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Christ and Culture

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  2,391 ratings  ·  102 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, 304 pages
Published December 24th 2001 by Harper Perennial (first published October 5th 1951)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  2,391 ratings  ·  102 reviews

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Some people speak of three categories of Christian engagement of culture: receive, reject, redeem. And Brian Godawa has written about cultural gluttons vs. cultural anorexics. People using these categories, consciously or unconsciously, have inherited this kind of systemization 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,
Matt Bianco
Dec 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
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
Sarah Myers
May 26, 2012 rated it liked it

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
Justin Evans
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very smart, although also a good reminder that mid-century American prose could be astonishingly abstract and slippery.
James Nance
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
The hand on the cover represents the five views of Christ and Culture: Christ against culture, Christ of culture, and Christ over culture. The last has three are related sub-types: syncretism, dualism, and conversionism. Conversionism says that, as Christians in culture, we recognize that Christ is Lord of culture and through history is transforming culture through the application of gospel living to all aspects of life. The kingdoms of the world have become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His C ...more
David Withun
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Douglas Wilson
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
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!
Akash Ahuja
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How should Christians interact with the world? That's the question that Richard Niebuhr tries to answer in this book, exhaustively explaining 5 common viewpoints on the issue. This book is very, very challenging, and not at all for the faint of heart, but the topic is one that all Christians should consider. In the end, Niebuhr never reveals what he believes in this regard, and does a great job of showing no bias in his analysis. Fantastic read, and I would absolutely recommend this book to all ...more
Robert Tate Morrison
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A joy to read. Niebuhr was brilliant, but he was also a delightful writer. So succinct. Filled my notes with quotes.
Adam Borecky
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
H. Richard Niebuhr argues that the fundamental problem facing the Christian movement is and has always been how to practically relate itself to the social and cultural realities in the larger world. He further suggests that the way Christians have responded to this problem fall within one of five general motifs. The primary way that Niebuhr supports these arguments is to cite historical writings of influential Christian thought leaders throughout the centuries and categories their ideas into one ...more
Shane Wagoner
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
A broad but incisive analysis of the historical trends in Christian thought regarding cultural engagement. Niebuhr is as skilled a guide as one could ask for.
Phillip Howell
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book is a classic but that may not be a good thing. Niebuhr presents 5 categories that are somewhat helpful, but the fundamental flaw of this book is that he does not really define Christ or culture that well. His definitions are too broad and loose. His illustrations of "Christians" include many non-Christians (gnostics, Marcion, etc...). Niebuhr hardly uses the bible and when he does use the scriptures he presents the books of the bible as merely human books. For instance, he talks about ...more
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture, theology
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
Jul 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
David Rathel
Nov 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: personal-library
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
Z. J. Pandolfino
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review pertains quite specifically to the thesis I am currently writing titled, “Imperfect Institutions: Culture, Love, and Justice in the Letters and Sermons of Augustine.” As such, it may not offer a holistic portrait of Christ and Culture, as I focus almost exclusively on Niebuhr’s analysis of Augustine in the penultimate chapter.

The analysis offered by H. Richard Niebuhr in his influential book, Christ and Culture, is helpful in a careful examination of Augustine’s attitude toward the role
Amy Carlisle
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
H. Richard Niebuhr writes as a Christian, but this work has meaning beyond the scope of the Christian faith. Here, he analyzes how the sacred can relate to the profane, the spiritual to the mundane.

