Cultural Engagement


To watch the linked videos on Faithlife TV, you need to either own a copy of the excellent CS121 Cultural Engagement course by Dr Darrel Bock available on Logos, or be a logged in member of Renew (which gives you access to Faithlife TV).

Term 1

Week 1

Watch Introducing the Speaker and the Course (3:22)

Watch Thinking about Culture (6:22)

Read 1 Sam 16:1-13

  • What are cultural concepts in this passage that are not present in our culture?
  • Anointing, God's chosen leader, animal sacrifice, prophets hearing God
  • What has replaced these concepts?
  • Describe a situation, at home or abroad, when you lacked the tools for understanding cultural expectations.

Watch Culture Does Not Equal the World (3:44)

  • How would you rate our culture from a Christian perspective?
  • What tools have you used to help you discern good from bad in our culture?

Watch People in Culture: What Creation Tells Us (5:33)

  • What sort of tensions do you see between the Christian idea of human dominion and culture-building vs. our society's understanding of culture creation?
  • How might we resolve these tensions?

Week 2

Watch The Human Calling (7:13)

Read Genesis 1:26-31

  • Can you share a time where your Christian view of our "creaturely" relationship with God made you act in a way that was at odds with the surrounding culture?
  • How are you acting (or trying to act) "well and wisely" as a good steward (co-ruler) in your life currently?
  • What process do you use to figure out what is the right thing to do in any particular situation?
  • Have you had a conflict with a non-Christian over a moral question--what was it like?

Watch The Christian’s Place in the Culture (9:57)

Read Phil 3:20:

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”

  • Have you experienced the tension between your nationalism and your heavenly citizenship? Describe

Read 2 Cor 5:20

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

  • Thinking about our task as Christians being to implore people towards reconciliation with God; how does this change the way we approach the society around us?

Read 1 Peter 1:1

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”

  • How do you feel like an exile living on the Gold Coast as a Christian?

Read Jer 29:7

“But seek the welfare of the city that I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

  • What are some ways you see the church contributing to the welfare of the city we are in exile in?

Week 3

Watch A Core Tension: Diversity of Views (4:06)

  • Do you think the idea of "Reasoned Pluralism" is compatible with Christianity? Why or why not?
  • Do you agree that people can have "reasonable" (reasoned out) worldviews other than Christianity? Why or why not?
  • What are some other "reasoned views" that people on the Gold Coast have?


Watch Richard Niebuhr on Christ and Culture: Six Approaches (7:20)

As Dr Bock says, none of Niebuhr's types of interaction between Christianity and Culture is complete, because they don't recognise the complexity of individuals and sub-cultures such as the church. However, these types are useful for teasing out how our faith and church and society are interacting and even improving on that. Also, we all have a "natural type" or types, so it's helpful to think about the other types.

  • Which is your natural type: Christianity against Culture, Christianity of Culture, Christianity in and for Culture, Christ above Culture, Christ and Culture in paradox, or Christ transforming Culture?
  • Which types should we be using on the Gold Coast?
  • Which types should we not be using on the Gold Coast?

Week 4


Explain that we are now looking at how we can interpret both the Bible and our surrounding culture in a way that allows us to hear God's voice. Dr Bock calls this "The Hermeneutics of Cultural Engagement." Remember that hermeneutics is the science of interpreting something, especially a text such as the Bible, but it can be extended to interpreting a culture (to understand its underlying values, for example).

Watch The Bible and Culture: The Hermeneutics of Reading Both (6:38)

  • Think about your Bible reading--how often do you read the Bible with no questions in mind, simply to understand what it is saying? (This is what devotions are generally doing.) How often do you read the Bible with questions about your life in mind?

Optional question:

  • What do you think about what Dr Bock said about culture shaping us and influencing how we think about an issue? What would be an example of an "Australian" way of thinking?

Watch Reading from Life Back to the Bible (5:12)

  • How do you feel about the idea that the Bible contains values that are actually in tension with one another, and that sometimes these tensions are resolved on a case-by-case manner?
  • Can you think of an example from your life where you had Biblical values in tension in some situation? How did you resolve it?

Watch The Core Tension (4:53)

  • Do you agree with Dr Bock's "core tension?" How would you describe this tension to a non-Christian? [Bock said, "the way the world is versus where God would have the world be and where He would hope to take it"]
  • How would you describe the key to changing culture, considering Dr Bock's discussion on the limitations of legislation and the witness of the church?

