What is Culture?

What is Culture?
Robert Wurtz II

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17 NKJV)

A person who loves the world is devoid of the love of God as the ruling principal of their life (Vincent). One cannot be motivated by the love of God and love for the world at the same time. They are as different as light and darkness. Loving the world will accomplish the aims of the god of this present evil world. (2 Cor. 4:4) The love of God will compel us to do the will of the One True God. (2 Cor. 5:14)

Since the fall of man, people have assembled to form communities that were dependent on the contributions of one another; while seeking independence from God. Even after the flood, people assembled into communities in order to exclude, defy, and redefine God. One example is what took place at the Tower of Babel. We have this comment in IVP:

“Babylon was famed for its temple tower or ziggurat, whose foundations were in the underworld and whose top was in the heavens. No, says Genesis, so far from reaching heaven, Babel’s tower could hardly be seen from there—the Lord had to come down to see it. Babel means ‘gate of god’, and Babylon considered itself closer to god than anywhere else on earth. It regarded itself as the religious, intellectual and cultural capital of the ancient world, the showpiece of human civilization. ‘Rubbish’ says v 9, Babel does not mean ‘gate of god’ but ‘confusion’ or ‘folly’, and far from human wisdom, Babylon’s ruined ziggurat, shows human impotence before the judgment of God. Put in modern terms the building of the city and tower may be seen as a human bid for self–achieved security on the basis of technological progress.” (IVP Commentary on Genesis 11)

God confounded the languages as He continued to strive with man. Nevertheless, man continued to drift farther and father from God. Romans 1 explains this in terms of a regression. Because men do not like to retain God in their knowledge, and are prepared to approve almost anything for worship except the Creator, God gives the people up to worship the host of Heaven. Why do they do this? Ephesians 2 tells us there is a spirit that is now working in the children of disobedience. That spirit is that of the Devil himself. 

The Psalmist captured the essence when he wrote, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” (Psalms 2:1–3 KJV) They are of their father the Devil and the lusts of their father is what they do. 

Many Expressions; One World

Every culture, no matter how uniquely it is expressed, is still an expression, more or less, of the spirit of this age (the spirit of antichrist). From the many splendorous cultures of India and China to the Native American Indians or the Muslim’s in Sudan. Each one is a microcosm of this present evil world — expressing itself however differently from the rest. The primary difference rests on each cultures ability to pursue the triune vanities John lists in 1 John 2:15-17. Some cultures are very poor and struggle for mere survival; but even there the world exists however it may appear to be diminished.    

For the vast majority of people living in the Western World, theirs is a culture containing within itself a “popular culture.” This system is such a finely tuned machine that it makes 1 John 2:15-17 sound almost like a prophecy. In fact, I believe it is a faithful saying that the culture that America experiences today is the greatest expression of this present evil world to date. In other words, the world has never been as “worldly” as it is at this present hour. There has never been a time, at least since the biblical flood, that the world has had the resources and technology to express itself as it does today. Our modern culture is an exaggerated version of anything the world has ever produced. In fact, our culture is so radically different than it was just 100 years ago that the people of 1800s could not relate to the 2000s. How did it happen? 

When the industrial revolution came about, the world became mechanized. Companies learned how to produce goods and mine resources on an industrial scale. At the same time bankers and economists were figuring out ways to finance the purchase of all these goods we were producing. Soon there were plenty of products and a means to borrow money, but there was no demand. The reason for this is that our culture in the late 1800s was a needs based culture. The average worker only bought things they had to have for survival. The rich bought all kinds of luxury goods, but “John Q Citizen” did not. Products were even advertised in newspapers on the basis of need. The emphasis was on quality. “Goods like shoes, stockings, even cars were promoted in functional terms, for their durability. The aim of the advertisements were simply to show people the products practical virtues, nothing more.” (A. Curtis)

A Radical Cultural Shift

Corporations wanted to sell good and bankers wanted to lend money. What happened? “One leading Wall Street banker, Paul Mazer of Leahman Brothers was clear about what was necessary. e must shift America, he wrote, from a needs, to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs. And the man who would be at the center of changing that mentality for the corporations, was Edward Bernays.” (A. Curtis) 

Over 100 years ago men like Edward Bernay’s began employing psychoanalysts and public relations experts to change the mentality of the American consumer. He also began using focus groups to figure out how to break through peoples’ inhibitions. In a short period of time they figured out how to exploit the lust of the flesh (possessions), the lust of the eyes (pleasures), and the pride of life (power and popularity) until living for selfish ambition and pleasure came to dominate our culture. In fact, these things became peoples primary reason for being and reason for living. This is the culture we live in. It is the fullest expression of man’s attempt to marginalize and replace the Creator to date.

The consumerist machine pumps out propaganda and products at a dizzying pace — sapping up every sale it can get. the world says, “Covet, and get possessions; lust, and indulge in immoral acts; envy, and climb the ladder of popularity and power!” This is the message of our times. This is the mind of the average citizen. In fact, these things are so entrenched into our culture and paradigm that it takes God’s word through the Holy Spirit to point out their influence in our lives. The whole essence of our culture militates against the God. Leonard Ravenhill once said, Paul says that’s what the world is to me; It’s a system of corruption and rottenness and vileness. It’s anti-Christ from the word go!… Is the world crucified to you tonight? Or does is fascinate you?” In Paul’s own words:

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.   And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:14–16 NKJV) 

Paul was dead to the world and the world was dead to him. Dead people don’t respond to stimulus. They don’t respond to anything. Paul was dead to the desire for possessions and pleasures.  Paul was crucified to the desire for power and popularity. How? He was in Christ who had already died to sin. He was a new creature with Spiritual desires. He was moved and compelled by the love of God — not love for this present evil world. 

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