Saturday, January 24, 2009

Christ and Culture: Introduction

Over the last few months, though the goal was prior to the elections and everything, I’ve been looking at how the church should engage politically – first through five views on church, state, and public policy and then through a brief book on just war. Now I’m working through a book called Christ and Culture by H. Richard Niebuhr. It is considered a classic. I most want to read DA Carson’s book Christ and Culture Revisited, but I figured I should visit before I revisit.

As with the previous books, I’ll roll out the book as I go. There is plenty of introductory material – some by the author, but plenty by others who want to honor Niebuhr. His book is pushing 60 years old. Martin Marty gets defensive when Niebuhr is unjustly criticized. The criticism that some level is that Niebuhr’s different models of Christ and Culture are overly-simplified. Marty agrees with the statement, but clarifies what Niebuhr is trying to do. (I know this may sound boring, but it will possibly keep us from unjust criticism and saying Niebuhr did or didn’t do something that was never his intent).

Niebuhr’s goal in using (shudder the word) generalizations is not to say each person or social activist fits in each one perfectly, but they are generalizations that allow us to speak along basic contours and then details can be tweaked from there. Futhermore, his goal is that people would understand where others are coming from and see, even if one doesn't agree, how those different from us think and come to their conclusions. A noble task in my book. I’ll wade through these five models, as well as an Intro and Conlusion, over the next several weeks (I hope).

But in the meantime, which of these five titles is most appealing to you?

Christ Against Culture
The Christ of Culture
Christ Above Culture
Christ and Culture in Paradox
Christ the Transformer of Culture


David said...

Just discovered your posts on Christ and Culture. I am looking forward to catching up on them.

Justin said...

I hope you enjoy it. I mostly blog so I'll process what I'm reading a little better. If you want to dig deeper into it, I suggest "Revisiting Christ and Culture" by DA Carson (link in the margin). He summarizes this same book I am and has several chapters that unpack what cultural engagement should look like today. I've only read his chapter summarizing Niebuhr and started reading his critique, but I'm a big Carson fan and expect good things.

Hope you enjoy my summary, but there's lots of good stuff out there.

David said...

Thanks but I already read Christ and Culture Revisited. It had its good points and its disappointments.

Justin said...

I've been too busy to get to the blog much lately. Doing a little bit for Easter week, but haven't had much time to follow up. I'd love to know more of your critiques on Carson. Are they on your blog? If so, I'll do some looking around. If not, I'd love to hear them as I get ready to get into his book soon.