When we talk about how the church should respond to the culture, it's important that we make clear what I am not saying. I am not saying that the world cannot be right about some things. I am not saying that the world doesn't understand itself or can't understand itself. I am not saying that the world is always wrong about everything all the time and needs us to show them what truth really is.
Certainly, the world gets truth wrong quite a bit, but sometimes, the world gets truth right - at least in principle. The world has some good ideas about what are good ideas. We should not only be willing to admit that, but we should not be surprised by it.
Our Scripture tells us that because God's wisdom is woven into the very fabric of creation, even those who have not heard the story of Jesus are able to recognize it. The Bible answers our question about those who have not heard, those to whom the message of the Gospel has not come, and it is clear: all they have to do is look around them, and they can know. They may not have all the words and they may not have all the perspective, but they can have the insight to see what is happening right in front of their faces.
That's the kind of wisdom that the world has. The world can discern the goodness of God, even if it doesn't know that's what it is looking at. It knows good from evil. It knows right from wrong. It knows something pure when it sees it, and it recognizes something better when it is right in front of them. The world can absolutely see a way for better things. It can absolutely recognize brokenness and backwardness.
So we should absolutely not be surprised when the world has a good idea or a good insight into itself. We should not be surprised when the world wants to better itself. We should not automatically dismiss anything the world says as wrong just because it seems to have come up with it without the wisdom of God.
All truth is God's truth, and all wisdom is God's wisdom - if it really is truth and it really is wisdom. We need not shy away from these things.
But without a God-ly perspective on these things, the truth and the insight and the wisdom that the world has is incomplete. It's shallow. It's lesser than that to which their recognition is actually calling them.
Just look at what happened at Babel. Men recognized the goodness of community, of togetherness, of being a people. They recognized the wisdom in being able to work together. But they thought that their ability to communicate and work together was best used to make themselves gods, rather than to make themselves godly. The insight was there, but the wisdom was wrong.
The same thing is happening today. The world sees its broken places, and it wants to fix them, but it doesn't have the wisdom to do it well. Its ideas are lesser ideas, trapped in smaller stories that don't account for the grand vision and wisdom of creation that enabled them to see the brokenness in the first place. The world gets the right ideas, but it lacks the right plans.
That's how we end up really doing nothing more than shifting things around. The more we try to elevate one group in order to achieve 'equality,' the more we find ourselves pushing another group down for the very same reason. The more we try to balance the scales, the more we realize we are just shifting weights from one side to the other and we are still out of whack.
And that's why the church cannot just say, "You know what? The world's right about this." Because the world may be right about it, but that doesn't mean they can make sense of it. They need our bigger story to do it. And they can't have our bigger story if we're constantly making it smaller to fit the world's ends.