Culture is important but it is not the most important thing.
Humans will have a culture. The only question is what sort of culture. Christians will exist in a broader culture. Because they are creatures of both nature (creation) and grace (re-creation) they have an interest both in nature (culture) and grace. Thus, Christians, at their best, have not fled from culture. The hermetic monastic movement was never tenable. Even they mostly became coenobitic. Truly, it is not good for man to be alone. We were created to be in communion with God and one another. Consider how disconcerting it has been during Covid for us all to be behind masks. The isolation of Covid has negatively affected communion. Language, art, communication, and communion are parts of culture and Christians ought to engage it rather than seeking to conquer or fleeing it.
Nevertheless, as important as culture is, and as dispiriting as post-Christian culture often is, culture is not the most important thing. Grace, most specifically, the gospel of free salvation by divine favor alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide) is even more important. The Apostle Paul did not pronounce anathema (ἀνάθεμα) upon those who get culture wrong but he did pronounce anathema upon anyone who corrupts the gospel (Gal 1:8, 9). The gospel, not culture, is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16). At the return of Christ we look forward to the judgment and the vindication of believers (Rom 1:17). Are our cultural endeavors eternal? That’s a supposition, a speculation, but it is not a clear biblical doctrine is it? The gospel, the return of Christ, and the judgment: these are basic biblical truths and part of the ecumenical creeds and Reformed confessions.
It is possible that concern for the culture might cause one to marginalize or negotiate fidelity to the gospel. When that happens, as it happened to Peter (see Galatians 2), we may be thankful for a Paul who calls us to repent, who reminds us of the priorities.
©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.
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You only have to look at the attempt to remove filial language from the Bible just a few years ago to better reach the Muslim world as to whether prioritizing culture can lead the church astray. I know people who are still deeply disappointed at the huge failure of this proposition.