~ 29 August 2003 ~

Culture, Time, & Christianity

Os Guinness says some noteworthy things about Christianity and culture in an interview with Dick Staub. Guinness observes:

If you look back when clocks came into the West, there was a subtle change. For example, the idea of being civilized for the Greeks was a spatial idea. If you were inside, you were civilized. If you were outside, beyond the pale, you were barbarian. It was a matter of being beyond.

To be civilized in our world though is a matter of time. The uncivilized are Neanderthals. Change is what matters. Progress is what matters. The latest is greatest and the newer is truer. We think that the whole of history and everything in the world leads up to you and me. We have to keep up with every emerging trend in order to be savvy today.

This notion of progess, Guinness says, causes a problem for Christians who try to make Christianity “relevant.” Guinness delineates the difference between Scripture being the authority of the church and culture being its authority. When culture becomes the authority, churches adapt to it in different ways, such as making services more “seeker” oriented and watering-down doctrine to make it more palatable.

I believe what Guinness has touched on here is only the tip of a large, and dangerous iceberg. We in the 21st century do tend to think that the people of old, along with their ideas, are too old-fashioned to be useful today. How easily we forget the words of the prophet Jeremiah:“Thus says the LORD, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.'”

Therein lies the problem. People not only refuse to walk in the ancient paths, they put forth the notion that these paths never led anywhere in the first place. Church history becomes meaningless, followed by the history of Western Civilization, and so on. The Bible becomes an ancient fairy tale, and the new, progressive society becomes the sole basis for any authority.

Oh that we would at least see the ancient paths, then perhaps we would begin to walk upon them.

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