A Theology for Hipsters (Part 33): Keeping the Fundamentals (Part 12)

Some things naturally go together, like nerds and belief in the coming Zombie Apocalypse. Other things are as unnatural together as any two things could be (like cheerleaders and belief in the Zombie Apocalypse…or cheerleaders and nerds). And while many in the church have seen Christianity and culture as completely disconnected the truth is they are more interrelated than has been thought in recent years. This is not just owing to the influence of hipsters. In fact Christianity and culture have always been connected.

In the last post in this series I tried to point out the failures of progressive theology. The idea that progressiveness is always better is not true. assimilation into cultural expectations and norms is not good in the area of foundational doctrines. And yet, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Whenever I talk about life and ministry I like to borrow the analogy that I first learned from Mark Driscoll. The Open Hand and the Closed Hand.

In the closed hand are all the key fundamental doctrines which Scripture does not permit us to alter and toy around with. These doctrines are essential for salvation and the church has, for centuries largely agreed upon. In the open hand, however, are issues that relate to style of ministry. Progressiveness in the open hand is not simply admissible, but because cultures always change so methodologies should change. Therefore, progressiveness in methods is a good thing, in fact I might argue a necessary thing. We’ve seen this for centuries with good missionary work.

When an effective missionary moves into a new territory he knows that he must, at some level, assimilate into the culture. He must understand their language, their values, their ideas if he is going to effectively communicate the never-changing gospel. Likewise a missionary is going to try and promote the worship of the one true God in a way that makes sense to the people living there. I recall a ridiculous story I heard several years ago, about a group of Fundamentalist missionaries who confiscated a drum from an African church because they believed that drums were sinful. These missionaries completely failed to see the importance of the drum, and the cultural relevance of it, to this African church. They were actually robbing them of one of their culturally expected means of worshiping God, and all, I might add, because of their own skewed views.

We must adapt to our culture in some ways, particularly in philosophy of ministry, musical style, and communication. We want to contextualize the gospel so that we are reaching a new world with the same old gospel message, which is always relevant. We will talk at some length about this later. The gospel does not change, the key doctrines of the faith do not change, but the way we communicate them, the style in which it is communicated does. And progressiveness here can be appreciated and applauded.[1]

[1] For more on this subject see Ed Stetzer and Dave Putman, Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become A Missionary In Your Community. Nashville: B&H,  2006; Mark Driscoll, Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004; Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003; Gabe Lyons, The Next Christians: The Good News About The End Of Christian America. Garden City: Doubleday, 2010.

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