Language and culture shape us, but we don’t have to be uncritical about them. As soon as we become aware of critical thinking, we need to start questioning them. Having cross-cultural experience helps to increase our awareness of linguistic and cultural difference. Developing friendships across cultural divides is another step in the right direction. We need to keep checking the interpretive lenses we use.
At some point I became aware that I’d grown up in a patriarchal world and church. I’ve become increasingly critical of both as I’ve worked to clean up my lenses. I now have some new starting points. I now accept gender equality as a given. Both man and woman were created in the image of God, created as gods, with individual freedom to think and to do. This means rejecting gender role theory and male headship theory. I also accept the full equality of persons regardless of their sexual orientation. Once I came to terms with the Bible’s “clobber texts”, I realised that the writers were not addressing sexual orientation.
Life is a process of investigating and eliminating prejudice against others based on stereotypes and misunderstandings. I no longer assume the culture in which I grew up is normative. Nor is it superior; in fact, it has limitations.
And what about the church? The church that’s so right about so many things? I’m still a Sabbath keeper, but I no longer look askance at Sunday keepers and judge them as second-rate believers. Many great believers have been, and are, Sunday keepers.
It’s a good idea to bring a scientific approach to these things, a questioning approach that produces tentative answers, not certainty. No scientific theory is the last word. Theories are replaced as knowledge increases and better theories come along. Believers could bring a more critical approach to their understanding of present truth. It’s a mistake to cling to the conclusions of the pioneers as if they had somehow established the absolute limits of faith. We have much to learn.