With the advent of globalization, people from different cultures and backgrounds interact more than ever. It can be a good thing when sharing and teaching new ideas and practices. It also means that others inevitably influence us, sometimes without realizing it. In recent years, the field of theology has been rocked by a discussion concerning how our culture influences our theological beliefs. It is not to say that we cannot engage in rigorous intellectual pursuits and still maintain a faithful Christian identity. Instead, it means that because we live in an increasingly pluralistic society, there are many competing ideas vying for attention and influence over us as individuals. It happens through pop-culture icons like celebrities or reality TV stars with millions of followers on social media sites such as Twitter. This essay explores the idea that our culture could influence how we view theological issues.
Our culture has a considerable effect on how our beliefs are formed. Whether it is being raised in a specific religion or being raised in the United States of America, many factors affect how we view religious studies (Percy 43). For example, what people believe about God may influence their family’s views or even society’s views. If they are constantly surrounded by people who believe that God is a vengeful being, then it is likely that they will adopt some of those same beliefs. Conversely, if people are raised in an environment where they believe that God is loving and forgiving, they are likely to have similar beliefs. It is just one example, but the same applies to all facets of religion. Our culture influences many things, including what we believe about God, our relationship with others, and how we worship Him.
Another critical thing to note here is that culture is never stagnant. According to Percy (54), culture changes all the time because it evolves as people change over time. It means that the theology and religious beliefs of previous generations may not be the same as the beliefs of the current generation. For example, it was common for people to believe that women were inferior to men in the past. This view was heavily influenced by culture. However, society has changed over time, and many people now believe that men and women are equal. This belief was not always the case, but it is now relatively common. Culture changes meaning that different generations may have different theological views. It is just one example of how our culture influences our beliefs about God or religion in general.
It should be noted that cultural influence is not always a bad thing. Some aspects of culture can help keep religions alive and evolve the way they should. If the culture does not influence particular religious views at all, then it is likely that they will die off because people will stop believing in them over time. Our culture has a significant effect on how our religious beliefs are formed. It means that all of us have different beliefs about God, religion, and even Jesus because of the varying cultures that we are surrounded by (Percy 43). For example, if someone was raised in a culture that makes them believe that women are inferior to men, then it is likely that they will hold those same views when looking at religious texts.
However, if someone is raised in a culture that believes that men and women are equal, they will likely interpret religious texts to reflect that belief. It is just one example of how our culture shapes our theology, but it is clear that culture has a significant impact on the way we view religious studies. Culture is never stagnant, and it is constantly evolving. It means that our beliefs about God, religion, and even Jesus may change over time as different cultures influence us (Percy 78). What one generation believes is not the same as what the next generation believes, making culture an essential aspect of religious studies.
Percy states that our culture influences how we view religious texts, affecting how we worship God. For example, if someone is raised in a culture where people kneel to pray, they are likely to do the same. However, if someone is raised in a culture where people stand up to pray, they will likely stand up. It is an indication that our culture plays a massive role in religious studies, and there is no single aspect of religion or theology unaffected by culture.
There are many other ways that culture influences our theology as well.
My argument concludes that our culture profoundly influences interpreting and understanding scripture. Our understanding of who God is, how he interacts with us, what his expectations are for humanity in general, and how faith works within our world will be influenced by cultural norms to some degree. As such, it becomes imperative to take this into account when teaching or to discuss theology from an academic perspective. To allow ourselves space for growth as human beings living in a changing society, I propose that we acknowledge and engage deeply with these realities so that they may have less impact on the lives of those around us.
Percy, Martyn. Engaging with contemporary culture: Christianity, theology and the concrete church. Routledge, 2016.