Captive to Culture

Ps Ian Parker shared with me the following article written by R. Kent Hughes.

He has adapted the article hoping it would provoke thought about today’s church culture.

“The account of Christianity has shown that the church easily falls captive to culture.

Sir Arthur Bryant in his famous English Saga in a chapter entitled “Dark Satanic Mills” describes the unbelievable abuse which came to children in the early part of the nineteenth century in England.

“Children of seven or eight years old in coal mines was almost universal.

In some pits they began work at a still earlier age: a case was even recorded of a child of three.

Some were employed as ‘trappers,’ others for pushing or drawing coal trucks along the pit tunnels.

A trapper, who operated the ventilation doors on which the safety of the mines depended, would often spend as many as sixteen hours a day crouching in solitude in a small dark hole.”

“The Factories’ Inquiry Commission of 1833 showed that many manufacturers were still employing children of six and seven and that the hours of labour were sometimes as high as sixteen hours a day”.

Flogging was regarded as a necessary part of the process of production.

Harassed parents, with their eye on the family budget, accepted all this as inevitable and even desirable: many fathers acted as sub-contractors for the employment of their own children.

In 1833 the cotton mills employed about 60,000 adult males, 65,000 adult females, and 84,000 young persons of whom half were boys and girls of under fourteen.

“All the while upstanding employers, good churchmen, expanded their businesses and their abuses-and the Church did little.

It was the established order of things.” 

Is the Bible made captive to culture today? I think so.

For example, millions of Christians are obsessed with materialism to the point that they are no different than the society around them. The Bible’s warnings are downplayed or simply not heard.

Someday future believers will look back on our day and shake their heads in disbelief, just as we do with past slavery and industrial abuse.

We need to read God’s Word with a first-century freshness, escaping the bondage of our culture and allowing it to penetrate our being.

In Mark 12:38-40 Jesus stepped up his attack, moving from implicit criticism of the scribes to straightforward attack as he excoriated their actions and motives.

As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows houses and for a show make lengthy prayers’ Such men will be punished most severely.”

There was divine rage as Jesus described them as gliding about in their “power suits” They loved the praise and their position!  Jesus did not like this at all.

Hughes said he once received a colored brochure which featured eight separate pictures of an “evangelist” designed to show what a versatile man of God he was.

It included pictures of him praying by a waterfall, praying with his hands placed on a pile of letters, holding a baby (he liked children), shaking the hand of a poor man (he knew poor people).

But what really got my attention was the offer of a specially blessed handkerchief which had been dipped in the Jordan River and which, if prayerfully applied, would bring healing. The cost was $15.00!”

What has this got to do with us you ask.

1) Be thankful you aren’t a three year old English kid working in a coal mine;

2) The culture of prosperity and materialism was as real then as it is today. 

In no way am I suggesting materialism or prosperity are negative things – they can be a great blessing.  It depends whether they have you, or you have them. 

At the end of the day when the issues of this life are threatening to overwhelm you, turn your eyes upon Jesus because nothing else really matters.


Reference: (*)Arthur Bryant, English Saga (1840-1940) (London: Collins, 1945), pp. 51,52. 


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