1. Engage culture prayerfully. We should approach culture just as we should approach all things, prayerfully. What should we pray? We should thank God for the gift of culture, confessing that all cultures contain truth, beauty and virtue, asking him to help us recognize and rejoice in these good gifts, which come down from the Father of lights (Js. 1:17). Alternatively, all cultures also disdain truth, beauty, and virtue. Thus, we are dependent upon God to enable us to recognize and reject those things that are harmfully false, ugly, and immoral. By asking God to give us the perspective of his Spirit, “the Spirit who searches out all things, even the depths of God” (1 Cor. 2:10), we can begin to discern between the things which are true, beautiful and good and the things that are false, ugly, and evil.
2. Engage culture carefully. When approaching any given issue, from parenting to politics, we all have our biases. In order to engage culture well, we must strive to avoid the path of the sectarian and the secularist, of blind rejection and uncritical acceptance. This will require careful investigation into the issues we face, taking the opposing view seriously and weighing its merits. Make a habit of hearing both sides of an issue before you baptize your opinions.
3. Engage culture biblically-theologically. The Bible does not tell you what political party to join, which school to go to, movies to watch, whether or not you should date, or how to respond to cloning. Instead, the Bible offers theological principles which we can appropriate in order to form opinions and convictions about cultural issues.
The problem is that we often start with cultural assumptions about what is right, beautiful and good and go to the Bible to prove them. Instead, we need to bring cultural questions about what is true, good and beautiful to the Bible, reflect on them theologically, and then prayerfully and carefully form our opinions. Thus, we should move from Text to Theology to Culture, not the other way around.
4. Engage culture redemptively; strive to connect your theological reflections regarding culture to redemption. We can redemptively engage culture in two ways: practically and positionally. To practically redeem identify what is broken, what is in need of redemption, and take restorative actions. Ask yourself questions like” “How can I bring the gospel to bear on this issue?” “How can I restore, forgive, or reconcile in this situation?” Don’t become self-righteous and inactive; practice your cultural convictions. Live them out redemptively.
Our practice should flow from our position in Christ. Our actions ought to reveal our redeemed identity, not form our identity. Consider the danger of mistaking your newly formed habits for who you are. For instance, do you think of yourself as an environmentalist or as a citizen of Zion with an environmental conscience? Do you draw significance from being a “pro-lifer” or from being new creation in Christ Jesus? Ask yourself, “Am I confusing my practice with my position?” “Am I finding my significance in what I do instead of who I am in Christ?”
5. Engage culture humbly, recognizing that you have much to learn from a given culture. Read, converse, and reflect on cultural issues with a teachable heart. Ask God to shape your convictions through whomever or whatever he wills. Avoid proud dogmatism and cultivate humble conviction.
6. Engage culture selectively. Realize and embrace the limitations of your own time, experience, interests. Spend your time wisely. Don’t sacrifice time with God, church or family in order to become more culturally savvy. Everyone has been created differently, to live a unique life. Make the most of your experience by redemptively engaging culture, but try to avoid making the experience of others your own. There are too many issues in the world for you to become an overnight expert on Christ and culture.
Adapted from a forthcoming article for Boundless, “How To Engage Culture.”