On Christians and Cultural Literacy (Vanhoozer)

This is an interesting and thought-provoking book: Everyday Theology: How to read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends.  I’ve mentioned it here before (see this post on transhumanism).  Recently, I was again paging through the opening chapter that Kevin Vanhoozer wrote called “What is Everyday Theology? How and Why Christians Should Read Culture.”  Right around the middle of this chapter I highlighted a paragraph that’s worth quoting here:

“The most compelling reason I can give for learning to read culture is that the mission of the church depends on it.  Cultural illiteracy is harmful to our spiritual health.  Christians need to know how to read culture because, first, it helps to know what’s forming one’s spirit.  It helps to be able to name the powers and principalities that vie for the control of one’s mind, soul, heart, and strength.  Christians need to become culturally literate, second, so that they can be sure that the scripts they perform in everyday life are in accord with the Scriptures – the story of what God is doing in Jesus Christ through the Spirit to give meaning and life to the world – rather than some others story.  Finally, Christians need to become culturally literate because we need to know where we are in the drama of redemption.  The world is our stage, but culture is the setting for our next scene.”

Later Vanhoozer quotes Romans 12:12 (Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this word…) and writes,

“Christians cannot afford to continue sleepwalking their way through contemporary culture, letting their lives, and especially their imaginations, become conformed to culturally devised myths, each of which promises more than they can deliver.”

Even if one doesn’t agree with 100% of what Vanhoozer writes in the opening chapter, it is very much worth reading, digesting, and thinking about.  He makes many excellent points about how a Christian should “read” culture and interpret it in order to avoid its sinful pitfalls but also in order to minister to people living in the same culture.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

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