Sunday, March 8, 2009

Christ and Culture: Christ TRANSFORMS Culture (conversionist), part 2 (Historical Examples)

His historical example is St. Augustine (and he mentions John Calvin, too) who has a significant view of sin, but also looks forward to the transformation of culture in human history – and he was a key figure in the movement from a Caesar-centered Roman empire to Roman Christendom. Niebuhr states, “Christ is the transformer of culture for Augustine in the sense that he redirects, reinvigorates, and regenerates that life of man, expressed in all human works, which in present actuality is the perverted and corrupted exercise of a fundamentally good nature” (p. 209). Augustine’s conversionist trajectory, in Niebuhr’s view “set before men the vision of universal concord and peace in a culture in which all human actions had been reordered by the gracious action of God in drawing all men to Himself, and in which all men were active in works directed toward and thus reflecting the love and glory of God” (p. 215). But Augustine doesn’t go completely this way. He looks forward to an eternity with the elect and defends the church culture. He seems to think this curious given the groundwork he has laid for a conversionist theology.

His more contemporary proponent is a fellow named FD Maurice. He seems to be the one person closest to pursuing a legitimately conversionist perspective. Maurice believes that Christ is King and each man must respond to Him, but to focus on sin is to give it too much credit and to become self-contradictory because we are called to respond to Jesus our King (and do, whether they believe Him or not). Culture is good because it is always in relation to the Word and the attainable goal of the world is to shift from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness. But given that sin is an illegitimate object of attention and Maurice views all of creation as good because it is related to the Word, I’m not sure how this doesn’t collapse into a universalism that avoids requiring people to come to terms with Jesus.

Anyone more familiar with this out there who can explain it better?

This is the last of the five perspectives from Niebuhr. I’ll read his post script, but I’m not sure if I’ll post on it. However, DA Carson critiques Niebuhr in light of biblical theology. I may give some highlights of that while Niebuhr is fresh in my mind. I hope this has been enjoyable for someone. I wish I could say it has been for me. Enjoyable or not, however, this is why I blog … so I can at least try to articulate some thoughts from all the books I read. If someone gets something out of it, great. If not, it’s been a good discipline for me.


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