Cultural Exegesis

I often tell my students to exegete the Bible, themselves, and their culture. Otherwise, we become worldly and ineffective for ministry. See 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12:1-2. However, I have never spelled out specifically what exegeting culture involves. I will try.

1. You look for the worldview behind films, songs, art works, and more. This does not exhaust their meaning, but it is vital, since cultural forms often speak subtly, but powerfully.
2. Continue to read and study and meditate on the Bible, since it gives you an eternal perspective on the temporal. See Psalm 119; 2 Timothyy 3:15.
3. Observe how technologies effect relationships.
4. Abstain from some popular technology for ten days. Then reflect on how this has affected you and those around you.
5. Learn the history of various cultural objects and systems, especially those pertaining to communication. Consider books like, “The Victorian Internet” and “The Shadows” treatment of Nietzsche’s use of the newly created typewriter.
6. Talk to those from cultures outside your own about their culture and how they perceive and evaluate your culture.
7. Make time and place for silence in order to set in order the experiences. of your life. See Psalm 90:12.
8. Consult your elders on matters of cultural exegesis, both inside and outside of your family. They may much more than you think.
9. Pray all the time, depending on Christ, and asking the Spirit for wisdom.

Now, do you have more ideas? Or would you like to challenge any?

2 thoughts on “Cultural Exegesis

  1. Good post, Douglas. Each of the nine ideas for cultural exegesis is important. Number one is critical. Sadly, the worldview behind much of contemporary film, music, news commentary, art, personal belief, etc. is vacuous and self-centered. This is becoming such a problem that many people have imbibed a worldview (without thinking it through) which precludes them from being able to engage in idea one at all.

    I’d add a tenth idea: one needs to understand that truth is a relationship of correspondence between thought/belief and the reality to which the thought/belief points. Without an adequate understanding of truth, a person can relativize or subjectivize the nine ways of exegesis, which turns them into mere eisegesis.

  2. You left a a few out:
    -Develop a nose for Christian barriers to Jesus. In the foreign field these are often Christian traditions. What are they here?
    -Talk to people from your own culture who do not yet believe (pairs nicely with personal evangelism). Look for barriers to the gospel. Take notes. Compile data—you can’t get this stuff from Gallup or in print. Use your feet and mouth.
    -Stop equating Christ with Christianity/Christians/church and notice the radically different perceptions of both among people.
    -Listen to even the most bitter critics of Christianity. Doesn’t hurt to listen. Is there anything to it?
    -Get advice from a cross-cultural missionary. Read more missiology. This is their world.

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