Who are you kidding?

"So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Genesis 1.27

Sometime we get so hung up on influencing our culture with faith in Jesus that we fail to realise how culture has already shaped the way we conceive of that faith!

In its wider meaning, culture embraces every man-made addition to the basic elements of creation. So, in addition to art and music (what people often think of as culture), everything from language to land use contributes to this wider, truer definition. Why this matters is that our culture conditions our world-view. For example, looking out of the window I see dawn breaking over the manse garden, with croft-land beyond upon which cows, sheep and horses graze (sometime pigs and deer too!) and beyond all that a seascape of islands and mountains. But from the same vantage-point a botanist would see the different species of plants, while a farmer would probably discern the various breeds of animal, a marine biologist would notice potential habitats in the water, a geologist would understand how the mountains took their shape and so on. All of this is the product of culture, granting ever expanding awareness of our surroundings, capacity to influence it and the vocabulary to describe what is happening.

And this is how we make sense of and express our faith. Drawing on our existing knowledge to interpret what we believe and using what language we have to express it. Occasionally, through accident or revelation, we encounter things we don't understand and cannot express. And so we reach for approximations, which we call metaphors; borrowing from what we do know to convey what we can of what is new to us.

The Bible is full of it. It tells the story of humans encountering God in many ways over a long period of time, culminating in the appearance of God himself in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. Even the use of that word "Son" is approximate because it doesn't exactly express the relationship of the first and second persons of the Holy Trinity (another metaphor!) but it is the best we can do. Suffice to say that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments found expression through the cultural resources of the Hebrew, Greek and Roman societies in which they were conceived. How differently they might have been rendered had they been conceived in another place at another time is anyone's guess. What we have to figure out is how to interpret the original accounts of the events and insights of Scripture, in order to work out what that requires of us in our faithful living today...