A contested classic

Critics ask: Whose Christ? Which culture?
A book that one can barely escape reading on the way to earning a seminary degree is Christ and Culture, by H. Richard Niebuhr. Published in 1951, the book quickly became a classic. Its categories—such as “Christ against culture” and “Christ of culture”—have ever since been familiar reference points in the field of Christian ethics and in debates about how Christians and the church should engage matters of politics, society and culture.

The book has also had its vigorous detractors, however—especially of late. Critics argue that though Niebuhr presents with apparent neutrality a typology of five ways that Christians have related to culture, he subtly asserts his own liberal Protestant bias.


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