I won’t say I’m necessarily enjoying this book. It’s not a thriller by any means, but I love how Niebuhr introduces his critique. It makes me think this will be an edifying and educational read. He calls it a necessary and inadequate position. There’s plenty of critique, but before that he mentions that this perspective reveals a clear passion by its adherents to honor Christ. Their priorities are evident. Beyond that, this perspective has done much to keep Christ and Caesar separate. The commitment to obeying governing authorities (Rom. 13) is held in tension with spurning the world (1 Jn.) by all of us because of the work of this perspective.
The problem with this perspective is that we can’t fully get out of our culture. We think in cultural terms and reject cultural realities. Unfortunately, the ones we construct hold traces (or even foundations) from that culture we’re supposedly rejecting. The Bible was revealed in culture and we cannot return to that culture, which makes it possible to be totally anti-cultural in our world – even if we’re trying to construct it on our own.
Next he moves into theological issues with this perspective. He talks of revelation and reason in conflict, but I found the most compelling the theology of sin. This perspective, in many ways, acts as if sin is an external issue that contaminates the people of God (remember Tertullian’s thoughts on children), but this group also is highly disciplined because it knows the reality that sin dwells in each of us. In this effort to quench the sin that rises up within, however, they can kill the mission of taking the gospel to everyone. There were more objections, but I found this the most compelling and the others were, to be honest, more difficult to articulate than I’m up for tonight. Hope you aren’t following for insightful commentary here.
Do you find these objections fair? What other objections might you offer to this Christ Against Culture perspective?