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Christ and Culture Revisited [Hardcover]

By D. A. Carson (Author)
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Item Number 85017  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   243
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.06" Width: 6.31" Height: 0.92"
Weight:   1.13 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   May 1, 2008
ISBN  0802831745  
EAN  9780802831743  

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Item Description...
Called to live in the world, but not of it, the balancing act for Christians 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? Here, D. A. Carson applies his masterful touch to the problem. He begins by exploring the classic typology of Reinhold Niebuhr and his five options offered for understanding culture. 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 attempts to work out what that unifying vision is. More than theory, however, Christ and Culture Revisited is designed practically to help Christians untangle current messy debates on living in the world. Carson further expands the discussion with numerous comparisons between the United States and cultures elsewhere. Though there are several recent books on culture that interact with Niebuhr, none takes anything like the biblical-theological approach adopted here. Groundbreaking and challenging, Christ and Culture Revisited is a tour de force.

Publishers Description
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 and his five options for understanding culture. 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 attempts to work out what that unifying vision is. Carson acknowledges the helpfulness of Niebuhr's grid and other 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.

Though several other books on culture interact with Niebuhr, none of them takes anything like the biblical-theological approach adopted here. Ground-breaking and challenging, Christ and Culture Revisited is a tour de force.

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More About D. A. Carson

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! D. A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has been at Trinity since 1978.

D. A. Carson has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Expositor's Bible Commentary (Paperback)
  2. Expositor's Bible Commentary (Revised)
  3. Gospel Coalition Booklets
  4. Theology in Community

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Culture Remedy comes in Eternity  Dec 11, 2009
I gave it three stars because the book is really slow and if you haven't read Neibur's Christ and Culture you may be confused for a good portion of the book. This is a great topic, but there is so much to talk about with it and a 200ish page book isn't going to cut it. Carson didn't really intend to answer the question about how to relate Christ and Culture which is understandable since I don't think we can truly answer it as a matter of fact statement. Carson is basically going to analyze and exhaust the Neibur's four corner model that was previously presented in the original "Christ and Culture" and then explain why it can not stop there and must not.

Does have some really good ideas and thoughts throughout the book and how Christ relates, or better we relate to Christ in a fallen state, redeemed stated, etc.. Sweet thoughts to meditate on, but I would only encourage those that are mature in the faith to gravitate toward this book as it may be overwhelming or to be honest just boring for many. I would not put this at the top of the list, and this book doesn't reflect my thoughts on Carson at all. Read everything he writes.

The biggest thing to remember throughout reading this is that Christianity is not called to be a Theocracy in the manner that Israel was in the Old Testament, and culture in the global since will never be redeemed until Christ return. So, in that sense there will always be this constant balance between rebellion against the world systems to stand for truth, and then submission to them in humility while showing complete obedience to Christ throughout all of this. Challenging read, but good and I would recommend picking up Neibur first.
How Should Christians Relate to Culture?  May 29, 2009
In 1951, H. Richard Niebuhr published his book Christ and Culture. It is still available from used book sources, and in 2001 Harper Collins republished it (it is available from this site: Christ and Culture (Torchbooks)). Niebuhr is considered by many (see Wikipedia) to be "one of the most important Christian theological-ethicists in 20th century America". He taught for several decades at Yale Divinity School, and contributed to post-liberal theology. Since he was not an evangelical, nor at all conservative, and he died in 1962, and probably his most important book, Christ and Culture, was published in 1951, and there is a fair chance that you may have never heard of him, why would D. A. Carson want to publish a book using Niebuhr's book as a point of launching? Ideas have consequences. And Carson is convinced that Niebuhr's book touched on very important concerns, has had a very enduring influence, and that "it is difficult, at least in the English-speaking world, to ignore him. His work, for good and ill, has shaped much of the discussion." (pp. x-xi) A basic question for Christians is: how should Christianity relate to culture? How should it relate to our culture? How should we be engaged? Starting with Niebuhr's book, Carson addresses these concerns. Carson is research professor of new testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is a prolific writer.

