Response to the Topic of Theological Integration and Disenculturation (Apr24 CSLI)

A Monthly Reflection

Disclaimer: I am not a trained Biblical scholar, nor am I the Almighty, the great I AM. Only He can write, change, or authorize Scripture. What I am about to share is a personal perspective and interpretation only and as such it is not Biblical text nor authoritative. In fact I hope to be correct but I could be very wrong – though I sure hope I am not.

That thinking and willing is a process requiring discipline and perseverance, and is a joint effort: God’s and ours. On the one hand, the Holy Spirit convicts of sin and sanctifies. But that doesn’t mean that we can sit back, relax, and leave the driving to God. God expects — demands — that we do our part. As Mother Teresa says, “Our progress in holiness depends on God and ourselves — on God’s grace and on our will to be holy.” [Mother Teresa, quoted in Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God (New York: Harper and Row, 1971), 66.]



Feathers ruffled. Blood starting to simmer as it heads to a boil. Your mind racing in your head in preparation while you are poised, sitting on the edge of your seat tongue ready to lash.  Be prepared and in all honesty – I hope you don’t want to jump through these words and want to ring my neck.  What I am about to say you just may want to do that!  I am going to step outside the norms, experiences, and what you most likely have been taught or believe presently.  In fact, my hope is to challenge your reality and for you to stop for even one moment to ponder “what if” or “have I thought about this all wrong”.

This is the challenge.

Yet before I begin, I must disclose and overly emphasize with strong conviction – that I will not be adding or taking away from the inerrancy of Scripture, nor will I try to state anything that is heresy or to take away from His holiness.  In fact, I won’t even go down the road of the core tenants of the Christian faith such as who Jesus, being G-d in one part of the Trinity, is our Savior, how we all are sinners, how we need grace for our condition needing a full payment of our guilt by His precious gift of salvation and redemption on the Cross through perfect atonement.  These are the rock-solid anchor points of Christianity and being one of His disciples we should truly embrace daily and forever.   He alone is in charge, and He alone deserves the glory and remember who we are as men that He should be mindful of us in the first place.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? – Psalm 8:3-4 (ESV)

This is where I would like to begin.  Man is small, infinitively miniscule in comparison.  We are in no way as big as He nor as mighty and strong.  He rules, we surrender.  He has always been.  We have been created.  He is not in our debt.  We are in His. 

This month we have gone “further up – further in” (C.S. Lewis) in our theological studies.  There are two key terms which need to be defined up-front:

  1. Theological integration – taken from the text of Romans 12:1
    1. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of G-d, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to G-d, which is your spiritual worship.” (ESV)
    1. In another way to state that we live as to integrate the character of Jesus, the Gospel and the lessons learned from Scripture into our daily lives and into the world around us.
  2. Disenculturation – taken from the text of Romans 12:2
    1. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of G-d, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV)
    1. In another way stated that we should not let the world change us or shape our character and to pull away from the world and its overall messages and embrace what the Bible and the Holy Spirit, for example, can teach us.  We allow them to lead us as we go through our day-to-day lives.

For a quick side note, please see the CSLI archives on these topics with a lesson from Bill Kynes:

Let’s first talk about the former – Theological Integration.

We are called to be different – to be holy as other Scripture points out just as He is holy.  We live in this world, but we are just passing through.  Our home is not here as we know it.  We are called to be salt and light to the hurting nations and to our communities.  We are called to make disciples of Christ.  We are called to love Him first and foremost.  We are called to live sacrificially.  We are called to surrender ourselves to Him.

We must therefore enact the spiritual disciplines, put on our full armor of G-d, and stand firm in our faith with His strength.  We must surrender our desires along the way and embrace His truth, for His purpose, and for His glory.

A discourse on 1 Peter from John Brown states this:

“Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations, enthusiastic fervors, or uncommanded austerities; it consists in thinking as God thinks and willing as God wills.”

(now go back and re-read the opening quote from Mr. Colson)

We live, or should, to please G-d.  As to my point earlier we are made by Him, for Him, and live out the core tenants of our faith – His truth – daily.

