Culture Wars, pt. 1: The Foundations

 

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

December 10, 2000

Culture Wars, pt. 1: The Foundations

Selected Scriptures



CULTURAL CONFLICT

This morning I want to put an extension on to our study of spiritual warfare in its practical
aspects of everyday life as manifested in the society in which we live. We need to understand clearly that
our major involvement in spiritual warfare is going to be in the conflict that Christians inevitably have
with the cultures in which they live.

I think everyone is very aware that there are differences in cultures. Sometimes those differences
can result in humorous situations. For example, last week several of the families in our church hosted
Jamie & Tracy Fox, a brother and sister from England that have been traveling here in the United States.
I believe it was Winston Churchill that said something to effect that no two nations (the U.S. and Great
Britain) have been more separated by the same language. I know that most of enjoyed their accents and
the difference in the meanings of words. We now know that a “que” is a line and when a man is looking
for a “jumper” for himself, he wants a sweater. Cultural differences can also result in serious
conflict and even war between nations. The continuing conflict between Israel and the surrounding Arab
nations and the so called, “Palestinians,” is by and large a cultural conflict based in religious belief. It is
theological belief that forms the foundation of a culture’s worldview. Those who do not understand this
basic principle will aggravate the friction that exists between all cultures.

Since I will be mentioning worldview a lot in the next two weeks, I need to make sure you
understand what I mean by that. A worldview is the overall perception a person or group has of reality. It
incorporates their philosophical presuppositions, their understanding of history and the present and their
desires for the future.

The Christian and the non-Christian have different worldviews and cultural norms because they
are based on very different theological beliefs. These in turn cause friction and conflict. If the Christian
is not careful, he can either be assimilated into another culture to the point that his supposed theological
beliefs are properly called into question, or he can become so antagonistic to other cultures that he
separates himself from any meaningful interaction with people in those cultures. Neither of these are
acceptable for the Christian for while we are commanded to not love the world and the things in it, we
are also to evangelize the world.

How do we keep the balance? How do can we engage the cultures around us with meaningful
interaction and yet avoid being assimilated by them? How do we maintain a proper Biblical Separation
without becoming isolationists and forming our own Christian ghettos? Those are the questions we are
going to try to answer the next two weeks.



SEPARATION AND ASSIMILATION

First, lets make sure that we have a basic understanding of the importance of both Biblical
separation and the dangers of cultural assimilation.

ASSIMILATION. The danger of cultural assimilation is seen through out the Scriptures in the
many warnings about continuing in lives of sinfulness. For example, in Romans Paul tells us that we
should consider ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Jesus (6:11) since we have been freed from sin
and enslaved to righteousness in God (6:18, 22). We are to have our minds on the Spirit and no longer
on the flesh (8:5). In light of all God has done for us through Jesus Christ in redeeming us from our sins,
we are to present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices, acceptable to God, and not be conformed to
this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (12:1,2). In 1 Corinthians there are many
warnings in specific areas of how the Christian is to live in contrast to the unbeliever. We are to lay aside
our old self and put on the new self (Eph. 4:22). We are commanded to set our minds on the things
above, and not on the things of earth (Col. 3:1) and consider the members of our earthly bodies as dead
to the evils of this world including immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, greed, anger, wrath,
malice, slander, and lying (Col. 3:5,8,9). As the apostle John put it in 1 John 2:15,16, we are not to love
the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is
not from the Father, but is from the world.
This is a very practical command, for as verse 17 And the
world is passing away, and [also] its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.

Friendship with the world is hostility toward God (James 4:4). If you live in the same manner as
the world, then you are assimilated, and not only will you suffer the personal consequences of your sins,
but you also lose our ability to be used of God to change the world.



SEPARATION is simply another way to refer to holy living. To be holy means to be separated
unto God. This of necessity means that we are separated from the world. We have talked about that quite
a bit in the last couple of months. However, there is proper and improper separation. There is proper
holy living as defined by God, and there is the supposed holy living as defined by people. It is not
uncommon for groups to set standards of conduct that are not found in either the commands or principles
of the Scriptures. This was the problem of the pharisees and it is a problem that is still with us today.
People define holy and righteous living in terms of their own list of do’s and don’ts. This is not done
with evil intent, but whenever we change God’s standards and claim our own are better, then there is an
evil result. One of those results can be an unbiblical separation from the world.



