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Christ and Culture

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  1,590 ratings  ·  69 reviews
This 50th-anniversary edition, with a new foreword by the distinguished historian Martin E. Marty, who regards this book as one of the most vital books of our time, as well as an introduction by the author never before included in the book, and a new preface by James Gustafson, the premier Christian ethicist who is considered Niebuhr’s contemporary successor, poses the cha ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published December 24th 2001 by Harper Perennial (first published October 5th 1951)
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M.G. Bianco
Niehbur's book, Christ and Culture, presents five different views of how Christians understood Christ and Culture.

The first is Christ Against Culture, which is best displayed by the anabaptists and the Amish. It is the separatist view.

The second is Christ Of Culture. This is best pictured by liberal Protestantism, and its efforts to interpret culture as if it were representative of Christ. These folks tend to interpret philosophy and science as if it is all good and teaches what Christ himself
The Chestertonian (Sarah G)

Now that I've read this, I'm finding that it is considered an extremely important work in the conversation on how Christians should engage with culture. (Western Lit mates, we had a discussion question that drew upon its categorization of possible approaches.)

Basically, H. Richard Niebuhr--Reinhold Niebuhr's brother--analyzes five different ways (or "typologies" of ways) that Christians have historically approached the problem of dual commitments to Christ and to the culture in which they live:
David Withun
Niebuhr attempts to understand and evaluate the various ways in which Christians throughout history and today have understood the relationship between Christ and culture. These he divides into five types:

1. "Christ Against Culture" -- Those who posit that Christ and culture are diametrically opposed and cannot be reconciled.

2. "Christ of Culture" -- Those who attempt to domesticate Christ within the confines of whatever culture they happen to find themselves in already.

3. "Christ Above Culture"
Douglas Wilson
Really enjoyed this. Want to review it with a phrase I don't think has been used concerning it before, which is "rollicking good time." Conversionism, baby!
Many things impressed me positively about this book, but the one thing that stands out among the rest is the way in which Niebuhr reveals the viability of each typology while attempting to fairly critique each one. He takes into account the complexities of the Christian ethos with respects to culture and context and does not ascribe “true” Christianity to one specific typology. He insists, rather, that each typology presented have both strengths and weaknesses, and no one can “itself exist witho ...more
David Rathel
A historically important book receives a few new features with this 50th anniversary binding. Martin Marty (Fundamentalism Project) contributes an article as does ethicist James Gustafson. Gustafson's article is a helpful read in that he defends Niebuhr and his work from contemporary critics.

As far as Niebuhr's work itself goes, it really needs no introduction. It has been so influential that most will be familiar with its categories ("typologies"), even if they have never cracked open this boo
Mark Jensen
An interesting analysis and approach, but you realize pretty quick Niebuhr's Christ and Culture are fairly abstract concepts that hinder his interpretation. The content of the Christian faith does not play a major part into his argumentation and culture is always defined in abstract terms. He never answers the questions "Which Christ?" "Which Culture?" Moreover, where is the church as a culture? Niebuhr seems to assume the church is always created by culture but can never itself be a culture. Th ...more
Kathleen Dixon
The Petersens, in 100 Christian Books That Changed the Century, say that this book 'has been foundational reading for scholars and other observers trying to make sense of Christianity in the United States over the last century'. They do make large claims and are a little less than precise at times (e.g. this book was published in 1951 so is well short of the century). However, I can see why it would have been widely read. It covers all aspects of the historical thinking about the subject, and it ...more
Niebuhr was so remarkably prescient in plotting the trajectory of culture and thought, it's difficult to imagine that he wrote this text more than 60 years ago. In this book, Niebuhr points out five ideal typologies for "heuristic use" that categorize theological approaches to Christian ethics, specifically the way Christians move between nature/reason in culture, and faith/the Bible. The five main categories, which he lists and then explores in detail, are "Christ against culture," "Christ abov ...more
Alex Stroshine
This is a classic for a reason. In this book the distinguished theologian and ethicist H. Richard Niebuhr outlines five approaches Christians have in engaging (or in the case of one, withdrawing from) society. Niebuhr is quick to admit many believers will overlap into several of these typologies. This is a dense read with a lot of complex content and were I too reread it I would do so as part of a reading group. A drawback to this book is that while Niebuhr helpfully uses examples of historic Ch ...more
Andrew Fox
This is a well organized argument presenting five sides to a critical problem between Christ and culture. Niebuhr argues Christ against culture, Christ of culture, Christ above culture, Christ and culture in paradox and finally Christ transforming culture. Although his postscript to these arguments is inconclusive, he does call for a decision, not from the community of faith but from the individual to decide. He begins with an impasse that Christ is sinless but culture is sinful overlaying this ...more
Mark Driscoll has three categories of Christian engagement of culture (receive, reject, redeem), and Brian Godawa has written about cultural gluttons vs. cultural anorexics. Both men, consciously or unconsciously, have inherited this kind of categorizing from H. Richard Niebuhr. Niebuhr notices five main ways that Christians interact with culture.

