Christ and Culture Revisited: Carson’s Summary of Niebuhr’s Taxonomy (4)

The final three views in Niebuhr’s five-fold taxonomy are all forms of “Christ above culture.”

4. Christ and Culture in Paradox

Summary: While the previous view was synthetic, this view is dualistic. “In one sense, this group is much like the first, those who hold to the ‘Christ against culture’ position. But in that position there is a tendency to put the strongest emphasis on the distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’; in this dualist position, by contrast, we are all lost, we are all sinners” (Carson, 23). “Hence the dualist joins the radical Christian in pronouncing the whole world of human culture to be godless and sick unto death. But there is this difference between them: the dualist knows that he belongs to that culture and cannot get out of it, that God indeed sustains him in it and by it; for if God in His grace did not sustain the world in its sin it would not exist for a moment.” (Niebuhr, 156).

Exemplars: A motif in Paul; Marcion, Augustine, Luther, Kierkegaard.

Counterargument: This dualism tends to lead Christians toward antinomianism or cultural conservatism, says Niebuhr.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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