Some are aiming for women worship-leaders, lady preachers, and yes, even female elders. How does the conscientious Bible student distinguish the options of culture from the abiding obligations of divine command? First, no one has the right to assume that a divinely given instruction or practice is culturally conditioned unless there are contextual considerations which clearly indicate that such is the case.
For example, when Christ sent his disciples forth to proclaim the coming kingdom, he forbade them to preach to the Gentiles or Samaritans Matthew ff. Was this to be the case always? In other words, was this cultural circumstance to persist or was it limited to the immediate events? Clearly it was limited.
After the church was established, both Samaritans and Gentiles were granted the privilege of responding to the gospel Acts Thus, though the preaching mission of the apostles in the preparatory phase of the kingdom was culturally limited , as the Jews were being prepared for an acceptance of other peoples, such is not the case now. During his second missionary campaign when Paul came to Lystra, he had Timothy circumcised Acts Was this practice to persist as a divine demand or was it a culturally conditioned decision?
How is one to know? Certain false teachers in the early church attempted to bind circumcision as a matter of religious obligation, but the doctrine was summarily rejected by men acting under the guidance of the Spirit of God Acts , 28ff.
“Engaging the Culture” Doesn’t Work Because Christian Beliefs Are a Mark of Low Status
When Judaizers demanded the circumcision of Titus, Paul refused to yield to their dictates—even for an hour Gal. The New Testament expressly states that circumcision received as a matter of attempting to achieve salvation voids the work of Christ, for in Christ the ritual is valueless Gal. Thus, additional biblical information regarding circumcision puts the matter into clear focus.
Upon what basis, though, could one argue that immersion in water was a cultural phenomenon of antiquity and therefore not binding today? There is absolutely none! The New Testment teaches that the basic elements of Christianity were to be age-lasting.
They were not cultural influences on the religion. Consider these examples. Within this context the Lord authorized immersion into the name of the sacred Godhead. Moreover, the promised blessing—that Jesus would remain with His people unto the end of the world—was coexistent with the responsibility to be immersed. Hence, immersion would be a divine duty until the end of the world.
It was not a temporal, culturally oriented option. May we substitue modern elements more meaningful to our present generation, as some contend? These were not optional expedients flavored by culture. Consider this point. Was this ordinance an accommodation to the cultural habits of that day? May we assume that the teaching of Jesus on divorce and remarriage is not binding today so that one may capriciously divorce and remarry without limitation?
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The fact is, Jewish, Greek, and Roman attitudes concerning divorce and remarriage were all exceedingly loose in that era. Get the point, please. When a New Testament teaching is based upon the historical facts of creation , it cannot be dismissed as cultural. Similarly, in several New Testament contexts Paul affirms the concept that there is a scale of authority in the divine scheme of things. In 1 Corinthians ; ; and in 1 Timothy , the apostle sets forth three fundamental truths.
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First, man is the spiritual head of woman. She is to respect that position 1 Cor. Third, the theological bases of these instructions arise from the creation background 1 Cor. They are coexistent with the Christian age. It is grounded in facts which are not altered by geography or centuries , Rather, it was bound upon churches everywhere. And if any were disposed to argue against his apostolic injunctions, they were informed that their conduct was out of step with the general practice of the churches of God 1 Cor.
We must remember that when one removes a divinely stated rationale for a practice from the text of the New Testament and then injects his own assumed rationale as the basis for the instruction, he is no longer practicing exegesis. He is, instead, guilty of eisegesis i. It is argued that the early church never possessed the entire New Testament. Since a New Testament pattern could not have been required as the norm for the entire family of God in that era, the obligations set forth in the New Testament are not patterns for today.
First, it is an argument based in ignorance. Those early saints may have possessed many more copies of the scriptures than is assumed by some modern scholars. Also, other inspired documents other than what we possess may have been available to the early Christians 1 Cor. Also, the early church had divinely inspired prophets and teachers who were empowered directly by the Holy Spirit to instruct the saints in faith and practice.
The Church’s Response to Changing Culture: A Review of “Future Faith” – in All things
Are we to assume that the Holy Spirit taught a different gospel through direct revelation than that which was eventually recorded for the abiding instruction of the church? What is the basis for making such an assumption? Acts ; Rom. First, the alleged parallel is specious. There is absolutely no evidence that the saints of the early church were ever commanded to kiss one another as a method of greeting.
Nevertheless, reaction against culture can be as powerful for identity formation as would be accepting culture. Thus, Christians throughout time have taken stands against alcohol, polygamy, divorce, abortion, and a myriad of other issues.
Some Christians might reject a certain practice while others gladly accept it. Debates over ethics and practice are intrinsic to the multicultural nature of the Christian religion.
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Thus, the Jesuits saw no harm in Chinese converts honoring their ancestor, while the Domincans and Franciscans called it idolatry. Western missionaries in Africa were more often than not solidly opposed to polygamy, while indigenous Church leaders were occasionally more willing to entertain the possibility. Yet this is not to say that Christianity lacks a core and is completely determined by surrounding culture. On the contrary, at the center of World Christianity is a story. It is the story of the relationship between God and the world, as told through the lens of Jesus Christ.
The example, influence, and reality of Jesus have provided a touch point for all Christian traditions. Thus, the study of world Christianity asks what it is that makes Christians unique as individual groups and coherent as a whole. It seeks to understand the cause of division and conflict both within the Christian community and also with the wider world. As Christians become increasingly aware of their cultural differences, the study of World Christianity will provide tools for navigating the diversity.
It will also, hopefully, provide a space and a platform for discussing our differences and finding a common ground. Annual Theme home.
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