I define theology as a way to apply the truths of God to the human experience; the way God interacts with our humanity by His divine presence. I define culture as the influence in a society that shapes values, ethics, and paradigms. As a pastor I have observed the disconnect between what a person believes and how they live in society. It has been interesting to read all the “techniques” Christians have employed to make the message “relevant” to their friends and neighbors.
It became very clear that this is no simple matter. It requires creativity, tension, paradox, and the Holy Spirit to be able to look at culture and the ways in which theology can address it and bring about the redeeming and life giving message of the gospel. The rise of the “nones,” those that identify themselves as having no affiliation to any religious group, should be of no surprise to anyone. My critique of the American Church is that we have become syncretized as a way to be relevant, trying to merge the sacred with the secular. It has failed, the proof is demonstrated by the rapid decline of the church in America.
We are challenged to hold true to a theology that is redemptive, joyful, and life giving without trying to make it appealing by mixing it with pop culture tricks and gimmicks. On the other hand, we need to embrace and challenge culture realizing there are elements that are life giving.
It was Karl Barth who said,
“We must hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”
We live in the world, we are not to insulate or hide ourselves from it. We live in the world as disciples of the one who is redeeming it. We have the opportunity to use our imaginations to present the gospel in a way that is heard and received. Let’s not be afraid to both embrace and challenge the culture with the truth of Jesus Christ.