The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Thursday, October 14, 2004
A Salt on Culture
ByFaith.com online PCA magazine has two part (part 1, part 2) article, "Culture: Hate It? Love It? Redeem It!" by William P. Smith.

Some of what Smith says is really helpful. But some is off the mark. In Part 1 he contrasts two opposite extremes: "Denigrating Cultural Influences" and "Accommodating Cultural Influences ". About the former, Smith says

There are two problems, however, with this approach. First, it is not possible to isolate those inside the church from the surrounding culture. With society as intertwined as it is, you will always encounter non-Christian elements wherever you are, and you will always be affected by them—your kids (including those attending Christian schools) know about and admire the Hulk, SpongeBob SquarePants, and the Powerpuff Girls, even if you won't let them dress up to look like them. Doing nothing other than obtaining the necessities of life—buying groceries, getting gasoline, shopping for clothes—requires you to interact with others and their cultural influences. And lest you think you could avoid such influences by radically living "off the grid", remember that you, and those with you, being redeemed sinners, will generate your own culture with its attendant sinful distortions. To think that it is possible to avoid "contamination" by eliminating our interaction with those around us is a myth.

Second, trying to barricade the church doors against cultural imports results in the loss of salt and light to the world. Christian ghettos develop their own culture, with peculiar activities and language completely incomprehensible to society at large. That ghetto, foreign as it is, has no way to communicate to the larger society.

It may be indeed impossible to entirely avoid the corrupting influence of surrounding godless culture. But should we try to minimize it as much as possible? As Paul said, "Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits.""

Are we really going to be in danger of not being able to communicate with our surrounding culture? This didn't seem to be a problem for the early Apostles, who were culturally aware of Hellensism but not immersed.

Again, I ask, were is the antithesis.

Or, to put it another way: How are we to be salt unless we are salty.