There was a meme going around last year that said, “… and just like that, everyone went from being experts on advanced epidemiology to experts in civil rights law.” The problem is, none of us really were experts, but we argued as if we were.
Our culture today seems to have a totalizing narrative. As in, you must fall 100% in line with the program, or else you’re the enemy. But why are we expected to outright reject or totally adopt ideas? And if we opt out of polarizing to one side or the other, why are we seen as wishy-washy or apathetic at best, or reckless and downright dangerous at worst?
This polarized mindset isn’t just in our culture, but it’s creeping into the church as we have debates about politics, masks, vaccines, and other issues. But I’m not going to dive into those with this post. Instead, I’d like to summarize the “4 R’s” rubric I used during last Sunday’s message on Critical Theory. This rubric can help us as we sort through the cultural issues we face every day as we try to determine what to accept and what to reject.
On Sunday I used two Bible passages to support the 4 R’s rubric:
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
“So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: “To the unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you…’”
The 4 R’s are:
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit…”
What do I need to be aware of? How has this affected our world/me? In what ways do I need to “get above” it in order to have the ability to evaluate it instead of being controlled by it?
“…according to Christ…”
How is this noble/commendable? What overlap is there with Biblical truth? How does it bridge to the Gospel?
“…philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world.”
What needs to be exposed, confronted, and outright denied in light of scripture? What errors need correcting? What lies are these ideas built on?
“As I…observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you…”
What opportunities do we have to present an attractive/persuasive contrast – as in, is there an altar to the unknown god here somewhere? How can we be light against the darkness? How might Christ be presented more clearly as the answer?
When it comes to analyzing our culture, it can be tempting to fall into the cultural narrative we’re all swimming in and engage in the same all-or-nothing methodology. Obviously there are hills to die on as Christians, like the God-breathed authority of the Bible and the centrality of the gospel and the historical Jesus, as reflected in scripture. But as we engage the world’s narratives, it is necessary for Christians to rise above the polarizing methodology of our culture.
And as we do so, I pray this tool will help us engage our world with humility, love, and wisdom in order to reach more friends and neighbors for Christ.