Monday, April 26, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
While many cultures have social or communal ways of making decisions for an individual, American culture places the locus of decision squarely on the individual most affected by the decision. In the overwhelming majority of situations, a person has the final say in determining his or her actions and situations. Others give advice and information to aid in the process, but Americans adamantly desire - even demand - to make their own, individual decisions (or at least feel as if they are doing so). This makes it a natural and logical appeal to call a person to choose Christ instead of continuing in sin, unbelief or false religion. The New Testament’s portrayal of sin, faith and judgment as individual choice and consequence communicates readily to this culture. When a person is convinced of the guilt of sin, the choice to accept forgiveness is a logical next step. The American assumption which Stewart and Bennett label the “implied agent” (61-66) - the idea that every occurrence is connected to an agent that caused it - also makes it easy for judgment to be viewed as actions that result in personal guilt which deserves punishment.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Thursday, April 1, 2010
One characteristic prevalent in American culture, and sometimes invisible to us, that affects how we view our faith is...
Our efforts to help the poor frequently are built on the assumption that money, possessions and technology ought to be bundled together in a package with the gospel. This mindset needs critique, however, as it reflects the cultural assumptions that increase in personal wealth is always a sign of progress. Introducing wealth in the wrong manner (e.g., along with consumerism) can be dangerous and destructive to relationships and attitudes emphasized in aChristian worldview that are already present in another culture. (As illustrated in this article) Linking economic prosperity to proper relationship with God can be supported by careful proof-texting, but does not line up with a well-rounded Biblical theology. Yet this link is easily taken for granted by affluent (by global comparison, if not by their own standards) American Christians. We ought to be thoughtful about how to share wealth with those in need and still affirm the relationships and attitudes that are emphasized in a Christian worldview rather than unwittingly conveying consumerist attitudes.
All of the material world was declared good as God created it, which allows us to accept the pleasure, goodness and beauty we find on earth as gifts of God. Because fallen man will abuse pleasures that were intended for good, self-control and discipline are distinctive parts of the Christian lifestyle. A worldview that condemns pleasure or views material things as inherently bad does not line up with the story of creation and its exposition throughout Scripture. Exalting pleasure as an end in itself fails to bring satisfaction, however, and sets a person on an idolatrous course, giving more value to stuff than to God. Where no clear guidelines are given, we must ask questions such as the following: Am I enjoying this as an act of worship to God, or am I allowing it to distract me from God? Am I enjoying this in a way that brings me closer to other believers and maintains an effective witness to the world around me? Each pleasure, each material blessing, each comfort that we receive should be accepted with gratitude as a gift from God, and offered in worship back to God, submitted to use for his glory and the service of others.
When prosperity comes to a Christian, it presents an opportunity to use our resources in worshipful generosity. As American believers, we must fight the cultural pressure to acquire more possessions and comforts rather than to sacrificially give a significant percentage of wealth. The blessing of choosing contentment and joy is important to the Christian way of life, regardless of one’s level of wealth.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
The extreme concept of individual identity and right to self-determination dominates American culture. This sense of independence and personal rights distinguishes our culture from others, bringing positive and negative results. The stamp of the image of God on humanity gives value to every person, and a culture that affirms the dignity inherent in being a human individual fits with a Christian worldview. However, when a healthy concept of individuality progresses to become individualism, problems can occur. The effects of individualism on American Christianity are legion, and a few significant effects are discussed here.
The idea of a right to choose one’s own religion coupled with the desire to determine one’s own destiny has led evangelicals to incorporate Jeffersonian ideals into church structure. Nancy Pearcey observes that, during the Second Great Awakening, “The priesthood of all believers was taken to mean religion of the people, by the people, for the people” (275). This meant the rejection of traditional and hierarchical church structures as authoritative. Just as the nation rejected traditional forms for the “rule of law,” where a document (at least in principle) set the parameters for law, so evangelicals seek to go directly to the text of Scripture, individually determine its meaning, express a personal view, and vote or otherwise influence practice accordingly.