HomeFeatureCultural Influence and the Bible    


Cultural Influence and the Bible — 11 Comments

  1. I note that when we talk about culture we mostly talk about how we dress, what we do and eat, how we worship.

    Aside from those how does culture affect our doctrines - what we believe about the character of God and His plan of salvation?

  2. At first view, Sola Scriptura appears near impossible to apply, given that interpretation and response to the Word are both based on world view, corporate and personal experience, resources and sinful tendencies.
    It is crucial, therefore, that the eye salve of spiritual discernment be applied through the Holy Spirit.
    God's truth, always presented in relevant light, still transcends culture and personal preferences! Praise Him!

  3. Hello William,

    Your story about the Bible trivia quiz topic of circumcision triggered the memory of a woman in a church I attended. You stated that you “did not tear the section out, as some have done, because I did not think it was appropriate.”

    This woman had heard a sermon on 3abn where the pastor was speaking on the "evils" of non-KJV translations, and after hearing the sermon she threw all of her husband’s Bibles in the garbage that the preacher had mentioned (as well as some that looked “suspicious”). She did it to “root evil out of our home.” Needless to say, her “logic” made a very negative impression on her husband, who lost all his study bibles.

    I have heard pastors preach against particular bible versions because it makes their proof text method of evangelism much harder. They get questions that are difficult for them to answer with a handy proof text. Some versions of the bible (The Voice and The Message, for example) take what I would consider extreme liberties in translation; however, I look at their liberties as opportunities to engage in dialogue with those who are honestly seeking the Truth.

    In spite of the shortcomings in The Message and The Voice (as well as other translations), they have portions where the ideas in God’s Word come through with a crystal clarity that I appreciate. I have found “gems” like this in nearly every version of the bible that I have read.

    Richard Ferguson

    • Good point Richard. Sometimes the translations that make it "harder" for us to use as proof texts are actually more accurate with the original manuscripts. Sometimes we test a translations accuracy by how well it matches our preconceived ideas. We need to test translations with theoriginal manuscripts and not our preconceived ideas. When we do that we will find the KJV is not always the most accurate on every verse, even though it made a great proof text. Remember the Bible is a love story and not a mere collection of proof texts.

  4. I do agree with your basic point, William, that our view of Scripture can be affected by our culture. We need to be very careful in making sure that we are standing on biblical principles, and not just on our cultural interpretation of them. However, to my mind, most of the examples that you are using seem rather questionable.

    Of course you are correct that, in ancient times, a woman had no power to divorce her husband. However, in the case of the woman at the well, we are given no particulars in regard to how she managed to go through a series of five husbands before settling down with a man outside of marriage. There are many possible scenarios besides the unlikely possibility that she was groundlessly rejected by such a long series of faithless men. Some of them may have divorced her for just cause. In that case, the law of Moses would have had her executed, but we have no reason to believe that the Samaritans would have been so particular about following that. Another possibility is that she just wanted to move on, and she was persuasive enough to get her husband to grant her a divorce. Look at the way she was able to bring out the entire village to see Jesus. In the book, Desire of Ages, it is noted that she brought up the controversy over place of worship in order to change the subject away from something so unwelcome as a review of her past. From this I perceive that the woman herself was indeed morally culpable, to a greater or lesser extent. Yet here was the long-promised Messiah, before her very eyes, not giving even a hint of despising or condemning her, but offering her every spiritual blessing that He had come to bestow. No wonder she got so excited!

    I find it entirely plausible that Miriam could have seized on the fact that Moses had married someone of another nation in order to further her ends. Nationalism is no recent invention. You are probably correct in saying that skin colour had nothing to do with it, but it certainly appears that Miriam was encouraging others to look down on an immigrant to the Hebrew nation, and on a cross-cultural marriage.

    Your example of the women cutting holes in their blouses may only be a testament to the degradation of their culture, resulting in the severe distortion of their own concepts. It certainly doesn't prove that the missionaries were mistaken in their intentions, or that they were imposing their own culture, rather than biblical standards.

    Again, you are making a great and important point. I just have a problem with some of the means to which you resort in making it. To my mind, they seem a bit extreme.

