Culture is the unwritten set of values that come from society. These beliefs influence our behavior and how we choose to live our lives. Culture tells us how to dress, how to talk, how to interact with each other. Culture varies from one place to the next, but in every area of the world, culture has a powerful impact on our lives. Christians, however, believe that our beliefs, values, and behavior should be informed by scripture. There is no problem with the influence of culture unless it contradicts the biblical mandates for our lives. When that happens, we believe we should choose to obey scripture and ignore what the culture says to us. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of the confrontation of culture and the Bible.
It’s culturally acceptable for teenagers to be sexually active, but that is contrary to scripture. Today the majority of teens are sexually active when they graduate High School. Many parents condone their teens’ choice to be sexually active and even support them in this behavior. However, scripture is unequivocal that sexual intimacy should belong to marriage: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Heb 13:4). Culture argues that it is too hard for teenagers to control their sexual impulses, so we should expect them to be sexually active. This is not the view of scripture. God views sex as something extraordinary—so unique that it should be reserved for your life partner.
Culture is misinforming us in this area because teenagers are suffering enormously from the fallout of being sexually involved with other teens. A teen is not equipped emotionally or psychologically to deal with such an intense relationship. What happens to their emotions when they break up? This sexual involvement is contributing to teen depression, teen alcoholism, and teen suicide.
Our culture overwhelmingly approves of the social drinking of alcohol. It is so culturally acceptable that if you choose not to drink, you will be viewed as odd. Scripture gives us many warnings about alcohol,
“Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise” (Prov 20:1). Our culture seems to ignore the basic facts of the danger of a substance that is so addictive. There are between 15-18 million alcoholics in this country and how many more million family members are caught in the vice of dealing with these substance abusers. Did you know that 40% of all family problems brought to the domestic court are alcohol-related? Almost 60% of all domestic assaults are alcohol-related. An astounding 75% of all juvenile delinquents have a least one alcoholic parent. Alcohol abuse is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. Alcohol may be culturally acceptable, but scripture would teach us to view it very differently.
The essential thing in a Christian’s life is his or her connection to God. The Bible informs that connection. From the scriptures, we are informed of what is important, what has value, and what does not, what is temporal and what is eternal. Culture has value, but scripture always has the final word for a believer.