A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Rethinking Christ and Culture: Excerpt #1

I am reading Craig Carter's book, Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post Christendom Perspective (Brazos Press, 2006). It is a very thought-provoking and challenging work that deserves attention from all red, blue and purple Christians. Over the next few weeks, I will post an excerpt from the book each week, that I hope will generate some serious thought and discussion.

Liberal Protestantism has accommodated itself to culture at the point of the sexual revolution. The fruits of the sexual revolution are easy divorce, shallow interpersonal relationships and promiscuity, sexually transmitted disease and sterilility, homosexual activity, routine abortion, contraceptives and antibiotics as substitutes for sexual responsibility, increased poverty among women and children, and children growing up without secure relationships with both parents. All this is tragic-- yet liberal Protestantism does little to stand against it.

On the other hand, conservative Protestantism has accommodated itself to culture by blessing the commercialization of all of life and the exploitation of the poor through global capitalism. The fruits of the worship of the market are the commercialization of nearly all public space, the constant preaching of materialism through advertising, the destruction of the environment, the mad scramble for money, and the trampling of the poor by faceless corporations that view people as nothing but units of labor and consumers. All this is tragic too-- yet conservative Protestantism does little to stand against it.

Ironically, having set out to transform culture, both liberal and conservative forms of Christianity in North America today find themselves greatly transformed by late-captalist, liberal-individualist culture during the last century. It is little more than empty rhetoric, then, for liberals and conservatives to claim to be transforming culture and accuse those who reject the Christ transforming culture model as irresponsible and irrelevant. What could be more irrelevant than Christian leaders who beg the government to pass laws to coerce their own church members into caring for the poor or refusing the abortion temptation, when those Christian leaders cannot convince their own flocks to do these things on the basis of the Bible? There is a glaring parallel between liberal Christians lobbying the government to tax the capitalists in their own flocks and redistribute the money to the poor, on the one hand, and conservative Christians lobbying the government to outlaw abortion, so members of their own flock will not have it as an option. No wonder politicians often have so little respect for religious lobbyists (pp. 20-21).

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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a book I need to pick up. Neither the liberals or the conservatives have sole possesion of all the Bible's truth.

I've long been curious how much money American church members could raise if every one of them tithed? I have a feeling we won't need much help from the government to care for the poor, if Christians simply were obedient to God with their finances.

Allan R. Bevere said...


The church has resources available that its people cannot even imagine because we are saddled with too much debt and we spend too much money on our luxuries and our hobbies.

Take any church and its number of giving units and multiply by 10% of its average salary. It will show how little most church folk give.

Thanks for your comments.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Good points.

But it wrong to think that govt and nation-states do not have their separate responsibility before God. Just because the church exists as the one holy nation scattered throughout the earth, doesn't mean that nations themselves do not have responsibility before God.

The author's approach would seem to negate any prophetic stance the church may necessarily take before government. While, rightfully so, applying good prophetic critique to the two branches of church, as he does.

Just a reaction I have to it.

wes said...

This sounds like an excellent read, and I can't wait to hear more from this author. Personally I think what is at the root of the issue is that its next to impossible for liberal and conservatives to get along. When both groups lobby its not just the fact that they are inadvertently going against each other, but that in many cases they are intentionally attacking one another. While many of us claim a biblical faith we have yet to figure out how both sides can fit together.

Allan R. Bevere said...


You are quite right; and I think the problem stems from the acceptance of Christendom or Constantinianism as the primary polity for the Christian, whereas for the New Testament, the primary polity is the church.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Thanks for your comments.

You are quite right that the state has its responsibilities before God; I hope Carter would not argue otherwise. We will see. But what I believe he is getting at is the uncritical acceptance of the Christendom context by the religious left and the religious right. It is the assumed reality, much like, as Carter highlights, the scientific community's uncritical acceptance of macro-evolution on which most of scientific inquiry is based. If you question that, you question most of the modern scientific enterprise.

In like fashion, Carter is wanting to question the Christendom context and thereby question how Christians on the left and on the right have gone about the political task. The by-product of this, of course, is the marginalization of the church in the society, even though those involved in the Constantinian enterprise are attempting to gain influence and power.

Carter wants to reclaim the church as the primary polity for Christians. Thus, while questions of the responsibilities of nation-state are important, for the Christian, they are secondary considerations.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Allan, Good explanation! Thanks.