My own effort in this book begins by summarizing Niebuhr, since Niebuhr has become an icon to which everyone refers, though few today still read him closely. Apart from some initial evaluation of Niebuhr on his own terms, I then try to lay out the rudiments of a responsible biblical theology that any Christian will want to acknowledge, and begin to show how these turning points in the history of redemption must shape Christian thinking about the relationship between Christ and culture (chaps. 1 and 2). The structures generated by such biblical theology are robust enough to allow the many differing emphases within Scripture to find their voices, so that to speak of different “models” of the Christ-and-culture relationship begins to look misleading. Such reflection requires more probing, not only with respect to current debates over “culture” and “postmodernism” (chap. 3), but also with respect to some of the dominant cultural forces of our time (chap. 4). One of the dimensions of this ongoing debate is the relation between church and state (chap. 5). Here I have sketched the very different cultural stances associated with the notion of separation of church and state found in France and in the United States, with glances at a few other countries, so that we can more clearly detect the kinds of cultural spectacles we inevitably bring to the task of reading Scripture, and how even the application of the balance of Scripture will almost inevitably shift in different cultures. The final chapter raises a selection of perennial temptations Christians face as they work through these issues. It is a modest attempt to forge a stable and flexible stance that is immune to various siren calls.
Here are the two blurbs for the book:
“There is no more crucial issue facing us today than the relationship of the church and the gospel to contemporary culture. Don Carson’s treatment of this issue is the most balanced one out there. Rather than grinding an ax or pushing his own paradigm, he listens carefully to the Scripture and brings us in the end to a ‘sophisticated simplicity’ about these matters. I highly recommend this book.”
— Tim Keller
“Don Carson here writes clearly, carefully, and helpfully about the timely topic of how Christians should engage culture. Well-suited to write such a volume, Carson exposes and explodes ‘egregious reductionisms’ which he says too often afflict Christians. We can’t reduce the relationship of Christ and culture to one model (Niebuhrian or otherwise). Reading this book has sharpened my own understanding. So buy the book you’re holding. Read it. Pass it along to folks in your congregation. And reduce ‘egregious reductionisms’!”
— Mark Dever