It's like sending a child off to college," says Andy Crouch, wringing his hands and giving a nervous laugh. "You just hope you've done everything right." Andy, who is too young to know what sending a child off to college is really like, is nevertheless the proud papa of a brand new book. And after the final manuscript revisions and the printing and binding, the book is on its own. Its creator can no longer shape it. It is what it is.

Andy's offspring is christened Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. And it has the potential to be not just another book. Since 1951, the Christian discussion of culture has been uncomfortably squeezed into five boxes created by H. Richard Niebuhr's magisterial Christ and Culture. Generations of pastors and scholars have analyzed their church traditions using Niebuhr's categories: Is my denomination an example of "Christ against culture"? What should it be? "Christ and culture in paradox"? As someone who found the Niebuhrian categories a frustrating dead end, I was delighted to find that Andy managed to write about culture from a Christian perspective for about 200 pages before turning briefly to Niebuhr. Culture Making subverts and reorients the whole discussion.

"I wanted to undo two things," Andy told me. "I wanted to cure us of talking about Culture with a capital C or 'the Culture,' to move away from such abstractions, and focus instead on concrete cultural goods. I also wanted to put the task of transformation back on God's side of the ledger. Sure, Niebuhr talked about Christ transforming culture, but that very quickly translated into Christians transforming culture. That's the wrong ambition."

To understand what Andy believes to be the right ambition, be sure to read the excerpt ...

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