When I was in college, I once heard a guest lecturer share the following quote he attributed to Karl Barth:
“The Christian should pray with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”
My main goal with this blog is to provide a Biblical lens of faith through which we can interpret the culture around us. I grew up in a church tradition where looking at the culture around us too much was really frowned upon. This always confused me because Jesus always seemed to really care about learning and understanding what life was like for everybody around him.
When I first heard that “quote,” it initially made a lot of sense to me. The faithful Christian should obviously be reading Scripture on a regular basis. However, the faithful Christian should ALSO be well aware of what is happening in the culture into which God has sovereignly placed him/her in order to be able to be used by God to redeem it.
I quickly learned that 3 main problems arose from this quote.
1.) Who reads a newspaper, anymore? News breaks on Twitter now.
2.) Karl Barth never said it. At least not anywhere in print that’s been cited correctly. Over the years, this quote has been attributed to D.L. Moody, Billy Graham, Reinhold Niebuhr, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther, and Charles Spurgeon.
3.) We can easily forget that Scripture and the newspaper/Twitter don’t have the same weight of influence over our lives. News is news. However, Scripture is our supreme authority for life. Far too often, Christians waste time and emotion wanting to hear a word from the Lord when they don’t read all that God has already shared and said in Scripture.
What now? How should the faithful Christian go about learning, understanding, and redeeming our culture?
- Start the New Year in Scripture. – If you’re confused about where and how to start, check out You Version plans to pick out a reading plan that you can get excited about. The New Year is as great a time to start as any.
- Don’t hate the culture in which God has placed you. – Don’t waste your life by simply waiting to escape it. How can we expect to live a life that truly matters if we’re unwilling to connect with people about what’s going on all around us. I moved from Texas to Arkansas almost a year ago and quickly learned that things were waaaaay different than back home. However, I knew Arkansas was my new home and I quickly set out to learn it, understand it, and love it because I want God to use me to redeem it.
- Realize what the real problem is. Culture is not synonymous with sin. When Miley Cyrus chooses to twerk on Robin Thicke to a national TV audience in clothes smaller than a post-it note, culture isn’t the problem, sin is. When a Duck-Man’s comments break social media servers worldwide the same night that 27 million forgotten people went to bed as human slaves, culture isn’t the problem, sin is. When a husband chooses the mystery and newness of another sexual partner over their God-given covenant wife in marriage, culture isn’t the problem, sin is. When a gunman busts into an elementary school and shoots kids for no reason, culture isn’t the problem, sin is.
I don’t know how you view the culture around you. Maybe you hate it and withdraw. Maybe you love it and participate too much in it. Maybe you don’t care.
If any of the above apply to you, I pray you would be open to a new way of viewing the relationship between faith and culture.
Faith is colliding with culture all around us. Let’s examine those intersections together and use them to grow the kingdom of God like Paul did in Athens in Acts 17:22-34.
I’d love to hear from YOU! How do you see the relationship between faith and culture?