Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Christ and Culture

I have this book on my shelf but haven't touched it yet. I assumed that it was simply a 'remix' of the classic Neibuhr book; however, it seems I assumed too much. Here's an excerpt from an interview conducted by Derek Thomas from FPC Jackson with DA Carson (who happened to be my adviser at TEDS, nothing like a little name dropping, huh) on his book Christ and Culture Revisited:

DC: Thank You. At one level, the tension between Christ and culture is perennial, and every generation must thoughtfully engage in the discussion. Moreover, the world has become much less North-Atlantic-centered than it was in Niebuhr's day, especially the Christian world -- and these changes require serious reflection. Would Kuyper have developed his gentle version of sphere sovereignty if he has been born in China under Mao? Why are the French and the American versions of the separation of church and state so radically different? Where is the place of suffering in our thinking? Alternatively, in precisely what ways does the Christian have a responsibility to serve as salt and light in a world that is corrupt and dark? What does the Bible say on these and related matters?

As for Niebuhr's seminal work: the five well-known typologies he advanced (and that have been the basis for discussion in the Anglo-Saxon world for the last half-century) are insufficiently grounded in Scripture. One of the five has little biblical warrant at all. Insofar as the other four have biblical warrant, then if they are treated as alternative models from which one may choose, one is saying that the Bible does not speak univocally on the subject, and one can pick and choose among the assorted "case models" that the Bible offers. It is much more faithful to Scripture to say that behind Niebuhr's typologies stands a still more comprehensive vision of the relations between Christ and culture that is grounded in a rich biblical theology. That is what I have tried to tease out.

DT: What are some key things for young pastors to keep in mind when they are urged to "engage the culture"?

DC: Know what the gospel is first, comprehensively, accurately, faithfully. Work out from there. Learn to preach to your own people, not to the aggregates set out in books by Barna and Wuthnow (though much can be learned from such books). Whether the "engagement" is part of how you engage people evangelistically, or part of how Christians in your church do good in your own community, keep thinking through what the Bible itself says -- and then try, like the men of Issachar, to understand your own times.

Read the whole interview here.

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