“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8 NKJ)
Following her birth on Pentecost, the Church remained vibrant for about 275 years, despite both Jewish and Roman persecution. Then, in about A.D. 313, Emperor Constantine initiated a commingling of the Church and the Roman Empire by ending persecution of Christians and offering them favored treatment.
Christianity soon became, in effect, a state religion. People seeking political favor chose to profess faith. Conquered people were forced to “convert.” In the following centuries, this commingling of church and state led to: (1) a church hierarchy constantly seeking political and financial power; (2) a system of royal families throughout Europe claiming “divine right” from Christ to rule and conquer; (3) a tremendous increase in the number of people claiming Christian faith; and (4) a tremendous decrease in the percentage of those people who lived the lives Christ intended.
It was the advent of cultural Christianity in the western world.
My definition of “culture” is: The prevailing attitudes, values and beliefs of a community as reflected in their customs, laws, traditions, social norms and art. The abbreviated version of this is: What people believe and how they live.
My short definition of “Christianity” is: Receiving the Holy Spirit through biblical faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. (Matthew 28:18-20; John 3:3-8, 16)
My definition of “Christian culture” is: A culture where Christianity has a major or dominant impact on what people believe and how they live.
My definition of “cultural Christianity” is: Professed Christian faith where the human traditions and worldly principles of your culture, rather than Scripture, have a major or dominant impact on what you believe and how you live.
Please reflect with me on how our forefathers’ cultural Christianity continues to impact us today. (Exodus 34:5-7)
In Christ there is no ethnic or economic distinction, and no distinction between male or female, because we are all made in the image and likeness of God, all given dominion over the earth, all beloved children of God and heirs of His Kingdom. (Genesis 1:26-28; Galatians 3:28-29) Many women held positions of great responsibility in the early Church, including Priscilla, Chloe, Lydia, Phoebe and Junia. Many wonderful Christian leaders were financially poor, and many were from Asia or Africa. (Acts 8:27, 13:1)
On the other hand, the culture of Rome was very patriarchal, and the cultures of the many European empires that replaced the Roman Empire all called for the preeminence of not just men but “White” men.
So, what prevailed? Women were totally displaced from positions of responsibility in the Church. The Holy Roman, Spanish, French, English, Dutch and Portuguese empires all claimed divine Christian right to conquer, plunder and enslave or control the other-than-White people of Africa, the Americas, and much of Asia.
This patriarchal, racist cultural Christianity crossed the Atlantic with many of the Europeans who settled North America. The Protestant Reformation did many good things but had not fixed this. Our nation’s founding documents did many good things and recognized the divinely endowed equality of “men,” but they did not fix this.
If we had more fully embraced a biblical Christian culture rather than the cultural Christianity passed on to us, we could have avoided the trauma of the Civil War, the alienations of the feminist movements, and so much more. Instead, we learned and continue to learn the hard way.
The Bible warns us repeatedly about cultural Christianity — divisive traditions and doctrines of man, empty philosophies, teachings that suit our own passions and have a form of godliness, but no power. (Mark 7:6-8; Ephesians 4:14; Romans 16:17-18; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; 2 Timothy 4:3-4) The only way to cast it off is to prayerfully and honestly examine every belief in the light of the totality of Scripture. (2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 16:13)
To steal the “redneck” style of Jeff Foxworthy:
If, as a Christian, you believe human reason, science or personal experience disprove the supernatural events and teachings of the Bible, you are probably a cultural Christian.
If you believe you can pick and choose what portions of the Bible you will accept, you are probably a cultural Christian.
If you believe Christianity is one valid religion among many, you are probably a cultural Christian.
If you believe the LBGQT definitions of gender, sexuality and marriage should displace the biblical definitions, you are probably a cultural Christian.
If your political affiliation is more important to you than your full adherence to Christian values, you are probably a cultural Christian.
If your ethnic identity is more important to you than your Christian identity, you are probably a cultural Christian.
If you believe you are only required by God to love and value people who look like you or believe like you, you are definitely a cultural Christian.
God bless you, and God bless our community.