Culture in Colossians

“We ought not to suppose that what is divine is like gold or silver or stone, like an engraving of art and thought of man.”

-Acts 17:29

I found these style descriptions on a promo website when the W Hotel in Dallas was under construction. I think they were trying to say that the W appeals to all style dispositions, no matter how your chromosomes are wired. Obviously they have made selective reductions in the style spectrum. Which one are you?

Culture

Pompidou, Andy Warhol, Mini Cooper, movie, artifice, jewelry, media, explosion, neon lights, baroque, color, the stuff that surrounds you, gilded and grounded, flea market, eccentric, wallpaper, well-traveled, patter, collector, diverse, open, original, autonomous, surprising, global fantasy, emotion, exotic, Mao Tse Tung

Classic

Cigar, jaguar, Labrador, English, club, familiar, tailored, reassuring, Connolly, Bentley, library, tweed, Aston Martin, marble, horses, vespa, Italian villa, Scottish cattle, French chateau, timeless appeal, quality, Robert Adam

Nature

Raw, leather, stone, wood, linen, cotton, beech, beach, Alvar Aalto, Alps, fjords, fur, fir, trees, leaf, bark, weathered paint, rain water, pond, lake, sail boat, rope, made by hand, wind swept, sea shells, pebbles, simple life, driftwood, green, brown, free, wild, grass, sky, flowers, happy

I found this intriguing because it hints at how complex and fine our taste palette is, which in turn reflects our culture. Art is the ever present, full-length mirror of society’s culture, and culture is innately creative. Some of the oldest remnants of ancient societies we have are artistic. Think, Lascaux Cave paintings. What’s even more interesting to me is that each of these style descriptions make use of architecture- Centre Pompidou, baroque, Italian villa, Scottish cattle, French chateau, Robert Adam, Alvar Aalto. Even the Nature category couldn’t resist inserting their own architect. (For the featured picture in this post, I chose a building that represents each of the selected styles.)

The built environment is often a crystallization of a society’s culture.

“We can learn more about mediaeval culture from a cathedral than from the most exhaustive study of constitutional law, and the churches of Ravenna are a better introduction to the Byzantine world than all the volumes of Gibbon.”

-Christopher Dawson

The Pyramids, the Parthenon, the Pantheon, and St. Peter’s all embody their culture. Culture is a powerful, shaping force. It shapes not only architecture but also our natural being. It’s like a rip current in our being. It may not be that visible and we may claim to be a good swimmer, but it’s there, right below the level of consciousness, all the time pulling on us.

This semester I’m involved in an intensive Bible study on the book of Colossians. We’ll be spending 4 months on 4 chapters! What Paul is up against in this epistle is the bastions of human culture. Religion, tradition, and philosophy (including mysticism and asceticism) had swept through the church life there. Doesn’t sound that evil, but in fact culture can be a subtle replacement of Christ, causing us to live according to our natural background and worldview rather than according to Christ. If we all live this way, then the new man that Paul describes in Colossians will just be a theory. What we need as Christians is not merely to have a more open mind to understand other people’s cultures or ways. We need to be reconstituted with Christ by letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). Then Christ will be our life, person, and all. Only then will the new man be a reality and fulfill God’s eternal purpose.

4 thoughts on “Culture in Colossians

  1. “What Christians need is not to have a more open mind to understand other people’s cultures or ways. We need to be reconstituted with Christ by letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16).”

    Very true.

    Like

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