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TEXT:   PHIL. 1:27; 3:7-11

As much as we are surrounded by diverse cultures, it is a fact that Christianity came to influence and

to alter people’s ideologies and belief systems thought to have brought by the West, its originality is

as a way of life from its Founder. Africans were dwelling in their cultures and African Traditional

Religion (ATR) before the advent of Christianity. It will be a misplacement to say, Christianity came

from the West when the Bible tells us, “All authority in Heaven and earth has been given to me.

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son

and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I

am with you always, to the very end of the age” [Matt. 28:18-20]. Christianity as God’s own culture

must subdue all human cultures for the Prophecy of God to be fulfilled.

In this discussion, we have to pay attention to the following headings;

  • Christianity
  • Culture
  • What makes up Christianity and culture
  • Can Christianity and culture mix or exist independently?
  • What is a Christian’s position with culture
  • Can culture threaten Christianity?
  • Danger of wanting to suppress Christianity for culture
  • Exhortation and Conclusion

OBJECTIVES  OF THE LESSON:

At the end of the lesson, we are expected to:

  • Make our calling and election sure
  • Take a stand against cultural issues/practices that are detrimental to our Christian Faith
  • Extol Christ and Christianity over any culture

CHRISTIANITY: In the first place, Christianity came as what people may call idea/plan from God.

God has always been in the business of Covenanting relationships or calling people for HIMSELF.

Secondly, Christianity involves a people who have accepted Jesus Christ as a way of life [Phil.2:5].

This goes to describe a people with a common belief and common destination [Acts

11:26].Christianity can be best regarded as the “way” and not a religion as some people seem to think

[Acts 9:1-2]

According to Wikipedia, Christianity grew out of Judaism. It played a significant role in the Western

civilization in particular Europe and spread through American to Africa. Europeans and Americans

made Christianity their culture until recent time when things seem to be anti-christianity.

CULTURE:Anthropologist, E. Adamson Hoebel, believes that culture “is the integrated system of

learned behaviour patterns which are characteristics of the members of a society and which are not

the result of biological inheritance. T. S. Eliot has it that culture “may be described simply as that

which make life worth living. Emil Brunner, a theologian has stated that “culture is materialization of

meaning”. Donald Bloesh, another theologian, says that culture “is the task appointed to humans to

realise their destiny in the world in service to the glory of God.” Wikipedia defines culture as “The

arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively”. The word

culture has been derived from Latin word ‘cultura’, meaning cultivation.  In 18th or 19th century, the

word culture was used in Europe to refer to a process of cultivation or improvement. Later in the

19th century, the term evolved and started being used for referring betterment or refinement of the

society and, then to fulfilment of national ideals or aspirations. In 20th century, it finally emerged as

an important concept in anthropology describing the human related phenomena that cannot be

considered genetically inherited. It is an attribute referring to members of groups. (Wikipedia)

 

WHERE DID ALL THE CULTURES COME? From God I suppose.

From the men who attempted to build the Tower of Babel? [Genesis 11:1-9]. It is believed that the 3

sons namely Shem, Ham and Japheth after the Flood made this world [Genesis Chapters 9 and10].

For instance, Genesis 10:20 reads, “These are the sons of Ham by their families, their

languages, their lands, and their nations”

 

IS CULTURE AND TRADITION THE SAME THING?

Tradition is a belief or behaviour passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or

special significance with origins in the past e.g holidays or impractical but socially meaningful

clothes but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings.

Tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation or the fact of being

passed on in this way.

Tradition also is a doctrine believed to have divine authority though not in the scriptures, in

particular [Wikipedia].

The most important thing to differentiate between culture and tradition is to consider that, if the

beliefs and behaviors have been forwarded from the previous generation to the next generation, then

it is considered a tradition otherwise not, whereas culture reflects the beliefs, governments, and ways

of life that makes a community distinct from the other. It is important to note that the word

‘traditional culture’ is used to describe the culture that has retained the traditional values. Culture

can be traditional or modern. A modern culture is just opposite to traditional. It does not focus much

on the values and beliefs of earlier generations whereas, it deals with the modern thought process.

 

Traditions and culture forms the identification of a particular society. Traditional

activities always reconnect us with the past, whereas the culture defines the attributes

of a particular society at a particular time and place. Both traditions and culture are in

danger due to rate of modernization. The traditions are getting extinct and the culture is not getting

preserved much in terms of arts. Thus, important measures are required to keep the traditions alive

and enrich the culture.

