Living in the 3rd Culture

Those who know me have come to expect change from me.  I am the one in our house who “out of the blue” will rearrange a room in the house, or yes, even the kitchen cupboards.  Fortunately, God gave me a wife who not only tolerates this but actually says she like that!  All that to say I decided to change the name of my blog to more adequately describe the content.

First let me refer back to the side bar on your right where I give the term “Third Culture”.  If you have already read that, then you will find a lot of recycled material in this blog.  “Third Culture” has been used in various ways. One “Third Culture” group “consists of scientists and in the empirical world who through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectuals in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are.” 

The most common use of “Third Culture” describes my personal experience. The term was first coined by sociologist Ruth Hill Useem, professor emeritus of sociology and education at Michigan State University. She used the term to describe children growing up outside their citizenship countries because of a parent’s work abroad.  Building upon her work, a “TCK or Third Culture Kid has is defined as, “someone who as a child has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture"  Based on that definition I am a TCK

However, I am on a mission to use the term “Third Culture” for a much nobler purpose.  It is my desire to use the term to refer to God’s people who make up the true Church (Theologically defined as the “Invisible Church”). In other words, the Church is a 3rd Culture. Scripture teaches us that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law and the punishment of Hell, and through faith in Him we become citizens of His Kingdom, receiving not only the full benefits of citizenship in His Kingdom, but indeed the right to become His sons and daughters. The moment, we step into this Kingdom we experience a new and different culture. We are no longer in the kingdom of darkness, as we now live in the kingdom of light.  And that changes everything!

The whole concept of culture can be confusing, so here is a simple way to better understand it.  Most of use some type of computer.  It could be the traditional desk top, a laptop, a pad or many of our phones, most have a very similar hardware.  What makes each device unique is the type of software that you decide to use. Though true Apple users may say this is heresy, the basic hardware in an Apple computer is very similar to that of a PC.  What makes the big difference is the software each uses. God has created all people with similar hardware.  Though each human is unique all the way down to our DNA, we all have the same basic group of organs to stay alive, and need hydration and nutrition to keep those organs running. 

From the moment we come into the world[1] our software is written and formed through every experience we face.  Our immediate family and community have the greatest impact on us as our brains software is constantly written and re-written.  Therefore, not only is each human uniquely created at a DNA level, but we are uniquely cultured.  Because we often confuse ethnicity and culture, we fail to realize that two people of differing ethnicity or skin color who grow up in similar culture can be more alike that two non-Hispanic whites who grew up in different regions of the same country.  If you don’t believe me, as the average young white male from South Alabama what he thinks of the average young white male from New York City!

I like to see the Church as a 3rd Culture, because as God calls His people to Himself, He does a work of regeneration and graciously gives the faith to believe.  At that moment there are no physiological changes, but God places in each us a new “governing disposition” that through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Word and Sacrament, begins to rewrite our cultural program.   It affects all areas of our lives and integrates elements of all cultures into one new and better one, where there is no Jew or Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Gal 3:26-298).

A 3rd Culture Perspective lives with Revelation 7:9-10[i] in mind,  understanding and appreciating that God gathers people from every ethnic and cultural group and brings them into the new culture of His Son Jesus Christ. It is a perspective where birth cultures are appreciated and respected as coming from God, but none are superior. It seeks to have a deeper understanding of the Gospel, pays attention to culture, our own as well as others, and then attempts to bring them together. It is a perspective that “seeks first His Kingdom and His Righteousness” and lovingly and passionately enjoys and glorifies God in all we do.

My prayer is that is Blog will help you better appreciate living in the 3rd Culture and will provide insights and encouragement along the way.

[1] Actually, there is strong evidence that are culturally begins while we are still in the womb. 

[i]  “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9-10)

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