All Christians grapple with how to understand and interact with the culture (or cultures) surrounding them—all of which, post-Fall, are tangled mixtures of good and evil. Dordt University theology professor Justin Ariel Bailey takes up these complex dynamics in his latest book, Interpreting Your World: Five Lenses for Engaging Theology and Culture. Christopher Reese, freelance writer and editor of The Worldview Bulletin, talked with Bailey about the significance of culture, engaging it faithfully, and specific contemporary challenges.

What is culture, and why is it important for Christians to understand the culture they live in?

Culture is a web of significance in which we are suspended; it is a field of force in which we move. It’s about how we make sense of God’s world. There are multiple dimensions to this, and each needs to be taken seriously. Culture has a power dimension, but it also involves the moral communities we form, how we cope with the anxieties of life, and how we deal with the certainty of death.

Part of what I’m attempting in my book is to look at this question through five distinct lenses: meaning, power, ethics, religion, and aesthetics. I want to show how understanding cultural phenomena requires attention to all five dimensions.

We don’t choose whether to be culturally engaged. We are all cultural creatures, living in cultural settings, making cultural lives for ourselves and our families. Understanding culture is the first step in exercising cultural agency and developing cultural wisdom in light of God’s work in Christ.

How can a deeper understanding of culture contribute to our evangelism and discipleship?

Why don’t people experience the gospel as good news? Answering ...

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Interpreting Your World
Interpreting Your World
Baker Academic
192 pp., 21.99
Buy Interpreting Your World from Amazon