Sunday, January 14, 2007

Lessons in Biblical Application in Today's Culture (2)

By The Book MP3s
What about “Today's Culture”

What has changed in 2000 years since the last events in the Bible? At the end of the day.... Nothing. "Today's Culture" is an overblown concept. It's good to address it - we do need to apply some thinking to the discern the air we breath, but ultimately the Bible isn't about our culture today anymore than it's about me. It's the book of God.

What else? God is still the same. He has not changed. His character is the same. What he has done does change throughout the Bible. So, in reading the Old Testament we need to remember that we're before the cross – for example. But since then all is the same. Nothing of ultimate significance has happened since the end of the Bible – we're still waiting for Jesus to come back. And in the mean time he's still holding all things together by his powerful world. He's living and active, like his word – but 2000 years hasn't degraded or enhanced things.

About a century ago the dutch entrepreneur and prime minister Abraham Kuyper said: "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'" That conviction is as true today as then. Why? Because it's based on God's clear word in the Bible. Colossians 1v17 – Jesus the supreme one, who holds all things together by his word. As in the first century so too today. Christianity isn't just a lifestyle or religion - it is a worldview. And it is this Jesus who claims our lives. Nothing holds together unless he holds it together. Taste that for a moment. Behold!

And see what flows from that: 3v17 – whatever you do, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you could possibly too, anywhere in the universe Jesus is thoroughly concerned with it. He stakes his claim on our lives. When we behold the majesty of Jesus we'll know how his claim on our lives looks. And Colossians is very detailed about that – even down to our attitude at work. No Jesus... no wholehearted work... no Jesus no love, no kindness, no thanksgiving... when we're frustrated with non-christian immorality, let us remember that we're only changed because the veil is removed... otherwise we would be just like everyone else. Or worse.

Trying to live without Jesus is like the scientists who challenged God to a creation competition... only to be reminded that they would need to provide their own dirt. Jesus owns the whole universe. And he stakes his claim on every square inch of it. Mine! And every square inch includes politics, money, work, shopping, entertainment, health, education, family, humour, arts as well as church. And we should be asking... how does what I am beholding of Jesus Christ impact politics, money, work, shopping etc...

This kind of rigorous – extensive Christian worldview – reaching to all areas of life is the kind of answer that we need to make to Richard Dawkins who wants to say that Christianity is irrational... and instead to celebrate the triumph of the human mind to solve all problems... A key way to do this is to slow down on the application – say in Colossians 3... and work hard on what the details mean in practice – in view of the big revelation of God we find in Colossians 1.

People haven't changed. We're still people made in God's image but badly marred. Social structures and political systems are a bit different - but they're not really a major theme of the Bible. And Sin is still the same. Sure it can have fun manifesting itself in speeding cars, shopping queues and in the realms of google. Sin may have new clothes but sin is sin is sin. And the biggest issue in sin isn't how it manifests. Sin is rejecting God's word. So when we come to sin we better look at God's word not our world, to find our definitions and issues.

It's when we reject Jesus' claim and we say our own feeble “mine” except we don't own our lives... and if you take what you don't own that's called stealing! Sin does mean that when it comes to application we may find some things hard to apply – because we're sinfully blind to the reality of our wealth, our feeling that we have certain rights, our confidence that we're right in a situation, our desire for vindication, our pride, our intellect.

Take 1 Timothy 2 for example. I'm not saying I have an answer on this one... When I read words about not letting women speak or have authority and find myself saying “it's difficult to interpret and apply that” - is it because it actually is, or because I'm so sensitive to feminist agendas in our society that I'm scared to read it plainly???? What if I apply the same to what I see in 1 Timothy 2v5 about there being only one mediator... after all, that is very dodgy in "today's culture".
Further thoughts : Simon Manchester on 1 Timothy 2 at BeginningWithMoses.org


All Scripture is useful - all of it... that means even the genealogies have something to say to life today. God hasn't changed. Sin hasn't changed. People haven't changed. Sin hasn't changed. We must still remember that God's word is the word of God about God... so if we want instant personal application we're going to struggle. Take that neglected Biblical genre - the Genealogy. It doesn't yield well to meology. Take the start of Matthew's gospel for example.... traditionally Matthew gospel starts with the words ...This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph... but it actually begins A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham... It's apparently of no use, but if we're coming to God's word to behold Jesus... then we've found the book of Jesus... the God who flies in the face of postmodern anti-metanarrativism (is that a word?). The God who has a big story. A historical story. And a story that is full of grace (notice all the "shady ladies" and bad boys in the list) as everything leads towards the birth of Jesus.

7 comments:

  1. Yes.

    I agree.

    Which is why we must apply the unchanging truths of the gospel to our times and cultures, not assuming that they remain unchanged since the first century.

    The fact that the Bible does not refer directly to AIDS, nuclear weapons, space exploration, the Internet or artificial intelligence has resulted in some Christians taking no view on the gospel's relevance to any of these issues.

    Surely a more mature view is to hold the unchanging truth of God's word in one hand and today's daily newspaper in the other and learn how to understand the former clearly enough to be able to apply it thoroughly to the latter.

    This, I humbly suggest, is at the heart of being a prophetic people.

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  2. Stott's Newspaper and a Bible approach is a helpful image. I suspect on this issue there are different correctives required...

    Some feel that the gap is so vast that the Bible has nothing to say... others need to see no gap at all and need to see that things have changed a bit.

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  3. Excellent, and I liked.... anti-metanarrativism!

    Seriously, erm, yes, I agree too.

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  4. Dave,

    Where's your 24 tv show post? All 4 hours have been shown and no post yet? Come on and let's get going and discuss it!!

    Your friend,

    Paul Schafer
    College Station, TX

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  5. Paul,

    You forget - I'm in the UK. We don't get started until next Sunday. Also, I have too many friends who don't have cable and are therefore lagging behind so posting "spoilers" would be cruel.

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  6. Dave,

    I can wait, are you still going to post on it? At least by next monday you will be on Episode 4 and I will be on #5.

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  7. Here I think we only get episodes 1 & 2... I'll possibly post something discreet.

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