Chapter 4, Continued… (See Part 6.1 here)
The first 3/4 of Mark Driscolls chapter dealt with the relationship of gospel to the culture. The final 1/4 investigates the relationship between culture and sin. He distinguishes “Sins” from “sins”.
“Sins” he calls Universal sins are
“those offenses which the Bible condemns for all people in all cultures, including sexual immorality, idolatry, prostitution, homosexuality, theft, drunkenness, greed, slander, and swindling (1 Cor. 6:9-10)” (pg 102).
“sins” he calls Particular sins are
“those offenses that are sinful for some people under some circumstances but not for all people under all circumstances…Christians are also commanded by God to avoid sins that are particular to them, without unfairly condemning or restricting the freedoms of fellow Christians who invovle themselves differently in controversial cultural matters” (102).
How can you discern between universal sins and particular sins? See Romans 14.
Let me give you an example. In Kazakhstan, the ethnic Kazakhs are nominally Muslim. Traditionally, they do not eat meats that are halal such as pork and they don’t drink alcohol. But during Soviet times, eating pork sausage was not as big of a deal and alcoholism developed dramatically among men. Now, it is common to find a Kazakh man who calls himself a Muslim who eats sausage and drinks Vodka (as well as smokes). All no-no’s for Muslims.
So as they become Christians, it is okay for Christians to eat sausage? By eating sausage they show their freedom in Christ, demonstrate the unity of believers, but alienate themselves from tradition-minded Kazakhs because sausage is the meat of their oppressors (the Russians). Also, a pre-Muslim traditonally Kazakh drink is fermented mare’s milk (yes, that is horse milk). But it is ever-so slightly fermented. Is it okay for Christians to drink this? To not drink it may please some foreigners but would alienate them from traditional Kazakhs, plus the acceptance of pre-Muslim cultural identity is a positive contact point for the gospel.
Many Christians are denying themselves pork for the sake of the gospel (bye-bye yummy bacon). Yet they also embrace drinking Kumis (the mare’s milk) as well as Shubat (camel’s milk). But their primary motivation is the reputation of Jesus and the gospel.
I would argue that Mark Driscoll’s concern for the freedom of Christians is also for the sake of the gospel. We live in “free” America. By unnecessarily restricting people’s freedom, we may be inhibiting their access to the gospel because most people will not listen to authoritarian religious jargon. Yet, and very importantly, Driscoll tells us to have a conscience:
Biblical Principles for Cultural Decision-Making
Is it beneficial to me personally and to the gospel generally (1 Cor. 6:12)?
Will I lose self-control and be mastered by what I participate in (1 Cor. 6:12)?
Will I be doing this in the presence of someone I know will fall into a sin as a result (1 Cor. 8:9-10)?
Is it a violation of the laws of my city, state, or nation (Rom. 13:1-7)?
If I fail to do this, will I lose opportunities to share the gospel (1 Cor. 10:27-30)?
Can I do this with a clear conscience (Acts 24:16)?
Will this cause me to sin by feeding sinful desires (Rom 13:13-14)?
Am I convinced that this is what God desires for me to do (Rom 13:5)?
Does my participation proceed from my faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 14:23)?
Am I doing this to help other people, or am I just being selfish (1 Cor 10:24)?
Can I do this in a way that glorifies God (1 Cor 10:31-33)?
Am I following the example of Jesus Christ to help save sinners (1 Cor 10:33-11:1)?
I think these questions are excellent and if we would sincerely consider them, we will find ourselves freely serving the master with clear consciences, and our primary concern will be the gospel. Notice how the gospel comes up again and again in these questions–3 times directly and indirectly in every question.
In response to Christians who are either too permissive or too restrictive concerning cultural decisions, Mark rightly calls us to repentance.
On reformission, Christians should repent of the ungodly biases against others.
Are there people, or classes of people, that you dislike?
Christians should repent of their permissiveness or restrictiveness towards culture.
What sins do you permit that the Bible clearly condemns?
What practices do you restrict that are clearly debatable issues?
Do you have an attitude of love in dealing with these issues?
Driscoll concludes this chapter by calling us to change culture by “[addressing] sin theologically” (pg 109) by changing people in our culture.
“To rightly diagnose any human conduct, we must overcome our propensity to deal merely with cultural effects (lying, adultery, theft) and instead focus on the cause (the sin in our hearts)” (109).
The solution–the gospel of Jesus Christ!