Watch An Invitation and Call (5:59)

  • Why is Christian cultural engagement necessarily an invitation and call?
  • When Christians fail to issue the ultimate call to follow Christ to their surrounding culture, what happens to how we influence and engage that culture? Can you think of examples?
  • How does Renew influence and call the Gold Coast culture?

Week 5

Watch LBGT Issues: An Overview (3:31)

  • What do you think about the three levels Dr Bock uses: moral (Biblical), civil (society), and pastoral (personal relationships)? Have you thought about issues like the sexuality issue in these terms before?
  • Given that the Biblical level is fairly universal (in that we all share the same Bible), what do our (on the Gold Coast) civil (common to all of us at Renew) and pastoral (different for each one of us) levels look like on the LGBT topic?

Watch Common Texts against Same-Sex Marriage (5:23)

  • I don't want to discuss these passages until we've heard the other side, except to say one thing: there is an aspect to Leviticus 20 that I haven't heard many people comment on. Leviticus 20 is a single unit of Leviticus, each unit of that book begins with "The LORD spoke to Moses, saying," and then goes on to talk about a range of issues.
  • Lev. 20 talks about child sacrifice to Molech, divination of various sorts (seeking guidance from someone other than God), cursing your parents, and sexual sins including adultery, incest, homosexuality, bestiality, sex during menstruation and sex with a close relative. The passage ends with God explaining how important it is to not do these things, and how God drove out the Canaanites because they did these things.
  • Two points: God held the Canaanites to the standard of this section of Levitical law, so we can consider the prohibitions here universal, and thus still applying to us today (even if the associated sentences have been abrogated by Christ's sacrifice on the cross).
  • Second, homosexuality is merely one of a list of sins, which includes both adultery and bestiality. God views all sexuality that goes against our created nature as abhorrent, even things that we (or our culture) find inoffensive.

Watch Things the Bible Is Said to Say about Same-Sex Marriage (9:21)

  • Keep in mind during this discussion that we are only talking about the moral issue, that is, what the Bible says, about same-sex marriage.
  • Before we start, why do you think Dr Bock talks about LGBT issues, and then narrows the argument to same-sex marriage? [Perhaps because Biblical sexuality is entirely constrained to marriage--sex outside marriage is inherently immoral.]
  • What do you think of the argument that Jesus never spoke on the issue of homosexuality?
  • What do you think about Bock's ides of "moral trajectories" in Scripture?
  • Do you agree with Bock's claims on the trajectories of marriage, slavery and women's position in society? What other trajectories spring to mind?
  • How do you understand the way we determine which OT laws to obey, and which were for Israel only? [2 ways: easy way--laws repeated in NT, harder way--determine laws that are fulfilled in Christ, e.g. sacrifices, ceremonial separation laws (diet, mixed things, blood, etc.)]
  • How would you respond to the argument that same-sex marriage doesn't hurt anyone? [Bock seems to use a social argument rather than a Biblical one. I would say that members of a same-sex marriage are hurting each other by depriving them from God's design for sexual intimacy, i.e. marriage.]
  • Are you comfortable with Bocks' conclusion that the Biblical argument lands against same-sex marriage?
  • Remember that next week we'll be looking at the more complex matters of the civil and pastoral levels of this issue.

Week 6

Watch Civil and Pastoral Questions (6:49)

  • Since Australia legalised same-sex marriage through a 61.6% yes vote in a referendum, rather than a Supreme Court decision, does that make things different for us, at the civil level? If so, how?
  • What do you think of Bock's point about homosexuality being only one sin in a large array of sins condemned in Scripture?
  • What do you think of Bock's argument that a proclivity towards a sin should neither be denied nor acted on?

Watch Other Relevant Issues (5:58)

  • What do you think about the distinction between hard-wired and soft-wired proclivities towards sin? Do you think this extends beyond sexuality?
  • Given Bock's analysis, how should we handle people with same sex attraction in Renew?

Watch Layers of Complexity (5:43)

  • How can we avoid cherry-picking passages to support our positions?
  • What are some dangerous slogans you've heard or used?

Term 2

Week 1

Watch Paul’s Tone of Cultural Engagement in Romans 1 and 3 (5:02)

  • Read Romans 1:18-32. Do you feel threatened by this, do you have any negative reactions? How do you handle those reactions?
  • Now imagine you are a non-Christian Gold Coaster and someone read you this passage. How would you react?
  • Why would Paul write a passage like this that is guaranteed to rile up people who are not already followers of Christ? [Hint: what is the relationship between Rom 1:18-32 and Rom 3:21-23?]

