What are some key components in a biblical perspective on culture?
God is Lord of the entire universe. As Abraham Kuyper put it, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”* This means that all humans are accountable to God for all of their actions, including the most mundane or seemingly unspiritual.
Creation was originally very good (Genesis 1:31). This means that matter, physicality, and human life are all inherently good. Therefore, we should make no platonic dichotomies between the physical and the spiritual, as if there were something inherently wrong with physical matter. God created it very good.
At the fall, God subjected all creation to futility. Because Adam and Eve sinned against him, God cursed the very ground under their feet so that it would only produce bread for Adam at the cost of toil and thorns (Genesis 3:17). Paul indicates that this curse applies to all creation, such that the entire created order is groaning under the burden of this curse, longing for the day when God will bring it into the freedom he gives to his children (Romans 8:20-21).
Our fundamental mandate as humans includes developing culture (Genesis 1:26-31). As those who reflect the image of God, we are to care for the earth, subdue it, and cultivate its latent potential in a way that reflects the character of God himself.
This world offers many pleasures that are intended to point us to the goodness of their Maker (Psalms 104:15).
Every human culture is fallen, and therefore every culture, in its own peculiar way, contains mechanisms and structures for opposing the knowledge and rule of God (Genesis 4:14-26; 1 John 2:15-16 . This doesn’t mean that all aspects of culture such as language or clothing are inherently sinful, but that humans will constantly use them for sinful ends. While we shouldn’t simply resign ourselves to this fact, it should be a given, a starting point for a biblical view of culture.
Christians’ unity in Christ transcends and relativizes all cultural differences (Galatians 3:28). Therefore, two Christian from two different cultures have more in common (of significance) than a Christian and a non-Christian from the same culture.
However much we may identify with a particular culture, Christians are those whose citizenship is in heaven, whose life is hid with Christ in heaven, and who long for the heavenly city (Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:1-4 Hebrews 11:10-40 . Therefore, all of our engagement with culture must be marked by a profound otherworldliness.
* Abraham Kuyper, Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, ed. James D. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 488.
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