Christ and Culture Revisited
by D. A. Carson
Eerdmans, April 2008
243 pp., $24.00
It's ironic that a book by a liberal theologian has so thoroughly suffused contemporary evangelical self-understanding. Yet 50 years after its publication, H. Richard Niebuhr's Christ and Culture remains a classic in the evangelical canon. But this standard has recently faced strong challenges from within the fold, including Craig Carter's incisive Rethinking Christ and Culture, and now D. A. Carson's Christ and Culture Revisited. Carson rightly seeks to revisit Niebuhr's categories by holding their feet to the biblical fire. As a biblical theologian, Carson is concerned that Niebuhr's categories have taken on a life of their own — that Christians now take up his models without considering how (or whether) they grow out of biblical wisdom.
Carson follows a strategy displayed in recent discussion of the Atonement, in which some scholars have countered the settled understanding that models of the Atonement are mutually exclusive. Just as the New Testament celebrates complementary understandings of Christ's work on the cross, so too, Carson suggests, with models of Christ and culture. We should stop thinking that it's a matter of picking and choosing and consider a bigger picture that integrates different approaches.
Carson is also rightly concerned to detach accounts of "Christ and culture" from American and European provincialism. As he wryly puts it, "If Abraham Kuyper had grown up under the conditions of the killing fields of Cambodia, one suspects his view of the relationship between Christianity and culture would have been significantly modified." Thus, Carson considers sectors of the majority world where Christians face persecution and ...