Hands down, God gets first place as the ultimate power in the universe. But what power holds second place? You may think that it’s Satan, and perhaps so. But a good case can be made for assigning second place to culture.
Consider this. Culture determines truth for the most part for most people. People believe what they believe because their culture says it’s true. The odds suggest that a man born in Saudi Arabia will stake his life on the truth of Islam. Chances are slim that an American-born college student in Indianapolis, Indiana, would maintain that worldview. This outcome is not the product of genetics. The cause is purely cultural.
In addition to defining truth, culture shapes values, attitudes, behaviors, and virtually everything of significance in our lives. Therefore, in many ways culture constitutes the guiding and driving force in shaping our world and the activities that occur in it.
But of course this is not the case in the Western World. As products of the Enlightenment, we are guided predominantly by reason. Sure we are. Myriad examples can be marshaled to demonstrate that not reason but culture shapes our beliefs and behaviors also.
For example, what rational basis exists for wearing a baseball cap backward except if you are a catcher? Not function, and certainly not appearance. Culture must wield tremendous power to get guys to do that, and even greater power to make them think that it’s cool.
On a more serious note, contemporary American culture tells us that cohabitation is okay, and with this cultural permission millions are doing it. However, a rational analysis of this practice would tell us that it’s not okay. It fails to provide the relational security of marriage and offers no protection for children born into this arrangement. Women and children tend to be hurt most by it, and yet a society that claims to give priority to the rights of women and children endorses it. In other words, this practice cannot even withstand the rational scrutiny of our own societal priorities. But it’s okay because culture says it’s okay.
It’s great to be a Christian because our beliefs and lifestyle are not determined by culture but Scripture. Take, for example, those passages calling us to meet around 10:30 on a Sunday morning in an auditorium preferably with chairs and not pews for no more than an hour and 15 minutes, standing for the worship segment while we are accompanied by guitars, drums, and a keyboard in a structure that may or may not have a sanctuary but must have a family life center (gym).
You get the point. Much of what we do as Christians is rooted in culture rather than Scripture. I am not speaking unfavorably about any of the practices above. I mentioned them to make the case that many if not most of our Christian behaviors are driven by culture rather than Scripture.
Not quite as obvious but substantially more important is the influence of our culture in shaping evangelical beliefs. And since many of the forces molding our secular culture are hostile toward God, the impact of that culture on our Christian worldview is usually detrimental.
A major purpose of this blog is to identify unbiblical cultural perspectives that have infiltrated our evangelical worldview and to provide biblical alternatives. For today my purpose is to provide us with an appreciation for the influence that culture exerts over all of us. Maybe it is the second greatest power in the universe.