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Cultural Catwalk: Contextual Views of Culture

Looking back into biblical times, we see certain segments of culture with which we can identify in our 21st century world. In addition to Joseph, when we read other narratives in the Bible, we come across Nehemiah and Daniel, who unlike Joseph wrote about their own experiences in Old Testament books. It’s no surprise that Nehemiah and Daniel are the book names. There are others, but for now, we are concentrating on Joseph, Nehemiah, and Daniel. These three men lived by faith, and their faith became the clearly fixed foundation of their cultural catwalk. Quite the resume for living the faith, don’t you think?

Each man contributed to his culture in various ways. For example, Joseph held a political job, while Nehemiah, known for his brilliant mind, served as a cabinet member and business leader. Daniel made an impact on his culture as a consultant. In spite of the diverse nature of their jobs, each one lived purposefully within the framework of their faith.


  • Genuinely loved people who did not love God
  • Loved their cities and nations
  • Did all they could, short of sin, to bring the Gospel and be concerned
  • Worshiped through their vocation
  • Recognized that all people bear God’s image
  • Performed their secular jobs while working for godless men
  • Brought the light of the gospel to all cultures
  • Suffered for their faith

Here we see God’s desires for his children played out in the lives of Joseph, Nehemiah, and Daniel with grace and humility.

On the other side of the cultural catwalk coin, we have the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes. These men lived differently than Joseph, Nehemiah, and Daniel:


  • Were fundamentalists
  • Went beyond biblical teachings
  • Added rules
  • Missed the spirit of the Law
  • Avoided culture
  • Leaned toward sins of omission (don’t do what you should do, such as love your neighbor)
  • Did not believe they were depraved, so then separated themselves to protect their piety


  • Accommodated the liberals
  • Denied the resurrection
  • Worried about status
  • If a notion, theory, or idea wasn’t popular, they abandoned it
  • Adapted to cultural trends


  • Politically motivated
  • Believed politics didn’t inform culture, but reflected and followed culture
  • Imposed morality and obedience through the law
  • Politics cannot change people’s hearts


  • Hyper experiential
  • Withdrew from society
  • Instinctive and spontaneous presence with God
  • Severe self-discipline (asceticism)
  • Euphoric highs – go to camp to get high for Jesus, and when the high wears off, go to camp again

The lifestyles of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes embody the exact opposite of Joseph, Nehemiah, and Daniel, don’t they?

In addition, when we look deeply into the cultural contexts of the 21st century, we’ll find all of the above lifestyle characteristics. Still practiced, each behavior  came from ancient times to the present through prevailing traditions from centuries ago.

Furthermore, they have great influence on us individually and corporately.   

Finding a person who exemplifies a Pharisee, Sadducee, Zealot, or Essene is a task performed quite easily in the 21st century, wouldn’t you agree?

Next week: The Church and Culture

Note: I used material for this post from watching an online sermon by Mark Driscoll, who at the time served the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. Visit Mark 


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