The pressing question for this last post on Cultural Catwalks revolves around five different — not necessarily opposing — views of where Christ fits in our Cultural Catwalk. Christians have wrestled with this issue since creation, as shown in the previous post, Contextual Views of Culture. There are no pat answers to this dilemma. Yet, as Christians, we must deal with it as best we can.
Richard Niebuhr wrote Christ and Culture, in 1951, and those of us who love Jesus are still trying to iron out how we can be “in the world, but not of it.” In his book, Niebuhr wrote, “The Christian life moves between the poles of God in Christ as known through faith and the Bible and God in nature as known through reason in culture.” In addition, he established five models of how Christians interact with culture.
In John 17:15, Christ said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” The undertone of this verse is that we not isolate ourselves from others, but engage in conversations about the Gospel, whenever a circumstance presents itself to do so.
The five models in which Christians have interacted with culture:
- Christ Against Culture could best be explained by thinking that because sin dwells in culture, Christians must renounce culture.
- Christ of Culture is the opposite of Christ against culture. Perhaps the main consideration is to feel totally comfortable in culture as it is.
- Christ Above Culture might be construed as in the middle of the first two. Thoughts about this model center themselves on the notion that Christians shape and establish a Christ-like culture.
- Christ and Culture in Paradox may perhaps view culture as depraved, but also rightly attributes depravity to human sin.
- Christ the Transformer of Culture concentrates on the confidence that Christ redeems, restores, and regenerates culture.
Now I am the first one to admit that the aforementioned conclusions found in Niebuhr’s book seem as ingredients in a cake recipe. On the other hand, in my opinion, each one resonates with one Christian or another. It seems to me that the most enduring lesson found in Niebuhr’s work is that we must deal with the problem.
It’s nice to think that we might as well stick our heads in the sand and forget about all of what seems like “doubletalk,” but is that what God would view as a conscientious choice? Perhaps, we should at least contemplate on what God’s desires for us are. How does he want us deal with the many diverse cultural catwalks we encounter? Can’t we just sit at home in our “little boxes of piety”? No, we can’t.
Paul tells us in Romans 12:16, to “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.”
Translation: BE INCLUSIVE!
And in 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 Paul reminds us that “… if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
Translation: THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION IS OUR MAIN MINISTRY
If we cannot come to terms with the idea that God wants us to participate in all cultures, then for what purpose did he put us on earth? It’s hard to venture out of our comfort zones, but isn’t that the time to draw upon our faith? To let the Holy Spirit guide us as we meet culture head-on.
I earnestly pray that during this Christmas season, we will think about how we view Christ’s place in culture, and that we focus our minds on the main thing, our ministry of reconciliation.
Blessings for Christmas and the New Year
 Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York: Harper and Row, 1951) p. xlii