Practical application of this truth is to never stop reading the Bible and to ask the Holy Spirit to help you interpret its truths and to apply them to your life and to your actions – to transform your mind (and heart and soul) to be more Christ-centered and loving towards Him and others as you try to do the will of our Heavenly Father.

Next, let’s talk about the latter – Disenculturation

Is this even a dictionary word?  What is disenculturation?  Why do we care?  And how should we care?  Let’s start by defining culture.  This is where I am going to start differing from the status quo probably.  There is truth that what G-d makes is good – I don’t disqualify that.  It is when man (via sin) touches things that all goes astray.  We choose a lie instead of His truth.  We choose self-worship – instead of Holy worship.  We choose to try to be on our own for our own.  Wrong.

Now with that statement made, let’s define culture.  I recently learned and heard some various quotes that I would like to reuse here to help shape the discussion (thanks Bill for the first).

Culture is…

By Andy Crouch: “…what human beings make of the world.”

From the American Heritage Dictionary: “The arts, beliefs, customs, institutions, and other products of human work and thought considered as a unit, especially with regard to a particular time or social group.”

Thus, to me when a perfect utopia (some call this shalom – perfect peace, perfect environment) that the Trinity started with the creation of man and Earth is corrupted by man and sin – this creates culture.  Culture is not perfect – it cannot be by nature with man’s involvement – and thus it is not good, even if the things within culture are good of itself such as science, art, nature, language, and more as these are His inventions. Culture is thus sin realized.  Our first parents did not create culture when in the Garden of Eden and I don’t think there will be a culture in Heaven.  For both have been or will be shalom – peace restored, and the Bible mentions this throughout including in Revelation.  His peace.  His shalom. 

Think about it this way – how many societies, how many empires, and even how many households and individual hearts try to “make up” and “fill in” for what we are missing in our lives – both internally and externally in our culture?  Whether it is laws, unspoken rules, cultural norms or reactions to others without thinking – we try to replace our much-needed companionship with our L-rd.  And depending on where you live physically there can be a whole different set of these “norms”.  To each society, each culture, there are expectations for what is “right” and what is “wrong”, and these can vary vastly.

Even in our own churches there are differences.  I have not tried to research this, yet I would suffice it to say there are probably tens (or more) denominations within Christianity itself with all the various other minor differences with respect to Biblical interpretation of non-core tenants (baptism, free-will vs pre-destination, etc.).

Let’s turn up the heat (remembering what I said earlier).

Judas.  Heaven or Hell?

The woman at the well.  Fornicator/adulterer or very unlucky woman with many “husbands” lost?

These are just two of probably many where I think we as Christians are too quick to judge.

USA culture (probably moreover the human condition) is VERY quick to judge others.  From eye glares to eye rolls, from harsh words spoken on the internet, to thinking bad thoughts about others, and even passing down stories that are or could be untrue – it just passes down the harm further down the road while leaving the present in the wake of some unneeded destruction.

We as humans are quick to defend ourselves and even quicker to pass judgement on others. 

I am in no way different, and it is so easy in our society – our culture.  We are taught to be our own defender – our own best king/queen.  Nobody dares challenge us.  No one should oppose what we believe or get in the way of our happiness or our (often wrong) thinking. We are trained that we know what all the time is right even if society is shifting this left or right regularly.  We embrace subjective truth instead of G-d’s objective and iron-clad truth.

Have you made a decision on Judas?  What have you been taught?  Or what do you want to believe?  Perhaps a better question is – who do you want to go to hell?  Hitler? Nero? Judas?  The list could go on and on with the individuals who have done some serious horrendous crimes against the innocent and society.  Do people deserve hell?  Sure, they do.  I do.  You do.  The question or questions come down to two.  (1) If people repent even at the last possible physical moment of their lives and are truly repentant of their crimes and sins – do they inherit the grace of forgiveness and the gift of salvation? (2) Have we been to hell to confirm whether anyone is there or not?

Personally, I don’t want to confirm location of souls for question #2 for reasons I am sure we can imagine and regarding #1 – I believe that all people have the opportunity for repentance and salvation even if it is a final thought and heart conversation with G-d.  This, not to mention, is that I am not the G-d of the universe and of space and time. 

