Good Monday Morning! Last week while I was reading up on various pastor’s websites, I came across a comment on one of Voddie Baucham’s messages that caught my ire. The poster was asserting that Voddie was overly patriarchal in his theology and that he was guilty of “ripping Scripture out of their Cultural Context”. Now, the allegation of Voddie being “too patriarchal” is one of opinions, and I have no desire to jump into that; however, when it comes to this notion of “cultural context” of scripture, now we’ve got something to address.
How “Cultural Context” Used
Invariably, if the idea of “cultural context” comes up, the topic of discussion is likely gender roles or so-called homosexual marriage. There are times it pops up in “scientific” arguments, too. The idea is that Scripture was written in a time when “people weren’t as educated/enlightened as we are today”. The “therefore” that follows can take a number of directions, but they all generally point to an idea that since mankind has evolved in knowledge and sophistication, we must amend or update our understanding of the Scriptures. This is false.
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (ESV)
Christ the Wisdom and Power of God
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God,righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
You see, the Word of God transcends the wisdom of men. There is absolutely no way to suggest that anyone need to interpret Scripture by culture. There is no such thing as a cultural context of Scripture. Man does not determine the Law of God nor His Gospel. In fact, the wisdom of man is evil at its core, due to the fall, and actually prevents man from knowing God.
Romans 1:18-32 (ESV)
God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Whenever we encounter the notion of “cultural context” coming from a professing Christian, we are seeing evidence of someone whose view of scripture as though it came to a fallen world rather than the Word being “in the Beginning” before the world ever fell away from Him.
John 1:1-18 (ESV) | The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.4 In him was life,and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Scriptural Context Defines Culture
When it comes to rightly handling the Word of God, the only context that matters is that of Scripture. There are times when we will divide scripture into Law and Gospel, and we will also point out that some scripture pertain to specific covenants while others are enduring; however such distinctions are provided by Scripture, not arbitrarily appropriated by men. The proper worldview is a Scriptural one. God created everything in 6 days, that is the Truth of God’s Word. This Truth has been rejected by mankind for quite some time, but man’s rejection of God’s Truth defines man’s sinful state. Our sinful culture is defined by its rejection of God and His Word.
Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV)
9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
In Christ Jesus,
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