in a culture – and is relevant to every culture on earth.
Our job is to share this incredible news in our culture,
no matter how it changes.
Our main task is not cultural preservation, but
That colleague may never meet another Christian
besides you. Your non-Christian family look to you for
an example of Christ’s love. We are the encultured
But from politics to workplace, our fear and frustration take over. We are afraid of ridicule, condemnation,
discomfort. It’s not always easy to live for Christ, and
He told His disciples they should expect strong opposition. However, in our context, it’s often a lot easier
than we imagine it to be.
Part of the fear is that we are not equipped to share
our faith, let alone live it out consistently ourselves. We
found it easier to live for Christ when people shared some
of the basic assumptions about life. People might not
have believed the Bible, but they respected it. They might
not have followed Christ, but they had a
general idea of what that meant. Now we
have to start over and that makes us afraid.
Not only do we struggle to explain our
faith to others, but when we are challenged, we’re not always sure what we
believe ourselves. We hide from the conversation because when the questions
come, we don’t know what to say. Or we
become dogmatic and shut the conversation down.
When we know and understand our own faith well,
and grasp its philosophical and historical viability, we
can engage conversations with humble confidence.
We need to gain a perspective that will help us
connect with non-Christians. Rather than indicating,
“The Bible says,” we address apologetic questions of
why the Bible is important to begin with. What evidence is there for the existence of God? Was Jesus
Christ a figure of history or fairy tale? Why do we need
faith at all?
If we are honest, these are questions we have had
too, and that admission allows us to engage them
honestly. If we don’t know the answers to these and
similar questions, then we need to do further reading
and study, or take a course.
A faith worth living is a faith worth working at over
My own experience of engaging culture with faith
is a distinctly positive one, and a daily adventure. I
don’t expect everyone to agree with me. Neither do I
wait for someone else to validate my faith before I
commit to living it out. Everywhere I have gone in
recent years, I have spoken freely of Christ, borne
witness in communities and on campuses, and never
felt silenced or shut out.
There will always be people who disagree. Why
shouldn’t there be? Let them shout. But I have encoun-
tered a genuine curiosity from people everywhere, and
from all strata of society, who have fewer and fewer
venues for discussing matters of faith and spirituality.
They welcome conversations where they can explore
the concept of God without condemnation. We must
step up to the responsibility of hosting these discussions,
and pointing people to Christ when they seek Him.
So rather than nagging the culture to adjust to the
Church, perhaps we need to adjust to living in a plur-
alistic context. It’s time to stop feeling threatened and
embrace the adventure. We can learn to express our
faith in ways that don’t assume privilege, but recall that
we have been privileged. We can do the hard work of
learning to express our faith well in diverse contexts.
Maybe we will need to learn some philosophy or take
religious studies. If we fear that will
erode our faith, then perhaps our faith
is resting on the wrong foundation. We
have depended on the culture for too
long to prop up our faith rather than
owning it and seeking to walk more
deeply within it.
If not to ourselves, we owe this to a
generation growing up with challenges
many of us can’t imagine.
We don’t need to panic that we need to defend God
in a godless world. God is at work and will defend
Himself. But when we get involved with defending the
rights of persecuted Christians around the world, we
will see ourselves more clearly – that whining about
what we’ve lost becomes a self-indulgent distraction
from exercising our discipleship.
Perhaps it’s time to learn and teach how to live our
faith in contemporary culture with love and joy.
Our rights as Christians in our culture need to be
monitored and carefully guarded. At the same time we
can embrace our responsibilities. Let’s stop this seemingly endless cultural lament and get on with the serious
and joyful work of the gospel. After all, it’s not our work,
but the Holy Spirit’s to change a heart and a culture.
That we are invited to partner with God is an extraordinary privilege. Our work is to be prepared in season
and out of season to give account of the hope we have
within us. Hope is a most precious commodity in our
world today. /FT
Anna Robbins is associate professor of theology, culture and ethics, and
vice-president of Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, N.S.
Let’s stop this
and get on with the
serious and joyful
work of the gospel.