The Bible and Cultural Challenges – Part 1

I love the Bible, as I study it, I find God reveals himself to me. I learn more about Him and consequently more about myself. However, I have become increasingly aware that I read the words of Scripture with certain cultural preconceived ideas which limits my understanding or even causes me to misunderstand. Being surrounded by fellow believers from different cultural backgrounds is an important help, especially if I spend time listening to their perspectives.

I have just finished a book that seeks to identify ways that western Christians have consistently misread the Bible. I found it insightful. Some of the areas it identified were not new to me, but many were. I therefore intend to share some of the thoughts in case you too find them helpful. The book, in case you want to read it for your self is “Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by Richards and O’Brien.”


An area that I had already seen as being an unhelpful Western perspective on Scripture is the focusing on those parts of the Bible that encourage marriage and to ignore the parts of Scripture that encourage celibacy. This has caused major damage within the church and caused unmarried people to feel and to be treated as second class citizens. This is at odds with the New Testament where celibacy and remaining unmarried was promoted and honoured as a Christian challenge to the prevailing culture. 

In Roman Society the expectation was that everyone should get married, in fact there were no alternatives. Young women were given by their parents into marriage and childbearing as soon as they entered puberty. Roman men were practically expected to commit adultery. Into this context Paul offers women an opportunity for ministry outside of the home and he commands Christian men to limit sex lives within their marriages. See 1 Corinthians 7.

We need to regain this counter cultural perspective within our churches, bringing to the fore the high calling of singleness.


Written by Tony Thompson

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