Monday, June 2, 2008

Christ and Culture: Is it a helpful approach?

In the last few decades, society has become much more culture-conscious. This primarily due to enormous increase in travel technology and telecommunications. We are now much more aware of different cultures through our own experiences and media. This awareness has urged discussions on how we, as Jesus-followers, should relate to culture. H. Richard Niebuhr wrote a landmark book, Christ and Culture, where he provides five different ways that people believe Christ relates to culture. Since this book was published there have been thousands of discussions in Sunday Schools classes, colleges, dorm rooms, seminaries, and over the dinner table on the typology Niebuhr sets out for us. In the last few years there have been several books that used Niebuhr's book as a launching pad to discuss this very crucial topic. Scot McKnight's blog had a good discussion on which approach to culture was the best one. Here are the five approaches:

  • Christ against culture,

  • Christ of culture,

  • Christ above culture,

  • Christ and culture in paradox, and

  • Christ transforming culture.

I want your input. Is this a good way to approach the issue of how we relate to culture? What are some alternative ways of better discerning how we as Jesus-followers should interface with culture?


tech.samaritan said...

I think it sort of misses the point to look at Christ as related to culture. Individuals are changed by Christ, and collectively make changes to the culture because of their changed [kingdom] values. A focus on the culture itself overlooks the very personal nature of the source of change. It would seem that all of those approaches are valid/invalid in a given context. It seems a misguided exercise in abstract thought that is most likely to lead to a too rigid outlook towards this fluid thing we call culture, or this vague trust-within-doubt we call faith.

M Crane said...

tech.samaritan, you made some solid points and articulated them well. The intersection of the transformed community and culture is dynamic. Does the answer change if we ask about the relationship between the church and culture?

tech.samaritan said...

Hmm... I think it is still the same, if we are talking about the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. When our own kingdom (church) culture spills out and positively changes the culture around us, that is evangelism. When our kingdom culture is in conflict with the culture at large, it is appropriate to resist. When our kingdom culture finds truth and beauty in the prevailing culture, it is meet that we encourage and adopt. I think it is the same.