The term ‘culture’ is defined as the ability, duty, and capacity of the human individual to apply the gifts of reason to a shaping of his or her own existence, natural, and social surroundings in a manner that transcends the confines of that individual’s mere initial natural state. Used in a more narrow sense, ‘culture’ denotes the entirety of intellectual, technical and artistic works, or else simply the customs as these exist in a certain regional or temporal context (e.g. the culture of ancient Greece, the culture of the peoples native to the Amazon). The relationship between culture and religion can be described from two different points of view. First, religion itself is a component of culture, as it is brought forth from and fundamentally co-determined through the intellectual activity of world-shaping carried out by the subjects who support it. Secondly, religion can fulfil a causal function for a culture; it can do so in two ways. For one, certain religious notions, commandments, and prohibitions shape a culture’s fundamental and specific manifestations, a dynamic seen e.g. in the creation of a specific Christian or Islamic (sacred) architecture. For another, in a far more essential sense, however, a certain religious pre-understanding of humankind can be instrumental in placing people in a position, and motivating them, to undertake creative cultural endeavours to begin with. This is most decidedly the case with regard to the Christian idea of humankind as manifested primarily in the Old Testament account of Creation. Humankind is described there as having been made in God’s image (Gen 1.26); the consequence of this likeness unto God was the Divine direction that the human race was to ‘have dominion over’ the earth (Gen 1.28). This, in turn, decidedly implies a view of humankind as of a being destined to culture. From these origins, Christianity judges all cultural accomplishments, including those of non-Christian provenance, in a fundamentally positive light. Over the further development of the Biblical-Christian history of religion, the personal dignity of the individual person has emerged as an increasingly central value, a value to which all other cultural assets must relate, and from which they derive any meaning or legitimation in the first place. In the case of Jesus, this even goes so far that He Himself submits the ritual rules of the Sabbath, concerning religious worship of the divinity, to the specific needs of his fellow humans (Mk 2.27). It is this focus upon human dignity that represents perhaps the most significant cultural achievement of Christianity.
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