From the Editor: Culture Critique
God prohibited the Israelites from constructing images of anything in creation as objects of worship (Exod. 20:4-6), and yet commanded them to construct a context of worship surrounded by color and craftwork, including images of God’s creation (Exod. 35–40). Jews and Christians have taken a variety of attitudes toward such cultural matters ever since.
The term culture is used in different ways, but in the present context indicates the shared beliefs, social forms, values, practices, and institutions of a group of people. Although despising or abandoning culture requires only rudimentary analysis, genuine critique takes thoughtful work. The current issue of the journal contains examples of zealous exploration in a variety of directions concerning culture and faith, all of which will reward those who mentally accompany the authors.
Richard Kyle documents recent examples of a Mennonite Brethren tendency to follow worship trends, not always reflectively. Felipe Hinojosa, in the first of two parts, evaluates Mennonite Brethren assumptions, practices, and cultural clashes in Mexican-American mission outreach.
Japanese pastor Minamino Hironori offers a reading of Genesis 1 by which Japanese believers are invited to critique their culture. Ryan Schellenberg and Tim Geddert explore the theme of religious/cultural identity through the biblical accounts of Phinehas and the Pharisees. On the issue of women in leadership, Doug Heidebrecht exegetes Galatians 3:28 in its literary and historical contexts. Loren Johns examines the best-selling Left Behind series and compares it with Revelation concerning violence and Christology.
Bruce Guenther presents the thesis of H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic, Christ and Culture, summarizes important critiques it has received, and offers some of his own suggestions.Chris Huebner invites us to consider ways in which martyrdom is a response to culture and both informs and challenges our own response.
Tom Friesen, in Ministry Compass, cries out prophetically for believers to remember the courage of those who have gone before as we address the crises of our time. In Recommended Reading, Gordon Matties provides an introduction, an overview, and helpful annotations to recent books investigating film as a spiritual discipline. Another interesting collection of Book Reviews is included, along with J. Denny Weaver’s extensive essay response to Thomas Finger’s Contemporary Anabaptist Theology.