OUR COMMISSION

It is vital at this point that we remember the commission that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on
earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am
with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus spoke this at His ascension into heaven. Mark records an additional statement Jesus made
on that occasion – “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”Mark 16:15. These
commandments by our Lord cannot be carried out if we isolate ourselves into a ghetto of Christian
culture. Frankly, this is one of the theological problems with those that espouse extreme separation from
the world. Whether it manifests itself in a so called “Christian” commune or an isolated community such
as exists among the Amish, the problem is the same. The commission is to “go.” We must leave our
comfort zones and reach those that are lost in their sins. In seeking a proper and Biblical separation from
the world and its practices, we must never lose sight of our commission to reach that world for our Lord.
Isolationist groups lose sight of that commission and set their lives up to revolve around what is most
comfortable for themselves.

That is a warning that most of us need to be careful about, for it is not just the Amish and
communes that forget about the Great Commission. It is a mindset that it often seen within what are
supposed to be “evangelical” churches. (In the examples I am going to give, I am not condemning those
that are doing these things, for there are good reasons for doing them, but I am seeking to challenge our
thinking about why we may or may not do something). Diane and I homeschool our sons for a variety of
reasons but that does not include trying to isolate them from our increasingly pagan society. Yet, that is a
reason among many homeschoolers. There is even a movement for what is sometimes called the
“Family-Centered Church,” and while there are many good aspects to this movement, there is a danger
when a motive behind it for some is the fear of the influence of others (including other less mature
Christians) on your children. Yet, before we criticize such a movement too much, we must ask, is that
really that radically different from what happens in most churches?

How long does it take after someone becomes a Christian to separate themselves from their
former friends and isolate themselves to a select group of Christian friends? Again, I am not saying that
there are not good and legitimate reasons for this to happen to at least some degree, but I am challenging
you to think of the motives behind it. Could this phenomena be a result of forgetting our commission to
reach the lost and instead seeking out a comfortable life for ourselves? Are the large “Christian”
retirement communities in Florida a manifestation of this same problem carried out on a larger scale?
Instead of seeking to be the “light” in an otherwise dark community, we want to live next to all the other
“lights.” Again, I understand there are some great benefits to this and legitimate reasons, but I also want
to challenge us all to keep the Great Commission in mind as we make our decisions in life. We are the
ones that are to “go” and make disciples. We are the ones that are to “go” and preach the gospel. We
must keep in mind our Lord’s commission to all of us.

How then do we keep this commission in view and also maintain a proper Biblical separation?
How can I reach people with the gospel who live in cultures which I find repulsive? How can I avoid
being assimilated into an ungodly culture? A first step is to understand the basic foundations of cultures
and the fundamental differences between Christian and non-Christian worldviews.



CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW

The Christian worldview is founded in God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible. True
Christianity is not naturalistic or rationalistic, it is revelational. By that I mean that our understanding of
reality is not based in what we can observe by our senses alone nor is it based on what we can reason
with our minds. The Christian’s foundational presupposition is that the God who created us and the
world has revealed Himself to man through special revelation given to the prophets and to Jesus Christ
and these revelations have been recorded in what we refer to as the Holy Bible.

It is not that the Christian ignores either natural observation or rational thought, but we place
them as secondary to God’s special revelation. We find naturalism and rationalism to be inferior to the
Scriptures. Why? Because they are too limited in what they can tell us about God. They can tell us
enough to know that we need to find out more about God, but they tell us very little about who God is,
our offenses against Him, how we can have a relationship with Him or how He wants us to live.

In Romans 1:18-20 Paul writes, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that
which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the
creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly
seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Naturalism
should lead people to a knowledge that God exists, that He is all powerful and that He is different from
humans, but as the rest of Romans 1 reveals, men suppress the truth and in professing to be wise they
become fools. As they suppress the truth they progress downward from a lack of honoring God, to
exchanging the true God for a substitute, to ignoring Him altogether. Naturalism by itself is not enough
for sinful man rejects its testimony and perverts it to what he wants to believe.

Rationalism is not sufficient in itself either. God is the one that equipped us with the ability to
think as part of being created in His image. God also calls on us to use our minds. In Isaiah 1:18 God
says, “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They
will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.
Paul’s ministry to a
large degree consisted of going from place to place and reasoning with Jews and Greeks and trying to
persuade them of the truth of the gospel. As one person stated it so well, “Christianity is a thinking
man’s religion.” The Christian is not against reason, but we also recognize that our ability to reason has
been perverted by sin. As Paul states in 2 Cor. 4:4, “. . . the god of this world has blinded the minds of
the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of
God.
The natural man, the one without Christ, does not understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14) in part
because their understanding itself is darkened and the walk in the futility of their minds (Eph. 4:17).

No wonder then that Paul challenges those who profess themselves to be wise as he does in 1
Corinthians 1. 18 For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are
being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the
cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” (Isa 29:14) 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe?
Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in
the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not [come to] know God, God was well-pleased
through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for
signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and
to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of
God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of
God is stronger than men.

