An old Chinese proverb states: “If you want to know what water is, don’t ask the fish.” Why wouldn’t we ask the fish? After all, there’s nothing fish are more familiar with than water…but the truth is, fish don’t know they’re wet.
Of course, the ancient proverb has nothing to do with water; the proverb dives much deeper than that. It points to the difficulty of understanding our own environment—what we’re immersed in and take for granted as normal.
Culture is for humans what water is for fish: the environment we live in and think is normal. But there’s a major difference between us and fish. We make our own environments...humans impose themselves on the world in a way animals don’t. Animals make habitats in the world, but we humans make little worlds within the world. Culture is one of the things that makes us different from the animals.
But there’s a similarity we dare not miss, which makes that Chinese proverb insightful. Like fish immersed in water, we become so immersed in ways of thinking and patterns of living that we become unable to recognize them. At that point culture shapes our perceptions of reality—unless we re-examine our culture. When we do that, we break free and see beyond our blind spots, and begin to think clearly…correctly…even biblically.
It was not until I read an excellent book that I was able to understand and articulate the truth about our culture. In fact, many of my opening remarks in this letter are based on what I first read in that book. It is titled, A Practical Guide to Culture. It is truly outstanding. It is resourceful but not theoretical; it is insightful but not intellectual; and it is decidedly biblical but not argumentative or insulting to those who may disagree. The authors, John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle, are fully in touch with our times.
I especially appreciate the helpful way they address the key issues in our culture that all of us face, from teenagers to older adults: pornography, sexual orientation, gender identity, addiction, and racial tension, to name only a few. These cultural issues cannot be ignored by anyone who lives in the real world.
As another new year dawns, we at Insight for Living Canada want to help you and others understand our culture, know how to answer the crucial questions being asked, and realize how relevant the Scriptures are when we face the strong tide of popular opinions in this “politically correct” culture.
You can help us do that by reading books like the ones I’ve mentioned…and also by standing with us, financially, as we help lead the way toward a life that honours Christ. Canadians need help knowing how to navigate their way through the powerful currents of today’s cultures.
Let’s team up together and provide what so many need. Let’s do that together…starting today! As you send your gift, seriously consider ordering A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World. And, most certainly, if you have a teenager or a young adult in your life, you will want to order A Student’s Guide to Culture.
Grateful to have you on the team with us,
Pastor Charles R. Swindoll