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Thread: Christ and Culture

  1. #1
    Senior Member Susan Unger's Avatar

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    Christ and Culture

    In a class we were discussing Niebuhr's five typical ways in which the church has dealt with the problem of Christ and culture.

    1. Christ against Culture. For the exclusive Christian, history is the story of a rising church or Christian culture and a dying pagan civilization.

    2. Christ of Culture. For the cultural Christian, history is the story of the Spirit’s encounter with nature.

    3.Christ above Culture. For the synthesist, history is a period of preparation under law, reason, gospel, and church for an ultimate communion of the soul with God.

    4.Christ and Culture in Paradox. For the dualist, history is the time of struggle between faith and unbelief, a period between the giving of the promise of life and its fulfillment.

    5. Christ Transforming Culture. For the conversionist, history is the story of God’s mighty deeds and humanity’s response to them. Conversionists live somewhat less “between the times” and somewhat more in the divine “now” than do the followers listed above. Eternity, to the conversionist, focuses less on the action of God before time or life with God after time, and more on the presence of God in time. Hence the conversionist is more concerned with the divine possibility of a present renewal than with conservation of what has been given in creation or preparing for what will be given in a final redemption.
    We were supposed to decide where Nazarenes fit in. I think the expected answer was #3 but I know an increasing number of Nazarenes who identify more with #5 or at least wish we as a denomination did. Someone suggested that #5 was for activists, more than just transformationists. I was left kind of hanging at that point. With the exception of one person, I don't know if anyone in the class understood where I was coming from.

    Then I read Paul's post in the Trayon Martin's America thread -
    I too find it more than a little troubling that white evangelicals have failed to speak out on this issue. Regardless of the facts in the particular case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman racism is alive and well in America. If Dr. Phillips reports correct statistics, and I have no reason to believe that they are not spot on, then racism is on the rise as indicated by the increase of radical hate groups. These groups and the attitudes behind them are symptomatic of a systemic evil. And I believe that this is the real subject of Dr. Phillips article. Take for instance the California prison system where racism is fostered by the Department of Corrections, if it wasn't actually initiated by them. CDC fought tooth and nail to maintain racial segregation thereby fostering racism, finally lost in the Supreme Court yet the prison populations are still segregated. Our prisons are but a microcosm of our state at large. This makes me want to pursue this train of thought again as well as bring up another question. Where are the Nazarene voices speaking out against racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression within our society? The Nazarene voice sure seems to be one conservative, white privilege. Privilege is a bias that is hard to overcome, it is part and parcel of the narratives in which we were raised and continue to be immersed in. The first step is to recognize that we have this bias, that our thinking in race relations is coloured by our bias, our position of privilege.
    So I am back to my question plus have added in a second one -
    • Are we as a denomination in the third category, and if so should we be exclusively there?
    • Would Paul's observation be explained by the idea that many Nazarenes in the USA, which means historically has been predominantly white and not in poverty, have emphasized being Christ above Culture through stressing salvation and not Christ Transforming Culture?
    Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18

    There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 1 John 4:18a


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    Thanks Paul DeBaufer - "thanks" for this post

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    Host Book, Movie & CE forums Ryan Scott's Avatar

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    Re: Christ and Culture

    I generally reject this framework. Beyond the fact that it's set up intentionally to highlight the flaws in the first four and downplay the flaws of the fifth (basically a straw man argument), I think it lacks a full slate of choices.

    I prefer Christ as Culture, myself.
    ...just my $.02.
    Thanks Paul DeBaufer, John Reilly - "thanks" for this post

  3. #3
    Senior Member Susan Unger's Avatar

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    Re: Christ and Culture

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Scott View Post
    I generally reject this framework. Beyond the fact that it's set up intentionally to highlight the flaws in the first four and downplay the flaws of the fifth (basically a straw man argument), I think it lacks a full slate of choices.

    I prefer Christ as Culture, myself.
    I can see what you mean by the first part of your sentence being a straw man argument. It seemed like that to me, as well.

    Could you explain what you meant by "it lacks a full slate of choices"? And could you explain Christ as Culture? Other than this link [which didn't make sense] I couldn't find anything to explain this.
    Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18

    There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 1 John 4:18a


    Become an organ donor ~ donatelife.net ~ www.organdonor.gov

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    Senior Member Paul DeBaufer's Avatar

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    Re: Christ and Culture

    I think I agree with Ryan in his rejection of these categories. I know that they are taught, but I really never see them hold in actual belief or practice.
    You can be right or you can be in relationship

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    Senior Member Mike Schutz's Avatar

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    Re: Christ and Culture

    A great value of Niebuhr's framework is its place in the conversation. While a 21st century analysis likely rejects the categories, you have to acknowledge the contribution. It has been compared to Erikson's place in human developmental theory.
    "Fully embracing the Gospel, fully engaging the world"

  6. #6
    Senior Member John Reilly's Avatar

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    Re: Christ and Culture

    Christ, His church, is a culture. As a culture, Christ and his church, is often counter culture against worldly values and ethics. I really appreciate Stanley Hauerwas, "A Community of Character" in which he describes Christ and his church as a culture that intersects the worldly culture and offers a transforming presence.
    Thanks Paul DeBaufer, Mike Schutz, Ryan Scott, Ryan Pugh - "thanks" for this post

  7. #7
    Senior Member Susan Unger's Avatar

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    Re: Christ and Culture

    Quote Originally Posted by John Reilly View Post
    Christ, His church, is a culture. As a culture, Christ and his church, is often counter culture against worldly values and ethics.
    This is how I view things. So would this be why I couldn't just easily put Nazarenes in #3 when I see too many going beyond that?
    Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18

    There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 1 John 4:18a


    Become an organ donor ~ donatelife.net ~ www.organdonor.gov
    Thanks Steven Burton - "thanks" for this post

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