Human wisdom alone will not lead people to the truth. Paul goes on to say, 26 For consider
your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many
noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the
weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and
the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, 29 that
no man should boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom
from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 that, just as it is written, “Let him
who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

In summary, the Christian worldview is founded in God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible. The
Christian uses both reason and observation to understand reality, but both are subject to the final
authority of revelational truth. On that basis the true Christian believes that God is the eternally existent
creator of everything and that He is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. He is holy and righteous,
loving, merciful and gracious. He is the just judge who provides salvation from sin to all that will
believe the gospel story and who eternally condemns all who reject it. The Christian’s eternal hope is
founded in Jesus Christ being God in human flesh who lived a sinless life and then willing sacrificed
that life on the cross of calvary as the atonement for man’s sin, who then was raised to life on the third
day and later ascended to heaven where He is building a dwelling place for His followers, interceding
with the Father on their behalf and from which He will return to conqueror the earth and establish His
eternal kingdom. The ramification of these presuppositions and beliefs will be the striving to live
obedient to the commands and principles given to us in the Scriptures.



NON-CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW

The non-Christian has beliefs that are very different from the Christian and these beliefs manifest
themselves in their cultural practices. People do what they do because of what they believe. Some people
are very aware of their core beliefs while others either seek to hide them or have not thought about them
enough to identify them.



RELIGIOUS WORLDVIEWS

Those involved in other religions have generally identified their core beliefs. They are open about
the reasons for their cultural practices in trying to appease their god or gods. The practices may seem
strange to us, but the reason for them is easily discerned. If we are going to engage these cultures with
the message of Jesus Christ, then we must understand something of their worldview. We can then use
any similarities to build a bridge to the truth.



For example, when Paul speaks to the Athenian philosophers on Mars hill in Acts 17, he does so
based on their worldview easily discerned by their religious practices. He states, “Men of Athens, I
observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 “For while I was passing through and examining
the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ What
therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
Paul then went on to explain the true God
that had made them, how He had treated them in the past and He was now commanding that all
everywhere should repent
because this God was going to judge the world. When Paul got to the
resurrection of Jesus, most of them scoffed at Paul, but there were a few that responded to the truth.

Missionaries have followed Paul’s example for centuries. They seek to understand the worldview
of the people they are trying to reach with the gospel so they can address the philosophical
presuppositions and theological underpinnings that make up that worldview. They can then present it in
a manner the people can more easily understand and address the foundational issues rather than cause
needless antagonism over side issues. We would be wise to follow Paul’s example ourselves.

We do not need to be experts in other religions and cults in order to proclaim Jesus Christ to
them, for there is a blessing in just being faithful to God’s command to evangelize, however, we can be
more effective and avoid unnecessary conflict if we take the time to understand their basic theological
beliefs and then deal with the fundamental issues instead of the peripheral ones.

For example, why argue with a Jehovah’s Witness about saluting the flag, blood transfusions or
the nature of the earth in eternity when the real issues are the deity of Jesus Christ and the authority of
the Bible verses the authority of the Watchtower? Use their high regard for the Scriptures to challenge
them to study the many passages on the deity of Christ for themselves. Ask them to set aside their
Watchtower and commentaries and study for themselves what Jesus Himself does and claims about
Himself.

Why argue with a Roman Catholic about liturgy, Mary or praying to Saints when the
foundational issues are salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and the authority of the
Bible verse the authority of church tradition and the Pope. Again, use their high regard for the Bible to
challenge them to study it for themselves. Point out that all true Christians have the Holy Spirit to teach
them (1 John 2:27) and are priests of God (1 Peter 2:9) who can boldly come before God themselves
through Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). Then ask them to read the Gospel of John to see what Jesus claimed
about Himself and Romans to find out how a sinner is saved.

Why argue with a pagan, a Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist about their various religious rituals when
the real issues is that they all have a false god or gods. You must keep the focus with them on the nature
of the true God that created them and who will judge them just as Paul did. Use the same bridge Paul
used for pagan. Commend them on their religious efforts and then seek to present to them a God they do
not know. The Koran commends the Muslim to hold both the Bible and Jesus in honor. Challenge them
to read the Bible and consider what Jesus claims about Himself. Ask the Hindu and the Buddhist to
explain their hope in reincarnation and reaching Nirvana and then explain your hope in resurrection
based in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Again, the point is to try to understand their core beliefs so that
you can both keep the focus on the fundamental issues and build a bridge to the reach them with the
truth.



SECULAR WORLDVIEWS.

