A detailed study of the Old Testament shows several concrete examples of the gradual implementation of the Cultural Mandate through new inventions, discoveries, and other tangible achievements of humanity. While the term “Cultural Mandate” was not in use at the time, the realities of a developing culture clearly indicated its unfolding. We see the same thing in the New Testament era, although the Great Commission of Christ appears to take on greater prominence on account of the urgency of proclaiming the message of salvation to all humankind, unto the ends of the earth.
One example of this is Paul of Tarsus, who after his conversion became the Apostle to the Gentiles, is perceived through his speeches and writings, as a person profoundly connected to the culture of his day. His presentations of God’s truth, wherever he went and to whomever he wrote his epistles, demonstrate a well-formed intellect with great understanding of the culture of his time and the individuals who shaped it.
Paul was well-steeped in the knowledge of Judaism, thoroughly acquainted with the great thinkers that preceded him, and beside philosophers who labored as his contemporaries in the Greco-Roman world of his day. According to Professor Moses Hadas, in his volume The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca, Paul corresponded with the first century Roman philosopher, Seneca– although I’m not certain which of the two took the initiative to contact the other. Yet, this is of quite significance. The two men had not just one correspondence, but several. And apparently this back and forth went on for some time.
As Paul showed, the Cultural Mandate takes place within the historical context of the prevailing culture(s) of the time, thus requiring from those involved in its implementation a solid knowledge of what the current thought leaders are teaching and thinking about. The Cultural Mandate, in any age, requires an understanding of what’s unique to their own time if it’s going to have a meaningful effect for that period in history.
When Paul gave his Areopagus Address in Athens (Acts 17), he argued his case well and, unquestionably, left a positive impression among his hearers who even considered giving him an additional opportunity to be heard if he came to their city again. In Paul, we have a solid example of blending the Cultural Mandate with the Great Commission of Christ, something we need to cultivate in our own time when representing the King of Kings in the world – the One from Whom both commissions originated.
Those perpetuating the Cultural Mandate in any age cannot remain passive, but must discern the opportunities that are presented and be active in applying the mandate to new situations. Even after the Fall, the Cultural Mandate continues to retain its force in manifesting the work of God through fallible, human creatures.