Christ and Culture Revisited: Carson’s Summary of Niebuhr’s Taxonomy (5)

by May 8, 2008Uncategorized

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

5. Christ the Transformer of Culture

Summary: While the previous two views were respectively synthetic (Christ above culture) and dualistic (Christ and culture in paradox), this view is “conversionist.” And, as Carson points out, Niebuhr is not foregrounding individual conversion but conversion of the entire culture. “What distinguishes conversionists from dualists is their more positive and hopeful attitude toward culture” (Niebuhr, 191).

This more positive attitude comes from three convictions:

  1. “Creation is not only the setting for redemption, but the sphere in which God’s sovereign, ordering, work operates” (Carson, 26).
  2. The fall was “moral and personal, not physical and metaphysical, though it does have physical consequences” (Niebuhr, 194).
  3. The conversionist view of history “holds that to God all things are possible in a history that is fundamentally not a course of merely human events but always a dramatic interaction between God and men” (Niebuhr, 194).

Exemplars: Augustine (partial), Calvin (partial), F.D. Maurice.

Counterargument: Carson notes that Niebuhr never gives a counterargument to this view, so many have assumed that this is his personal view.

Carson adds in his chapter-two critique that Niebuhr’s use of John to support this view is suspect. The fact that the Λογος created everything does not make “whatever is” good, because sin has since entered and distorted that original good.

In addition, Carson says, what is this view but the absolutizing of one motif in Scripture? God’s plan to restore the world through a cataclysmic event (Christ’s return) becomes universalism: the view that “everything gradually gets better by the grace of the gospel” (Carson, 38).

Read More 

Bible Study Magazine Podcast Launches Today

Bible Study Magazine Podcast Launches Today

Faithlife’s brand new Bible Study Magazine podcast, hosted by yours truly, launches today. ​The first season of twelve episodes (four available today; one released per week after this) is focused on how to achieve and promote biblical literacy. In the first episode, I...

Review: My Father Left Me Ireland

Review: My Father Left Me Ireland

My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son's Search for Home by Michael Brendan Dougherty My rating: 4 of 5 stars I picked up this book on the effusive recommendation of Alan Jacobs. At first I thought I might tire of it: though I felt sympathy for a fatherless boy, I...

#BibleTech 2019

#BibleTech 2019

I spoke at my second BibleTech Conference in Seattle this past week, and it was an enjoyable time. I'm afraid I made the mistake of putting in three paper topics, assuming the organizers would pick one. They picked three. And I did a Q&A for Authorized. And I...

Leave a comment.