How does the DNA see the interplay of culture and religion? Here’s an email thread between DNA colleagues from earlier this year that started when Dwight Vogt read, and shared, an article from Christianity Today.
Here is an interesting article I read recently on Muslim followers of Christ: Worshipping Jesus in the Mosque.
Thanks Dwight. Read this over lunch. Very thought-provoking. A few reactions from our DNA experience:
- All cultures contain truth and lies. Always a mix. We should seek to discern between them and hold on to what is true, good, beautiful.
- The interviewee says that “the church should reflect Muslim culture, not Muslim theology.” But our cultures are a reflection of the kind of God(s) we worship. There is a direct line that connects theology—worship—culture. I firmly believe this and this makes the statement above problematic.
- Nancy Pearcey called the Trinity the “Rosetta stone” that helps us make sense of Biblical theology. This is the main concern I have when people equate the Muslim understanding of Allah with the one, true God revealed in the Scriptures. You will end up building very different cultures based on these different understandings of God.
Thanks, Dwight, for the article. I agree with Scott. And here are some other thoughts related to what Abu Jaz says:
- I would not describe the claims of Christ to be God and to have died for my sins as “complicated theological issues,” these are basic to the Christian faith.
- I know that Islam regards the concept of the Trinity and Christ being God as heresies. And, from my understanding, Islam is works-based salvation; atonement for sins is not necessary.
- While I would argue that culture is a reflection of worship, I would say that cultural expressions need to be examined and affirmed when possible. There is truth and falsehood in every cultural expression. In the evangelical church we probably have more cultural expressions and practices rooted in materialism than we would like to admit.
- To me the attitude of the evangelicals in this testimony was lacking. They needed to relate with the human brotherhood and the monotheistic faith of Abu Jaz and not come across harshly as calling him demonic.
- The insight that “all cultures are equal” is only true if one also affirms that “all cultures are different.” It is the lies in each culture that enslave and impoverish. That is why both statements must be said at once. Either alone does not express the truth.
- In each culture there are things that are true. These things need to be affirmed. In each culture there are lies. These need to be challenged and rooted out as they lead to poverty. And in each culture there are things that are “natural” or “neutral” – the smells, textures, rhythms, sounds, tastes, fabrics that need to be appreciated, enjoyed and celebrated. Certainly 20th century American evangelical culture in worship, music, dress, etc. is not the global standard.
- I concur with Abu Jaz’s concern about systematic theology. Systematic theology can be used in an attempt to eliminate the mystery and the places of tension in scripture. It creates boxes that the scripture does not. This does not mean we should not work for clarity. We should! But we will not get to a full systematic understanding until heaven.
- I agree with Abu Jaz, that in style we need to begin where people are. And we have much in common with the Monotheism of Islam, especially when we contrast with secularism and neo-paganism. Many American evangelicals indict Islam and Islamic culture more severly than they do their own materialistic culture and practice.
- I think Muslims who profess Isa have as much freedom to create an Islamic expression of a church community as Messianic Jews have in creating Messianic congregations.
- I have a concern about his affirmation that the Holy Spirit will lead followers of Isa to a fuller understanding void of solid discipleship and teaching. I think of where so many Spirit-filled Christ followers are today in the US, Africa, the Americas and Asia.
Thanks, Dwight. I agree with Scott, but I want to make some further comments. The interviewee says that “the church should reflect Muslim culture, not Muslim theology.”
- Scott pointed out that “Our cultures are a reflection of the kind of God(s) we worship. There is a direct line that connects theology—worship—culture. I firmly believe this and this makes the statement above problematic.” My comments:
- I don’t fully agree that our cultures are a full reflection of the kind of God(s) we worship as Scott mentioned. The dominant cultures may have that reflection which is even debatable since when we talk about cultures, we are discussing the generalities of all of life as it pertains to a society or group of people. The way we eat, dress, communicate, relate to our wives and children, our mannerisms etc., all these are reflections of our culture.
This also represents the uniqueness of human beings as created in the image and likeness of God. However, if these behavioral patterns are attributed to a kind of God being worshiped, l think it is too much a generalization which cannot be accepted by all human groups. Whether in Buddhism, Islam or traditional Africa cultures, Jesus remains the King of kings. I believe that is the reason why in our teaching of ABC’s of culture, we try to identify the lies in the culture and not to reject the whole culture. After all which culture is best? Is it Euro-American culture? Or African culture?
In my last conference in Guinea with Mercy Ships at Mamau, the people did not know the difference between religion and culture—everything and all life is Moslem. These are lovely people and when they heard the word of truth, they immediately started obeying without even knowing Christ. Are they Christians? Not yet but they are not far either. Will Christ condemn them because they are Moslems and not yet ‘Christians’ even though they’re trying to obey Him? I don’t think so. I think this is why enculturation and acculturation of Christ in the various contexts has become a big issue among theologians.
Here’s an excellent response to the original article from Kevin DeYoung. He makes many of the same points as you did Darrow.