So back to Judas.  There is considerable amount of people that have already “damned” him to hell.  It makes sense that we would think that way because he betrayed our L-rd Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver.  In fact, when sorrow hit, he went back to the Jewish leaders and threw the money in their presence.

Let’s read the Matthew 27:3-5 text from the NASB:

3 Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? You shall see to it yourself!” 5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and left; and he went away and hanged himself.

Notice how the text says remorse.  What is remorse?

A quick internet search on the definition of remorse yields quite a few results.  Some of these are:

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

     Moral anguish arising from repentance for past misdeeds; bitter regret. synonym: penitence

The Century Dictionary.

     Intense and painful regret due to a consciousness of guilt; the pain of a guilty conscience; deep regret with self-condemnation.

The GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

     The anguish, like gnawing pain, excited by a sense of guilt; compunction of conscience for a crime committed, or for the sins of one’s past life.

Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

A feeling of regret or sadness for doing wrong or sinning.

Now take a look at what that regret, sadness, self-condemnation led to – suicide.  If someone is not truly sorry, like when for example a parent tells tells their child to say he/she is sorry to a playmate for some wrongdoing – the kid might say sorry but does not really mean it.

If Judas was not really sorry – would he really commit suicide?  Would you?

What was going on in his heart and mind within those final few moments?  Could it perhaps be G-dly-based sorrow?  Could he have asked for forgiveness before he hung himself?

And back to my other question – we don’t know where He is as we are not G-d.  He sure could be in hell, yet we just don’t know for sure.  We have not confirmed this logically, spiritually, or physically.  And I hope he did repent and asked for forgiveness.  I don’t believe I have physically taken a bribe in terms of a direct payment to sell out Jesus, but I sure have sold Him out in my heart numerous times when I should have declared my faith in public or defended His honor.  I have additionally at times let Him down by choosing self-versus Savior.  

When I have walked in sin at various points in my life I have tried to exchange Him for the lusts of the flesh, or the eyes, or the pride of life (see 1 John 2:15-17).  I want my desires – not His.  I want satisfaction now instead of love postponed.  For all intents-and-purposes those nails through His wrists and feet are my sinful nails, the hammer my selfishness, the force of the hammer my desire for more, more, and more all the while shouting me crucify, myself crucify, and I crucify.

Are you shouting crucify or are you shouting me, myself, and I?

What about Judas?

Are you shouting about him – GO TO ….?  Or more lovingly like our L-rd did when He was on the cross – something more along the lines of “Father, forgive Judas, for he did not know what he was really doing.” – this is paraphrased from Luke 23:34.

Same thing about the woman at the well.  I won’t go into all the specifics here on why I think we are also too quick to judge for this situation.  I will leave you with some points a good pastor friend told me – some questions to ponder?  What was the life expectancy of people, in this case men, of that timeframe and how this could have happened with all the men especially if they were all older in life?  How dangerous were different occupations (such as masonry, etc.)? What is the definition of husband, especially in terms of the betrothal period and the concept of legally/contractually vs heavenly bound?

Again, I do not mean to change the text nor the overall message of what Jesus is trying to say to her or to us, the Biblical readers – from what I can tell – it does not call her an outright adulterer whereas it does state that Rahab was a prostitute (see Hebrews 11:31).

This of course, like with all Scripture, needs careful study and Holy Spirit discernment – so of course, I urge the reader of my words to ask the L-rd to reveal the truth according to what the truth really is and what honors Him the most.

So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter (Isaiah 59:14).

Going back to why we care and how we care, we need to hold our feet on the ground.  We need to be anchored to our faith in Him.  The world is passing away – it is temporal as we know it and as such, we should stake our claim on His promises not on the mirage of the here and now.  We care because we should long to be with Jesus in heaven.  We should desire to be at home with Him. 

We care by thinking listening, thinking, and trying to live out Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Moreover, and to the point a bit further from Colossians 3:1-4:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

One of the books that we were tasked to read this month was, This is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel by Trevin Wax, which was in my opinion one of the best books for year 2 of the program.  There were many insightful parts of the book, and I enjoyed the fact for each of the topics, the idea that the world (and culture) tries to substitute our G-d given longing for a myth, a lie.  We need to figure out that longing and replace it what is the real truth.  His truth.  And I would suffice it to say then use this knowledge to help others realize how they are being lied to as well.  Some of the topics in the book include technology, Hollywood, marriage, sex, self, happiness, and more.

