In the World … and of the World?
If some Christians believe their cultural convictions are scriptural, many other Christians ignore Scripture in favor of more palatable cultural values. That stance is usually more obvious than the more subtle shading between conviction and command.
Examples abound in American Christianity. Perhaps the most subtle (and prevalent) is the difficulty for many people (and many Christians) to believe in the miracles recorded in Scripture, especially the Resurrection. Our culture doesn't value things it can't understand or that can't be explained by observable experimentation. Scriptural values such as healing, miracles, and a God who rose from the dead become impossible to believe for many people in today's world.
Or consider the recent debates over hell. There are several orthodox positions on hell Christians can take, but so many of the debates on hell are based on the idea of "I just can't imagine a loving God sending people to hell" rather than on a rigorous analysis of Scripture. Faithful followers of Christ can disagree on what Scripture says about an eternal place of punishment, but an argument that depends on the whims of a culture will fall apart immediately.
Of course, the most glaring example in modern culture is sexual ethics. A new study from the National Association of Evangelicals suggests that 80 percent of unmarried evangelical Christians aged 18-29 have had sex, over half of that number in the last year. Add to this the debates about same-sex activity, divorce, cohabitation, and contraception, and it's clear American Christians are confused about sexual ethics. It seems more and more that Christians are getting their sexual values from popular culture rather than the Bible.
Though culture is certainly not the only influencer, it's obviously affecting the increasingly lax attitudes toward chastity, fidelity, and the holiness of sex within a Christian, sacramental marriage between a man and a woman. Christians watching TV or movies see example after example of sexual relationships that aren't God's intended plan. Without an instilled biblical sexual ethic, it's all too easy to ingest the sexual values seen on screen rather than the ones in Scripture.
These kinds of cultural values can become extremely difficult to resist because they seem so normal. From an objective, cultural sense, it's a weird thing to not have sex before you get married, or to regard marriage as a sacramental commitment long after the infatuation stage has worn off. But those are things Scripture calls Christians to.
So how do you tell if your morals are based on the Bible or pop culture? Well, the best way is to try. And then to surround yourself by a Christian community that tries. Whenever you're making a decision for your own life or are trying to discern if you agree with another decision, challenge your conclusion—is it based on Scriptural values, or is it just something you learned from culture or celebrity endorsement? Is your stance a personal conviction that doesn't need to be shared by every Christian, or is it a clearly biblical stance of righteousness? If you're genuinely not sure, ask someone you trust to challenge you on it. Then, together, you'll start to discern what a biblical morality really looks like.