Is it not possible that we are to work at reform (which is what some probably mean by redeem) or even work at removing aspects of culture from the life of the church? I am not here advocating what those things are but to simply ask if we are to redeem all of what culture provides us. The truth is I see much of culture coming from sin rather than from God. My biblical reasoning for this is that we often see culture revolving around languages and peoples. If we go back to the Tower of Babel we see that God confused the languages and in many senses created these cultures. But, we must remember that the reason for this change, or confusion of languages and thus culture, was due to the sin of the people. We can then see at least that some aspects of culture are a result of sin.
Now I realize that culture is a loaded word since even in the Garden before sin there was what may be called culture and in heaven there will be some form of culture. I do not think there is clear biblical evidence that in heaven there will be multiple cultures as Mark Driscoll has said. His reasoning is that since there will people from every tribe tongue and nation there will be every kind of culture but this is a big leap for me. Just because there will be all kinds of people in heaven does not mean there will be all kinds of culture. Simply because there will be differing languages reconciled to God and in heaven does not necessarily mean we will speak those languages there. While we may do I am not convinced that scripture is clear that this is how heaven will be.
This whole idea of redeeming culture leads churches to change everything they do to look like the culture but to Christianize it and in the end the culture subsumes the church and not the reverse. I actually do not know exactly where I stand on this with regards to many parts of culture but I just think that we do have to ask ourselves before we just jump into trying to redeem, or clean up, an aspect of culture if we should work at ridding ourselves of those aspects.
None of this relates to communicating the Gospel in understandable language depending on the prevailing culture. But this is a far cry from also assuming the culture. People use all kinds of words when they speak of this such as contextualize and such but all too often it simply means we are to look like the world and some how Christianize what we do. Again this is all a work in my head but I am just concerned that too many, even so called conservatives, in an effort to reach a dying world begin to look like the dying world. We are so worried about looking out of place that we seek the world’s means to accomplish God’s work.
So the end result of all of this is that I advocate looking hard at scripture to see what it says not simply about a certain aspect of culture but about that aspects effect on the church and the world and then ask if that aspect of culture should be redeemed, reformed or even removed from the life of the church (the church as the body of regenerate believers and not a building). There is for sure a danger of legalism in this but that should not be a hindrance to us obeying God. If one stays cross centered I think legalism can be kept at bay. Our goal should be to glorify God and that will in many cases lead to hard decisions for the believer when it comes to culture but being a believer is never said to be easy. If it was easy we would try and do it ourselves but instead we are forced to rely on the Holy Spirit for the power to do what God desires us to do. I firmly believe that one can do this, deal with culture, and not remove themselves from the world so as to be the light we are called to be.