Watch Paul’s Tone of Cultural Engagement in Acts 17 (10:45)

  • What do you make of the difference in Paul's tone between Acts 17 and Romans 1-3?
  • Did you know that Epicurean philosophy is pleasure-focused (measuring pleasure by the absence of pain) and essentially atheistic (it posits that the Gods have no interaction with the universe, and that all things evolved and not created). Does this sound familiar?
  • Paul engages the Athenians with recognition of their pursuits (they are religious) and their wisdom (observing their idols and quoting their poets). How can we do that with Gold Coast culture?
  • Paul challenges the Athenians by finding a gap in their pursuit of religion and proposing to fill it, and leveraging their poet's ideas to point towards God. How might we do that with Gold Coast culture?
  • Bonus question: should sermons be more like Acts 17 or Romans 1-3? [If sermons aren't like Acts 17, when do we engage in Acts 17 style presentations?]

Week 2

Watch Lessons from Paul (4:46)

  • How public are the conversations that you have? Do you think about whether your conversations could "go public" while you're having them? Would that change the way you speak?
  • How can we work on our discernment on what tone to use--when to challenge and when to soft-pedal?
  • Share an example where you felt an outright challenge was required.

Watch Observations about Doing Cultural Reflection in Scripture (6:29)

  • How and why is it important to recognise that there are real tensions between different Biblical verses, e.g. in the immigration issue?
  • Is gun control a "solved problem" for us in Australia, or should we constantly be re-evaluating our position independent of our culture?
  • Given what we've learned about tone, how should we hold an intra-church discussion about immigration? (How would we present the Biblical perspective?)
  • Given what we've learned about tone, how should we hold a community forum about immigration? (How would we present the Biblical perspective?)

Week 3

Watch Theme One: Tone (4:41)

  • What do you make of the statement, "Scripture doesn’t hesitate from confrontation; it doesn’t step back from disagreement. In fact, much of Scripture is premised on the prophetic call to challenge people about the way they live."
  • Read Eph 6:10-13
  • How can we remember and apply this perspective as we fight for the souls of the people "caught in the middle?"
  • Any stories of successes or failures?

Watch Texts of Tone: 1 Peter 3:13-16 (3:52)

  • Which aspects of 1 Pet 3:13-16 do we struggle with most?
  • The idea we'll suffer?
  • The blessedness of suffering for Christ?
  • Fearlessness?
  • Honouring Christ?
  • Being ready to answer?
  • Being gentle and respectful?
  • How can we improve? [E.g. STR's Tactics or our Kairos Conversations]
  • Any stories of successes or failures?

Watch Texts on Tone: Colossians 4:4-6 and Galatians 6:10 (3:43)

  • How do you understand Paul's exhortation in Colossians to "let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt?"
  • What does it mean to "make the best use of the time?"
  • How does doing "good to everyone, especially to those who are of the household of faith" help our tone of cultural engagement? [Context]
  • Any stories of successes or failures?

Week 4

Watch Theme Two: Tone and Mission (7:27)

  • How often do you think of yourself as the physical representation of Jesus in the world? How could we be more aware of this role and responsibility?
  • Read Luke 19:1-10 (Zacchaeus)
  • Did you know that the name Zacchaeus means "pure" or "innocent?"
  • Who was Zacchaeus in the context of his society? [chief tax collector, wealthy, treacherous, oppressive, ambitious, rejected, alone]
  • What did Jesus say to make Zacchaeus joyful?
  • What did that mean to Zacchaeus (especially when compared to the grumbling of the crowd)?
  • Did this have an impact on Zacchaeus, and how do we know?
  • How can we tell the difference between the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (in Jesus' parable of Luke 18:9-14)?
  • Can you think of any examples of where you've had a problem with someone's morals, but have still been able to connect with them and influence them?
  • What was hard and what was easy in that process?

Watch Texts on Tone and Mission: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (5:19)

  • Think of ambassadors in our world, for example, the Chinese and American ambassadors to Australia. Can you imagine these people imploring Australia to do something?
  • How radical is it that such almighty power as God should use on-the-mend humans like us to implore broken, rebellious humans to return to him?
  • What does this tell us about the character of God and the nature of his mission? Can you think of a Bible verse that expresses this? [e.g. Is 42:1-3]

Week 5

Watch The Ambassador (3:06)

  • How does the understanding of an ambassador's responsibilities and their relationship to their homeland and country of service help you understand our mission in the church?
  • How does the idea that this world's culture is, to us, a foreign land, challenge your thinking and lifestyle?
  • How do we live a life that benefits everyone and honours God?

