We should note that not only is a knowledge of the original culture important, but also a knowledge of our own culture. If we are unaware of our own culture, we will be unequipped to evaluate in what way our cultural conditioning is influencing our reading of the text. And if we wish to apply the meaning of the text to a present situation, we had better understand how our present culture works. (p. 148-149)The reason I appreciate this understanding is that in my years of church experience, conferences and reading I have been exposed to ministry models that are very culturally savvy, putting great amounts of energy into understanding contemporary culture but little work into carefully interpreting scripture. I have also experienced ministries that are extremely rigorous in their study and interpretation of scripture, but are miles away from having relevant engagement with the present culture. Both models are subject to “distanciation” because they neglect one aspect of cultural understanding at the cost of the other. In most of those cases, they are even adamant in their rejection of the other cultural perspective because, in their mind, embracing the opposite cultural context violates their convictions.
My dream is for churches to take more seriously the need to combine the rigors of good Biblical interpretation with a passion for understanding the present culture and contextualizing the gospel for that culture. There are many churches doing a pretty good job, but countless more, large and small, whose convictions (and presuppositions) are keeping them from God’s mission to reach our present culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.