the weblog of Alan Knox

When Culture Trumps Scripture

Posted by on Dec 24, 2007 in discipleship, scripture | 5 comments

I originally published this blog post about a year ago (see “When Culture Trumps Scripture“). Since there are many new readers to my blog now, I thought I would re-publish it here.


I know what you’re thinking, but this post is not about postmodernity. I’ve read several books about the postmodern culture, the emerging culture, the post-postmodern culture, etc. One of the things that I recognize is that there are good features of almost every culture, and there are bad features of almost every culture. I say “almost every” because I have not examined every culture. There are good and bad aspects of postmodern culture. There are also good and bad aspects of modern culture.

But, what about “North American Evangelical Church” Culture? Are there both good and bad aspects of this culture?

I would like to offer one example of a negative aspect of “North American Evangelical Church” Culture: using biblical words with non-biblical meanings. The following words are generally used in ways that differ from the biblical meaning: church, worship, service, ministry, minister, deacon, disciple, discipleship, praise, and preach.

So what? Why should we care? We should care because when believers read the words “church” or “service” or “preach” in Scripture, they naturally assume that the common cultural meaning is the biblical meaning. What happens at that point? Scripture is reduced to cultural standards, and those believers who do not take time to understand the biblical meaning, are trapped in a cultural understanding that is nonbiblical (at best) and sometimes anti-biblical.

Certainly there may be other ways that “North American Evangelical Church” Culture trumps Scripture. But this is one that can be corrected, if we begin to use words biblically. Am I way off base here?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 12-24-2007

    Alan, don’t you know you’re messing with the whole system as we know it? So of course you’re way off base! Thanks for being off base. :)

  2. 12-25-2007


    I guess whether or not I’m off base depends upon which base you start from.

    Merry Christmas!


  3. 12-25-2007

    LOL… Yep, I was taking a jab at “the system.” :) Indeed you are quite on base. I don’t think we’ll change the culture as a whole, but if we begin (or continue) to use care in the way we use biblical words, we can at least hope to have an affect on those around us.

    A while back you talked about the word “church,” and how it is used today vs how the word is used in the Bible. This is one word in which I’m sort of “in between” as far as how I go about using it. Sometimes when talking to others I use it in the “going to church” sense, just for the sake of simplicity, even though I don’t believe at all in that use of the word… but yet I know that others understand what I mean by it, since people do “go to church,” even if that means they’re using the word incorrectly.

    But many times I’m also trying to use context when using the word (or I use a different word such as “gathering” or whatever) so that people see that I’m talking about a particular gathering or some other more specific meaning of the word.

    I’m around a lot of “church people,” if you know what I mean (essentially, those who are pretty well submersed in modern church culture), and I guess I take each situation differently. In some cases I’m just wanting to have a simple conversation and not come across as if I’m trying to “teach” or to be picky about the use of words. And unfortunately sometimes it just seems futile to try to make a point about the use of words. But yet many times I’m really desiring to make a point about the meaning and use of words, because knowing the true meaning of biblical words really is important to understanding God and our life in Christ.

    Like I said, I’m in between, but I lean towards trying to use words properly.

    Merry Christmas to you too!

  4. 12-26-2007

    I have just come across your blog lately and have enjoyed your insights. Frankly, I am surprised that you are still employed at SEBTS. For the record, I am a graduate of GGBTS.

    Anyway, I think your comments about words taking on different meanings than their biblical counterparts are right on. Having spent 17 years in the ministry of the SBC variety, I came to see that most everything a local church (in the modern sense) does has no biblical underpinnings even if I used biblical words to describe and justify what I did.

    The one I have been reflecting on the most lately is “Preaching”. I think a more accurate description of what takes place on Sunday mornings around this part of the world should be called “sermonizing” or “lecturing”. The biblical sense of preaching rarely happens in North America.

    I have come to view sermonizing as the single most destructive thing the modern church perpetuates week after week. Though, in the modern church’s eyes, it is the most important thing they do week after week.

    Modern sermonizing has turned modern believers into perpetual infants. They think they have to be “fed” by the expert week after week. They never grow up and start feeding themselves and others.

    Oh well, this is a comment, not another post.

    Your Brother,
    Brent Davis

  5. 12-26-2007


    The word “church” is a difficult one to be sure. You don’t want to seem pedantic, but then you don’t want to misrepresent the biblical term ekklesia. I think you’re example is about the best most of us can do for now.


    I have studied biblical preaching and teaching a little, but not as much as I would like. I think that the church would be more healthy and mature if there was more dialog and discussion and less lecture. Like you said, dialog and discussion is rarely considered to be “good preaching”. However, it seems that Paul used dialog and discussion at least as much as – if not more than – lecture.