What is culture?

One of the books I am reading right now is The New Catholicity: Theology between the Global and the Local, by Robert J. Schreiter. I am only 30-odd pages into it, but he presents compelling definition of culture which I found very helpful. It is an important questions because without such a definition we cannot even start to intelligently address questions about inculturation of the Gospel or the parameters of contextual theology.

[Culture has] three important dimensions. First of all, culture is ideational--it provides systems of frameworks of meaning which serve both to interpret the world and to provide guidance for living in the world. Culture in this deimnsion embodies beliefs, values, attitudes, and rules for behavior. Second, culture is performance--rituals that bind a culture's members together to provide them with a participatory way of embodying and enacting their histories and values. [...] Third, culture is material--the artifacts and symbolizations that become a source for identity: language, food, clothing, music, and the organization of space.

The New Catholicity, p. 29
New York: Orbis Books, 2002


mikemathew said…
We have adopted an anthropological definition, that the culture of a people can be understood as the system of shared ideas and meanings, explicit and implicit, which a people use to interpret the world and which serve to pattern their behavior. [Ebrey]
Historian Patricia Ebrey suggests that if we really want to understand a culture the features of a society in the table below are worth looking at (some may overlap). Although this approach is in the background of the classes, I will not be explicitly signaling each aspect as we discuss it. To help you make sense of Chinese culture[or cultures], complete the following table over the semester from the content of reading, lectures, and discussion.

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