Henry Van Til spoke wisdom when he said that culture is religion externalized. Though the serpent may wish otherwise, the faith born in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit comes out our fingers, and not just we as individuals, but cultures are changed. When Jesus commands that we disciple the nations it certainly includes the idea that we are to proclaim His atoning work to all the world. It also means in turn, however, that nations will be discipled.
The more common danger is when we confuse the transformed culture with the gospel itself. The Christian faith is not the same thing as what Christianity does. When we make that confusion we end up with a deracinated civil religion, a cultural Christianity that encourages people to lead clean lives on earth, and spend eternity in hell. We are pilgrims and sojourners. There is, however, another danger- a failure of gratitude. Though a culture is just a culture and not the pathway to God, a Christianized culture is better than one that has not been Christianized.
As I type I am waiting to teach on apologetics in Colombia, South America. One of my favorite things about travelling is the privilege I have of seeing the grace of God at work in places others know little about. This trip has been no exception. I am here with Gospel Through Colombia, and have been honored to labor alongside the good men of this organization. A few nights ago I spent a wonderful evening with the whole Mission to the World team in this country, delightful and faithful men and women. I look forward to meeting still more local pastors in the coming days.
It is, on the other hand, a great challenge to travel the world to see the judgment of God in other cultures. My first day in country we visited Museum d’ Oro, the gold museum. There on display was hundreds and hundreds of gold artifacts from before the arrival of the Spaniards. Displays explained the process by which gold was mined, processed and burnished. Other displays explained the sundry symbols the gold was shaped into. Still others explained the cultural impact of gold production, as well as the economic impact. Alongside all this information, however, with all the indifference and shamelessness that only postmodern multiculturalists could muster, was information on how gold related to the human sacrificial system of various regions of the country. Calmly, dispassionately we were informed of just how sacrifices were killed, and what was done with their blood. Nobody seemed to blush. Those were dark days.
We are certainly in the west living in a time of cultural decline. There is much to mourn, and even more for which we need to repent. Our culture is fast gleefully cutting its moorings to its Christian past. If we ever hope to reverse this, we, Christians, must begin with gratitude for what we still have. These are dark days. Our sun is ever so slowly sinking below the horizon. But praise God we have had light. And that light yet lives in the grace evident in our own lives. Our culture has not yet faded to black. Repent, and rejoice. Mourn, and give thanks. And remember that the sun will rise again, precisely because the Son rose.