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Review: Christ and Culture Revisited

Carson, D.A. Christ and Culture Revisited. Leicester: Apollos, 2008.

Review by Matthew Payne, PhD Candidate (University of Sydney) & theological educator.

Christians have an uneasy relationship with non-Christian culture. We know that the only truly Christian culture awaits us in Jesus’ kingdom, but what stance ought we to take to the world’s culture while we wait? Carson’s book is a critical engagement with Richard Niebuhr’s influential Christ and Culture (1951). Niebuhr noted a range of ways of relating to culture: Christ against culture, Christ of culture, Christ above culture, Christ and culture in paradox, and Christ transforming culture. In response, Carson (like the author of Ecclesiastes) shows how each of these stances toward culture has its proper time and place, and this timing must be wisely discerned. Carson critiques and modify Niebuhr’s paradigm from a biblical theological perspective, before discussing postmodernism, secularisation, democracy, and church and state. This is not a simple book, but Carson’s discussion is rich and worthy of serious reflection. Given the cultural pressure felt in Western society today, it is becoming increasingly important for Christian leaders to reflect carefully on these things whilst we wait for the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus.