MInTheGap

Standing in the Gap in a Society that's Warring with God.

Is What is Acceptable Defined By the Culture?

September 13th, 2007 Visited 1676 times, 1 so far today

Congo Celebration What defines what’s acceptable for a given period of time?

That was the question we were discussing on my way home from work yesterday. It had to do with music and dancing in worship in Africa, and the question asked was, is this acceptable for Christians to do, or are they wrong to do it?

I likened it to our conversations on modesty and clothing, that modesty is somewhat defined by the culture at the time and some absolutes. This means that I believe that there are clothes that are modest, but that what must be covered or the way in which it is covered may vary by culture. I postulated that when Peter and Paul admonished women in the New Testament to be modest, they didn’t think of the whole pants/skirt debate, but were probably thinking about the type of robe she wore. Does that mean that all Christian ladies should dress the way that they were thinking when they wrote it– that all Christian women should be dressed like New Testament women? I don’t think so.

Same thing with music and dancing. I believe that there is a component of deciding what music is glorifying to God that includes association. If you have a tune or a melody that’s associated with evil, it does not glorify God no matter if you pair great words to it– the association still makes it bad.

But this might not exist in a different culture, so it could be acceptable there– it depends on the other factors– those that are intrinsically right or wrong.

How would you respond to this challenging question? What’s an absolute and what can vary with culture, and how can we rightly discern what is permissible and what we should be admonishing our brother to leave behind?

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  • Musicguy says on: September 13, 2007 at 7:28 pm

     

    I don’t think you’re going to find many absolutes, if any. If we take the African example again, there are tribes where women do not wear any sort of chest covering. Others where men don’t wear pants. (I’m looking for the National Geographic story now) Are they being immodest? Perhaps by your standards, but not theirs or mine for that matter.

    As for music, if it helps them to worship their god, then by all means, they should do it. I don’t feel it’s our place to judge another culture and try to apply our standards to their ways of doing and being.

    It’ll make things much easier when aliens take over planet earth. Hopefully they’ll let us keep some vistages of humanity.

  • Beautifulycreated says on: September 13, 2007 at 8:04 pm

     

    If it’s inspired by God then there is nothing wrong with it. Is having an organist and singing hyms the only correct way to worrship God? I hope not because then all the persons before organs were sinning. Jewish worship songs that I have heard tend to be more upbeat and like you could dance too. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with any music or dancing, simply the message behind it.

    Same goes with clothing. The writers of the New Testament were teaching to dress with the culture plain and simple. In Cornith the women were told to cover their heads because only prostitues wore their hair uncovered or loose. The equivilent to day would be dressing in a mini-skirt and bellyshrit and stading on a street corner. On the same token I would not go to a middle eastern country and not cover out of respect for their coustoms. Does this mean I would go to a nude beach? Probably not, I’m not that comfortable with my body but I don’t believe that everyone there is looking at everyone else in lust. Or that the men and women in less “modest” cultures have a problems with lust.

    Most of it is a matter of what we are taught is wrong and right. Rock is wrong so we can’t have guitars for worship. Dancing is wrong so we can’t praise the Lord with dance. Certian parts of the human body are exciting at times so they should be covered. Most of this is based on scripture that is taken out of context and can be argued right back with more scripture.

    In the end God created the world. He gave us minds to create, music, art, dance, medical breakthroughs. Tragicaly sin entered the world so those things became corrupted. It’s sad really when you think about it God never intended for us to have to cover anything Adam and Eve were naked and we should have been able to worship in whatever style most fit us as an indivudual. Sin however makes it nessisary to conform to cultural standards.

  • Charley says on: September 13, 2007 at 10:53 pm

     

    Several years ago, I took a great class entitled, “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.” It was a history of Christian missions and a study of Missiology. Part of the class revolved around distilling the Gospel down to the Gospel without the trappings of Western culture. It was harder than we thought, and I don’t know that we completely got it figured out.

    So when you take the Gospel, you need to take it as the power of God unto salvation.

    But once converted, a child of God is to grow in Christlikeness…or he’s not truly converted. That means things like giving up polygamy, discerning what the BIBLE means by “modesty” (not the definition his culture or ours brings) and changing dress as necessary, giving up cannibalism, giving up honor killings, etc. Music and worship style is a non-issue, as long as the converts use the Bible as their guide. (I will note that one of the problems we discussed dealt with polygamy. A new convert realized he could not have multiple wives and promptly got rid of all but one. In that culture, it meant horrible consequences for the former wives. So maybe whoever was discipling that new convert should have tried to find a way to ensure the former wives were cared for before encouraging the monogamous marriage. It’s things like this that get tough.)

    But the bottom line is the Bible brings “civility” to the uncivilized…and that “civility” is not to be confused with simply western culture. It is often confused because most of western culture was originally built upon that same civility.

