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  • Writer's pictureW. Austin Gardner

The Gospel Versus Culture

First, the gospel must be distinguished from all human cultures. It is divine revelation, not human speculation. Since it belongs to no one culture, it can be adequately expressed in all of -them.

The failure to differentiate between the gospel and human cultures has been one of the great weaknesses of modern Christian missions. Missionaries too often have equated the Good News with their own cultural background. This has led them to condemn most native customs and to impose their own customs on converts. Consequently, the gospel has been seen as foreign in general and Western in particular. People have rejected it not because they reject the lordship of Christ, but because conversion often has meant a denial of their cultural heritage and social ties.

A second danger in equating gospel and culture has been to justify Western imperialism. Christians in the newly formed United States believed that God had blessed their country in a special way and that they were God's chosen people. Pietism and patriotism were blended together. Political parties and the national government used Christian sentiments and symbols for their own purposes. When religion is used to justify political and cultural practices, it is "civil religion."

Paul Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries

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