Christian Culture versus Christianity.

Published in: Theology.

I have talked previously about “Christian culture” and probably alluded to it being a different entity than “Christianity.”1 I’d like to elaborate more on what I mean.

Let us define “Christianity” quite broadly as following and submitting to Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God.2 This definition holds certain common and identifying characteristics inherent among Christians. Such commonalities could be considered a culture, but I will leave them simply as Christianity, as Christianity is not separate from these factors and these factors are not separate from Christianity.3

“Christian culture,” on the other hand, is the social atmosphere, norms, and mores that arise within the social context of Christianity, but outside the purity4 of Christianity. Things such as preferred or accepted musical genres,5 dating practices, and religious cliches.6 I admit that Christian culture usually arises out of good intentions, but typically ends as a set of rules, moral standards, and acceptable products7 applied on top of Christianity.8

Christian culture, then, becomes an obstacle to Christianity: those outside of Christianity see this culture and think that it is Christianity; those within Christian culture confuse themselves regarding obedience to God and obedience to this cultural standards. The lines get blurred, and no one benefits.

Thoughts?

  1. See “Leaders, Followers, and Outliers in Christian Culture” and “Critics and the Advancement of Art
  2. Sure, there may be “better” definitions. I imagine there are worse definitions as well.
  3. Direct results from being in communion with Christ: the fruits of the Spirit, spiritual gifts, the Holy Spirit, etc.
  4. I’m not convinced that “purity” is the best word here, but I can’t think of one that is more suitable. Hopefully you understand the idea that I’m trying to get across: there is a refreshing simplicity to Christianity as Christianity, stripped of everything that we have added to it and left only with us, Christ, and His redemptive work.
  5. Listen to contemporary Christian radio. Many of the songs sound the same because they adhere to an accepted “song standard” within Christian culture.
  6. Stuff Christians Like is a wealth of information about Christian culture. Yes, I know it is satire, but it would not be humorous if it didn’t play off of truths. “It’s funny because it’s true.”
  7. My pastor recently referred to these “acceptable products” as a “Christian ghetto,” where there’s a “Christian” version of everything. Just slap a Christian label on it and let your niche marketing go to town.
  8. The similarity to the Pharisees Jesus encounters in the gospels is striking.

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