When your culture is nothing like the Bible’s

The Problems

The cultures were different in the world when the Bible was written than they are now. And sometimes that makes it difficult to know how to live by the Bible today, much less how to respond to the most divisive issues of our culture that seem to receive less attention in the Bible!

I mean, how can we tell people about ‘truth’ when, in this existential world, anyone’s beliefs are considered valid?”

And how do we respond when even our culture’s other fully accepted counter-point to existentialism, the scientific method, sometimes claims to be able to discredit the Bible and God too?

Science claims to have made atheism a feasible option for people. But the existence of gods wasn’t even a question back in the Ancient Near East. So, what real sway could an ancient book offer an atheist to convince him or her that God exists?

And then how can I use the Bible’s claim to convict people they’re ultimately sinful and in need of God when current psychology says that any self-deprecation is unhealthy and unhelpful?

How am I supposed to relate to King David when in his Psalms he often says stuff like, “Please destroy my enemies, God!” I live a basically peaceful life and I can’t even think of any enemies I have. And even if I did, I don’t think non-Christians would even want violence to come upon them.

And HOW ON EARTH could our culture endorse wiping out a whole people group like God did in the Old Testament? Our culture prizes the individual’s rights so much so that even if God appointed one person to die, our culture would use it to judge Him and call Him unfair!

My Answers

Okay. Well, we’re in a pretty different cultural atmosphere than when the Bible was written. And here are some hacks I’ve come up with that have helped me adjust my methods.

When David violently hates his enemies in the psalms, I’ve begun to picture my ‘enemies’ as the spiritual forces working against me. I think those things are worthy of hate and I don’t feel bad at all to ask God to destroy them, because I am guessing they are behind most of the negative thought patterns that pervade ourselves and our culture today.

When I think about God wiping out whole people groups within a land, I’ve started translating that to the individual scale. Purifying a land back when people were so community-focused, could be like purifying an individual now. I think God has the same passion for purity to rake out porn or jealousy or pride from our lives so it will not infect the rest of our souls. Ultimately I’d be a fan of that pruning, even if parts of me took on massive casualties.

And how do we convince people the Bible is valuable when people have claimed they can dismantle it partly with existentialism, and the rest of it with the scientific method?

Well first, I have learned that the Biblical authors were more concerned with conveying themes in their storytelling rather than hitting journalistic accuracy. I’m not saying it’s not accurate, but that the morals being taught may have dictated some literary choices about which things to include and where to put them. I think that even though the scientific data says that the Bible is by far the most validated book of any book nearly that old, finding the themes behind some of the nitty gritty details seems the more important thing to get out of it. Symbolically that stuff can have a much more powerful, meaningful effect to convey MORE meaning than if you’re simply trying to decipher how many people a certain king took into battle in which certain year.

And second, how do we convince people of our God’s story when anybody’s truth is considered valid? Well, I think we have to show why it is more attractive so that they will choose it among all the other options. We can do that by finding new, striking, creative ways to tell Jesus’s story of sacrificial love. And then give it credibility by really believing it and living it out, with compassion and righteousness.

I hope that would make people want to believe in it. When all options are on the table as valid, let’s make ours the most attractive.

Oh, God, help us make those hard sacrifices to live like you want us to, and make you attractive to our confused world.

Raw Spoon, 7-21-16