    So to answer your question, “What is acceptable” is NOT defined by culture, but by Scripture…and we in the West could do well to remember that and apply it in our own lives and culture!

    Charley
    Get Serious Blog

  • Arthur says on: September 14, 2007 at 12:40 am

     

    MInTheGap writes:
    I postulated that when Peter and Paul admonished women in the New Testament to be modest, they didn’t think of the whole pants/skirt debate, but were probably thinking about the type of robe she wore.

    Brother, come on! They were not thinking about the kind of clothes a woman wore, they were thinking about the heart attitudes of women. They were actually admonishing women to show their inner beauty and not to rely on their garments.

    MInTheGap writes:
    If you have a tune or a melody that’s associated with evil, it does not glorify God no matter if you pair great words to it– the association still makes it bad.

    I’m part of a Christian Rap Group called Straight and Narrow Records. One of our ministries is to take secular rap music and change the lyrics to glorify Christ. Though there is always alot of debate as to whether this is a good tactic or not, we still engage in this because it is our conviction that it is not evil. Someone might associate the beats behind our music with the music they heard in the club the night before, but that does not make the beat behind our music evil and that evil does not cross over to our God-honoring lyrics. Instead, it is a way to catch the attention of people who would otherwise not pay attention to God-honoring music, and get them to listen to lyrics that preach the Gospel of Christ.

    MusicGuy writes:
    Others where men don’t wear pants. (I’m looking for the National Geographic story now) Are they being immodest? Perhaps by your standards, but not theirs or mine for that matter.

    See MusicGuy has a point here. But not in the way I assume he thinks. You see, modesty is an absolute, as Charley points out, but it has nothing to do with clothing. It’s a heart attitude. One of those in a tribe of ‘under dressed’ Africans might wear an European hat. Is it possible that by the addition of the hat the African is being immodest? Well, MIn, by what I understand of your definition, it is. But the way I see it is that it’s not the addition of the hat or the subtraction of the pant, it’s the motive behind that action. There may, culturally, be certain tip-offs to one’s heart attitude concerning modesty vs. pride/vanity, such as in our culture, if a girl wears a bear-midriff and has a naval piercing, it’s a ‘signal’ that she’s trying to be alluring, but this signal alone does not make it so. In fact, it’s not only possible but entirely feasible for a woman in our culture to bear this ‘tip-off’ without having the heart attitude that one may assume goes along with it. What if her father was a real dirty, sick man, and he required his daughter to dress thus? Would she be immodest for obeying her father? I don’t want to get into the area of our parent’s commands and the Bible’s commands and which overrides which and at what times and to what degree at this time, but clearly, given this scenario, which is VERY REAL in our culture (I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes,) the woman in this case, though dressed as you would call ‘immodestly’ could be very humble and even humiliated about her garments.

    Charley, you got it right.

  • Charley says on: September 14, 2007 at 12:28 pm

     

    I was rereading the comments and noticed Beautifullycreated stated, “It’s sad really when you think about it God never intended for us to have to cover anything Adam and Eve were naked and we should have been able to worship in whatever style most fit us as an individual. Sin however makes it necessary to conform to cultural standards.”

    I have to take exception with her conclusion. Sin doesn’t make it necessary to conform to cultural standards, but rather to BIBLICAL standards. When Adam and Eve fell, realizing then they were naked, they covered themselves! God did not chastise them or correct them for covering themselves. In fact, He goes on to establish standards of modesty for His creation. Thus, for example, the women of tribal Africa who do not have a cultural problem with upper-body nudity are outside God’s design for fallen mankind. Should they come to know the Lord Jesus, He would expect them to cover their nakedness.

    This is a different argument than worship styles. There are definitely general guidelines for worship that can be derived from Scripture, and they ought to be followed. But within those guidelines, there is much cultural latitude.

    Charley
    HomeDiscipling Dad Blog

  • Rebecca says on: September 18, 2007 at 7:57 pm

     

    Great conversation.

    We know a pastor in Ghana whose church has dealt with the polygamy issue this way: the polygamist keeps his wives, but cannot serve in church leadership. This is done out of mercy, because there is no way for a displaced wife to be supported in their culture.

    On the subject of music: I think there are very broad standards of what is musically acceptable to God in terms of instruments, style, etc. But some may be problematic to different people based on their background. Also, some styles of music are probably not godly no matter what the words are, for example screamo because it damages the singer’s voice, also rhythms that are irritating because they are too fast, too slow, or irregular. As the Christian artist grows more mature in his faith, he’s likely to move away from these types of music.

    Regarding parodies: I think they are used well in secular places, such as the county fair or a concert, but it’s better not to do them at church.

    My opinion. 🙂

MInTheGap

Standing in the Gap in a Society that's Warring with God.

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