How culture is our Christianity?

I mentioned yesterday how some majority world mission leaders, at a mission congress in 1974, accused Western mission leaders of perpetuating a “culture Christianity”. This “culture Christianity” is an expression of the Christian faith that is more dependent upon Western values of freedom, individual expression and internal spirituality.

Now, of course, all our expressions of the Christian faith will always be culturally defined; there is no way that we can have a “pure” expression of the Christian faith. And if you make a survey throughout Church history, you will find that how people worshiped, acted, thought about the faith and a host of other factors will be radically different from one another and from ours, but it is the same Christian faith.

What is true historically is also true geographically and culturally. The expression of the Christian faith in Africa will be different to that in South America, or Europe, or Asia. Walk into a African church in London and you will not think that this is middle class Anglican church in middle England. Now, I would say that is great and perfectly ok. However, where does the problem arise when an expression of the faith become “culture Christianity”?

Like I said earlier it is really when the culture rather than the gospel defines that expression. Or more accurately, it is where the values, essential to the gospel are replaced with values essential to the culture. Culture wins out over gospel.

This is difficult to think about in abstract forms so let us take a concrete example: Western culture. As we have observed over the past few days with the Charlie Hebdo massacres, values essential to Western culture are (1) freedom of self-expression; (2) individual rights and (3) the denial of a critique of these values.

When we think of Western Christianity today–especially in its Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal forms–and examine its worship songs, preaching, church government, etc. I think we must seriously question whether we are not perpetrating a “culture Christianity” today.