Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Discerning Culture, by Al Mohler

Al Mohler taught a lesson on discerning your culture.

"Discernment" was a theme of New Attitude 2007, which is why you see that word so much in my notes. For whatever reason, my notes on this lecture are not as extensive as Mark Dever's lesson on discerning doctrine. I listened to the message again and supplemented my notes.

How can churches be so conformed to culture? How can Christians be so indistinguishable from the world?
Discernment - knowing what's a matter of truth or taste.

Five wrong ways to understand culture:
1) Let's just join the culture and assume it's just "neutral" and safe. No culture is neutral.
2) Let's totally remove ourselves from culture.
We are deeply engrained in this complex system of our culture. It's dangerous to think that you are not in the culture, when in fact you really are. He mentioned an example of how former NY Senator Moynahan was talking to an Amish man who was worried that his daughter was flirting with Catholicism. He was suspicious because he overheard his 16 year old Amish daughter talking about Madonna.
3) Cannot dabble in one part of culture without being affected by other parts. Culture is an interlocked web.
4) Taking a sip of culture.
"Let's understand a culture by spending 3 days immersed in it." Or by going to an Italian restaurant. You cannot do this, because culture is deep.
5) Aquarium method - finding out about culture by observation, such as looking at National Geographic pictures. Must be engaged in a culture to fully understand it.

Dangerous things about culture are the things we so much for granted that we don't think about (things we hardly ever question). The last things we see with the eyes of Christ are the things we hardly ever think about. Such things are very accepted by culture of the day.

Matt 22:23 The Sadducees' question is a set up. Pharisees ask their own question to test Jesus. Jesus' answer: love God, then love neighbor as self. These are the central commandments. These are two main criteria for discernment of culture. Every single culture is of our concern, because every human being is our neighbor.

While our citizenship lies in heaven, we should not totally disengage from the world; Christians are the representatives of God's love in this earthly realm. If we love our neighbor, we must be concerned with the culture of that neighbor. We must be concerned for our neighbors to come to God.

How do we know anything? Our epistemology (theory of knowledge) is rooted in the Word of God (sola scriptura). We do not measure scripture by culture, but culture by scripture. Where does culture come from? God created cultures in variety and revels in it. However, every single culture has fallen and is marked by human pride. Culture itself becomes an idol. But all culture and all monuments to human achievement will pass away.

Engage culture for God's glory and witness. Culture will always be there. Can't escape, but Christians (since we belong to a heavenly counter-culture) should be able to step back, and should de-tox periodically.

The end. There is a lot that I did not take notes on. If you wish, fill in the gaps by listening to the 55 minute long lecture, linked topside.

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