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Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective Paperback – January 1, 2007
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"Craig Carter has written an important book for everyone under the influence of H. Richard Niebuhr's Christ and Culture, for everyone committed to the church's witness in the world, and for everyone concerned about the impact of Christianity upon our common life."--Jonathan R. Wilson, author of God So Loved the World
"This book is long overdue and much needed. Even though few works of contemporary theology are as influential as Niebuhr's Christ and Culture, there has been surprisingly little serious criticism of its main claims and organizing categories. Carter's stimulating book provides not only a provocative critique of Niebuhr's entire approach, it also breaks new ground by proposing an alternative understanding of the main options for the church's mission to the world."--Jeffrey P. Greenman, Wheaton College
"Craig Carter invites us to rethink critically the assumptions, arguments, and conclusions of Niebuhr's Christ and Culture. With a well-developed sense of our postmodern, post-Christendom circumstances, and with fidelity to both scripture and the broad Christian tradition, he challenges the quasi-canonical status accorded to Niebuhr's typology by many since the book's publication in 1951, especially in the United States."--Barry Harvey, Baylor University
"This exceedingly important and well-written book offers much more than a rethinking of Niebuhr's Christ and Culture. In his effort to determine what is wrong with Niebuhr's oft-cited typology, Carter digs deeply into two fundamental problems affecting not just Niebuhr but the majority of Western Christians--the church's embrace of Christendom and its unblinking support for state violence. This book is theologically careful, historically rich, and ethically thoughtful. It is intensely relevant to the cultural moment in which we live."--David P. Gushee, author of Only Human: Christian Reflections on the Journey Toward Wholeness
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Carter's central thesis is that H. Richard Neibuhr's canonical Christ and Culture presents a warped typology of Christian cultural engagement. Neibuhr presented five types of Christian cultural engagement: "Christ Against Culture"; "The Christ of Culture"; "Christ Above Culture": "Christ and Culture in Paradox"; and "Christ Transforming Culture." Although Neibuhr claimed each type had merit, he clearly favored the "Christ Tranforming Culture" model, and that model was at least implicitly adopted by both liberal mainline Protestantism and the neo-evangelicalism that emerged from fundamentalism in the 1940's.
The problem with Neibuhr's typology, Carter argues, is that each of Neibuhr's types arises from a "Christendom" perspective. That is, Neibuhr's typology assumes that Church and State are partners - whether they are sparring partners as in the "Christ Against Culture" type, or senior and junior partners as in the "Christ Transforming Culture" type - in the process of cultural construction. The "Christendom" mentality, Carter claims, dates back to the Western Church's alliance with political power forged at the time of the Emperor Constantine.
Carter suggests that the "Christendom" perspective is misguided, even idolatrous, because it causes the Church to participate in violence. Drawing on Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder, Carter proclaims that instead the Church should "be the Church." True to these Anabaptist and pacifist roots, Carter argues that violence is the antithesis of Christian faith.Read more ›
My hunch is that while many readers may find Carter's work refreshing, others may potentially be irritated by the book's repetitive nature and forceful tone. Regardless, my own opinion is that Carter's work serves as a helpful aid in stimulating thought and encouraging chartiable dialogue.
The strong points of this book is that he in many places fairly assesses the bias of Niebuhr and passionately confesses and exhorts the church of Christ to be Christ centered and cross focused.
The weak points are that his bias is extreme and dominant (as it should for an Anabaptist) for non-violence as being front and center in one's theology, thus one-dimensional. But for Lutherans this is not the case, for we believe in two dimensions, or better yet, realms. The realm of the government and the realm of the church. Yet we believe there is only one King over both of them, God Almighty.
These distinctions are thoroughly articulated in a even better retort to Niebuhr in "Christ and Culture in Dialogue," edited by Angus Menuge. See my review of this fine Lutheran contribution for specifics of my position.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Carter calls for all Christians to repent of Christendom. Sorry, I'm not buying it. And I'm not repenting of the Crusades or the European colonization of America either! Read morePublished on May 29, 2009 by Suzanne G. Bowles
This book gives an interesting perspective. I had to read it for a class and it is not the easiest read, but it does bring up some interesting points.Published on April 14, 2009 by Zack Polk