyous liberation” is not common to all cultures. Missionaries labored for years before they saw a single conversion, and even then, the conversions were sometimes very different than what they expected. Cultures that are more communal experience conversion differently that cultures that are highly individualistic. In many African and Asian cultures, conversions come in pairs or families instead of by single individuals. Not all gospel change happens identically, especially across cultures.

What these missionaries encountered “on the field” is beginning to occur in the U.S. Many church planters have a pre-Christian past that is very “Christian.” We inherited the evangelical, pietistic conversion experience of our forefathers. Like the conversions of our missionary forefathers, our personal conversion relied heavily upon a prevailing Christianized culture, common basic knowledge of God, sin, faith and Christ. But America has changed. We cannot assume our listeners possess the same knowledge and experience that we did, which is precisely why it is so crucial that we exercise pastoral wisdom through contextualization.

What do you think? Although the gospel never changes, must we change our methods of evangelism in order to share Christ with those in a post-Christian culture?

5 Tips for Halloween

John Mark Reynolds offers the following 5 Halloween Hints. I’ll leave my own comments after each one.

  1. Read Descent into Hell by Charles Williams. Great suggestion! Charles Williams’ novels are the best theologically-poetically-historically informed supernatural thrillers you will ever read. Question for John: Why did you pick Descent into Hell over All Hallows’ Eve?
  2. Watch one of the following: Charlie Brown Halloween special; original Frankenstein; or The Village. I like all three, but I vote for Charlie Brown.
  3. Recall for your family the righteous dead of your own line. If you don’t have a godly heritage, borrow the heroes of the faith. Interesting suggestion. I never thought of doing this.
  4. Do give out candy and not tracts. I know a lot of Christians would disagree with me here, but I’m with John on this one. Maybe a tract with the candy, but definitely not instead of.
  5. Scare a friend or family member. Hmmm. Watch out family and friends!

What do you think? Do you have any suggestions for Halloween?

5 Things You Should Know about Evangelicals

John Mark Reynolds shares five things you should know about Protestant Evangelical Christians in hopes of lifting some cultural stereotypes and building a bridge towards greater understanding.

  1. Evangelicals are not just white, despite media perceptions.
  2. Evangelicals (in general) hate anti-Semitism.
  3. Evangelical culture values education highly.
  4. Evangelicals help the poor.
  5. Evangelicals help hundreds of thousands with severe personal problems become productive citizens.

Those are just the main headings. Reynolds elaborates on each of these points further in his article. Do you think Evangelicals suffer from stereotyping? Do most people today know these five things about Evangelicals?

8 Great Books on Christianity, Culture, Creativity and the Arts

Christianity, culture, creativity and the arts — this has been an area of interest and study for me ever since my days as a student at Berklee College of Music. Here are some of the best books I have read on the subject over the years. Some of these are hard to find, so if you find a good price online, grab them while you can! Here they are, alphabetically by author.

1. The Making of a Christian Mind: A Christian World View & the Academic Enterprise, edited by Arthur Holmes

    There are other good books on Christian world view out there, but I have always liked this one. Holmes draws together five concise essays on Christian world view, history, science, psychology and the creative arts.

2. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, by Madeleine L’Engle

    You may be familiar with Madeleine L’Engle through her Wrinkle in Time series. Walking on Water is a wide-ranging book exploring the implications of the incarnation for human creativity and the arts.

3. Consider the Lilies: A Plea for Creational Theology, by T. M. Moore

    Not sure what creational theology means? This book is a great place to start. Moore lays the biblical foundation for many of the ideas about creativity found in the other books on this page.

4. Art Needs No Justification, by H. R. Rookmaaker

    This one is my absolute favorite. Although Rookmaaker deals primarily with the visual arts, his observations are appropriate to all fields of creative work. And it’s only 60 pages long!

5. The Creative Gift: Essays on Art and the Christian Life, by H. R. Rookmaaker

    Another great book by Rookmaaker. This one is longer, and Rookmaaker is able to go into much greater detail.

6. The Christian Imagination: Essays on Literature and the Arts, compiled by Leland Ryken

    My sister, Bethany, gave this to me on my 22nd birthday. This is a wonderful collection of essays with contributions from C. S. Lewis, T. S. Eliot, Thomas Howard, Flannery O’Connor, Leland Ryken and others. (Note: Some of these essays, but not all of them, appear in Ryken’s more recent book: The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing)

7. Culture in Christian Perspective: A Door to Understanding & Enjoying the Arts, by Leland Ryken

    Part of the Multnomah Critical Concern series in the 1980’s, Ryken’s book examines literature, art and music in relation to the Christian faith.

8. Rainbows for the Fallen World: Aesthetic Life and Artistic Task, by Calvin Seerveld

    Seerveld wrote this book while a senior member at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. Seerveld’s unbridled enthusiasm for God, Scripture and the arts literally leaps off the pages of this book as Seerveld sets forth a biblical charter for artistic activity.

*Bonus: Here is one that I haven’t read yet, but it looks good. Art for God’s Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts, by Philip Graham Ryken.

So, how about you? Do you have any favorite books on Christianity, culture, creativity and the arts to add to the list?

