How are we to relate to culture? There are two equally bad approaches: the first is to fall in love with our particular cultural moment,and the second is to reject culture. The first causes us to syncretize the gospel. We wind up confusing eccentricities of our cultural moment for gospel truths and creating a false gospel from them. And our gospel culture begins to look exactly like a Xerox of the dominant cultural values of our day. This is the error made by those Christians who fall off the left side of the earth embracing gay marriage, ordaining gay pastors, and rejecting the doctrine of hell because it's unpopular.
But the other error is just as bad — this is the one where we reject culture. I know this is the error made by those who are constantly negative about every new thing – they want to return the church culture to 1950 instead of allowing it to redeem the culture of our present day.
In truth these two problems are the same problem. Often people start out making the first when they are young and then make the second when they are old. In both cases the person has fallen in love with a cultural moment. People fall in love with the culture they inhabit, making the first error, then over time that culture changes and they begin to slip into the second error as they long for a return to the culture they once loved.
The alternative to this double-sided error is pretty clear to see. We must love Christ more than any cultural moment. We must orient our values, our loves, our hearts toward him as king over all cultures. Doing so, we will see the flaws and in all times and cultures. But we will also see the unique insights and truths where Christ is at work in those cultures. And these will give us opportunities to redeem the culture — critique it's failures but also affirm it's unique beauties and insights. We must embrace timeless truths and not a single cultural moment. This is at the core of what it means for us to live in the world but not be of it.
When we look at today's culture of social justice, what opportunities are there to affirm truth and insight and what falsehoods must be critiqued? Or when we look at the opposing cultural values of groups like in the alt-right, what can we can critique and what can we affirm and redeem?