1. Radicals see Christ and culture in opposition: Christ against culture. Tertullian and Tolstoy are presented as representatives, although in each cat
Qi Xiang
The relationship between Christ and "Culture" is perhaps the perennial issue faced by Christians. Niebuhr calls it the "enduring problem". It is the issue of an individual, existing within a community of individuals, who have been called by God to be a people. His people, to be precise. How does this people organize itself and relate to one another within the community? How does it view its relationship with the world that exists "outside" of the community? How does it see itself as essentially ...more
This is a perennial classic from Niebuhr. I first read it in seminary years ago, and have since returned to it to contextualize Christians' response to the world. Coming from a tradition that pitted Christ against culture, one of Niebuhr's 5 categories, it was refreshing for me to see how others have postured the faith in light of what their traditions have taught. My early background was sectarian, drawing lines between the church and the world it lives in. Others have viewed Christ as above cu ...more

Heavy, but good, read in this classic from H.R. Niebuhr. Too many quotes to pick from....will settle for (some) a couple from the last chapter:

"All our faith is fragmentary, though we do not all have the same fragments of faith...when we reason and act in faith and so give our Christian answer, we act on the ground of partial, piecemeal faith, so that there is perhaps a little Christianity in our answer" (p. 236); "In every work of culture we relative men, with our relative points o

Closely reasoned discussion of how Christians face the issues related
to influencing the world around them. He gives several diverse answers
which have been held by Christian leaders at various times. He points
out weaknesses with each but concludes:

a. because of the partial (his word is 'relative') state of our knowledge,
we cannot decide which is the correct position for all believers.
b. although these viewpoints seem to contradict, he says that they actually
work together to accomplish the work of
Ann Post
By far one of my favorite reads ! A theological classic ! My second time around :)Explains so much! Truly enlightening'
A must read for anyone interested in exploring the complex interface of religion and culture!
I had always heard about this as a "classic", but had never read it until required to do so for a recent class. Some good insights into the strengths and weaknesses surrounding the five common ways Christians have historically chosen to respond to their culture. The five categories he settles on seem accurate enough, but it get tricky trying to choose "champions" to represent each one, since there is so much overlap between. It is a judgment call either way and I think he misses it on a few guys ...more
Bill Ver Velde
Niebuhr's classic layout of 5 views prompts us all to think about how we as Christians approach culture.
Brent Baxter
The typologies presented by Niebuhr feel somewhat contrived at points, but the book provides a useful framework for considering the interaction of Christ and culture.
Charles Roberts
A classic, a volume that must be read over and over, then applied.
Darrell Hart
Essential reading. Don't miss D.A.Carson's "updated" version
Seth Holler
Reading with colleagues. Review here.
This is book is good for anyone who wants to get a categorization of the different trends within Christianity relative to culture. It is a set of chapters each describing a variation of a christian interpretation of culture. Niebuhr attempts objectivity throughout, providing a full description of the theological challenge that Christianity poses to culture and how the tradition has responded to this challenge from early Christianity through the early part of the 20th century. There is nothing wr ...more
In over fifty years, this book has not been surpassed in its ability to help the Christian think carefully about what it means to be set apart and in the world at the same time. No "culture writing" in Christian circles could have happened without it, and honestly nothing I've read is as helpful as Niebuhr's breakdown of Christian history and the Church's relationship with the world. If are interested in anything relating to that topic and are reading something about it, put it down, and pick up ...more
Tyson Guthrie
Christ and Culture is a typological approach to the question of Christ and culture. As such, it is liable to the usual sins of typology--oversimplification and misrepresentation. Niebuhr is aware of these dangers and constantly warns that they are crouching at the reader's door. The careful reader, then, benefits from Niebuhr's categories. The five approaches Niebuhr highlights give the reader a starting place for wading through a difficult topic.
One of the definitive books to read on the topic of Christianity and culture. Niebuhr argues that there are distinctive paradigms for relating Christ to culture, e.g., Christ Against Culture or Christ Transforms Culture. It's written by an academic, so the prose requires more work to get through. Another work I'd recommend on this subject is Andy Crouch's recent _Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling_.

Jacob Stubbs
Niebuhr's typology stands as a classic for understanding the interactions between Christianity and Culture. His typology, definitions of the typological constructs, and the classification of the constructs are both clear and lucid. Overall, I'd highly recommend this work as a classic of Christian ethics and to those who are studying the role of Christianity and Culture.
An amazing look at how different people view Jesus in relation to culture, and how that effects the way they form their entire picture of the church and it's mission in the world.

If you ever wondered, "Why in the heck do those people act that way, and those other people act that other way, but they both call themselves Christians?" then this book is worth the read.
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The book of Christ & Culture by H. Richard Niebuhr 1 6 Nov 30, 2011 07:16PM  
  • Christ and Culture Revisited
  • Moral Man and Immoral Society: Study in Ethics and Politics
  • Dogmatics in Outline
  • The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
  • The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology
  • Lectures on Calvinism
  • A Theology of Liberation
  • Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview
  • The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
  • Christianity and Culture: The Idea of a Christian Society and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture
  • Ethics (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 6)
  • The Nature of Doctrine
  • Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony
  • The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New CreationA Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethic
  • Fundamentalism and American Culture
  • Dynamics of Faith
  • Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Powers, #3)
  • Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World
Helmut Richard Niebuhr was one of the most important Christian theological-ethicists in 20th century America, most known for his 1951 book Christ and Culture and his posthumously published book The Responsible Self. The younger brother of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, Richard Niebuhr taught for several decades at Yale Divinity School. His theology (together with that of his colleague at Yale, Hans ...more
More about H. Richard Niebuhr...
The Responsible Self: An Essay in Christian Moral Philosophy The Meaning of Revelation The Kingdom of God in America Radical Monotheism and Western Culture: With Supplementary Essays The Social Sources of Denominationalism

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“Men are generally right in what they affirm and wrong in what they deny. What we deny is generally something that lies outside our experience, and about which we can therefore say nothing.” 7 likes
“Everyone has some kind of philosophy, some general worldview, which to men of other views will seem mythological.” 3 likes
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