Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: Cultural Contextualization & Christmas

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cultural Contextualization & Christmas

How well do we know our Bible? Contextualization vs Normativity is a battle that wages on not only in societal and ecclesiological venues, but in the hearts of every believer. Normative truth is the pure truth. The constancy of truth. Regardless of how we misinterpret or simply don't know, the normative truth does not change. I was amazed as I watched a re-run of "House" tonight on Fox. The doctor was leading a classroom discussion with a group of students and was supplying them with three different scenarios for the same symptoms. One of the patients in this imaginary lesson dies, much to the outrage of the students who defend themselves by saying, "we didn't know that was true." House refutes by reminding the young med students that whether they know it or not, the truth always exists. There is not the possibility of "your way is as good as mine." But, contextualization is a horse of a different color. This is where we get to strain to discover the line where what we have grown accustomed to has become normative in our hearts and minds for no other reason than we are accustomed to it. We have a serious responsibility as Christians to know the difference between what is truth and what is culture. The two might not be at odds with each other, but often times they are and we can't afford the luxury of laziness. This is why the pulpit is such a horrific place to find yourself. Are you claiming with authority the Word of God or the word of culture?

Let me illustrate with a couple of simple Christmas fallacies:

1. How may wise men visited Jesus? Three, of course! Actually, we don't know. Read Matthew Chapter 2 again and be amazed.
2. Why did the Shepherds go to Bethlehem to see Jesus? Because the angel of the Lord appeared and told them to go, of course! Actually, the angel never told the shepherds to go to Bethlehem. The angel only announced the birth of Jesus and told the shepherds what they would find in Bethlehem.
3. Where did the wise men find Jesus? In a manger, of course! Actually, the wise men found Jesus in a house. Matthew 2:11 (Jesus is also not referred to as a baby by the time the wise men approach him, but as a "child." Contrast that with the shepherds).

Are these little mistakes major problems for the Christian faith? Probably not. But for a postmodern culture that celebrates ambiguity and demonizes specifics, the last thing Christians need to embrace is an attitude of "close enough."

So how do we avoid the pitfalls of cultural contextualization? Read the Bible. Pray for clarity of mind and understanding. Stand firm on biblical truth and do not waiver, but keep an open mind to what the Bible is teaching, even if it rubs against your life long held beliefs. Do not settle for trite answers, but dig for deeper truth.

On December 24th, I will have the honor of preaching at the first church I ever served, Fosterville Baptist Church (Picture below). I am going to bring a message on the Trinitarian Truth of Christmas Submission on that Christmas Eve. Together, the dear folk at Fosterville Baptist Church and myself are going to think about what the next day, Christmas day, really means. We won't settle for "God became man and came to earth." That is a fine place to start. But the story is deeper than that my friends. Much deeper.


Anonymous Tim Kuehn said...

I recently did a devotions where I asked the following questions:

•Who parted the Red Sea so Israel could cross over? (Moses)
•Who led Israel out of Egypt? (Moses)
•Who led Israel in conquering the Promised Land? (Joshua)
•Who took 300 men and overcame an army of 135,000? (Gideon)
•Who killed 1,000 men with the jawbone of an ass?

In actuality, these were all trick questions, and the expected answers aren't entirely correct. All these men were present when these actions took place, but _God_ is the one who did them.

More recognition needs to go to God for accomplishing all things, rather than to the men and women through whom He works.

A blessed Christmas to all!

December 05, 2006 11:32 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Philip - you must've watch Studio 60 last night :) Some of those questions were addressed, but in the context of debunking some of the Christmas nativity "myth". Also raised were the fact that Herod supposedly died in 4 B.C., that the star of Bethlehem was a comet, there would be no shepherds working the fields in December, etc.

The one character to cut through all that and say, "It doesn't matter!" was the Jewish atheist, ironically.

Some people that don't get it, get it more than the people who actually get it.

Get it?

December 06, 2006 10:11 AM  
Anonymous Agog said...

Great post, I think this is true in other parts of life, not just related to the Bible. As usual, your blog has me thinking. . . .

December 06, 2006 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Paul, in Bethel Park, PA said...

Hey, Beast!

Thanks, once again, for a great post. As one of the many Christians who sit in the pews, I would like to ask one favor.

Please use the demonstrated gift you have for simplification. The one difficulty I have, on occasion, is that your posts are written at a level beyond the average Christian mind.

Combine your gift with the knowledge you are gaining and ask yourself this question...When my sermon is done, can I say with confidence that the average man or woman who just walked into my Church for the first time understands what I have just said.

Merry Christmas.

December 06, 2006 6:39 PM  
Blogger The Beast said...

Not sure where I lost you on this one Paul, perhaps the analogy to House was too deep. ;) Just kidding. Have a blessed Advent!

December 06, 2006 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Paul, in Bethel Park said...

You didn't lose me, Beast.

I meant that if someone were to ask you before the Christmas Eve service about your sermon topic, "Trinitarian Truth of Christmas Submission" would sound a little intimidating to some folks.

I know you will do a great job. Having worked as a motivational speaker, I had the pleasure of doing about 5,000 "sermons". I just wanted to pass on a little of what I have learned.

December 07, 2006 6:50 PM  
Blogger Kelly Klages said...

Thanks for the post. You didn't really lose me, either, but you did make me curious by your last couple lines where, precisely, you *were* planning on going with that message you were going to give. :o)

December 08, 2006 2:23 AM  

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