“Our anti-philosophers are especially vulnerable in this age, because the media fill our environment with popularized philosophies. Marshall McLuhan was right in saying that environments tend not to be noticed….We see many of their explicit contents, but the environments themselves are imperceptible. We do not see the environment, as Os Guinness says, because we see with it. That means we are influenced by ideas we do not notice and therefore are not aware of their effect on us. Or, if we see the effect, we find it difficult to discover the cause.”
Idols For Destruction – pg. 7
The Chinese have a proverb that says, “If you want to know what the water is like, don’t ask a fish.” The thrust of the proverb is the same as the thrust of what Schlossberg is getting at above. Like a fish swimming in water people swim in their culture and like that fish in water, a person in their given cultural environment, doesn’t tend to notice the ecosystem of which they are a part. For a fish not noticing that ecosystem is no problem but for people not noticing their cultural ecosystem can lead to grave problems when that ecosystem and the assumptions upon which it is premised is in revolt against King Christ.
It takes a great deal of work to begin to see the cultural ecosystem in which we live, and where the work is successful the result can be a sense of alienation if one concludes, as a result of the work, that there is something profoundly wrong with the cultural ecosystem in which one is living. People who are self conscious regarding the cultural ecosystem in which they are swimming and who take great pains to point out the deficiencies of the premises upon which the cultural ecosystem is built are sometimes called prophets. People who like their cultural ecosystem don’t typically like prophets — hence the alienation.
Most people spend their whole lives not questioning their cultural ecosystem. They absorb their convictions by way of the osmosis that comes in the course of being saturated in the culture. I believe when the Apostle told the Romans that they were not ‘to be conformed to the world’ his warning was tantamount to saying don’t absorb the premises of non Christ honoring cultural ecosystems. I believe Christians, by definition, are supposed to be a people who do the work of seeing the cultural ecosystem in which they live for what it is.
The reason that this work is so difficult is that it often amounts to taking out your eyes in order to look at them. That is how close the cultural ecosystem is to people who live in and with their system. As the quote says above we see with our cultural ecosystem and so in order to see it we have to either get out of it or we have to get it out of us in order to examine its premises and how it is shaping us in troublesome directions.
Lord Christ, grant your people grace to see with and not through their eyes.