Wednesday, January 31, 2007

DA Carson on Understanding Culture

Lately, I've been mulling over a theory that a lot of our struggles as the professing church with understanding a Scriptural approach to homosexuality, women's role in church, slavery, etc. toggles on our understanding of how to mutually read Scripture and Culture. The latter would involve two dimensions - culture in the original context and culture today.

Colin Adams posts an excerpt from a DA Carson contribution to When God's Voice is Heard where he details some of what he does to understanding current culture.

ht: Justin Taylor

Anyone have any book or article recommendations they'd like to make in comments about this general topic?



knsheppard said...

Stephen, I don't have anything to offer, but, a caveat on some of Carson's methods. I commend his effort to understand, but, on a topic such as culture, to which some people dedicate their entire lives, does skimming, say, deconstructionist philosophy, ever do it justice? What kind of depth comes from this 'reading' of culture? I've looked at his book on pluralism and found absolutely no reference to the key thinkers in the debate! (Namely, Isaiah Berlin !)

Anonymous said...

Groover here:
I think this is an extremely important “conversation” and topic to consider. Anthropologically, man is man. Respect to culture in the first century and culture in the twenty-first century, we are talking two different worlds.

A simple example;
I live in Los Angeles. People drive to a Friday night bible study anywhere from 15-60 miles to attend. Those in attendance live 5-40 miles apart from each other. If all the church was is attending sermons to gather information, this would work. If that be the case, I could stay at home and download sermons to my heart’s content.

A bible study and the church is more than information, it is about relationships. That said, how in the world does one establish any type of relationships (discipleship/mentoring/etc) with those driving from all over the area?

I’ve yet to hear anyone from the pulpit discuss this fact or develop a strategy for this reality. How do people develop relationships?

The first century, and almost all centuries after until about 1940 or so lived in a village context. This is just one example of how culture has radically changed.

Many of the concerns or issues Paul addressed in his letters to various churches (epistles) have a root comonality to today. Again, man is man. But I think the radical cultural shift in this age must be considered in how we "apply" and "understand" what impact this has had on the individual and family.

No wonder the biblical counselor seems to be the voice today that connects truth to the reality of lives. Why? Because the BC must "listen" to where the individial is at in relation to his reality. The pastor/teacher can be so micro on the text and world of the first century (NT preaching) that he is naive and unaware of culture and where his "sheep" are living.

We need to ask difficult questions, such as;
1) How does the fragmentation of today's western culture impact individuals?

2) How does today's culture (1970-2007) give rise to certain sins or conditions not as prevelant in times past?

3) What are church leaders going to do about this realtiy and what plans do they have for the future? Consider the fact that at least 40% of American males have been raised w/o a father in the home (low estimate). How is this going to impact the church?

4) How does the Holy Spirit help in such matters? Where is there hope & grace when the I.Q (understanding) and I DO (involement)are so far apart?


Stephen said...


at which carson book were you looking ? - Gagging of God?


good questions and the fragmentation of modern society is a huge issue.

knsheppard said...

Stephen, yup. That one. I didn't read it all - did feel like it was worth my time - and did a somewhat exhaustive search through the index for relevant material on pluralism - its philosophy and politics. As far as I'm concerned, it comes up way short. But that's my admittedly shallow glancing through!

Stephen said...


I would be interested if your thinking changes after reading it. I inhaled that book a few years ago after Brian gave it to me (I'm not saying he endorses it!).

knsheppard said...


Yeah, my thinking might change. But considering I have the interests I do, it's hard for me to take seriously a book on pluralism that doesn't engage in much contemporary debate. It would be like talking about the Reformation without mentioning Luther or Calvin. But I should extend him the benefit of the doubt I suppose. Especially if Brian gave it to you! ;-) But his book on the ECM has received similar criticism - for being shallow and missing the mark. I guess I'm inclined, to get back to your post, to look to anthropologists for informative insight on culture. One of my favorites is the late Clifford Geertz - The Interpretation of Cultures - is his classic.