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“Christ and Culture” the Book by H. Richard Niebuhr Report

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Updated: Jun 15th, 2021

Introductory Part

The book Christ and Culture is written by H. Richard Niebuhr. It was published for the first time by Harper & Row, in 1951. The author examines how Christians can appreciate their positions in the world. The ultimate question answered in this book is how Christians should interact with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. The text can be described as a nonfiction work. The author targets Christians who are willing to understand or improve their relationship with the surrounding environment. This report gives a summary and critique of Niebuhr’s book.

Book Summary

The selected text presents five unique views regarding the relationship between culture and Christ. The first one is that of opposition. According to the author, radicals believe that Christ and culture are usually in constant disagreement. He gives an example of fundamentalism to support this view. The second one is that of agreement. This means that there are individuals who idealize the positive relationship existing between culture and Christ. The concept of brotherhood is used to support this view. The third perspective is identified as Christ above culture (Niebuhr, 1951). The author refers to those who exhibit this view as synthesists. Such followers argue that pagans should be guided to find God.

The fourth one indicates that culture and Christ are in a paradoxical relationship. The author notes that society is “unconquerably immoral” (Niebuhr, 1951, p. 209). Those who support this viewpoint acknowledge that Christ’s kingdom is unearthly. Those who want to become part of it should stop pursuing secular goals. The last view is that of conversion and indicates that Christ is the one who is capable of transforming culture. According to the text, those who embrace this view tend to be optimistic and positive when focusing on the issue of culture (Niebuhr, 1951). The author gives the example of Calvinism to support this viewpoint. This is the case since the ideology has been observed to influence the realization of God’s promise (Niebuhr, 1951). The author encourages all Christians and the Church to embrace these five views. The ultimate objective is to ensure that all people in the world are informed about God’s kingdom.

Critique: Personal Evaluation

Personally, I believe that Niebuhr’s book is informative and meaningful. The author’s viewpoints and arguments can guide Christians to engage with culture in a positive manner. The insights also inform more people about the origin and nature of people’s dual commitment to the teachings of Christ (Niebuhr, 1951). The writer goes further to offer adequate examples and descriptions that can be studied to understand the importance of every view. Individuals who read this text carefully will be in a position to establish meaningful cultural relationships with Christ.

Another impressive aspect of Niebuhr’s book is that it treats each of the five views seriously. This means that all Christians require every perspective in an attempt to relate to Christ effectively (Niebuhr, 1951). This notion can be embraced by different cultures or societies in order to share the gospel with every person. Consequently, the Church will be in the position to pursue its goals and transform people’s expectations. The author has also remained neutral throughout his analysis. This approach makes the book relevant to both pagans and true believers.

On the other hand, Niebuhr’s text has specific weaknesses that should not be taken lightly. For instance, individuals who lack a strong theological tradition will not find these five perspectives meaningful or convincing. This is true since the writer offers liberal viewpoints that might be rejected by different scholars and theorists. The text also fails to describe how Christians can combine all the views in an attempt to achieve their true purpose in life (Niebuhr, 1951). It is also evident that the plurality used by Niebuhr does not promote unique cultural values that can result in strong faith.

The book fails to link each of the five views to the major evangelical streams that have dominated the world for the past century such as Pentecostalism and fundamentalism. His nonbiased approach can also be viewed as a unique weakness since the reader is forced to develop his or her conclusions (Niebuhr, 1951). Consequently, many readers will be unable to understand the complex relationship existing between culture and Christ.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Despite the major weaknesses described in the above discussion, Niebuhr’s book offers a convincing analysis of the five views or ways in which Christian believers interact with culture. Those who want to get answers to the troubling issues that have faced both pagans and Christians for many years will find the book resourceful. The five views can also be used to inform more people about the relevance of God’s message and how they can become part of His kingdom. This book is, therefore, recommendable to readers who want to understand how Christians can interact positively and effectively with every nonbeliever. This knowledge can make the world a better place and empower more people to achieve their spiritual goals.

Reference

Niebuhr, H. R. (1951). Christ and culture. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

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IvyPanda. "“Christ and Culture” the Book by H. Richard Niebuhr." June 15, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/christ-and-culture-the-book-by-h-richard-niebuhr/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "“Christ and Culture” the Book by H. Richard Niebuhr." June 15, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/christ-and-culture-the-book-by-h-richard-niebuhr/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '“Christ and Culture” the Book by H. Richard Niebuhr'. 15 June.

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