With what we have heard, can we say the Church is a group of people with a specific

culture and tradition?

 

WHAT MAKES UP CHRISTIANITY AND CULTURE

CHRISTIANITY: As a matter of fact, Christianity can be regarded as an extraordinary or awesome

ideology established by God for mankind. It is an identity of God’s own community of people

according the New Covenant. Christianity consists of the followings:

 

  • Belief System: Jesus Christ is believed to be the Son of God [John 3:16; 8:42-47]
  • Set of Teachings [John 1:17-18; 8:31, 2 John 9 – 10, Col. 2:6-8]
  • Absolute Truth [John 14:6, 17; 17:17; 8:32]
  • Universal view of man’s common origin [John 1:1-5, Eph. 3:9, Col. 1:16]
  • Identity and a way of life [ Acts 9:2; Phil.1:27; 1 Pet. 2:9]
  • Position of Supremacy [ 2 Cor. 6:14; Col. 1:18]
  • Ultimate Judgment [2 Cor. 5:10, 2 Thess. 2:10-12, 1 Tim. 5:24; Heb. 9:27, 1 Pet. 4:17]

 

CULTURE: With the reality that God created man in His Image and Likeness, it is believed that

man’s knowledge of good enhances a better way of life. Cultures are as the result of a common

settlement / geographical location by birth, language, beliefs, stories and legends, symbols and

object, norms, tenets and so on. Man was created to be responsible, creative as well as custody other

God’s creations. Let’s see what makes up any culture;

  • Social organization – the family patterns and social classes of a culture [age or peer group, tribal or kinsmen etc]
  • Customs, norms, values and traditions – way people act, what they wear, eat, marry, their laws and celebrations
  • Language – communication by word of mouth or sign or hands
  • Religion and Rituals – a system of beliefs that answers questions about the meaning of life [African Traditional Religion]
  • Art and Literature – ways the people entertain themselves. Stories they tell and how they dance. What music / song they listen / singing and their art work
  • Forms of government – the people or group(s) that control the people and provide / enforce the laws
  • Economic systems – the methods used by a society to produce and distribute goods and services.

Notably, culture is all embracing because it involves people. To a large extend, Africa cultures were

developed or influenced by ATR. The libation, rituals, norms, arts, stories, songs and so on. As a

matter of fact, culture relates to human activities in a given community, organization and Church.

But very significantly, the culture of the Church stands supreme with Godly impact on other cultures.

Jerry 1992 believed that Christianity is not just personal opinion; it is objective truth. This must be

asserted, regardless of the responses to the contrary, in order to transform culture. Christians must

affirm this. We must enter our culture boldly with the understanding that what we believe and

practice privately is also applicable to all of public life.

 

  1. CAN CHRISTIANITY AND CULTURE MIX OR INTER-DEPENDENT?

Answering this question is like asking, “why did Jesus Christ come to the world? Every culture today

is expected to rally round Jesus as the SAVIOUR of the world. By Him, mankind and all things were

created [Col. 1:16]. Yet man’s nature of disobedience has caused man to always think he can survive

without God. Therefore, man’s final destiny depends upon abandoning his culture in submission to

God’s own culture through Christianity. In other word, man must adjust his culture to accommodate

Christianity.

For the purpose of this lesson, I thought it will be of benefits to share a write up by a man called

Bruce Riley Ashford (Ph.D) who surveyed variety of perspectives (as in schools of thoughts) on the

Christianity and culture through the following headings

  • Christianity against culture
  • Christianity of culture and
  • Christianity in and for culture

Christianity against culture

Ashford noted Christianity and culture as two opposing forces of influence. He cited for instance,

Americans realising that their country is becoming increasingly post-Christian – and in some ways,

even anti-Christian. They realize that their beliefs on certain theological (Biblical Teachings) and

moral issues will increasingly be rejected and mocked by the political and cultural elite and by many

of their fellow citizen. There are Christianity and culture issues all around the world. Teaching

children in elementary witchcraftcy and magic as well as legalizing abortion have become culture

(political and modern beliefs) in America today. Here in Nigeria and Akwa lbom State, corrupt

practices, yahoo boys, ritual money venture, baby factories, cultism, sex slavery and others are fast

becoming our culture. It is of a truth that these things are fighting against Christianity ànd vice versa.

