Tuesday, April 15, 2014


When my first blog post was published, the blog was given the title "Bill's Thoughts," for want of something better, I suppose.  Later, when our daughter Sherry helped to give the blog a new look, she suggested that I expand the title and be more specific about what I was thinking of.  So I added the subtitle "on the Bible, Theology and American Culture," which narrowed the field a bit.

But why this title?  I suppose because I didn't want it to be considered as just about me.  And besides, by this time I could see that this was a pretty accurate description of the content of the blog.  And I feel that for a follower of Jesus Christ, these should be major topics of thought.  These three should, in fact, occupy the thinking of every follower of Jesus.

The Bible is our source of knowledge about God.  Although "The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky proclaims the work of His hands" (Psalm 19:1) and though "Since the creation of the world, His unseen attributes are clearly seen, being understood through what He's made - that is, His eternal power and divine nature" (Romans 1:20), yet we need to know more.  We need specific knowledge of who God is and of His plan for this world, especially His redeeming plan for humankind.  We need this Book as well, to understand His standards and principles for living.  We need to read and think on this Book!

Theology is what we do with the material we find in the Bible.  It's a necessary part of how the follower of Jesus thinks.  Everyone has a theology - even those who don't believe.  We all have a system of thought about God and His works.  It may be inconsistent, even self-contradictory.  Hence the necessity for "thinking theologically," for taking the truths about God that we gather from the Bible (and elsewhere) and arranging them in a consistent pattern or system.  This, like our study of the Bible, is for the Christian, a lifetime process.

And this is why my thoughts on the Bible and theology fill many of the posts on this blog.  At times I write out these thoughts to clarify my own thinking.  At other times I write to interact with the thoughts of others that I have read or heard elsewhere.  And I also write as a teacher, both to inform others, and even more, to attempt to stir my readers into thinking through, or rethinking, their ideas and opinions,

The third term in my subtitle is "American Culture."  Perhaps I need to define my terms here.  The world "culture" is related to the word "cultivate," which anyone who has worked on a farm or tilled a garden understands.  Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary gives a number of definitions, of which the following are relevant to my usage:
          2:  the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties, esp. by education
          5a:  the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
          5b:  the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also:  the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time

So when I use the term "American culture," I'm using it in the sense of definition 5b, "the customary beliefs, etc. ..." shared by Americans.  Of course, I recognize that not all of the 300+ million Americans hold to the same exact culture, but I believe I can say that there are many beliefs, etc. shared in common.  I, of course, speak often in generalities and at other times narrow my focus to particular subgroups.

My concern in thinking and writing about American culture is not simply to comment or give opinion on it, or on certain aspects of it.  My concern is that as a Christian I must relate to American or any other culture from a biblical perspective.  I strongly believe and fear that many Christians today are ignorant, not only of the Bible, not only of theology, but also of how their Christianity is to relate to the culture around them.

I can't find an exact biblical word that could be translated by the word "culture," but the New Testament authors do have some words that come close.

The Apostle Paul usually uses the Greek words aion touto, usually translated "this age."  He speaks of "the wisdom of this age" and "the rulers of this age" (1 Corinthians 2:6).  The word is usually used of the thinking and actions characteristic of the present period of time, preceding the return of Christ.  Paul even says that Christ "... gave Himself for our sins, in order to deliver us from the present evil age" (Galatians 1:4).  I don't believe that Paul is claiming that every aspect of our culture is "evil" but that the culture that characterizes this age is amoral.

I believe that American culture, like all other cultures is essentially amoral, though there are aspects of this or any other that are definitely immoral by the standards of the Bible.  It is our responsibility to recognize those aspects for what they are and to adjust our thinking and behavior accordingly.  This is not a simple task (after 400+ posts, I'm still working on it).

Not only are we in danger of accepting those aspects of American culture which are immoral, there are related, and I believe, greater dangers.  One is that of accepting the beliefs, ideas and behaviors of American culture as equal to biblical beliefs, ideas and behaviors; even greater, as if they were biblical!  But the "American way" is not necessarily God's way!  Even worse, in some cases the American way is even held by some above the biblical standards.

Paul's exhortation in Romans 12:2 is appropriate here:  "Stop being conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

My desire then, in writing this blog is to challenge my readers (and myself) to "think theologically," to think through our biblical knowledge and convictions and to examine our cultural presuppositions as to whether they conform with the Scriptures; to let this thinking transform us; to be critics of the culture around us and not mere conformists.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very well said