Culture is rooted in one’s system of beliefs and is a reflection of one’s spirit. The word ‘culture’ has a very deep etymology and is akin to words and meaning such as ‘cultivate’, ‘nurture’, ‘inhabit’, ‘serve’, and ‘worship’, all of which convey the idea of habits (i.e. inhabit), the devotion and the development of one’s life. For example, a good word picture of ‘culture’ is that of one allegorically pouring their ‘life’ into the ‘mold’ of their beliefs and then as the metaphorical ‘mold’ of their beliefs is removed, the physical lifestyle of one is seen as the symbolic representation of what is in their soul, heart, mind, and spirit.
Your culture, in other words, is the manifest, physical expression of the spiritual and intellectual core of your being. If you look up the word religion, philosophy, and cult, they will all state a definition of “system of beliefs”. The difference is that a religion is a system of beliefs involving a deity, a philosophy is a system of beliefs in which a deity is absent, and a cult is a system of belief in which the adherents’ beliefs are outside of traditional norms. The word “cult” is from the same root words ‘colto’, ‘cultus’, and ‘cultu” from which the words “culture”, “cultivate”, and ‘culivator’ originate. All suggest a process of development, devotion, and worshipful service to something invisible or abstract which impacts the appearance and growth of the visible or concrete.
Thus, one’s culture is the outgrowth of one’s beliefs. It is the fruit that is borne when what a person has developed in their heart, based upon the senses, thoughts, and spirit, like tiny seeds known as beliefs, sprout upward into their lifestyle and impact their actions, appearance, attitude, and physical environment.
I have heard missionaries say the same basic thing that I have read in books by secular sociologists – specifically, that culture is an outgrowth of religious belief. In one city, you may have a plethora of sub-cultures. You may have a university campus with a culture that reflects atheism and across the street a seminary campus may exist with a culture that reflects Christian beliefs. For example, a Muslim may refuse to eat pork, while a Christian may have no such dietary restriction. A Jew may refuse to marry a person who is not physically Jewish, while a Christian may refuse to marry someone who is not spiritually Christian.
What are some of the elements of culture which reflect a person’s system of beliefs? Culture, according to Wikipedia, includes the following elements (be sure to click each hyperlinked word below to be taken to another article which serves as an example on that subject):
Language – what type of language do you employ? Profanity? Vulgarity? Obscenity? Grace?
Science – Evolution, Intelligent Design, or GOD’s Creation?
Cuisine – Vegetarian, pork-eating, or is all food considered edible?
Art, music, literature, fashion, entertainment – what spirit does your artsy side convey?
Social norms, taboos, and etiquette – What defines right and wrong for you?
Gender roles – what is your view of feminism, gender roles, work and dress?
Festivals and holidays – what holidays do you adopt and from whom are they taken?
Commercial practices – what is your view of corporatism, pollution, and deception?
Social structure – what is your view of marriage, slavery, socialism, fascism, communism, or discrimination?
Religion and philosophy – do you believe in GOD or gods, a sacred source of knowledge, reason, heaven, hell or nothing?
One of the best verses on culture is found in the Book of Colossians. This verse appears to convey a symbolic picture of the Word of Christ being cultivated within the believer and as wisdom of the Word increases, the cultured Seed of the Word begins to blossom into cultural fruit such as godly music:
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” – Colossians 3:16
Are Christians allowed to imitate pagan culture? To learn more on assimilation and the Biblical perspective, be sure to read the article at this link.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” – 1 John 2:15
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestine to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” – Romans 8:29
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” – Romans 12:2
“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:14-16
“And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place. Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God.” – Deuteronomy 12:3-4
“And he spake also a parable unto them; No man puts a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new makes a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agrees not with the old. And no man puts new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.” – Luke 5:36-38
“When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou go to possess them, and thou succeed them, and dwell in their land; Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” – Deuteronomy 12:29-32