The book Christ & Culture contains six chapters. Chapter 1 is titled How to Think about Culture: Reminding Ourselves of Niebuhr. Chapter 2 is titled Niebuhr Revised: The Impact of Biblical Theology. Chapter 3 is titled Refining Culture and Redefining Postmodernism. Chapter 4 is Secularism, Democracy, Freedom, and Power. Chapter 5 is Church and State. Chapter 6 is On Disputed Agendas, Frustrated Utopias, and Ongoing Tensions.

In Chapter 1, Carson, after discussing the difficulty of defining what is precisely meant by culture, defines what he means by use of the term "culture". He also introduces the challenge for Christians of relating to the surrounding culture outside of the church, and how this has always been a challenge from the first-century church up through the current day. Carson explains why this is a challenge much more-so for Christians than it was for ancient Israel: "In the move from the old covenant to the new, the focus of the covenant people passed from the covenant-nation to the international covenant-people. That inevitably raised questions about the relationships this people should have with the people around them who were not part of the new covenant." Issues that can readily be identified include the relationship between church and state, "whether Christians should participate in socially expected customs when those customs had religious overtones", just war theories, the relative merits of one culture over another, the relative merits of one religion over another, etc. How should Christians engage culture? Niebuhr had offered five options, and Carson introduces those five in his Chapter 1 (he critiques them in Chapter 2). Niebuhr's five options are briefly stated as follows: (1) Christ against Culture, (2) The Christ of Culture, (3) Christ above Culture, (4) Christ and Culture in Paradox, and (5) Christ the Transformer of Culture.

In Chapter 2, Carson critiques Niebuhr's contributions to an understanding of Christ and culture. Carson indicates several strengths of Niebuhr's contributions. One strength is that Niebuhr's analysis was very inclusive. It "embraces Catholics and Protestants, East and West, examples from the Fathers, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, and the modern period, conservatives and liberals", etc. Also, one "of the attractive features of Niebuhr's work is his effort to ground most of his five patterns in the Scriptures themselves". "One of the attractive features of Niebuhr's work is his crisp discussion of many historical figures." However, while appreciating some of Niebuhr's analysis, Carson also takes strong exception. While Niebuhr's inclusiveness is commendable, "it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Niebuhr's comprehensiveness is also a deadly weakness." He includes virtually everyone, and does not give much of a definition as to just what it means to be a Christian. He not only includes Catholics and classical Protestants, but also Gnostics, Arians, Nestorians, and modern liberals. In attempting to say something useful as to how Christians should interface with the surrounding culture, it seems necessary to define in some way what a Christian is, and that means excluding some who make use of the Christian name. For example, "liberalism is not another denomination or any other kind of legitimate option within Christianity. Rather, it is another religion." Carson also strongly criticizes Niebuhr's handling of Scripture. Carson lists some points that he considers non-negotiables. This list includes (1) the Bible as a whole constitutes the canon (one part is not played against another), (2) God created everything, (3) the human race is a fallen race, but made in God's image, and (4) God is sovereign over all.

In Chapter 3, Carson first addresses further the Christian's understanding of culture in the light of Scripture. Carson claims that, "from a Christian perspective, everything that is detached from the sheer centrality of God is an evil. It is horrifically God-defying. In that sense, from a Christian perspective every cultural stance that does not sing with joy and obedience, `Jesus is Lord!' falls under the same indictment. In this sense, all cultures this side of the fall are evil." Carson also discusses the prevailing postmodernism of the current United States culture. One feature of postmodernism is its hesitancy to speak of truth in any objective sense. Carson replies: "This reluctance to speak of truth is notoriously distant from the biblical writers." Carson continues: "faith is invalidated if its object is untrustworthy, or, where ostensible facts are concerned, if the object of faith is not true. . . . It follows that if we believe something that is not true, `we are to be pitied more than all others.' . . . Faith without a true object, Paul asserts, is pitiful. . . . In much of the Western world, however, faith is not at all tied to the truthfulness or reliability of its object. Faith is little more than personal, subjective, religious preference."

