'A Practical Guide to Culture' is essential reading for every parent

Brian Estell  ·  Jul 27, 2018

What do you do when cultural hot buttons come up in conversation with your teenager? Do you dread having to navigate these topics: racism, the hookup culture, gender identity, money, addiction, pornography, movies, music, politics, religion? John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle say we should actually view these conversations as opportunities to help our children develop a Biblical worldview.

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World is essential reading for every parent. It explains Biblical principles parents will need to help their kids navigate life and equips parents with specifics to help them tackle the challenging topics.

Parenting can feel like trying to navigate a minefield. Technology has accelerated the rate of cultural change to the point that we can barely keep up. The challenges of social media and the internet bring a dimension to parenting unheard of a generation ago.

At times parents can be intimidated by teens’ questions and arguments, but this book explains how we should guard against giving our kids the impression that sincere questioning is doubting, or that doubting is necessarily sinning. Many of the Psalms are full of honest questions and complaints toward God, and the Word of God is sufficient to help us answer any challenge.

What exactly does this often used and ambiguous word—“culture”—refer to? Stonestreet and Kunkle begin the book with a helpful discussion of its meaning, and they use a great analogy: “Like the oceans, culture is all around us. Just as fish swim in the ocean, culture is the water in which we swim.”

Culture spreads through 'champions'

A Practical Guide is divided into four parts. Part one focuses on why culture matters. Culture includes the key ideas that inform and inspire us. These ideas spread through “champions”—the individuals who are major influencers driving trends and causing change. Artists, storytellers, entrepreneurs, and educators play their part in spreading the ideas through institutions of society—such as education, business, and even the Church.

Stonestreet and Kunkle deal with two common ways we fail to apply our faith to culture. We either withdraw from it or capitulate to it.

It can be tempting to think we can ignore culture or escape from it, but we can no more escape than the fish in the ocean. Another error is to just throw up our hands in disgust and conclude that all culture is bad and worldly. These takes on culture fail to perceive the Biblical view. God created us to glorify Him, and culture is a big part of how we do that. Plus, God sovereignly ordains the time and place that we happen to live, so by faith we must accept that and determine to positively impact those around us for Christ.

Of course, it is also possible for Christians to naively be captured by culture. The stats about kids leaving the faith during the high school and college years really are appalling, and succumbing to negative cultural influences is a huge part of the problem. To consume whatever filth the culture produces and justify this behavior because there might be some way to claim that it has cultural value, is not navigating culture wisely. It really is worldliness and souls are at stake. The Lord Jesus calls Christians not to be “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

The biggest problem with our present culture is its antagonism toward Christianity and Biblical truth, and this is the primary area where parents must be vigilant. Many Christians in the past were privileged to live in a Christian culture, often referred to as Western Civilization, but the values of that culture have been under attack over the past few centuries and many of the institutions have crumbled.

Our children can be influenced both by Modernism, which openly attacks God and the Bible, and Post-Modernism, which deceptively promotes the idea that all religions are equally legitimate paths to God. We have to help our children see that everyone has a worldview, and each worldview makes competing claims about the nature of reality, God, man, salvation, and what lies beyond this life. We need to proactively teach our children the truth of Christianity, while also helping them see through false religious views, and that means having frank conversations about evolution or atheism when they come up.

Thankfully parents do not have to keep up with every last detail of our ever-changing culture, which isn’t possible. But we can keep the cultural story straight because Christianity is the ultimate Story. We can always point our children back to the big ideas of the Biblical narrative: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. No matter what cultural moment, medium, or influencer your child is talking about, you can always bring them back to the ultimate Story.

Undercurrents of contemporary culture

Part two of A Practical Guide emphasizes the powerful and subtle undercurrents of contemporary culture that often go unnoticed: The information age, the concept of “identity,” the trend toward individualism and isolation, and how perpetual adolescence has replaced maturity.

In this section Stonestreet and Kunkle offer five ways to shape a worldview.

  1. Talk about worldview early and often.
  2. Explain non-Christian worldviews.
  3. Strongly encourage your kids to read good books.
  4. Discuss ideas whenever possible.
  5. Ask good questions such as, “What do you mean by that?” or “How do you know that is true?”

Eight contemporary cultural issues

Part three of A Practical Guide tackles eight contemporary cultural challenges that are pounding away at our young people, such as racial tension, entertainment, and gender identity.

In the chapter on gender identity, the authors demonstrate how using questions can identify the illogical nonsense of current thinking:

If we self-identify as a sixty-five year old man, should the federal government start sending us Social Security checks? If we self-identify as six-year-old girls, should we be able to enroll in a first-grade class at the local public elementary school? If we self-identify as a particular minority, should we be able to receive college scholarships earmarked for that minority group? (page 208)

Back to the Bible

Part four of the book directs us back to Biblical essentials with topics like “How to Read the Bible,” and what is “The Right Kind of Pluralism.” Here are some of the practical tips from part four:

  • The Bible, like the uniqueness of Christ, sets Christianity apart from all other worldviews.
  • Emphasize truth first and then experience.
  • Our goal in conversations with non-Christians is not to win an argument but to win the person.

Endorsed by Kathy Koch, Jeff Myers

A Practical Guide to Culture comes highly recommended by other Christian leaders.

Dr. Kathy Koch, founder and president of Celebrate Kids, and also a Samaritan member, wrote this endorsement of the book:

Using illustrations, data, and ideas, John and Brett masterfully explain why we’re facing the contemporary cultural challenges we are. They uncover what God wants us to understand about them and what we can do. Their explanation of the Bible and the way they consistently frame issues with the Bible story is a refreshing perspective I haven’t seen or heard. It’s compelling and extremely valuable. You and your children can move from anger to love, despair to hope, apathy to involvement, fear to confidence, ignorance to wisdom, and isolation to collaboration. You’ll be empowered and full of hope.

Here is what Dr. Jeff Myers, president of Summit Ministries, had to say:

A Practical Guide to Culture is a profound, witty, and forthright manual written by two concerned dads who also happen to be two of the most effective worldview and apologetics experts of our day. Based on their deep experience working with tens of thousands of teenagers, John and Brett show how to stop giving in to a degrading culture that makes kids unhealthy and sad and how to start raising kids who love Jesus and live without fear and regret.