How Should Christians Respond to Culture?

What is American Culture’s Message?

Now that we’ve spent time studying what culture is, what American culture is like, how culture influences us, and how it changes, take some time to think about what that culture is communicating right now.  What messages does it send us?

  • about who we are?
  • about who others are?
  • about the purpose of life?
  • about faith and God?

What Are Possible Christian Responses?

Now it’s time to take a look at how Christians should respond to the culture around them.  We’re going to be looking at five different possibilities loosely based on the categories that Richard Niebuhr presented in his book Christ and Culture. (Read an article on Christ and Culture.)

As we study these categories ask yourself, what are the positives of this approach?  What are the negatives?  Does this approach appeal to me?  Does my upbringing fit any of these categories?  Which category (if any) would I put myself in?  Which category is the most Biblical?  Why?


Avoid

An orange with a green apple in the distance.

  • Christianity and contemporary American culture are fundamentally incompatible.
  • Christians are called to be set apart, different from the culture around them.
  • Activities that don’t bring us closer to God are frivolous wastes of time.

Blend In

A greenish orange with a Granny Smith sticker next to a green apple.

  • Culture is a part of God’s creation and should be celebrated and enjoyed.
  • Discerning Christians can participate in most aspects of the culture around them.
  • At times Christianity must change to accommodate culture and stay relevant.

Control/Cover Up

A green apple partially covered with an orange peel.

  • Culture must be brought under Christ’s authority.
  • Instituting Christian laws, rules, and policies will make a culture a Christian one.
  • If culture cannot be Christian, it should at least look Christian.

Live in Paradox

A stack of apple and orange slices in the shape of an apple.

  • It is impossible to avoid culture.
  • But it is also impossible for a Christian to embrace culture.
  • Sometimes Christians need to act differently in public than they do in private.

Transform

A green apple with a growing orange spot.

  • Nothing is outside of God’s dominion and everything must be reclaimed for Christ.
  • With God’s help culture and Christianity can be reconciled.
  • Christians should work at redeeming all aspects of the culture around them.

Selected Readings