“Here’s what I’m having trouble with: either 1, genetics are as strong as you say, meaning that no matter the “environment”, a good deal of the traits of a person’s soul will shine through, or 2, genetics are as weak as you say, so much so that we need to be concerned about loosing it. A Christian worldview HAS TO transcend the genetics (I think this is clear in Scriptures), and that being the case, isn’t that the culture we should be striving to build? I am not contending that we build a democratic utopia – that has never worked and will never work, however, stating that “one can [NOT] get to Anglo-Protestant culture apart from a majority of Anglo-Protestant people” confuses me because we don’t FIRST want an AP culture. We must believe that the under-pinnings of the AP, because it has been successful pulls deeply from the the well of Christianity, which, no matter what the genetics is in the realm of possibility for an genetic club to achieve.”
Letter From DSE
I once read someone define culture as faith poured over ethnicity. I think there is something to be said for that.
If we really believe that God loves diversity then we should expect there to be as many Christian cultures as there are ethnic people groups. While I am looking for all the world to be christian, I am not looking for all the world to have the same exact culture. I believe that Anglo-Protestant culture is distinct and unique to Anglo-Protestant people and that even if all the African continent genuinely converted and became “Reformed,” that wouldn’t mean that they would have a culture that was Anglo-protestant. (Nor should it mean that.)
In the book of Revelation we find the peoples streaming into the New Jerusalem by nation (ethnicity). There is a sense that even in the new Jerusalem distinctions remain. Now, they are certainly, one and all, Christian but they are not all the same culture or ethnicity as they file in.
I would say genetics are strong but not beyond experiencing extinction.
A Christian Worldview does transcend genetics in the sense that it has the power to alter the thinking habits of all people groups as well as individuals but it does not transcend genetics in the sense that genetics becomes irrelevant to who the people group are who have been converted. If the Mongolian nation (people) were to be given Repentance there would still be something about them that was Mongolian and their Christian faith would be expressed in a Mongolian way. Similarly if the Albanian nation (people) were to be given repentance there would still be something about them that remained Albanian and their Christian faith would be expressed in an Albanian fashion. Mongolians and Albanians would be brothers in Christ but they would not cease being Mongolians and Albanians and neither would their cultures become automatically the same. Now, there certainly would be touchstones between them but they also would remain distinct.
Now, as to the whole issue of not first wanting a Anglo-Protestant culture. That is true in and of itself but when we consider that an Anglo-Protestant culture was what it was because of Christ (always in need of ongoing sanctification to be sure) then the desire to have a Anglo-Protestant culture is the desire to have Christ. The Anglo-Protestant culture was a culture built by faith being poured over ethnicity.
Missiologists spend a great deal of time talking about contextualization and planting a truly indigenous Church. Well, that is what happened in the West. The Church was planted in the West and it became truly indigenous. That is what we should desire for every tribe, tongue and nation. A Christianity that is universal in the sense of making all men brothers because of the finished work of Christ as applied by the Spirit and yet distinct in the sense that God’s plan doesn’t mean we all become the same. In my estimation this satisfies the character of God who is both One and Many.
So Christianity will change a people regardless of their genetics but it will change them in keeping with their genetics. Welsh, Xhosa, Cantonese, and Indian (to take some arbitrary examples) will all be converted and become brothers and be members of the one universal Church of Christ but that does not mean they will all build the same culture or that the distinctions that make them who they are, ethnically, culturally or even ecclesiastically speaking, have to go away.
God loves diversity and Revelation seems to indicate that diversity remains in the New Heavens and Earth.
Thanks for helping me think through this and articulate it. I think there is something important in all of this because the prevailing tendency today is to put all of our differences in a blender and mix them all up. Multi-culturalism can’t exist without the support of multi-faithism and multi-racialism. The result of this project is not a honoring of the distinctives that God has created of race, ethnicity, and culture (and even gender) but the elimination of them and the creation of a unipolar world where all the colors bleed into one. Honestly, such a project strikes me as being familiar and similar to the project of Babel in Genesis 11. Further, such a project, I am convinced, has as its real goal the elimination of the only faith, and the resultant culture that refuses to “bleed into one.”
I suppose for the sake of those who will willfully try to twist what I have said I should try to articulate some other ideas. First, because I am Anglo-Protestant it is only natural that I prefer Anglo-Protestant culture, just as because I am a McAtee I prefer my own children over against someone elses children. This doesn’t mean I hate other peoples children, it merely means that I prioritize my own. Similarly, I don’t have to hate other people’s race, ethnicity, or culture in order to prefer my own. Second, when Reformation comes to the World the differing Christian cultures that will result will become various body parts of the one body. They will each have their strengths that will serve the whole, but the whole body will not become a hand or an eye, nor needs to. Differences can remain, be honored and should be sustained for the good of the body.
God gave us a picture of all this in the covenant people of the Old Testament. They were all God’s people and yet they all belonged to distinct tribes. In the New and Better covenant the one people of God are drawn from every tribe, tongue and nation but they remain according to “tribe, tongue, and nation.” The Scriptures teach me that the Gentiles come in. The Scripture does not teach me that the Gentiles have to lose their distinct culture in order to come in. (Indeed, Galatians suggests that Gentiles don’t have to become culturally Jewish in order to be Christian.)
I’ve spent some time in my life with dear Christian brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe. I love them dearly and have tried to show that love by supporting them financially in their time of need. Having said that, I wouldn’t want to become part of their culture in order to become Christian and I wouldn’t expect them to become part of my culture to become Christian. There is enough diversity in God that both cultures could be “Christian” having one Lord, one Faith, and one Baptism.
Well, I’ve gone on a little because such discussions are, for whatever reason, open to hostile reactions. Thanks for listening.
4 thoughts on “Wherein We Speak To Issues Of Church, Culture & Ethnicity”
Man, when you clarify, you clarify. I wholly agree with this post. I get worried when I see or hear Christianity = AP culture, and you have clearly not done that here. Now the next point of preponderance will be exactly where an ethnicity starts and their faith begins; being Van Tillian in our approach it is difficult to make clear distinctions being that everything is related (re: “The Scripture does not teach me that the Gentiles have to lose their distinct culture in order to come in”). Thanks again.
being Van Tillian in our approach it is difficult to make clear distinctions being that everything is related
Here let me correct that sentence for you.
being Van Tillian in our approach it is difficult to make clear distinctions
Ah yes, that’s better.
Don’t take it personal. Mark is a Clarkian and enjoys periodic digs at CVT.