Called to live in the world, but not to be of it, Christians must maintain a balancing act that becomes more precarious the further our culture departs from its Judeo-Christian roots. How should members of the church interact with such a culture, especially as deeply enmeshed as most of us have become?
D.A. Carson applies his masterful touch to this problem. He begins by exploring the classic typology of H. Richard Niebuhr with its five Christ-culture options. Carson proposes that these disparate options are in reality one still larger vision. Using the Bible’s own story line and the categories of biblical theology, he clearly lays out that unifying vision. Carson acknowledges the helpfulness of Niebuhr’s grid and similar matrices but warns against giving them canonical force.
More than just theoretical, Christ and Culture Revisited is also designed practically to help Christians untangle current messy debates on living in the world. Carson emphasizes that the relation between Christ and culture is not limited to an either/or cultural paradigm—Christ against culture or Christ transforming culture. Instead Carson offers his own paradigm in which all the categories of biblical theology must be kept in mind simultaneously to inform the Christian worldview.
Don't miss the Crossway D.A. Carson Collection (7 vols.).
“What is becoming obvious is that Niebuhr is not so much talking about the relationship between Christ and culture, as between two sources of authority as they compete within culture, namely Christ (however he is understood within the various paradigms of mainstream Christendom) and every other source of authority divested of Christ (though Niebuhr is thinking primarily of secular or civil authority rather than the authority claimed by competing religions).” (Page 12)
“In much of the Western world, despite the fact that Christianity was one of the forces that shaped what the West became (along with the Enlightenment, and a host of less dominant powers), culture is not only moving away from Christianity, it is frequently openly hostile toward it. Christianity can be tolerated, provided it is entirely private: Christian belief that intrudes itself into the public square, especially if it is trying to influence public policy, is most often taken, without examination, as prima facie evidence for bigotry and intolerance.” (Page 6)
“The first answer to the question of Christ and culture we shall consider is the one that uncompromisingly affirms the sole authority of Christ over the Christian and resolutely rejects the culture’s claims to loyalty’” (Page 13)
“Instead of imagining that Christ against culture and Christ transforming culture are two mutually exclusive stances, the rich complexity of biblical norms, worked out in the Bible’s story line, tells us that these two often operate simultaneously.” (Page 227)
“Christ above culture,’ Niebuhr understands to be the majority position in the history of the church” (Page 20)
Don Carson here writes clearly, carefully, and helpfully about the timely topic of how Christians should engage culture. Well-suited to write such a volume, Carson exposes and explodes ‘egregious reductionisms’ which he says too often afflict Christians. We can’t reduce the relationship of Christ and culture to one model (Niebuhrian or otherwise). Reading this book has sharpened my own understanding. So buy the book you’re holding. Read it. Pass it along to folks in your congregation. And reduce ‘egregious reductionisms’!
—Mark Dever, senior pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church
There is no more crucial issue facing us today than the relationship of the church and the Gospel to contemporary culture. Don Carson’s treatment of this issue is the most balanced one out there. Rather than grinding an axe or pushing his own paradigm, he listens carefully to the Scripture and brings us in the end to a sophisticated simplicity about these matters. I highly recommend this book.
—Tim Keller, pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Make room on the shelf for this penetrating book by Carson . . . Carson engages with a stunning range of writers and texts.