Ed: How do you define cultural Christianity?
Dean: Cultural Christianity is difficult to define because there is no established category that exists for this religious group. I believe it begins by understanding that this is an actual religion. Cultural Christians claim to be Christians, but by that claim they mean they are not atheists, agnostics, Jewish, or Muslim. They would quickly answer “Christian” if asked to indicate their religion, but the reasoning for the claim of Christianity has nothing to do with Jesus Christ or his gospel.
Cultural Christians are theists, consider themselves to be good people, and believe they go to heaven when they die. Exactly who is this god, what makes one good, and how one qualifies for heaven are questions the cultural Christian is not prepared to answer, or see as relevant.
These are people who are Christians by heritage, morals, and affiliation, but not by actual conversion, or convictions about the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is a mistake to think of cultural Christians as only consisting of those in the Bible Belt, because a generic theistic belief exists all over our country, and shows up on polls and surveys as Christian.
Ed: What was your own experience of having grown up culturally Christian?
Dean: I went to our neighborhood mainline Protestant church every Sunday as a kid, unless I was sick or on family vacation. I was familiar with Bible stories such as David and Goliath and Noah’s Ark, had the Lord’s Prayer memorized, and knew that Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem.
I attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes retreat when I was 13 years old and heard the gospel for the very first time. Yes, I grew up going to church every Sunday and had never heard the gospel. I absolutely considered myself a Christian and would have been offended if you suggested otherwise.
This was a Christianity that was without Christ. The cross and resurrection could have not existed and it wouldn’t have changed my Christianity. Growing up, I never had anyone tell me I was a sinner in need of a savior. I was told to have hope and faith, to love others, and ultimately the greatest doctrine of cultural Christianity—to be a good person.
The problem was that those were vague words and charges, without definition. I joke that I’m the only person who has ever come to faith in Christ and been angry about it. While I certainly had joy, I was amazed at what I had been missing, and truly thought How have I never heard this before?
On the day I believed the gospel, repented of my sins, and gave my life to Christ, I realized my story was also the story of my friends and family. As a result of my experience and the love I had for my friends and family, the mission field of cultural Christianity became my passion.
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Source: Christianity Today