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on 20 December 2016
This has been around since 1951 and has become a standard text. This is problematic as it becomes a vicious circle: it’s what people read, then they don’t read further, they pass this on, it’s what people read ... alongside this runs the fact that as the most recognised / popular / first, it gets quoted lots, cf Temple Grandin, Prof Attwood and autism, they do not speak for all autistics, but it’s difficult for other voices to be heard.

I have used this book’s types profitably in many talks, but it has to be ‘translated’ for the audience. I suppose the blame really ought to be placed with the editor for the following problems :-
1) the chapters explaining the five types do not have a standardised format. This is a real pain when trying to find things. Some of us react positively to standardised formats of information presentation. If a picture saves a thousand words, boy do we need diagrams.
2) the examples are weird, Tolstoy !?! An example of “Christ against Culture” !?! This book really needed to be updated once or twice with more contemporary examples.
3) Niebuhr really does go the long way round when explaining things. Here’s my current (subject to change, has been, and will be) brief explanation of the five types :-
i) “Christ against Culture” does what it says on the tin, a judgement of the inadequacies of the culture,
ii) “Christ of Culture”, the Christ found within culture, cf “Hindu Christians”,
iii) “Christ above Culture”, a “both / and” view, cf “Christian Hindus”, compare with above,
iv) “Christ in paradox with Culture”, dialogue in creative / positive tension, unlike i) which is ‘negative / destructive’ tension,
v) “Christ the Transformer of Culture”, does what it says on the tin.

Evangelicals tend to be happier with i) and v) and very unhappy with the rest as they don’t reinforce Evangelical theology, therefore it is casually written off as ‘liberal’. This is unhelpful. A better view is, does it help people grow, does it help them be more use, does it help them be more Loving and less harmful ? There is a tendency for Evangelicalism to want to convert the world to its world-view so that then Evangelicalism can then use its limited toolbox to fit limited problems. There is no conception that Evangelicalism needs a bigger toolbox, and this book gives you another three.

These are not the only five types: people treat such books a canonical rather than exemplars of creative solutions and end up being artificially limited: this sort of work should be treated as a springboard not a pen.

It gets five stars as it is ground-breaking, and it needs to be read as there are so many ‘stunted’ Christians operating with only types i) and v), but then one should not stop there: one needs to use the ‘pastoral cycle’ (go look it up) and an ‘adult relationship with God’ to develop these models and this ability to create within one’s own life and spirituality. Note this is not ‘subjectivism’, the ‘objectivism’ comes via one’s relationship with God, and self-correcting self-awareness comes via correct use of pastoral cycle with a bit of wit / maturity.
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on 20 December 2016
This has been around since 1951 and has become a standard text. This is problematic as it becomes a vicious circle: it’s what people read, then they don’t read further, they pass this on, it’s what people read ... alongside this runs the fact that as the most recognised / popular / first, it gets quoted lots, cf Temple Grandin, Prof Attwood and autism, they do not speak for all autistics, but it’s difficult for other voices to be heard.

I have used this book’s types profitably in many talks, but it has to be ‘translated’ for the audience. I suppose the blame really ought to be placed with the editor for the following problems :-
1) the chapters explaining the five types do not have a standardised format. This is a real pain when trying to find things. Some of us react positively to standardised formats of information presentation. If a picture saves a thousand words, boy do we need diagrams.
2) the examples are weird, Tolstoy !?! An example of “Christ against Culture” !?! This book really needed to be updated once or twice with more contemporary examples.
3) Niebuhr really does go the long way round when explaining things. Here’s my current (subject to change, has been, and will be) brief explanation of the five types :-
i) “Christ against Culture” does what it says on the tin, a judgement of the inadequacies of the culture,
ii) “Christ of Culture”, the Christ found within culture, cf “Hindu Christians”,
iii) “Christ above Culture”, a “both / and” view, cf “Christian Hindus”, compare with above,
iv) “Christ in paradox with Culture”, dialogue in creative / positive tension, unlike i) which is ‘negative / destructive’ tension,
v) “Christ the Transformer of Culture”, does what it says on the tin.

Evangelicals tend to be happier with i) and v) and very unhappy with the rest as they don’t reinforce Evangelical theology, therefore it is casually written off as ‘liberal’. This is unhelpful. A better view is, does it help people grow, does it help them be more use, does it help them be more Loving and less harmful ? There is a tendency for Evangelicalism to want to convert the world to its world-view so that then Evangelicalism can then use its limited toolbox to fit limited problems. There is no conception that Evangelicalism needs a bigger toolbox, and this book gives you another three.

These are not the only five types: people treat such books a canonical rather than exemplars of creative solutions and end up being artificially limited: this sort of work should be treated as a springboard not a pen.

It gets five stars as it is ground-breaking, and it needs to be read as there are so many ‘stunted’ Christians operating with only types i) and v), but then one should not stop there: one needs to use the ‘pastoral cycle’ (go look it up) and an ‘adult relationship with God’ to develop these models and this ability to create within one’s own life and spirituality. Note this is not ‘subjectivism’, the ‘objectivism’ comes via one’s relationship with God, and self-correcting self-awareness comes via correct use of pastoral cycle with a bit of wit / maturity.
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on 9 January 2011
It's a surprise that after fifty eventful years, this book is still cited as as standard text in Christian Ethics. It is a very scholarly read, hard to understand in passsages, requring re-reading for its phantastically contorted sentences for which, in my mothers tongue, Thomas Mann is so famous for, but in the end, it's an incredibly rewarding book. it would be interesting so see a similar contemporary work throwing some stick at the yet uncontested views of the anti-religious populist Richard Dawkins (apart from a few rather preachy little volumes written in response to his massively successful work) - someone with the brains of Niebuhr and the gift to write something a bit more popular. Ethics (or the thought about it) is greatly lacking in today's mostly secular society, and while only a few will read this, something more, err, practical would be Peter Singer's 'Practical Ethics' from the early 90's - a little controversial itself, written from a secular perspective but glass-clear, easy to read test and perhaps a stepping stone for those interested in ethics. Practical Ethics

There is 'Christ and Culture Revisited' by DA Carson, which perhaps might be another useful aide when tackling this book. Christ and culture revisited
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on 9 November 2013
A v useful book for those studying theology in particular in reference to understanding a Christians response to the world around them
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on 4 February 2015
A good read if a little dated now - but the truths still apply
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on 7 April 2015
The classic, and worth rereading, though it does seem dated in places.
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