Related post: God’s Good Creation Series

God’s Good Creation Series

I just recently finished preaching through a series of messages on God’s Good Creation.   Here are some of the questions we addressed in the series:

    1) What does it mean that God created all things good?
    2) What is our place in this world?
    3) How do the fall and mankind’s sin affect creation?
    4) As Christians, how should we view environmental concerns?
    5) How can we know God better though his creation?
    6) How can we use our creative gifts for God’s glory?

These are all questions relating to creational theology, which is an important part of God’s teaching to us in the Bible. Here are the links to the messages if you would like to explore any of these questions further.

God’s Good Creation Series

  1. God’s Good Creation – Genesis 1
        (or click here for a summary)
  2. Our Place in God’s Creation – Psalm 8
        (or click here for a summary)
  3. Knowing God through His Creation – Psalm 19
        (or click here for a summary)
  4. God’s Good Gift of Creativity – Exodus 31
        (or click here for a summary)

Sunday Morning SoundBytes – 1/27/2008

Yesterday’s message in the God’s Good Creation Series was called God’s Good Gift of Creativity, taken from Exodus 31:1-6.

Exodus 31:1-6 -Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts — to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you.”

The main idea of the message was that we should use the creative gifts God has given us to bring God glory in all aspects of life. Here is a brief summary of the message:

I. God chooses to whom he gives gifts. (1-2)

God chose what gifts to give Bezalel for the task of building the tabernacle. God is the giver of all gifts, and he chooses which gifts to give to whom. God in his wisdom gave you exactly the creative gifts that he wanted you to have. Your gifts are part of who you are. They are part of the person that God created you to be. And so you should receive those gifts with thanksgiving and use them to the best of your ability.

II. God gives knowledge, skill, ability and craftsmanship. (3)

Bezalel, was a master craftsman. He was filled with the Spirit of God in knowledge, skill and ability to do the work of building the tabernacle. We are not all going to be like a Bezalel. And that’s okay. God not only chooses to whom he gives gifts; he also chooses how much of any gift he gives to each person. But the point is this. Whatever knowledge, skill and ability you have comes from God. God is the giver of all good gifts, and so we should never take a wrongful pride in the talents and gifts that he has given us.

III. God gives a wide variety of creative gifts. (4-5)

God gave Bezalel a wide variety of gifts. And that was all just one person! God in his grace gives a wide variety of gifts to all people everywhere. And so when we think of creative gifts, we should not limit ourselves to just thinking about the creative arts – painting, sculpture, writing, music, dance, design, photography, and so on. All of human endeavor involves creative gifts and abilities, from a simple setting of the table for dinner to the building of a vast cathedral.

Anytime you put part of yourself into a task or project you are being creative. Anytime you organize or decorate something you are being creative. Anytime you solve a problem you are being creative. Anytime you inject humor into a situation you are being creative. Anytime you apply the knowledge, ability and skill that God has given you to the task at hand, you are being creative. And this whole, wide variety of creative gifts comes from God.

IV. God’s gifts have a purpose. (6)

God gave Bezalel, Oholiab and all the other craftsmen the particular skills they needed in order to build the tabernacle. God gives creative gifts for a purpose. Part of that purpose is simply for us to fulfill our role as human beings made in the image of God. A strong, biblically-based creational theology encourages us as Christians to get involved in all areas of life.

Too often we think of Christianity only in terms of the Bible, prayer, and church on Sunday mornings. But as important as all those things are, the Christian life is so much bigger than that. Christianity is all about being human to the glory of God. And so that means taking all that God has created in this world and all of human culture and creativity and then returning it to God in praise. Otherwise, Christian faith becomes divorced from real life, and we lose our real influence as Christians in the world.

Beyond the general overall purpose of reflecting the image of God in society by exercising your creative gifts, God also has specific purposes for the gifts he has given you. Ephesians 2:10 says that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Just as Bezalel and Oholiab produced quality workmanship for the tabernacle, you are the workmanship of Almighty God. And God has not only prepared specific works for you to do, but he also created you with the specific gifts necessary to do those good works. God’s gifts have a purpose, and God has a purpose for the creative gifts he has given you.

APPLICATION: What should our response be to all this?

  1. Thank God for the creative gifts he has given you. Do not put down your gifts. Do not envy the gifts of others. Do not boast in your gifts. Rather, thank God for the specific gifts he has given you, and do so with a spirit of humility and wonder.
  2. Use and develop your creative gifts. Remember the parable of the talents? God does not want you to bury your gifts in the ground. Work hard, and develop the gifts God has given you. Take the gifts that God has given you, develop them to the best of your ability, and then use them in loving service to God and others.
  3. Engage all of life for God’s glory. Remember, “Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” (1 Timothy 4:4) So if you are an artist, then yes, go ahead and paint scenes from the Bible, but also paint portraits and landscapes and snippets of life. If you are a musician, then yes, write praise songs to God, but also write love songs and fun songs and songs about all aspects of life. No matter where your gifts or interests lie, God can use you to bring him glory in this world.

Note: To read the complete message, go to the Sermons tab at the top of the blog.