The Gospel and Culture: a love/hate relationship?

By Kelsi Johns
The Institute of Theology of Culture, Overflow Newsletter

So why so much attention on the gospel and culture? Our theology is built upon a foundation that explicitly and implicitly communicates how we view culture in light of the gospel. This ultimately shapes the way we engage with people, and the world as a whole. Having a competent understanding of how these two go hand in hand is essential in effectively communicating the love of Christ in an engaging–not isolating or patronizing–manner.

I hear “the gospel” nearly every day as a seminary student. But really, what exactly is the gospel? That seemingly simple question leaves me with a deer-caughtin-the-headlights expression and scrambled mind. I should have a succinct, orthodox answer for that by now, right? Maybe it should be “who” is the gospel. I believe that Jesus, the son of God, as the crucified and risen Lord is the necessary apex. But what about beauty, worship, art and justice? Do these things fall under the umbrella of the gospel? I believe they can and do.

And what role does culture play? I don’t want the gospel to be some abstract idea that I dance around, or am studying so closely that I miss the gospel forest for the theological trees. Ideally, our The Gospel and Culture: a love/hate relationship? by Kelsi Johns lives (which are enmeshed in culture) should paint a picture of the gospel. If we were to do an interpretive dance of the gospel, would that look anything like how we “perform” our lives off stage? Does culture reflect the gospel, deflect the gospel, or both? Thank the good Lord these issues will be addressed and explored during the workshop and benefit dinner. This is what New Wine is about: getting to the heart of these issues, and wrestling with how to live this gospel out in tangible, contextual ways. We comprise our culture. And hopefully our lives–in community–exhibit Christ. So how do the two–gospel and culture–work together for his glory? In my opinion, that’s when it gets good. The question before us is not

This autumn, New Wine, New Wineskins will be focusing on the gospel’s relation to culture. No easy task! Some of the key questions we’ll be engaging are “What is the gospel?” and “What should the church’s relation to culture be?” While we’ll offer answers to these questions, it will take us a lifetime to live out these questions and answers as Christ’s kingdom community! Please join Brad Harper and me on October 18th for the “Gospel and Culture” workshop. Also approaching is our 4th Annual Benefit Dinner on November 6th. Our goal for both events is to assist the church in its efforts to serve as a redemptive force in culture, presenting the whole gospel to the whole person in the whole community. At New Wine, New Wineskins, we are committed to raising up a new generation of Christfollowers who will be salt and light in our world, serving as a preserving and penetrating witness to God’s holy love.

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