THE BIBLE AND CULTURE
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 7:25pm
I was asked to answer some questions about the relevance of the Bible for today’s (or any) culture. The following is the result.
QUESTION #1 — Why do you believe the Bible continues to be relevant to our culture today?
MY ANSWER: I believe the Bible is relevant to our culture because it is an unchanging message directed to an unchanging world. The fact that our culture is different from those of Bible times does not make it irrelevant for today. Matters of culture are different on the surface; the essence of those things that are crucial does not change: God does not change; the nature of mankind does not change; right and wrong do not change; sin and death do not change; the need for and nature of salvation do not change; our hope of eternal life does not change. These are the main issues addressed by the Bible.
Those who think of the Bible as irrelevant today usually see it as no more than the reflections and observations of the human writers who produced it, i.e., men whose thought processes were bound by their contemporary culture. But when we see the Bible as originating ultimately from God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we know that its perspective and application are unlimited. When God caused the Bible to be written (2 Peter 1:20-21), he intended it to be used by all people in all times (cf. Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 9:9-10; 10:11).
QUESTION #2 — How do you seek to help students learn and apply biblical truth in ways that are relevant to today’s world?
I tell my students that any good lesson or sermon answers two questions: “What’s so?” and “So what?” First, we must present the doctrinal truth as given in the Word of God, the Bible. This is “what’s so,” and it never changes. But then, we must show how this truth applies to whatever time and place (i.e., culture) in which our audience lives. Understanding this distinction between unchanging principles and variable applications is crucial.
I make every effort to “practice what I preach” by showing how my doctrinal teaching applies to the issues of the day. E.g., when teaching about the nature of human beings, I show how recent scientific experiments with animal behavior and with AI (artificial intelligence) do not nullify our status as unique creatures made in God’s image. When teaching about sexuality and marriage, I show how certain popular forms of birth control are unethical because they may cause the death of a newly-formed baby.
QUESTION #3 — How does biblical truth apply to disciplines other than the actual study of the Bible itself?
It is important to remember that the Bible is not just a book about “religion,” but is the source of a world view, i.e., the true view of everything. I teach theology, which sounds so “religious”; but I define theology as “the study of God, and of everything else in its relation to God.” God speaks to us in the Bible not just as our Savior, but also and even more fundamentally as our Creator. Biblical truth is not just truth about sin and salvation; it is also truth about how to live in this God-created world.
For example, when I teach about sin and salvation in my course on grace, I try to show how the Biblical teaching is important for psychology and counseling. For another example, I have long taught a course on justice and human government. Though “human government” sounds like a secular issue, it simply cannot be properly understood and implemented apart from the foundational Biblical teaching on the subject. Those who say we should never mix religion and politics simply do not understand the world-view aspect of the Bible’s teaching.