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Christ and Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson
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Christ and Culture Revisited (edition 2012)

by D.A. Carson (Author)

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1,146717,375 (3.92)None
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 Christtransforming 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.While many other books on culture interact with Niebuhr, none of them takes anything like the biblical-theological approach adopted here. Groundbreaking and challenging, Christ and Culture Revisited is a tour de force.… (more)
Member:Jesford
Title:Christ and Culture Revisited
Authors:D.A. Carson (Author)
Info:Eerdmans (2012), Edition: Reprint, 255 pages
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Christ and Culture Revisited by D. A. Carson

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I found Carson’s book to be an incredibly helpful rejoinder to Niebuhr’s classic “Christ and Culture.” Carson writes as a conservative evangelical critical of Niebuhr’s typology, arguing that Niebuhr’s mistake was to present his options as possible alternatives than emphases. Carson defends his thesis mostly in terms of biblical theology, advocating for an integrated reading of the major “turning points” of the biblical narrative. When we do that, we see that matters of Christian engagement with Scripture is highly dependent on various factors including historical, political, and social contexts. This is, in fact, a point Niebuhr is willing to concede in his final chapter of “Christ and Culture” but one he seems unwilling to really wrestle with since he is too personally committed to his Christ transforming culture paradigm.

Readers may grow frustrated with Carson after the second chapter since the rest of the book feels more disconnected from what preceded it as well as Niebuhr’s book. But there are still some interesting ideas in these sections, particularly Carson’s analysis of the four major forces exerting pressure on Christians today in modern democratic nations: secularism, democracy, freedom, and power.

The weakest chapter might be Carson’s summary of Christian relations to the state, all of which basically assume democracy as the most acceptable option even if he is unwilling to say it is the Christian ideal. This is more assumed than proven. And while he is willing to cede some differences in the American and French revolutions, I’m not sure I know why Carson thinks that other than an assumed cultural Christianity rooted in a particular reading of the First Amendment. This, of course, revolves around ideas of establishmentarianism, which as a Baptist, Carson must inevitably reject. I would have benefited from seeing a little more of his work in this area. ( )
  rdhasler | Nov 14, 2023 |
This work is a number of rungs higher than my present ability to comprehend. Carson is sophisticated and elaborate. Many parts required rigorous attention and a great deal of information fell through the cracks or went right over my head. Nonetheless, Carson's work is intriguing on many different levels. The Christian and cultural interaction remains inevitable, and every attempt to discuss the topic presupposes a certain type of approach. Carson's main message: Don't be reductionistic. The controlling matrix for our reflection is the whole of biblical theology, which helps us remain far more flexible than the inflexible grids put forth and often made to stand in place of Scripture (227). This is Carson's prescriptive, contra Niebuhr's rigid methodology.

In his book, Carson defines culture and proceeds to revisit Reinhold Niebuhr's fivefold outlook for thinking about culture. These included 1) Christ against culture, 2) Christ of culture, 3) Christ above culture, 4) Christ and culture in paradox, and 5) Christ the transformer of culture. Carson asserts that four of these positions are defensible from Scripture, but argues that a robust biblical theology might change Niebuhr's typology (31). "It is the commitment to think about all of them at the same time that preserves us from forging very different patterns of the relationships between Christ and culture, and commends one complex reality that can nevertheless be worked out in highly different contexts" (45). Major biblical theological turning points must control our thinking all the time (59). These major themes safeguard us from erroneous reductionism and propose a fruitful way for Christians to think about various aspects of a rapidly changing culture. Certainly, in a fallen and God-rebelling world, every Christian's ultimate allegiance is to Christ over the seduction of secularization, the mystique of democracy, the worship of freedom, and the lust for power (ch. 4). The Christian's worldview will be recognizably different, while striving to enhance the whole. The gospel is personal but never private. One is reminded of Daniel who sought the city's good and served faithfully in a government role without ever capitulating to local laws set up against God's decrees. ( )
  joshcrouse3 | Sep 17, 2021 |
The theme of Christ and Culture Revisited is the relation of Christians (and especially groups of Christians-the church!) to culture (pgs. 13ff, 58, 98, 207). DAC provides an analysis of H. Richard Neibuhr's 1951 five generalized "responses" of Christian's to culture (p. 208). Neibuhr's (so influential and helpful-to-"great conversation") framework provides a touchstone for DAC while the (so authoritative) scriptures (systematic theology, what DAC calls the "non-negotiables of Biblical Theology" aka the great turning points in redemptive history, pgs. 45-59) provides the TOUCHSTONE!

DAC's emphasis on our "perspectivalness" is most helpful (pgs. 87-104). We are all perspectivalists, influenced by our culture (p. 113). His defining of terms is also helpful and necessary (culture is "an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols..." pgs. 2, 69, 85, 205).

"Are Christians part of a larger culture (embedded in it and) called upon by God to be making contributions to this larger culture; or, is "the kingdom of God" the larger culture and the only way of looking at the Christian community's involvement in culture?" This helpful framing of the debate flowed out of pages 209-219 (and 98).

His thesis is that it is best not to restrict our responses into just one of five (man-constructed) possibilities, but that different situations call for the application of different biblical principles. We are to apply all truth concurrently, using discernment to apply the appropriate scritpture at a particular time, place, and circumstance (pgs. 42, 43, 45, 59, 60, 62, 67, 79, 85, 145, 172, 206). He would say that these different "man-constructed" possibilites are helpful, to help us grasp different sparkles of truth.
  keithhamblen | Apr 13, 2009 |
Teaching a Worldview class I found this book a helpful addition to the discussion. Carson gives a thorough analysis of Richard Niebuhr work Chris and Culture. He gives understanding of many of the distortions of this concept in this postmodern world. He shows the relationship of between Christ and the culture based on a biblical approach that focuses on redemptive history. it is a book that makes you think. ( )
  janimar | Sep 30, 2008 |
Logos Library
  birdsnare | May 16, 2019 |
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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 Christtransforming 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.While many other books on culture interact with Niebuhr, none of them takes anything like the biblical-theological approach adopted here. Groundbreaking and challenging, Christ and Culture Revisited is a tour de force.

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