Watch Reconciliation (3:58)

  • How does it help you in your Christian ministry to recognise that the gospel goes beyond forgiveness of sins into a positive message of living in the power of God?
  • How might we communicate reconciliation to people? What stories or actions would communicate this idea of coming together with God for God's purposes?

Watch Summary of Tone and Mission (3:30)

  • How do you balance the imperative to "go" and the need to develop a Godly tone in communicating the Gospel?
  • Is the balance different for different audiences?
  • Given how destructive missions like religioius schools have been in Australian culture because of their poor tone, should we be rethinking our approach?
  • Ambassadors are very intentional in their engagement with their host country, how should we be intentional in our engagement?

Week 6

Watch Theme Three: Combining Word and Deed (6:48)

  • What do you think about Bock's two options: a) church ministry serving people, and b) joining non-church organisations serving people. What advantages and disadvantages do you see with these?
  • If it is important to match our words to our deeds, what sort of ministries or organisations should we be spending our time on? Give specific answers.
  • How can you contribute to cultural engagement in your workplace.

Watch Loving One's Neighbor with Compassion and Care (5:10)

  • Do you feel the tension between the "social gospel" and the "real gospel"? Why or why not?
  • Given that the purpose of the care and compassion we should show is to demonstrate God's care and compassion, do we need to share the gospel with people to whom we have shown care and compassion?

Watch Caring Paves the Way for Challenge (3:37)

  • Have you any stories on the difference it makes to be able to genuinely say, "Because I care about you, I have this to say"?
  • How might Renew as a church improve our outreach, our challenge, by improving our caring?

Week 7

Watch Theme Four: The Role of Listening (4:49)

  • Share an account or two of when you have listened to someone (or some group) about their perspective or story and been surprised by what you've heard.

Watch How to Listen (8:19)

  • What is a "way in" that you've heard here on the Gold Coast?
  • Share a time you've been able to "lend a hand" to help someone understand more about Christianity.
  • What struggles do you have with avoiding an "us and them" approach to conversation?

Watch How Not to Listen (7:52)

  • Have you had experience with this type of shutting down of a line of enquiry? Where did it lead?
  • Share a story where you've had a chance to walk beside someone as they are exploring a spiritual question.
  • Where do you see these skills most likely to be used in your life?

Week 8

Watch Theme Five: Translating Theology (6:01)

  • What are the "theology words" (words Christians use to describe aspects of Christian faith) that you find most difficult to communicate?
  • What word would you use to communicate the concept of "sin" to Gold Coasters?

Watch Defending Scripture: Part 1 (4:45)

  • This was a complex talk, but it boils down to this: when talking with non-Christians, it is better to focus on how something is only in the Bible because it's true, and then work together on understanding why this thing may be true. The alternative of saying, "This is in the Bible and so it is true," is not very persuasive to people who don't value the Bible.
  • What is the most common issue in the Bible that you have talked with people about whether it is true or not?
  • What approach do you use to defend the truth of this Biblical claim?

Watch Defending Scripture: Part 2 (7:38)

  • Have you tried saying something like, "Why does the wisdom of Scripture, which has been appreciated by humanity for many centuries, make this claim?" (Note: the "why" is important to this question.)
  • How has that worked?
  • How was Bock's illustration of understanding Ephesians 5 helpful?
  • What other passages might you want to try to understand like this?

Week 9

Watch Theme Six: Making the Challenge (7:19)

  • How is it important to remember that God will hold us all accountable for the way we've lived?
  • Do you have an example where you've been able to challenge someone in a way they disagreed with, but could sense your care for them?

Watch The Influence of Differing Worldviews (4:56)

  • Dr Bock identifies two core worldview differences: we are made in the image of God, and we are accountable to God.
  • Have you wrestled with these or other worldview differences with people?
  • How do they express their difference to you?
  • How do you explain your difference from them?

Watch How to Engage: Galatians 6:1 (3:28)

  • Galatians 6:1 encourages us to be aware of our own fallibility when we are gently engaging with others, how do you think this applies in our engagement with Gold Coast culture?

Watch What the Image of God Means (3:35)

  • As Christians, we believe that all human beings are made in God's image. What, then, is distinct about our Christian life in terms of living out God's image?
  • When we focus on trying to reflect or image God's character, how do you think that would change and improve the way we interact with people?

Watch The Starting Point and the Finishing Point (7:39)

Week 10

Watch Course Summary (5:06)