    • Thanks RG. I don't mean to be absolute in my examples other than showing there is more than one way to look at things, and culture affects how we look at things including the Bible. I did not think that I implied that the missionaries who handed out the blouses were mistaken. I just presented how the natives thought. Just because I can explain how someone else thinks and feels does not mean I think and feel the same way. You think my examples are extreme, but I thought a circumcision category in a trivia book was extreme. Obviously the publishers and people using the category did not think it was extreme. Just goes to show we all have our own ideas of extremism based on our own experience and background.

      • Thank you, William, for the clarification. Certainly there is more than one way to look at things. I just thought that making the woman at the well into an innocent victim and making Miriam's criticism of Moses' marriage into something where he had supposedly married above his station, rather than below it, was completely off-base. That is what I meant by "extreme." The woman at the well was embarrassed by her past course of action, and Miriam was putting down Moses' wife, even though the woman was a sincere worshiper of Jehovah. If we miss these facts, out of ignorance, and reinterpret things according to our own revisionist tendencies, we can lose the important lessons the Scriptures have for our own lives.

        By the way, that sort of extreme revisionism seems to be very popular within the (counter) culture that is so very familiar to every baby boomer. I'd already heard the story of the women cutting holes in their blouses. People seem to love the kind of figurative iconoclasm that kind of story can foster. It's a lot easier than making a commitment to truth.


        • RG While I do not pretend to be right about everything I say, keep in mind millions share my thoughts about Mirriam. Those ideas and examples I used including Mirriam did not begin with me, so you may or may not be correct, but to say it is way off base is quite an absolute statement to make. As far as far as the missionaries giving out blouses example, I have used that illustration in discussions before and its always been well received and even repeated by other teachers as an excellent illustration, so again while you saw it as extreme it does not mean others do. Remember what may be extreme to you may not be extreme or off base to someone else. In Adventism we have a wide range of diets while some diets appear very extreme to others in the church, even though neither extreme in either direction conflicts with the Bible. I am not sharing this to be argumentative I know you are not being argumentative either. You are just sharing how you feel which is what makes for healthy discussions like the one we are having. However I am sharing this for the sake of our readers who have their own insights as well, and may not appreciate being called extreme or off base. 🙂

  5. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. Rom 12:1-2

    This controversy was going on in the church for many years. We live in a sinful world. We go to different places six day of the week: school, work, social activities, listen to the radio, TV, etc, etc. Whatever we participate in during the week affects us during the sabbath as well as our spiritual life.

    What affects the physical, affects the spiritual.
    How do we think has to do a great lot on the culture we are from or living in presently. I traveled different places and saw different things and even wonder at myself.
    It was later in life I got a vehicle. At that time poor people never had vehicle. A bicycle did the same thing as your legs. People walked miles upon miles to go to church on sabbath or crusade. Now I heard people who live a short distance from church say they cant walk to church if something is wrong with their vehicle. Are they right or wrong? Is the work of the Lord affected?
    In the culture I grew up in, breast feeding babies and young children is a way of life. Women will sit in the back seat of the church and might throw something over their breast if a man is around, sometimes nothing if only women are in the meeting.People breast fed in public places- parks, market, etc.
    Is that a problem in my new culture? Yes.
    Once in church my husband saw a door locked that was not supposed to be locked so he went to open it, a young woman was breast feeding all covered up, she got angry because he went into the room at that moment although she was not exposed.

    Does several different cultures in the church affect our relationship with God? Yes/no. At times some members are offended if some other members look down on their cultures like if their culture is inferior to theirs. Someone preaching said, God is not interesting in our grammar and how and where we have the noun, verb or adverb. He is interesting in where we have our hearts.
    Some might say any version of the bible is appropriate. Has anyone ever used, read or scan through a Roman Catholic bible, what do you think? If someone does not know any other bible and only that version, it will be the work of the Holy Spirit to convince that person about true and error. Just like how he convinced and convicted the elderly gentleman who I spoke about previously. He gave me his bible. Denounced the church.

    We at times have to step back and ask the Holy Spirit, is my mind the place he wants us to be. Is something wrong with my mind, why do I think the way I do

    • Lyn, while holding evangelism meetings in Chiclayo Peru there was an older teenage boy with one leg who walked about a mile on crutches every night down a road filled with potholes to get to our meetings. Yes it is amazing as to what each culture considers practical transportation to get to church.


Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and considerably shorter than the original post. First and last name required.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and preferably significantly shorter than the post on which you are commenting.

HTML tags allowed in your comment: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>