To understand the Christian’s proper relationship to the culture we consider Genesis 1:28, Jeremiah 29:1-11, Daniel 1, and Act 17. Because we cannot do a thorough treatment of these passages here, we’ll simply make a few comments:
- Genesis 1:28 containing the Cultural Mandate, speaks of man’s right and responsibility to take dominion over creation. Initially that involved agri-culture. It eventually became simply culture. Our definition of culture is: anything twice created. God creates, man re-creates. This is true in the realm of the concrete: trees become houses, stones become roads, etc. It also is true in the realm of thoughts and ideas: we think God’s thoughts after him.
- Jeremiah 29:1-11 is a reaffirmation of Genesis 1:28. It reaffirms the Cultural Mandate in very concrete terms. Israel was camped outside Babylon and refused to enter this pagan city. It seems they were even refusing to have children who would have to live in this evil culture. God, through Jeremiah, tells them to move into the city, have children, plant gardens, and pray for the prosperity and peace of this pagan city. He further states that their own prosperity depends on it. And he further states that any prophets who tell them otherwise should not be listened to. They are false prophet. It seems that the Jews had begun to doubt the validity of the Cultural Mandate. It may be that they thought it invalid after the fall.
- Daniel 1 offers spiritual and cultural priorities for education. The point of the account is that “in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them [Daniel and his friends], he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.” The rationale leading to this conclusion focuses on two reasons for their wisdom and understanding: 1) They were devout, committed to their God, in all things. This point is made by citing their decision not to eat the king’s food. The implication is that since they were devout when it comes to a small thing like eating, they were devout in all things. 2) The point is made that “God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom.” Certainly that means Hebrew literature and wisdom, but the word “all” indicates that they were educated in the literature and wisdom of Babylon as well. Devotion to God and a knowledge of the culture where God had placed them were both necessary for “wisdom and understanding.”
- Acts 17:22-34 is an account of Paul speaking to Greeks at Mars Hill. In his presentation he cites cultural examples that are appropriate starting points for understanding God, ourselves and our responsibilities to the Creator. Paul cites Greek poets and philosophers in his presentation of the Gospel. His education equipped him for the task of being the apostle to the Gentiles. Cambridge endeavors to provide a similar education. We live in a culture that is foreign to us, yet, as Paul demonstrates, we are to speak in a way that people living in that culture understand.