After defining "Christ" (Mediator, involving double movement, from God toward man & from men toward God) and "Culture" (the artificial, secondary environment that man imposes on the natural), he dedicates a chapter to each of the five ways he sees the sacred & profane relating. ...more
Kwan Qi Xiang
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Benjamin Thompson
Oct 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Richard Niebuhr was one of the 20th century's most insightful theologians. Praised by both Evangelicals and Liberals, the younger brother of Reinhold Niepbuhr was seen as a bridge between liberal and evangelical circles. However, as I've read Niebuhrs' work I have increasingly mixed feelings about it. He does give a great framework for understanding how Christians have distinguished themselves from wider society, however, his own views on the subject seem to conflict with orthodox Christian beli ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Amongst the myriad of reminders and connections I made while revisiting the concept of Christ and Culture (was college actually that long ago?), the disconnect between my normal way of thinking and the theory of philosophy and theology was most obvious. Therefore, my review is not based on a knowledgeable critique of the comprehensiveness or righteousness of the work itself. Instead, it’s worth to me was in providing a loose framework and vocabulary for understanding events happening around me. ...more
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amongst the myriad of reminders and connections I made while revisiting the concept of Christ and Culture (was college actually that long ago?), the disconnect between my normal way of thinking and the theory of philosophy and theology was most obvious. Therefore, my review is not based on a knowledgeable critique of the comprehensiveness or righteousness of the work itself. Instead, it’s worth to me was in providing a loose framework and vocabulary for understanding events happening around me. ...more
Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it
I wrestle with my appreciation for this book. I think the categories or types Niebuhr discusses and outlines are very helpful for the discussion of Christ and culture, and yet there were times where I felt he was almost portraying a caricature of the people he was presenting as examples of each approach. I know his presentation of Luther failed to adequately embrace the nuances of the great Reformer's evolving theology over the years. I though his presentation of Paul's thought was saddeningly s ...more
Gregory Strong
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Since its publication in 1951, H. Richard Niebuhr's "Christ and Culture" has been seminal for political theology in the various traditions of the Western Church. It has inspired and frustrated, and it continues to do both. It is well worth reading because it will make a person to think. Yet it should be read critically, for in the end Niebuhr's typology distorts the Bible and the western traditions as much as it captures them. In particular, Niebuhr's posing of the problem and various answers ov ...more
Brandon Stiver
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Great book as a primer on the intersection on Christianity and Culture. Of course, the title points to Christ and Culture, but the onus is on how different Christians and streams of faith have engaged (or not engaged) culture. Each of the five positions that Niebuhr goes through provide some theological and scriptural underpinnings. I think it is fair to say, as Niebuhr does, that not one approach is right all the time, but rather that different contexts and individuals may appropriately call fo ...more
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very good explanation of the different views about Christ and His [or lack of a] relationship to culture. It is a very helpful book in giving historical context to many theologians and Christian thinkers who wrestled with the culture of their time; Niebuhr documents men from Augustine, Abelard, Tolstoy, Clement and even Paul, in so doing to help the reader to understand how history, enlightenment, and the christian faith have produced different viewpoints of Christ's virtues and how they relate ...more
Joshua Rowland
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Niebuhr’s types and categories are helpful, though certainly not clean and tidy. He admits as much. The intro to this 50th anniversary edition is a helpful primer. If you are prepared to read it as archetypal as opposed to pure categorization, it is immensely beneficial. If you are looking for crystal clear assessment, you will be disappointed. Theologians/all Christians generally don’t fit any single type perfectly. Knowing that, Christ and Culture functions best as a jumping off point for disc ...more
Nathan Metz
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed Niebuhr's classic work on culture and ministry. Although many have poked at this book as dated or inadequate, I found it to be a great first step in understanding the relationship between the Christ, the Church and the culture. I read it in a study on contextualization and enjoyed the perspective it brought to the conversation. While the book is not modern in every way, it does provide useful guidance that helpful to current work.
John Shelton
A remarkably strong first chapter with such prescience in light of today’s debates over Christianity and liberalism. The rest of the book was less commendable. Might be good to read that selection and supplement with an overview of Niebuhr’s types, rather than devote oneself to plodding through the whole 250+ pages.
Josh Majeski
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very good book explaining the theology, history and virtues/vices of different patterns of thought and action of those in the church facing the difference of values between Christ and the world we live in.
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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
“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.” 12 likes
“Everyone has some kind of philosophy, some general worldview, which to men of other views will seem mythological.” 6 likes
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