‘The Redemptive Pretensions of Culture’

By Pastor Mark Anderson  Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, CA

       Dr. George Forell, one of the most distinguished  Lutheran theologians of the last century, once wrote; “The culture is the enemy of the gospel. This adversary relationship seems to be a permanent aspect of this complex engagement (between the Church and the culture).”

Rank and file Christians across the United States increasingly voice their dismay at the apparent increase in hostility on the part of the culture with respect to the church. Dr. Forell’s observation serves to remind us that this is nothing new. It is reflected in Jesus’ conflict with the religious establishment of his time. As the Church grew, Roman society cared little for the theologies of the ancient Christians. Instead, they saw them as subversive to an orderly society in their refusal to pay homage to the emperor. This tension between the church and the culture it inhabits has been a regular feature of the church’s life since the beginning. And this should come as no suprise. The culture, any culture, is always at odds with the things of God and especially the gospel of Jesus Christ.   Why?

Primarily because all cultures have redemptive pretensions that originate within themselves. Redemption or salvation within the American context, for example, is promised through self-sufficiency and hard work. Other cultures define salvation in their own terms. This idolatrous aspect of human nature confronts the church in every society, and the church must learn to stand against it.

For us, redemption will not be realized within the framework of history. It is this confession that looks forward in hope even as it arouses the animosity, even hatred of the world. The Romans heard this confession and called the Christians “haters of life”.

We do not hate life, of course. But neither do we worship the creation, believing that our future lies here. As we work to fulfill our creaturely obligations in this life and within our various cultures, we await that unifying commonwealth of the Kingdom – the new heaven and the new earth – which God will bring in His own time.

                     – Pastor Mark Anderson



Does our desire to mirror the culture come at the expense of the our eschatological view of the God’s plan and the nature of redemption, and do we endanger the gospel itself in our desire to be more relevant?