In two analogies, Ashford also attempts to answer can Christianity and culture mix?

In the first analogy, Ashford observed that, Some proponents of Christianity against culture

tend to view the church primarily as a bomb shelter”. This stance transforms the church into

a sanctuary, where people seek refuge from the spiritual siege of the outside world. Christians

sometimes talk about trying to find the balance between immersing yourself in the world and

isolating yourself in a comfy little bubble (Comfort zone). This perspective has fully embraced the

bubble (that is being comfortable). People with this mentality have good intentions.

Ashford says. “These people want to preserve the church’s purity, recognizing that the

church is under attack and that therefore we should hold fast to the faith (Revelations

3:11). They know that there is a great battle being waged (Ephesians 6), a battle that plays out both

invisibly in the heavenly realm, and visibly in the cultural realm.”

But these man-made barriers only create the illusion of safety from sin.

“[This] externalizes godlessness and treats it as something that can be kept out by man-made walls, rather than understanding that godlessness is a disease of the soul that can never be walled out.” So what happens? Ashford asked

This mindset tends toward legalism and tries to restrict Christians’ interactions with society and culture,” Ashford says. “While it rightly recognizes that the Christian life involves war against the powers of darkness, it wrongly tries to wage that war by escaping from the world. This obeys only one half of Jesus’ admonition to be in the world, but not of it (John 17:14–16).”

The bubble of legalism can’t keep sin out of the church, and it hides one of God’s most useful tools us.

Ashford’s second analogy for this perspective takes a more confrontational approach to the conflict.

“Other proponents of “Christianity against culture” view the Church primarily as an Ultimate Fighter.”

Certainly, there is biblical support for a view that pits the church in the ring against culture. “Believers with this mentality are clinging to the biblical principle of waging war against what is evil. They rightly recognize that we must put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11), fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12), resist the devil (James 4:7), and cast down anything that exalts itself against God (2 Corinthians 10:4–5).”

Ashford believed that, “Christianity and culture”mindset still falls short—it’s too easy to see ourselves fighting against people instead of sin. God uses the church in his plan to rescue people, not destroy them. Ashford says, “Our social and cultural contexts are full of unbelievers—but those unbelievers are not only enemies of God, but also drowning people in need of a lifeboat. The church is not only a base for soldiers, but also a hospital for the sick.”

Here’s a different take on the fighting analogy: culture is actually beating people up. Left to their own devices without God, people will take blow after blow—perhaps without even realizing that it’s culture (and themselves) delivering the pain. The false promises, social norms, distorted morality, and unchecked sin present in various cultures can all appear good to people without God. But we know that God’s law is actually designed with love (Matthew 22:37–40). People are fighting themselves, not the church, and many of their wounds are self-inflicted.

The church fights culture by continually pointing to the one who heals the brokenness.

Christianity of culture

The second view Ashford presents embraces culture and brings it into the church.

“Those with a ‘Christianity of culture’ perspective tend to build churches that are

mirrors of the culture.”

Cultural shifts that happen independently of the church aren’t always bad. Ashford

says, “God has enabled all people—Christian or not—to make good and valuable

contributions in the cultural realm.” The human rights movement and the abolition of

slavery brought about monumental positive changes. Looking back now, we can

recognize that there were Christians on both sides of these movements—some

advocating them, and others resisting them. We can agree that the Christians resisting these

cultural shifts were in the wrong. But culture isn’t always right, and the church can’t mirror every

move culture makes. Without God, culture raises up idols in his place—celebrities, politicians, sex,

wealth, power, and even productivity and freedom.

 

Can the church embrace culture without also embracing its idols?

Ashford says, “Christians with this mindset tend to view their cultural context in very high esteem

—perhaps disagreeing with aspects of it here and there, but for the most part finding it to be an ally

rather than a threat.” Generally, this view sees advances in culture as positive changes the

church should embrace. While parts of Christianity can be defined in black and white,

culture often creates large gray areas. Different perspectives may identify the gray as black or

white. This perspective fully embraces the gray.

“Believers with this mentality rightly recognize that God ordered the world in such a way that

humans would make culture, and they rightly recognize that their culture exhibits real aspects of

truth, goodness, and beauty,” Ashford says. “However, this mentality is misguided because it

fails to sufficiently see the way in which every culture, and every aspect of culture, is

corrupted and distorted because of human sin.”

