Christ and Culture

Keith Whitfield: How Does Culture Affect Theology?

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In Christ & Culture podcast with Dr. Ken Keathley, we explore how the Christian faith intersects all avenues of today’s culture through conversations with leading thinkers.

Today’s Episode: How does culture affect our theological interpretation? Dr. Keith Whitfield, Provost at Southeastern Seminary, joins us to discuss culture, theological method, and the importance of submitting to God’s word.

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Christian knowing is knowing underneath authority.

4 ways culture impacts our theology.

“As the world has changed, as we engage with other cultures, we have begun to understand the impact of culture, the ways we live our lives together in community, the ways we think about things, how it informs the way we interpret our own experience, the way we reason, and if we’re not careful, the way we interpret the Scriptures.

“How does it play a role? I think it plays a role in a couple of different ways.

  1. Culture gives us a language. As basic as the words and syntax and the rules to use the words and syntax. It also gives us a language in that the same words and syntax in a different culture actually carries different meaning… a different connotation. It’s fairly complex, but culture gives us a language — a way to articulate what we believe, what we see, what we understand, the conversations we have with other people.
  2. Culture also raises questions. One of the functions of culture is to help us to have contact with reality, and another function of culture is to interrogate or raise questions about the world as we see it. Particularly we think about different forms of culture like art. One of the functions of art, literature and movies is to interrogate the world and challenge some of the basic presuppositions. So culture raises questions for us. Sometimes those questions raise existential angst… sometimes those questions are more intellectual or philosophical. But it raises questions.
  3. Culture establishes philosophical commitment, a way we see the world. This is not a neutral thing, so we have to be careful with it.
  4. “Finally, culture provides some constraints to the way we see things. We have blinders because of our cultural context. There are restraints.

“So those are at least 4 different ways culture affects how we do theology. Not all of them are equally good, but all of them are in play.”

3 action steps we need to take.

  1. Read, read, read the Bible. Continue to read the Bible and be saturated by the Scriptures. As you’re reading the Scriptures, try to listen to what the Scriptures are saying on their own terms and let the Scriptures interpret itself. You can’t allow Scriptures to interpret itself if you’re not devoted to reading the Scriptures over, over and over again and let the Scriptures continue to raise questions.
  2. Read other Christian authors, and do so from different contexts and different traditions. It doesn’t mean that you’ll agree with them in every place, but they’ll raise questions, they’ll see things you may not see, that helps you to wrestle with the Scriptures…
  3. Recognize that we are knowers…. We’re all in an epistemological project everyday… we’re in the project of seeking to know — to know ourselves, to know people, to know the world. This is the journey of the human experience — to know…. Christian knowing is knowing underneath authority. This is what we’re talking about by the Scriptures. God has revealed himself to us. He’s given us his Word, and we know under his authority and under his Word. That puts us in a certain posture as knowers. We’re not the authority; we’re under an authority.”

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The Christ and Culture podcast with Drs. Ken Keathley and Benjamin Quinn seeks to connect faith with every aspect of your life.

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