Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Road from Eden: Landmark Book on Christ and Culture

John Frame, after briefly sketching how Christians have approached the relationship between Christ and culture, writes:
Enter John Barber, who brings to these discussions an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of western culture, with a deep understanding of art, music, sociology, politics, philosophy, theology, and their interactions. To this he adds great powers of analysis and evaluation. He is a former student and long-time friend of mine, with whom I have had many useful conversations on these matters.

He is deeply committed to Christ and to a Reformed theological understanding of the Bible. His general position is what Niebuhr called Christ the transformer of culture, which I applaud, both because I agree with it, and because rather confused versions of “Christ and culture in paradox” have been gaining influence in recent discussions. Barber’s work is a powerful antidote to these confusions.

Barber cannot be accused of proposing simple answers. He is a master of the complexities of actual culture and of the discussions concerning it. Wherever the reader stands philosophically or theologically, he will learn that the issues are more complex than he had before imagined, and he will have large amounts of new knowledge at his disposal. Further, he will gain much enjoyment from the clear and winsome style of the book, remarkable amid such a torrent of information and technical expertise.

This book sets the Christ and Culture discussion on a higher plane. It should be the starting point of all further conversations about these matters.
The 587-page book is The Road from Eden: Studies in Christianity and Culture (link is to WTS Books; also available from

You can read the table of contents online, which shows how he traces the relationship throughout church history.