By becoming a reflection of culture, the church can lose its position as a champion of a

better way to live. When Christians embrace the “gray areas,” the better way of life we

offer can become a gray area, too.

Ashford puts it this way, “When Christians adopt a ‘Christianity of culture’ mindset, they take away

Christianity’s ability to be a prophetic voice and usually end up sacrificing doctrines and moral

beliefs that run contrary to the cultural consensus.”

 

There are good intentions and can be positive fruits, but it may not ultimately be the

best route for the church to take.

Christianity in and for culture

It’s no secret that Ashford believes this is the best way to view the relationship between Christianity

and culture: “A third and better mindset is one that views human beings as representatives of Christ

who live their lives in the midst of and for the good of their cultural context, and whose cultural lives

are characterized by obedience and witness.”

Ashford doesn’t use a metaphor to describe this perspective, but here’s a common example you

might find helpful:

As Christians, we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20)—we represent another world, while

we live in the midst of this one.

God created the structure that allows culture to exist, shift, and progress. As humans, we formulate

and shape that culture within God’s structure. “Every cultural context is structurally good, but

directionally corrupt,” Ashford says. “For this reason, we must live firmly in the midst of our cultural

contexts (structurally), all the while seeking to steer our cultural realities toward Christ rather than

toward idols (directionally).”

 

As ambassadors of Christ, we are fully immersed in the culture, but everything about

us points back to the one we serve. This doesn’t mean we agree with everything culture

does, but we learn to understand it and speak its language, identify its true desires—all

with the intention of showing how Christ is the only one who can correctly fulfil those

well-meaning (though often misplaced) desires.

 

Ashford says, “Every aspect of human life and culture is ripe for Christian witness. Every

dimension of culture, whether it is art, science, language, marriage, dressing or

politics, is an arena in which we can speak about Christ with our lips and reflect him

with our lives. We thank God for the existence of culture and recognize whatever is good in it,

while at the same time seeking to redirect whatever is not good toward Christ.” [Read Acts 17:23]

 

  1. WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN’S POSITION WITH CULTURE? [MTT. 15:3-9]

First of all, we should answer who a “Christian” is? Anyone that has heard the Gospel of Jesus,

believed to get repented, confessed that Jesus is the Son of GOD and admitted that Jesus is his/her

LORD and SAVIOUR, got down into the water of Baptism, aftermath is added to the church, and

continues steadfastly in the Teachings and Doctrine of Jesus, is a Christian (otherwise called Christ-

like).

A Christ-Like Person is one that suppose to always to place Christ first in all matters. Therefore, a

Christian’s position with culture is maintaining the desire to please God and Jesus at all course. Any

Christian should know what is anti-Christian (Christ) in his/her culture and should rejectsuch

instantly.

  • He/she should nocompromise his/her faith [4:19 emphasis is mine]
  • He/she knows that “everything is permissible” but not everything is beneficial [1Cor. 10:23 emphasis is mine].
  • Pleasing or compromising certain culture by a Christianwill be detrimental to other brethren’s faith [1 Cor.8:9 emphasis is mine]

Jesus did not condemn any culture yet He said, “His government (culture) is not of this world”. A

Christian should not desire to be involved with much matter of culture since he/she is a peculiar and

Holy person [1 Pet. 1:13-25]. Since you have decided to be a Christian, you have made yourself a

stranger to this world. Why then do you want to practise the culture of a place you no longer belong?

(note you are a called out from the world)

 

If a culture fails to adjustto accommodate the tenets of Christianity, the advice isdo away with such

culture without second thought. If you do that, you will see that HE that is in you is GREATER than

he that is in the world [1 Peter 4:4-6]. We know a brother who is a paramount ruler. He is highly

respected because he has taken a stand as a paramount Ruler for Christ. Parents who have been

involved in devilish marital rituals have compromised their Christians faith. For fear, such parents

will also get their children to believe that if such rituals are not carried out something wrong will

happen in that marriage. Yet Christ delivered them from darkness.Therefore, Apostle Paul warns,

“No, but the sacrifices of papans are offered to demons… you cannot drink the cup of the LORD and

the cup of demons too (1 Cor. 10:14-22). It is time for Christians to realize that they are the light of

the world [Matt. 5:13-16, John. 9:5]

  • Can Christians transform culture? Jerry 1992 argued that Christianity is not just personal opinion; it is objective truth. This must be asserted, regardless of the responses to the contrary, in order to transform culture. Christians must affirm this. We must enter our culture boldly with the understanding that what we believe and practise privately is also applicable to all of public life.
  1. CAN CULTURE THREATEN CHRISTIANITY?

