Those familiar with the theological debates regarding Christ and Culture will, no doubt, be familiar with Richard Niebuhr’s classic work Christ and Culture. Largely developed through reflection on historical patterns of and postures toward cultural engagement, Christ and Culture offered an insightful synthesis as well as a new typology. Niebuhr constructed a five-fold approach to Christian engagement with culture. Unfortunately, these five approaches (Christ of culture, Christ above culture, Christ against culture, Christ transformer of culture, Christ above culture) have not made their way into common Christian parlance or practice (though Christians typically embrace one of the positions).
Most scholars have recognized that, instead of selecting just one posture towards culture, a more complex approach is necessary, requiring that we employ a combination of the views presented by Niebuhr. Simply put, there are things in our cultures that Christ is against, others he is for, and still more that he wants to transform.
I have eagerly been anticipating D. A. Carson’s Christ and Culture Revisited, which is hitting bookstores soon. Carson revisits Niebuhr’s classic work, applauding it for its many strengths. However, he also brings a much needed perspective to the discussion of Christ and Culture, that of biblical theology. Advocating reliance upon biblical paradigms for cultural engagement, Carson draws upon the rich resources of biblical theology for an alternative typology. In addition, he seeks to apply this typology to some contemporary cultural issues.
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