Tuesday, November 4, 2008

An Transcendent Gospel Creates a Transcendent Culture

Burk Parsons, the editor of Tabletalk magazine and fellow D. Min. student at Reformed Theological Seminary, writes, "Having traveled to many parts of the world, I have had the unspeakable privilege of witnessing how Christians in different cultures worship the Lord. What's amazing, however, are not the differences among the world's cultures in worship and ministry, which certainly exist, but the astonishing similarities in content, method, and philosophy of ministry." He attributes this similarity to the fact that "we are reading the same Book. We worship the same Lord; we are indwelled by the same Spirit; we share the same faith, the same baptism, and the same hope as we eagerly await and hasten the coming Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:12)."

Sometimes in the multi-cultural world we inhabit, Christians forget there is a culture that transcends all the cultures of this world. It is the culture of Christ's resurrection kingdom---the culture of the new Jerusalem. Although members of Christ's kingdom still live in a multicultural world, we already inhabit the transcendent culture of our Lord's kingdom in this present age. For Jesus taught us that the kingdom of God is already in our midst (
Luke 17:21).

This transcendent culture of Christ's kingdom has already come to earth, but is still awaiting its consummation. This trancendent culture is the result of an eternal and transcendent gospel (
Revelation 14:6). A transcendent gospel necessarily creates a transcendent culture, which Christ's people already enjoy by faith, but will one day enjoy by sight.

But why is the gospel transcendent regardless of culture? Why does this eternal gospel speak immediately to each person's conscience, without contextualization?

The reason has to do with the context of the gospel, which is judgment (Acts 10:42-43). The gospel saves us from God's righteous judgment and wrath. The gospel announces the judgment to come which the consciences of sinners readily understand, no matter their culture. The gospel also announces the happy news that the Father has sent his beloved Son to bear this righteous judgment in our place, so we might be free from condemnation (Romans 8:1). After dying in our place, the Father raised Jesus to his right hand as Lord over all. If we will but receive his beloved Son as our Lord, we will be saved from God's righteous judgment.

No contextualization is required for an eternal gospel that speaks to the basic problem all people face, which is sin, guilt, and the judgment to come. However, if we depart from this context of the gospel, then contextualization is necessary. For the context of felt needs will change from culture to culture! Could it be that Christians who continually talk about contextualizing the gospel are betraying the fact that they have departed from the apostolic gospel?

But if we stick to an eternal gospel that addresses sin, guilt, and judgment, the result will be the kind of thing Burk Parsons has pointed out. An eternal, transcendent gospel leads to an eternal, transcendent culture, which is another name for heaven! For the new Jeruaalem and eternal kingdom of Christ will be a glorious culture where we will see the Lord we now gaze upon by faith! This new culture will be a glorious culture of peace, harmony, righteousness, life, and complete, unending, joyous satisfaction.

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