Sunday, March 1, 2009

Christ and Culture: Christ and Culture in PARADOX (dualists), part 1 (Theology)

It’s taken me longer to get back to this series than I had hoped, but here we are back in Niebuhr’s seminal work on Christ and culture title, appropriately Christ and Culture. We’re picking up with the second position on the “center positions” of the church.

Interestingly, the most vociferous opponents of the synthesist position (the previous position posted on Feb. 19th) are also “centrists.” These are the “dualists” who try to hold loyalty to Christ and responsibility toward culture in tension, but they do it differently than the previous synthesists. The key is the conflict between God and man, the righteousness of God and self – not between Christians and pagans, or believer/unbeliever. God is full of grace, man is full of sin and the starting point in dealing with the cultural problem is the great act of reconciliation between the two.

The distinctive feature is the pervasive nature of sin in the dualist perspective. They believe synthesists minimize the reality and extent of sin. Because of sin, culture is irretrievably corrupt. The dualist sees “the whole edifice of culture is cracked and madly askew” (p. 155). The dualist aligns with the fundamentalist who sees the world as corrupted and yet, unlike the Christ Against Culture view, he does not abandon his commitment to the culture. This leads to a position of paradox.

In Niebuhr’s view, Paul falls in this category – at least this motif is more evident in Paul than other positions. Because of sin and the failure of human institutions because they are the works of man, and yet God’s grace in Christ will lead us to being good and changing our lives for the better. Peace with God, then, creates a new kind of humanity that works out their salvation in whatever context God has placed them – even darks societies led by demonic powers.

I assume because of the fact that God is sovereign, part of being the new humanity means we respect governing authorities as from God (Rom. 13), even if they’re ungodly. The idea is that God uses all kinds of institutions, Christians or not, to restrain evil, to keep things from being as bad as they could be. Niebuhr states, “The function of law is to restrain and expose sin rather than to guide men to righteousness” (p. 165).

I seem to like whatever view I’ve last read in this book. While I’m certain I’m a centrist, this aligns with my theology a little more than the previous point. We’ll look at how this plays out in Luther’s theology next before moving to the last of the five positions on Christ and Culture. What do you think so far on this?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post, I am almost 100% in agreement with you