In Chapter 4, Carson addresses specific issues that, while they may be widely applied, are of special interest to the current culture of the United States: secularization, democracy, freedom, and power. In the US the word secular "is a word with positive overtones." It can mean simply separation of church and state. However, it "is usually understood to be the social reality that fosters nonreligious or even anti-religious consciousness." "More precisely, secularization is the process that progressively removes religion from the public arena and reduces it to the private realm". This movement, of course, removes Christianity from having any real impact of public policy and can readily be seen by Christians as suspect at least. However, when it comes to democracy the tension between it and Christianity may not be as readily seen. "Most people in the West would say, unhesitatingly, that democracy is a good thing." However, history "coughs up many examples where democracy cannot be counted on to do the right thing". Can we count on popular vote to establish just laws and morality? But how about freedom? Is freedom something that Christians can always support? "One may be `free' from the constraints of the state, but one may also be `free' from traditions, free from God, free from morality, free from inhibitions, free from oppressive parents, free from wise parents, free from assignments of various kinds, free from sin, and much more." Whether Christians can support `freedom' or not depends on the kind of freedom. What about abortion, research using human embryos, pornography, homosexual marriages, prayer in public schools, etc.? A clash between Christianity and a libertine society seems inevitable. Some things that society embraces as freedom are seen as a form of bondage by Christians. Carson next addresses power. We may think of power as bad, but "the exercise of power is not always a bad thing. Within the family, a complete want of discipline, an utter power vacuum, regularly results in disoriented and anarchic children." And when there is a crime in progress, "most of us are pretty glad if the police show up in strength and exercise a little power." However, "every form of power can be abused. . . . the lust for power - spelled out in money, influence, exposure, high-profile jobs - is so intense that it frequently blinds those who hold these jobs as to the nature of their calling and thus to the importance of truth and integrity." In summary, "We cannot embrace unrestrained secularism; democracy is not God; freedom can be another word for rebellion; the lust for power, as universal as it is, must be viewed with more than a little suspicion. This means that Christian communities honestly seeking to live under the Word of God will inevitably generate cultures that, to say the least, will in some sense counter or confront the values of the dominant culture."

In Chapter 5, Carson discusses the separation of church and state. Whereas this fits somewhat within the topics of Chapter 4, under secularism, Carson devotes a somewhat lengthy (over 50 pages) chapter to the topic. This topic is perhaps a little more sticky than we have imagined, and it takes some discussion to bring things out. Although the discussion is fruitful, in this review I will focus on Carson's conclusions. Carson advises that the lesser of evils is what we should be prepared to accept in the near term: "Religious pluralism cannot be an ultimate good, for it will not be found in the new heaven and the new earth, toward which we press; but if in this broken world it curbs violence and coercion, if it promotes relative freedom among those who (whether they recognize it or not) bear God's image, then we thank God for the gifts of common grace and for the wisdom of the Master who insisted on some kind of distinction, no matter how complex and how little absolute, between the sphere of Caesar and the sphere of God." "As for democracy, if we promote it, we do so not because we take it to be an absolute good, still less as the solution to all political problems, and not even because it is an ideal form of government, but because, granted that the world is fallen and all of us prone to the most grotesque evils, it appears to be the least objectionable option." Carson also makes some very interesting comments about the United States, and Western civilization in general, about which some Christians seem to hold onto the illusion that we are a Christian society: "From a Christian point of view, it is unhelpful to speak of `the Christian West' or of `our Christian nation' or the like. In America, this is not only because of the legal force of the First Amendment (however it is interpreted) but also because nowadays the numeric shift in numbers of Christians, from West to East and North to South, is so dramatic that such expressions sound increasingly parochial and out of date."

In Chapter 6, Carson summarizes the previous chapters and ties together what may be thought of as loose ends. He acknowledges that "Perhaps the most seminal evangelical thinkers on this topic during the last century and a half are Abraham Kuyper, Carl F. H. Henry, Francis Schafer, and John Howard Yoder." He also acknowledges J. Budziszewski, J. Gresham Machen, and I. Howard Marshall. While the focus of Christians is often on presenting the claims of Christ to individuals and working for their regeneration, Carson concludes with the following: "Christian educational and academic structures may help countless thousands develop a countercultural way of looking at all reality under the Lordship of Christ. Sometimes a disease can be knocked out; sometimes sex traffic can be considerably reduced; sometimes slavery can be abolished in a region; sometimes more equitable laws can foster justice and reduce corruption; sometimes engagement in the arts can produce wonderful work that inspires a new generation. . . . doing good to the city, doing good to all people (even if we have special responsibility for the household of faith), is part of our responsibility as God's redeemed people in this time of tension between the `already' and the `not yet.'"

