Posted by: fatherof11 | June 2, 2008

Cultural Relevance, Revisited

This week I will be reposting some old articles from our archives, checking to make sure we still “agree” with our previous stand on each matter, of course.  🙂  We will be celebrating one birthday this week and one graduation.  When you throw in some medical challenges for me (Ramona), that makes for a pretty big week.  So, here goes:

Phil Johnson over at PyroManiac has been having an interesting discussion on the Christian being “culturally relevant.” Much of the discussion there has been good, pointing out the difference between being culturally relevant and being mired in the culture and its sinful practices.

However, I sometimes have to laugh at the notion of being culturally relevant. My family consists of children from five distinct cultures. Having adopted most of them as preteens or teenagers, they come with the imprint of their native culture upon them. Thus we have a mixture of the prior culture, American culture, and several subcultures as some have come to us via disruptions of prior adoptions. How do we untie this cultural Gordian Knot and preach the Gospel to them?

I can tell you it is not by trying to immerse ourselves in their culture. We simply explain to them what the Bible says with regard to the Gospel in terms they can understand. Sounds too simple does it not. Well let me give you an example.

Our most recent daughter came to us at fourteen from Communist China via a disrupted adoption from an atheist couple who sent her to a Roman Catholic school. In China she was also introduced to some degree to Buddhism. First I have no idea how to be relevant to her cultural context as I can barely conceive of what that is. Second, it does not matter. I simply explained to her about what God says.

We talked about a Holy God and how she was in rebellion against him.

She would tell me she did not believe in God. I would tell her that God’s Word says she knows there is a God and she is simply denying what she knows is true (Romans 1).

She would ask me why what I believe was better than what the Buddhists or the Catholics believed. I told her that because God’s Word says these things are true.

She would ask me about the fact that the Catholics use the Bible too and they believe different things. I told her that if she could show me that the Bible says what the Catholics say, then I would believe it too.

We talked about Christ and His atoning sacrifice. How she could be made right with God by putting faith in Him and repenting of her sins.

We talked about how He was God and how He lived a sinless life and how He died to pay the penalty for our sins and how He was buried and He rose again the third day.

In all of this I quoted very little Scripture because her English was too weak for her to understand the verses as they were written, but explained them to her in terms she could understand and I pointed her to her Chinese Bible, and she read, and the Holy Spirit used His Word to change he heart and she believed.

I have known many believers whose lives changed drastically after they were saved. However, I have never seen such a drastic change in an individual. This girl who literally cursed me when she first came into my home, who left scars on my arms from scratching me, is now my beloved sister in Christ. She now abounds in love for God, His Word, and His people. Today she is not quite sure who she is. All of her old affections are gone. But, she is learning what it means be a child of the Living God.

Two things we can learn from our little example about cultural relevance (assuming we have not already learned it from God’s Word itself).

1) The Gospel speaks to something beyond culture that crosses every boundary and every construction of man.
2) The Gospel is supernatural. God is the one who gives it the power, and He has said that it comes through the preaching of His Word. There is no greater miracle than the changing of a wicked human heart.

Certainly, we may use cultural artifacts as a way of communicating the Gospel such as Jesus did in His parables, or Paul did on Mars Hill. However, that does not mean that we have to become like the culture wallowing in the mire of worldliness so that we can somehow make the Gospel more attractive. He has promised us that the Gospel is offensive to those who are perishing. We cannot make it less offensive without making it less than the Gospel.

In the end, we must obey Him. We must preach the Word and He will save souls through it.

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