Otis Dion Culliver
What is truth? In our current culture, which is dominated by the philosophy of relativism, those who are searching for the freedom the truth offers cannot as easily discern truth. Relativism is the philosophical thought that argues that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute truth. In such a society, one is free to determine one’s own standards of right and wrong because the context of the current culture will dictate the moral values of the society. Hence, it is easy for those who are captives of the crumbling culture to reject the truth of scripture on the basis of relativism. Yet, those who are believers hold to the doctrine of inerrancy. We believe the Bible is still true, relevant, and speak to our hearts today. Therefore the preacher must overcome the trends of society and the tug of culture when presenting the truth of God word to a world plagued by relativism.
How does the preacher preach in a contemporary setting that is saturated with philosophical relativism? I argue this must be done through cultural contextualization of the sermon with a clarion call for parishioners to engage society with the truth and justice to the glory of God. Since relativism finds it’s standard for truth in culture the preacher must show the truth of God’s word relates to the cultural condition of the hearer. In order to preach the word of God effectively the preacher must consider culture of his ministerial context when preparing and present the sermon.
What is cultural contextualization? Cultural contextualization is the art of making the biblical text relevant to the hearer by finding parallels within the biblical context of the text and the cultural context of the hearers. One common pearl of wisdom my father would give preachers was always have your Bible and newspaper on your desk. The preacher is charged to exegete the biblical text but they must be able to exegete the cultural context in order to give application of the biblical text that is relevant to the hearer’s current context.
The effectiveness of the sermon is often measured by hearers’ interest in the subject matter. Cultural contextualization is often discerned in the introduction of the sermon. Cultural contextualization of the introduction grasps the listener’s attention so that they are ready to hear biblical solution within the text to their fallen cultural condition. Cultural contextualization helps the hearer make application of the message for their current personal, social and cultural situation.
Worshippers who gather in our sanctuaries on Sunday morning have been interacting with culture all week. They are bombarded on a daily basis with the information through a variety of communication mediums. The personalities on these media outlets are shaping their perspective of world and define their standards of morality, truth, and justice. Moreover, many of these conversations are not objective and interested in conveying facts, effectively creating a cyclone of information that misleads the hearer. These varieties of opinions include censored cable news outlets, syndicated radio broadcast, and social media. Subsequently, there is a need in the age of relativism for the preacher to communicate God’s perspective on the ills of culture in order to admonish hearers to lead counter cultural lives based on the ageless truths of the scripture. Furthermore, by engaging with the culture in the preaching moment, the preacher is able to give a redemptive perspective on the sin that plagues society which offers hope as well as comfort to the occupants of the pews. On Sunday morning sermon should be preached from the Bible with application to our culture so that you will be biblically informed and socially conscious so that we can lead a life of truth while fighting for justice.