Culture is like furniture.

It is always there but we sometimes take it for granted.

My fascination with culture arises from the fact that it can help us to understand why people do things the way they do them. Or think, for that matter. Over the past two years, I have been researching how youth cultures influence our discipleship of young people in the church.

In Africa, we not only have to engage with our traditional cultures. We also live within postmodern cultures, and are called to wisely distinguish between what is helpful and unhelpful. This short write-up can help us to think through how we can engage culture with our Christian faith.

This material is borrowed from a write-up I was asked to develop for training youth in my denomination. You can download it below.

PART I: PRACTICAL EXAMPLES

Cultural practices that we do are asked to do and how they relate with the gospel – or our biblical faith.

  1. Traditional Cultures – ruracio vs mburi cia kiama
  2. Popular cultures – fashion, dressing, speaking etc

PART 2: DEFINITION OF CULTURE

  1. The customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group [MERRIAM WEBSTER]
  2. The characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time [MERRIAM WEBSTER]
  3. complex whole of collective human beliefs [LUMEN – CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY COURSE]
Figure 1: Culture onion accessed from https://www.slideshare.net/iigreencandyii/cultural-onion

In summary, culture is

  1. our creative capacity
  2. to care for or shape God’s created world
  3. that stem from our innermost values,
  4. and shape what we value, how we think and see and what we do.

Culture is coded into norms and traditions and practiced through a group of people.

PART 3: BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF CULTURE

  1. God has given humanity the ability for creativity, to mirror God’s purposes for the world (Read Gen 1:27-28).
  • The reality of sin has influenced our cultural expressions (Read Gen 3, Gen 6:1-8, Gen 11:1-8, Acts 17:26).
  • God has promised to bless the nations (ta ethne – ethnicities / cultures) through the nation of Israel / Jews (Gen 12:2, Gen 17:4, Ex 19:4-6, Hab 2:14, Ez 38:23).  
  • Jesus Christ redeems individuals from different cultures through his death and resurrection (Read Rom 3:23-24, Gal 3:28-30).
  • The gospel of Jesus Christ unites different cultures (Read Gal 3:28-30; Acts 1:8; Acts 10:15, 34-35; Acts 15:8-9).
  • These redeemed and united cultures will forever worship the King in the new heavens and the new earth (Rev 5:8b-13; Rev 21:23-27).

MAIN PRINCIPLES:

  1. Cultural practices can be bad or good, depending on how much it agrees with biblical truth / revelation.
  2. In areas where cultural practices are neutral, we are called to exercise wise discernment.
  3. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the basis of true unity in a world of diverse cultures.
  4. Christianity is multi-cultural and global in nature.

APPLICATIONS

  1. We should not force our cultures on other people and equate them with Christianity – problem of Colonialism.
  2. We should celebrate whatever is good from our cultures – dressing, fashion, music, languages, thinking etc.
  3. We should stop cultural practices that are contrary to Biblical faith e.g. covenants – mburi cia kiama, popular culture – consumerism, “come we stay”, entertainment

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