catapult magazine

catapult magazine


Essential elements of faith


Jul 27 2003
05:32 am

I think I understand what you’re trying to say now—thanks for the clarification.

I think our disagreement on whether there are truths that transcend cultures is a semantic problem—we’re using different meanings of “transcend.” I just meant that there are truths that hold universally, whether or not they jive with the norms of a specific culture or not. For example, the idea of the Trinity. A polytheistic culture may innocently transform this idea into the worship of three Christian gods rather than the worship of one three-personed God. That’s a rather extreme example but you see what I’m getting at—a hypothetical culture interacts with the Gospel but comes into conflict with a transcendent truth—the Trinity.

I think a good place to start in this discussion would be Paul’s distinction between “milk” and “solid food” (Heb 5:12). Milk was the elementary truths of the gospel. When Paul went to Athens, their polytheistic society directly conflicted with the message of the Gospel, but Paul couldn’t start by undermining their entire culture—he had to give them milk first. He used their belief in many gods to his advantage by using the altar to an unknown god in his address. But after he gave the Athenians the basic message of salvation and resurrection from the dead, I’m sure he eventually weaned these new Christians and gave them solid food.

Ask Wycliffe Bible Translators about their approach and it’s much the same. AS stated earlier, the message of the Bible is culturally specific, and it’s hard to translate it into the vernacular of other cultures. Even the most basic passages, like John 3:16, can be hard to translate without losing something of the basic message. However, translators find it necessary to alter the wording and sometimes even change their perspectives on Scripture, just like Paul did in giving the Athenians “milk.” But eventually these new believers will eventually be ready for solid food.