In many ways those with religious worldviews are easier to deal with than those with secular
worldviews. One reason is that secularists do not always readily admit their presuppositions and only
rarely do they think through the full ramifications of them. Another reason is that they have slid farther
down the hill of God’s judgement in Romans 1 and are more distant from the truth. They are often
arrogant people who believe they are smarter than you and so can learn nothing from you. Yet, God can
change their hearts too, so we must be faithful to witness to them and be wise in our approach to them.

For example, it does little good to argue with an ardent evolutionists about the merits of creation
when his philosophical presuppositions do not allow for their to be a Creator God. You must first expose
the presupposition and then challenge it’s validity both in the logic of its foundational premise. You can
challenge that validity both on the logic of its fundamental premises and on the logical consequences of
the position.

You cannot rule out the existence of a creator God unless you can prove He does not exist and to
do that you would have to have all knowledge about all things. Just because a person has not personally
experienced something does not mean it does not exist. Since no human has all knowledge, the premise
for the Creator’s existence must be left open. It is illogical to be an atheist or for that matter a materialist
for God and the spiritual world may exist whether the individual has been able to perceive it or not. At
best, the skeptic could be an agnostic, but by definition an agnostic does not know so the possibility of
God’s existence and creating all things must still be left open.

You can also challenge them with the logical consequences of their belief system. Ask them what
is the purpose of their own life and how that purpose fits with their philosophical presuppositions? Ask
them what they will do after they achieve their goals in life? Ask them how they avoid becoming
nihilistic?

The point this morning is this. Every Christian is in a culture war with non-Christians. Though
we may long for isolation from other cultures, the commission our Lord gave us to go into all the world
preaching the gospel and making disciples precludes us from abandoning the cultures around us. While
being very careful not to become assimilated into a non-Christian culture, we must engage them and
seek to persuade them with the truth of Jesus Christ. We must seek to understand their worldviews and
then use that understanding to both keep the focus on the fundamental issues and build a bridge to the
reach them with the truth.

Next week we will talk about the balance of being in the world, but not of the world.



observation of nature reveal to us about God? What does it leave out? What is the Christian
responsibility?

Sermon
Study Sheets

KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young
Children
– draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your
parents at lunch. Older Children – 1) Count how many times the word “Culture” is used. 2) Discuss with
your parents the culture(s) you live in.



THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the basis for a cultural beliefs and
practices? What is a “worldview”? What is the danger of cultural assimilation? What scripture passages warn
us about this danger? What does “separation” refer too? What is the danger of having standards for holy living
that is different from God’s standards? What is our commission? What is the danger of an isolated
community such as the Amish? What evidence shows the same basic problem in the “evangelical” church?
How do you keep from falling into this same trap? How do you get out if you fall in it? What are the
foundations of the Christian worldview? What does the se to rational-ism? What are the limitations of
rationalism in seeking God? Summarize your own worldview. How does it two differ from the Christian
worldview? Why is it important to understand of other cultures? How did Paul use his understanding of the
Greeks to proclaim the gospel? What are some of the false presuppositions of the Jehovah Witnesses? Roman
Catholics? Muslims? Pagans? Hindus? How would you proclaim the gospel to each? What are some of the
presuppositions of the Secular worldview? How would you evangelize an atheist?

Sermon Notes – 12/10/2000 A.M.

Culture Wars, pt. 1: The Foundations – Selected Scriptures

CULTURAL CONFLICT



A worldview is the overall perception a person or group has of reality. It incorporates their philosophical
presuppositions, their understanding of history and the present and their desires for the future.



SEPARATION AND ASSIMILATION

ASSIMILATION

Its dangers – Romans 6; 8:5; 12:1,2; Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:1, 5,8,9: 1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4






SEPARATION

This is another way to refer to holy living. Proper holy living is defined by God



OUR COMMISSION: Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15

Dangers of cultural isolation in the “evangelical” church






CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW

True Christianity is not naturalistic or rationalistic, it is revelational.

Naturalism: Romans 1:18-20f



Rationalism: Isaiah 1:18; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 4:17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31



Summary: The Christian worldview is founded in God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible. The Christian uses both
reason and observation to understand reality, but both are subject to the final authority of revelational truth. On that
basis the true Christian believes:









NON-CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW

Using an understanding of worldview to build bridges to the truth of Jesus Christ



RELIGIOUS WORLDVIEWS

Paul’s Example: Acts 17:22,23f



Jehovah Witnesses

Roman Catholics

Muslims

Pagans, Hindus and Buddhists



SECULAR WORLDVIEWS

Foundational presuppositions

It is illogical to be an atheist or for that matter a materialist for God and the spiritual world may exist whether the
individual has been able to perceive it or not. At best, the skeptic could be an agnostic, but by definition an agnostic
does not know so the possibility of God’s existence and creating all things must still be left open.