Let’s take the one that probably hits me closest to the heart – materialism and the quest for more.

Within the last few years, my wife and I bought a very nice house on almost an acre of land.  We are above the poverty line in the USA and very much above the poverty line of the world, yet after we moved all our belongings from a different state as well as from a local storage facility – I was appalled.  At first it was sticker-shock to see how much we have accumulated over the 20+ years of marriage and kids.  We have amassed quite a heap of stuff.  The text talks about trash collectors and the garbage yard about how all things go the eventual direction of that scrap bin. 

Aside from a few items that may be preserved and cherished by future generations, virtually everything in my house will one day be consigned to “the trash.” It’s just a matter of time.

How should that impact the way I see stuff now?

Television programs like Hoarders show houses stuffed with all sorts of items, much of it trash. We shake our heads in pity, sad to see the mental malady from which these people suffer. But I wonder if people from previous eras, or people in other parts of the world today, might have the same reaction toward us. If they were to see into our closets, or our garages, or our attics, would they look at all our stuff and wonder, I wonder what afflicts them so?

If today’s world of consumption and accumulation seems normal to us in all respects, we may need to hold our noses and dig deep into our trash or clear out the closet of our minds to make room for a careful consideration of the myths that prevail in our society.

What are the stories we tell ourselves about wealth, pos-sessions, status, and success? What does our stuff say about us as people?

The only way we can be faithful to Christ in this time is if the light of the gospel addresses the longings and the lies in our never-ending quest for more.

This is where I falter.  At first, I was disgusted by all the items when walking through my packed-to-the-brim basement, yet I still have the desire to shop at Stuff Mart.  Remember VeggieTales and how Madam Blueberry wanted more stuff to try to make her happy.  See

To quote,

Madame: These dishes are faded, their edges are chipped!
This rose is on backward and this one is flipped!
These spoons are too tiny, these forks are no good!
These knives have gone dull and don’t slice like they should!

Madame: My neighbors have nice things, I’ve seen them myself
In fact, I keep pictures up here on my shelf!
Look at this new flatware of Monsieur LaGoon’s
And Monsieur DesPlanes has twelve Franklin mint spoons!
And Phillip Van Pea went and bought a new sink
Why, he even has a disposal, I think!
And look at this crock pot of Madame Lacrosse’s
And ceramic jars where she keeps all her sauces!
Nice sauces…

I am not a blueberry, nor a cartoon – but both of us suffer from stuff-alism.

And the desire, the greed, for more.

As I end this paper may my, and our hearts, shift from materialism, judgements, and the other things of this world to be more conformed to the image of Christ and His love.  May we live in light of our union with Him and surrender to our Father’s will.  May we ask for forgiveness of our selfishness and our desire to push Him out of our thoughts and lives.  May we seek His truth and His Word.

I’ll leave you with this thought taken from an article, I recommend you read next in our study on where our true nature lies and where we are presently and to live in the light and breath of Heaven.

“Weaklings are those who know the truth, but maintain it only as far as it is in their interest to do so, and apart from that forsake it.”[21] Many chose to depart from truth to maintain power or influence. It is said that in politics, “perception is reality,” which means that “impression management” (Irving Goffman) is more important than personal integrity in light of considering verity. “Perception is reality” harks back to Protagoras’s anthem of relativism, “Man is the measure of all things,” which, among other logical malignancies, is a self-contradiction, since it makes a universal claim. Another man, say myself, can deny it and that will become “the measure of all things.” Ironically, however much power or influence they exercise, they are, morally speaking, weaklings, since they do not align themselves courageously with truth, come what may. In biblical language, they do not “swear to their own hurt” (Ps 15:4)—that is, they do not put honesty above their reputation or wealth.

By Douglas Groothuis, “Deposed Royalty in a Fallen World: Pascal on Culture and Politics”

The Worldview Bulletin Newsletter on Substack

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