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Cò leis thu?

"No one can serve two masters..." Matthew 6.24

In 'Christ and Culture', American theologian H Richard Niebuhr defines culture as "the artificial, secondary environment" which humankind imposes on the natural order which God has created. So it's not just music and art but includes animal husbandry, land-use, industrialisation, language, satellites and so on... And this cultural baggage is as much part of the heritage we are born with as is the genetic code which determines our physical and mental growth and the divine image which establishes our uniqueness in the universe.

All of which begs the question, what is the faithful response to the cultural superstructure we occupy? Niebuhr proceeds to delineate various options, from outright rejection to unequivocal embrace. Between these extremes more nuanced attitudes include: separation of religious and secular orders, attempting to redeem culture from within, understanding Jesus and the Gospel as invading and transforming it from above, inviting believers to join in.

There will be other models besides and none is likely to be an exact fit. Indeed we might see ourselves as straddling, or moving between, Niebuhr's models. The important thing is that we recognise our predicament and respond because learning to navigate the interface between faith and culture is essential to living with integrity. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus insists that we cannot serve two masters. We have to make up our mind which or who will be the dominant influence in our lives, to whom will we give an account for the way we live and how our engagement with this secondary environment we call culture measures up to the values we claim to live by?



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