Here is a simple rule to keep in mind: When D. A. Carson writes a book, buy it. This is certainly the case with Carson’s recent book, Christ & Culture Revisited [Eerdmans]. Readers will immediately recognize the reference to the classic 1951 work by H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture. Those who desire a deeper understanding of this difficult question will welcome Carson’s very thoughtful look at the claims of Christ and culture.
Niebuhr famously set his analysis in the context of five different models of understanding the relationship between Christ and culture. His approach represented the dominant position of the Protestant “mainline” of which Niebuhr was so much a part. Carson takes a new look at Niebuhr’s five types, but he sets his own analysis upon a foundation of biblical theology. This is very helpful and exceedingly healthy.
In the course of Christ & Culture Revisited, Carson takes on a host of issues, including the thorny issue of church and state and theological tensions within the Christian tradition. Throughout the book he is rigorous and clear-headed. Carson does not settle all the thorny issues, but he does settle the discussion into a much healthier framework. Christ & Culture Revisited is an important book for our times.
These biblical realities make for a worldview that is sharply distinguishable from the worldviews around us, even where there are overlapping values. We cannot embrace unrestrained secularism; democracy is not God; freedom can be another word for rebellion; the lust for power, universal as it is, must be viewed with more than a little suspicion. This means that Christian communities honestly seeking to live under the Word of God will inevitably generate cultures that, to say the least, will in some sense counter or confront the values of the dominant culture. But to say the least is not enough.