In my last blog I talked about how cultural apologetics is needed in our time. In this blog I will briefly summarize how cultural apologetics can be carried out.
There is, indeed, needed a grid by which believers can “combat the cultural and philosophical forces that challenge the truth claims of Christianity and equip them to respond intelligently and with compassion …” This is the essence of cultural apologetics, the refutation of ungodly beliefs, maintained by culture, that “exalts itself above the knowledge of God” (I Cor. 10:6). The beliefs need to be first understood and then challenged by believers. This requires a concerted effort by the Church to equip its parishioners with the tools to be culture makers and not cultural reflectors. By culture makers, I am referring to those believers who influence culture as opposed to those who are simply formed by it. John Mark Reynolds was right when he said, “apologists for our new generation must study culture to help find ways to make things better.” The Church is called to be salt and light upon the earth by living counter-culturally and making a difference for God’s Kingdom. To do this, Christians must first exegete the culture to see what it believes. “By understanding the ideological roots that form today’s social and moral consensus Christians can more effectively defend God’s truth and demonstrate the relevance to Christianity to everyday life.” If one wishes to combat popular culture, one must first understand it.
The most effective way to transform culture is overcome an unbiblical worldview and replace it with a biblical one. To equip believers to do just this, Nancy Pearcey suggests that believers return to the book of Genesis to construct a Biblical worldview. She believes that a return to the Creation account in particular is essential because that’s where one finds out God’s original purpose for mankind. Here one finds a three part theme that becomes the biblical toolbox to construct a biblical worldview. The theme consists of Creation, The Fall, and Redemption. Ascertaining a proper view of Creation, the initial theme of Pearcey’s biblical toolbox, is vital because the answer to this question determines one’s entire worldview. If one believes the Creation story as told in the Book of Genesis, one then embraces the idea that God, not a cosmic accident caused by mere chance, has created the universe. The Bible begins by stating that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The Gospel of John also affirms this idea when it states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” This means that God is both the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, actively involved in every detail of His creation. Since this is the case, one’s allegiance should go to Him given that He is the Lord of the universe. Believers are to use their talents and abilities to bring God glory if they agree with this biblical worldview.
The Creation story also explains what God’s creation was like prior to The Fall. Originally the earth was devoid of evil as God pronounced his creation to be very good (Gen. 1:31). It was in this environment that God gave Adam and Eve their first job description which was to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” In the first part of the phrase God calls his creation to be fruitful and multiply, “which means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, ‘subdue the earth,’ means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, and compose music.” The mandate is still enforced today. As a matter of fact, “this passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells that our original purpose is to create cultures, build civilizations – nothing less.” To do this requires the development of a biblical worldview.
The aforementioned mandate, according to Pearcey, carries with it a responsibility to carry our biblical worldview into our vocation. As she points out, “our vocation or professional work is not just a second class activity, something we do just to put food on the table. It is the high calling for which we were created.” God expects us to honor the original mandate that He has set forth for His creation, to subdue it and create a biblical culture. Together God’s people are called to bring God’s perspective on things, which include our personal lives, our families, our occupations, and on society as a whole.
However, this mandate has become severely hampered because of what theologians call The Fall. After Eve was tempted in the garden by Satan, she acquiesced to his temptation and took of the fruit that God had ordered not to partake of. She, in turn, enticed Adam to join her, which he did. As a result of their actions sin entered the world, leaving ramifications for everyone born after them. Now people were born into a sinful nature that was characterized by selfishness, sensuality, and a severed relationship with God. The human mind in particular was corrupted and needs to be renewed. Because of the Fall the mind is in rebellion toward God. “Theologians call this the ‘noetic effect’ of the Fall (the effect on the mind), and it subverts our ability to understand the world apart from God’s regenerating grace.” Sin erodes mankind’s ability to see things as God sees them. This is why Paul admonishes the Roman church to be transformed by the renewing of their minds by refusing to be conformed to the world’s system (Rom. 12:1-2).
Despite being fallen creatures, God has afforded mankind the opportunity to be redeemed from this predicament. This redemption is meant not just to function as simply salvation “only [for] our souls, while leaving our minds to function on their own. He redeems the whole person. Conversion is meant to give new direction to [ones] thoughts, emotions, will, and habits.” This is precisely what Paul had in mind when he told the church at Rome “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. …” (Rom. 12:2). Paul calls for the humble submission of one’s mind to God. Once born again, the believer becomes renewed in His Spirit, yet the renewing of the mind has not yet taken place. Redemption, then, “consists in primarily casting out our mental idols and turning back to the true God.” This is done, not by an instantaneous process immediately upon receiving Christ, but by an ongoing process of discipleship where the believer continually submits his mind to Christ. To do this requires daily exposure to God’s Word coupled with a daily commitment to engage in the spiritual battle. Commitment to renewal then becomes essential. Cultural apologetics helps to unveil the cultural lies that the believer needs to deal with so as to win the battle of the mind.
Thus, “to talk about a Christian worldview is simply another way of saying that when we are redeemed, our entire outlook on life is re-centered on God and rebuilt on His revealed truth.” This means that just as Jesus won our victory on the mountain called Golgatha, (A word that means the place of the skull), our current route to victory and spreading God’s perspective to a lost world is rooted in the place of the skull, our minds. The renewal of the mind where believers actively reject the philosophies of this world and eagerly embrace God’s truth is of paramount importance today. If Christ’s agenda is to be completed, the Church most refocus its efforts to do just that. Cultural apologetics then becomes a mandate for the Church to assist believers in becoming and thinking more like Christ.
John Mark Reynolds, “Christianity and Culture: Defending our Fathers and Mothers” in, Apologetics for a New Generation: A Biblical and Culturally Relevant Approach to Talking about God edited by Sean McDowell (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishing, 2009), 70