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Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends

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Generally speaking, students, theologians, pastors, and church leaders are well-trained in the task of biblical exegesis. Where many fall short, however, is in the area of cultural exegesis—reading and interpreting the texts and trends produced by our culture, which can have a profound influence on the way we understand the world and practice our faith. Anyone interested in the intersection of Christianity and culture needs to be able to do "everyday theology," that is, to think theologically about our cultural environment and pass it through the grid of Scripture, in order to respond faithfully as Christian disciples.

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“Theology, according to Anselm’s celebrated eleventh-century definition, is ‘faith seeking understanding’ (fides quaerens intellectum): the attempt to grasp conceptually the nature of God, Jesus Christ, and humanity in light of the significance of God’s acts.” (Pages 15–16)

“Everyday theology is faith seeking understanding of everyday life.” (Page 17)

“‘Society’ refers primarily to the institutional forms of organization within which and the norms or conventions by which a group of people live.” (Page 23)

“Everyday theology is simply faith seeking everyday understanding: a grasp of what is going on in ordinary situations (and why), an attempt to make sense of one’s surroundings. Understanding is the operative concept. The ultimate purpose of this chapter is to help readers make Christian sense of everyday life, especially of cultural texts and cultural trends. The two definitions of theology—bringing the Bible to bear on all areas of life, and faith seeking understanding—converge, for the way we make sense of everyday life is by reading it in light of the Scriptures.” (Page 16)

“Paul Tillich, a leading theologian of culture, said that the best way to understand a particular culture or even epoch is to discover its greatest anxiety (i.e., the focus of a negative concern) and its greatest hope (i.e., the focus of what Tillich called ‘ultimate concern,’ or simply ‘religion’). We begin to understand others and groups of others, then, when we begin to understand what concerns them and why.” (Page 19)

Charles A. Anderson is lead pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. Before coming to Indy in 2017, he was a pastor in Columbia, Missouri for five years and on the faculty at Oak Hill Theological College in London, England, for five years, where he taught New Testament and biblical languages. He wrote Philo of Alexandria’s Views of the Physical World, along with essays on Hebrews and Luke-Acts.

Kevin J. Vanhoozer (Ph. D., University of Cambridge) is research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author or editor of many books, including Is There a Meaning in This Text? and the award-winning Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible.

Michael J. Sleasman (Ph. D., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is managing director of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity at Trinity International University.

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