The Culture Driven Church (or We are of Peace, Always)

by on November 19th, 2009

As Don mentioned last week, we are starting an extended project that I have labeled in my mind “The Culture-Driven Church.” The idea is to trace how culture (e.g. scientific, economic, spiritual, and psychological) have influenced the contemporary church and its mission. That’s the big goal. I suggested to Don that we use our meager megaphone (this blog) and our endearing and astute audience (that’s you dear reader) to help us sort out the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Culture Driven Church. Last blog Don painted a picture. This blog I’m going to ask some questions and introduce the project as a whole.

Now some of you might accuse us of pummeling a certain kind of deceased equine–namely “Modern church bad–Emergent Church bad” In fact we might be accused of the opposite of the philosophers in Acts 17 who were enamored with all things new. We might be accused of being curmudgeons who are enamored with some nostalgic desire to restore the church to some image we think we have. If that’s true, then I’m glad we get to expose this project to the sunshine of your criticism. Because “where did we go wrong” often leads to restoration movements which is just as effective at abandoning the Gospel as running after the culture. I want to suggest that a healthy skepticism of introspecting about the Church’s true mission is in order.

I was thinking about that healthy skepticism as I was catching the pilot of ABC’s new V series. I’m a child of the 80s and so I remember the first “V” miniseries. But in case you aren’t familiar, the premise of “V” is that an alien race comes to earth and offers us all kinds of help for our earthly ills from disease to economic collapse. They punctuate their pleas for trust with the phrase “We are of Peace Always.” They are hailed as saviours. But in reality they are cold-blooded lizard folk who hide their true intentions behind a human apperance and a stoic fascade. The three main characters in the series are an FBI agent, her teenage son and a priest.

When I watched the pretend world try to decide if they trusted the Visitors and how earthlings should respond to them, I was struck by lack of healthy skepticism from the populace and their eagerness to embrace any Tom, Dick, or E.T. that offered them a way out of their misery. I would have been suspicious the moment they talked about giving everything to us for free. Any economist will tell you that any scarce resource has costs and therefore incentives to keep up supply. The only free sustinence was Manna and it stank after three days. But I digress. The official church position is the Visitors are also God’s creatures and in fact a Godsend. But the priest and the FBI agent aren’t convinced. The teenage boy on the other hand follows his hormones and all of the Visitors are very good looking. He joins the Youth movement of the Visitors. Until the FBI agent and the priest discover the truth they are skeptics but not opponents of the visitors. I half expected the priest to utter the words of Ronald Reagan when dealing with the promises of the Soviet Union, “Trust–but verify.” Of course eventually it is verified that the Visitors are both reptillian and Machievellian.

This brings me to my point. What is a healthy skepticism of culture? What does it look like? What did Jesus mean by telling his disciples to be “as wise as serpents but as innocent as doves”? When is discernment just paranoia and back-biting. I am a philosopher and I start all projects by asking questions. And a big question is whether or not your project is worthwhile? These are my questions and there is a good reason for asking them–the apparent laissez-faire attitude of most Christians to biblical discernment. Don gives a good example of what I mean.

If pollster, George Barna’s research is true, ninety one percent of born-again Christians do not have a biblical worldview:

 A new survey by pollster George Barna finds only 9 percent of born-again Christians hold a biblical worldview.

Barna, who surveyed 2,033 adults in his study, found only 4 percent of the general population have a biblical worldview and suggests many of the nation’s moral and spiritual challenges are directly attributable to this fact.[i]

The criteria he used in the survey, is criteria with which we would whole-heartedly agree: For

the purposes of the research, a biblical worldview was defined as believing that absolute moral truths exist; that such truth is defined by the Bible; and firm belief in six specific religious views. Those views were that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He still rules it today; salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned; Satan is real; a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people; and the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.[ii]

The percentages we are most concerned with are the groups which fall within the category of born-again churches of which Barna writes: The denominations that produced the highest proportions of adults with a biblical worldview were non-denominational Protestant churches, with 13 percent, Pentecostal churches, with 10 percent, and Baptist churches with 8 percent.[iii]  

In the words of one of my favorite songs: “Something’s wrong here/ something was here but now is gone.” It is is the task of the Culture Driven Church project (again just my label for it) to figure out how we got to this point. Answering why this is the case takes a bit more time. It is entirely too easy to allow ourselves the luxury of believing this is a new problem which has only recently appeared. Often, we as human beings tend to see and try to fix what are really only symptoms and in the process miss the problem entirely. It is our conviction that a historical perspective is often helpful in evaluating and determining what the core problems are and gain an understanding of how they developed which in turn gives us better insights into solutions.

In the coming months that is what we are going to try to do. Lest we simply accept a culture that is in some sense alien to the kingdom–for we are ultimately not of this world–we will dig beneath the surface and ask the hard questions about just how much the culture has influenced the decline of biblical understanding and to what extent the alien culture in our midst are helpful “little green men” to whom we adapt and accomodate to what extent they might be big green lizards who would use us as . . . well whatever lizards use people for (I haven’t seen the second episode of V yet).  And behind all of this is the desire to obey our master and be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Stay tuned in the coming months as we trace several threads of culture and try to answer the question “How did we get here?”



[i] “Church doesn’t think like Jesus,” WorldNetDaily, December 3, 2003; http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=35926

[ii] “Church doesn’t think like Jesus,” WorldNetDaily, December 3, 2003; http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=35926

[iii] “Church doesn’t think like Jesus,” WorldNetDaily, December 3, 2003; http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=35926

One response to “The Culture Driven Church (or We are of Peace, Always) ”

  1. Georgia Johnson says:

    Glad to know that I am in the 4% of the population that does have a Biblical Worldview. No wonder I am feeling like a misfit these days. Looking forward to the next post.

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