Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christ's Kingdom: Culture and Politics

I bought a few books yesterday, 3 of them on the relation between Christianity and culture. One of them is by celebrity scholar D.A Carson titled 'Christ and Culture Revisited', the other one is a porn book by Michael Leahy, and the third one is Culture Making by Andy Crouch.

During the interval of my over-time work in the evening, I read Crouch's book. It was refreshing as Crouch approach the issue from a sociological approach. So far, until page 50, he approach the issue sufficiently realistic.

Realistic in the sense that he understand well that 'culture', like 'nature', is a given. It makes no sense to talk about culture from a cultural-neutral point of view as it makes no sense to examine culture without realizing that we are already a product of certain culture which overlapped by various cultures.

When flipping through the index pages of the book, I don't find the mention of 'Robert Jenson'. I think Jenson's work on this issue is very relevant. So far, Jenson come across to me as the only one who explicitly denounce the celebrated and much-praised book 'Christ & Culture' by H. Richard Niebuhr as posing a 'pseudo-problem' (see his article recently published in Public Theology in Cultural Engagement).

Compared with Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth, I find Crouch did a more extensive and illuminating job. For eg. Crouch approaches the analysis of culture through his 5 questions on culture is more context-oriented, hence more self-critical and modest. Compared to Pearcey's worldview questions which take context lightly and often venture directly for meta-narratives.

Anyway, this post is not merely about Crouch's book. After reading that book, I googled the title and found a 'tumblelog' site for the book. And through the tumblelog, I came to this site on politics: The Center for Public Justice. After browsing through it, I think it's good to share with my readers here who are interested in exploring the relation between their faith to Christ and politics.

Yet, we have to approach these materials not without a critical mind. We can't import everything from them. Not everything propounded in these works have direct relevance to Asian Christians.

For one to start learning how to dialogue and engage with these works, which are mainly produced in a Western culture, I'm glad to commend Kishore Mahbubani's 'Can Asians Think?'. Though some of the points contained in some of the essays are dated, yet reading it helps to hold us from drinking everything from the West as if those are elixir of life.


Alex Tang said...

I agree with you that we have to be critical in our evaluation of the works of Western writers.

However to truly engage in the Christ and Culture dialogue, I will suggest that you also read Carson's Christ and Culture Revisited (2008)and Craig Carter's Rethinking Christ and Culture (2006). Both also critique Niebuhr's Christ and Culture and offers fresh insights.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Alex,

Thanks for the recommendation. I'll look them up.