As a student at the Nigerian Christian Bible College, Ukpom-Abak, I travelled in one of my

missionary trips to Etim Ekpo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. I was confronted by a

masquerade. The bike man who rode me told the “man on the mask” that I am a Minister; he replied,

“what is my business with a Pastor!” Brethren from Ibiono and other area of Akwa Ibom State one

can testify how Ekpoand EkͻngNkamba have threatened Christianity from inception. This some

times affect administration of external exams to students. Till date our people are owning up Ekpo

masquerading as their culture. By investigation, some of those who are behind the masks are

brethren. Recently, preacher at a funeral observed that, if these brethren peradventure behave like

Christians as they would in the masks, they will be regarded as insane. Since their behaviour will be

contrary to the culture of  Ekpo Ekͻng. Therefore, Apostle Paul warns that, in the last days,

godlessness will be encouraged in Christianity, some Christians will be  lovers of pleasure rather

lovers of God [2 Tim. 3:4c]. It is a fact that culture at different occasions has threatened Christianity

– and it is still threatening – this is the main reason why some brethren will rather comply to their

culture not minding Church discipline. They usually say, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and

to God what belongs to God” [Mk. 12:17]. It is unfortunate to listen to brethren apply this quotation

to be courageous in cultural sin. In their conducts, these brethren have allowed culture to threaten

their Christian faith [John 3:16-21]. The Old Testament culture of “men sleeping with men” and

related sins have been reinvoked in our time with a modified names like same sex, cross dressers,

transgender [Genesis 19:5-9, Romans 1:18-32]. These are issues that have threatened Christianity

especially in the Western world. Those white people who practise these sins have approved Nigerians

who tow their path. This has not been our culture as Africans. Why then should we accept such as

Christians?

 

  1. DANGER OF ALLOWING CULTURE TO SUPPRESS CHRINTIAN FAITH

There is no doubt that Christianity is superior to Culture. Once upon a time,we Christians were

alienated from God and were enemies in our minds because of our evil behaviours, but God

reconciled us by the death of His son on the Cross. We became unblemish and free from accusation.

Jesus was born into the Jewish culture. Severally, Jesus was apt in condemning things that were

conflicting with the will of God. Of truth, Judaism is the basis for the Jewish culture and this religion

is the offshoot of our Christianity today. Looking closely, one cannot easily separate the Jewish

culture from Judaism.Christianity cannot adopt the Jewish culture since the Church is made up of a

people with different nationalities and cultures. Therefore, the Church as a Kingdom of God on earth

has Her culture. A time came when God could not condole with the interface between the Jewish

culture and His worship. God warned the Israelites to do away with what was pleasing to them but to

uphold righteousness and justice [Read Amos 6: 5 – 7, 5: 23].

Apostle Paul in Colossian 2: 16 – 23 pin points the supremacy of Jesus Christ over mundane things.

Whosoever allows his\her Christian faith to be suppressed by Culture is nothing but unspiritual

(carnal) minded and an idle person, such person is at the risk of Hell fire.

 

EXHORTATION AND CONCLUSION

Christians should make every attempt to let people know who they are. Philips, a religious

Commentator and translator, made references to Romans 12: 2, by exhorting that, Christians don’t

let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould. Allowing the word of God dwell in us richly

will hinder worldliness and any activity that may bring shame to the gospel of Jesus. We should

endeavour to apply the faculty of discerning, that is, discrimination, acuteness and understanding in

matters of Christianity and Culture at all times. Christians are supposed to influence by way of

changing the cultures of men. Jesus and the Church are greater than any human culture. Practically

with words and actions, Christians must endeavour to be the salt of the earth and the light of the

world. [LETS READ 1 Peter 1:8-25]

I PRAY THE ALMIGHTY GOD HELP US UPHOLD HIS TENETS AND TO SAVE OURSELVES FROM CULTURES THAT ARE ANTI-CHRISTIAN FAITH IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

 

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SUNDAY SCHOOL FOR NOVEMBER, 2018 BY BRO. AKANINYENE D. AKPAN (MIN.)