Pastors and Culture: Getting It Right

Tim Keller

Good stuff this morning from Tim Keller on right and wrong ways – and right and wrong reasons – for pastors to exegete culture:

I think it may be possible to say that every sermon should have three aspects or purposes. First, you need to preach the text in its scriptural context; second, you need to preach Christ and the gospel every time; and finally, you need to preach to the heart….In that schema, where does “cultural engagement” come into my sermons? Most people would say that it does not fit into the scheme—preach the text, preach Christ, and preach to the heart. They might be tempted to add a fourth category. But that might suggest that cultural references are principally there to give the preacher some personal credibility. That would be a mistake.

Go see where he says it fits into the three-part schema – the answer surprised me. Here’s the comment I left:

Excellent point! I would add that exegeting culture is also essential to the first element, staying faithful to scripture. The meaning of scriptural texts is dependent upon their cultural context, so our ability to grasp that meaning is equally dependent on our ability to get our heads out of the box of our own cultural context and into theirs (for hermeneutical purposes). To do this we must understand our own culture. If we don’t understand our own culture we’ll read into the text all kinds of assumptions that aren’t there.

Keller gets bonus points for this sentence: “In many parts of the world, citing Kierkegaard is not all that unusual.” Makes me think we need a new conversation – not just about contextualizing the gospel to culture, but about contextualizing the gospel to lack of culture. As long as Karen’s already got us talking about Tolerance Camp!

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