While this book is well written, the vocabulary modest, and the educational background required reasonable, I found it a difficult and challenging book to read. The topic is broad and indeed challenging and it is not easy to come to simple answers. Yet, if we want to be good witnesses to our relatives and neighbors, it seems that this material is very helpful not only in terms of good apologetics, but also in terms of helping us see things from the perspective of others. Many of these issues are not simple, but if we are to engage those around us they seem to be unavoidable.


Larry D. Paarmann
Christ & Culture Revisited  Dec 26, 2008
We are using this book for a Bible study class and find it pretty interesting with the help of our pastor.
A New Take on Christ and Culture  Oct 19, 2008
For more than fifty years now, H. Richard Niebuhr's classic work Christ and Culture has influenced the evangelical understanding of how to relate the Christian faith to the cultures we live in. D.A. Carson's new book, Christ and Culture Revisited takes a critical look at Niebuhr's work. He summarizes Niebuhr's book, offers a timely critique, and then uses the book as a springboard into contemporary issues.

Carson's book is as much a new Christ and Culture as it is a critique of Niebuhr's work. By studying the dominant cultural forces of our time and speaking to the debates about "culture" and "postmodernism," Carson updates, changes, and arguably replaces Neibuhr's work, at least in terms of its contemporary relevance.

In chapter 1, Carson lays out Niebuhr's five paradigms for understanding the relationship between Christ and culture: Christ against Culture, Christ of Culture, and Christ above Culture (a paradigm which includes the last two as subsets: Christ and Culture in Paradox and Christ the Transformer of Culture).

In chapter 2, Carson critiques Niebuhr's proposal, mainly by showing how those in the Christ of Culture paradigm (Gnostics, Classic Liberals, etc.) have largely abandoned Christianity altogether. He also critiques Niebuhr's handling of Scripture, specifically - his defense of the Christ the Transformer of Culture paradigm. Carson argues against a "one size fits all" mentality, and instead believes that the Scriptures may advocate some elements in one situation and other elements in another.

But Carson does not merely critique Niebuhr. He lays out the major historical moments that form the heart of the Christian understanding of the world, arguing that these are non-negotiables of biblical theology.

In chapter 3, Carson defines "culture" and then refines our understanding of "postmodernism." Towards the end of the chapter, the gloves come off. In discussing epistemology, Carson debates vigorously against the epistemology of James Smith that is now surfacing in the Emerging Church.

Chapters 4 and 5 deal with contemporary issues in today's society. What are Christians to make of secularization? Why is it important that we not equate our democratic government with the Kingdom? Why is freedom dangerous? Carson devotes an entire chapter to issues of church and state, managing to appreciate and still strongly criticize our Western ideals of freedom and prosperity, all from a biblical perspective.

In the final chapter, Carson lays out some of specific models of thinking through issues of Christ and culture. He calls these models "options," while appreciating and warning against certain aspects of each.

Christ and Culture Revisited is a worthy addition to the thoughtful pastor's library. Carson helpfully summarizes and critiques Niebuhr's work. But more than that, he offers solid counsel on navigating the murky waters of a fading cultural Christianity in the West.
The Best I've Read on These Issues - A Must Read, but a Challenging Read  Sep 18, 2008
Oustanding, helpful, Biblical tour-de-force by Carson. He clearly shows the inadequacies of many 'Christian' approaches to cutlure (with particular focus on Niehbur) while he also attempts to lay out a broader understanding of the issue from a wholistic Biblical framework. He does not de-emphasize the tensions and struggles of faithful living in a fallen world and in particular contexts. It bogs down a little in his discussions on post-modernism, but overall, an outstanding book that probably needs to be read more than once for it to truly sink in and percolate. A must read in these polarizing days of culture wars and 'win at all costs' political campaigns!

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