A Practical Guide to Culture
There are two aspects to writing that are arguably the most difficult to capture: making complex ideas simple; giving clarity to murky issues. Authors John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle have managed to present the topic of culture and cultural engagement in a simple and clear style in their most recent book A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World.
A Practical Guide to Culture is divided into four main parts. Part One is where Stonestreet and Kunkle set the stage. They explain what culture is and why it matters. Moreover, they properly situate culture in a larger context of the Biblical story. This is vitally important because they help us orient ourselves to Scripture and culture by keeping them in their proper order; we ought to view culture through a Biblical lens and avoid viewing the Bible through a cultural lens. The Bible is the contextual backdrop that allows us to maintain a healthy understanding and interaction with culture.
In Part Two, Stonestreet and Kunkle helps us get an overview of the cultural landscape. Here, the authors want us to take notice of some of the main features and landmarks that are shaping our culture today. These include such things as the vast amounts of information that is available to each person via the internet, the struggle with personal identity and what it means to be a human being, how technology shapes and molds us particularly when it comes to our relationship with other people, and finally, how those cultural influences work to delay our maturation process.
Stonestreet and Kunkle get extremely practical in Part Three when they begin to apply what they have laid out in Parts One and Two to specific cultural landmines that threaten us on a daily basis: pornography, the hookup culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, affluence and consumerism, addiction, entertainment, and racial tensions. If those look like heavy and daunting subjects, they are, but do not fear! As I stated above, Stonestreet and Kunkle manage to keep their language simple and full of clarity without losing any precision in what they are communicating.
Each topic in Part Three is its own chapter with each chapter consistently laid out in four sections. The first section in each chapter is called “Don’t Buy the Cultural Lies” and looks at some popular cultural lies (or myths) about that chapters’ topic. The second section in each chapter situates the issue against the backdrop of “God’s Story” where we are shown what Scripture has to say concerning this subject. Section three lists out several practical “Action Steps” or suggestions to help the reader apply Biblical truth to these various areas. Finally, the fourth section is called “Hopecasting” where Stonestreet and Kunkle remind the readers that even though our culture is plagued by these various issues, God and His Story is still unfolding all around us meaning He is still in control and we do not have to live in despair regarding these issues.
Lastly, Part Four deals with more practical application by looking to equip the reader with tools to develop a Christian worldview. To give an idea of what is covered in Part Four, the chapter titles are: “How to Read the Bible,” “Why to Trust the Bible,” “The Right Kind of Pluralism,” and “Taking the Gospel to the Culture.”
Given the current culture we live in this is a much needed book for our time. One of my favorite features of this book is that each and every chapter ends with a handful of discussion questions. These questions are designed to get the reader to think and self-reflect and self-evaluate how they are doing when it comes to facing these cultural issues. I highly recommend this book, especially to families with children. It is full of good, practical wisdom and will serve your family well as you try to navigate the world in which we live.