How in today's Church may we continue to maintain the dialogue about Niebuhr's insights: Christ above culture, within culture, against culture and beyond culture?
For those who don't know [Richard] Niebuhr's great book on Christ and Culture: those are the categories that this very distinguished German-American theologian proposes for understanding the relations between Christ and culture: the Church can work from within, it can work against, it can have an oppositional minority stance, it can seek to penetrate the structures of its society. And as chance would have it, I've just been reading a very interesting American book which questions the whole basis on which Niebuhr's analysis works and says that it's too artificial and slanted towards Niebuhr's own preferred conclusions, unsurprisingly. So I think that we probably need to step back a bit from too many generalizations about it and say that it's not so much about Christ and culture, it's about the community of Christ in its distinctiveness and worshipping practice and its study of the Bible, Eucharist and Baptism: that kind of community, relating to a variety of cultural institutions, with no such thing as culture in general, but cultures, with the question always in the Church's mind, 'How does our engagement with this particular context, this kind of politics, this kind of art, advance the Kingdom of God in some ways?' How do we in our encounter with whatever our society throws at us, seek to set forward that kind of humanity which God wills as his purpose for us all?
(Italics original; bold added)
To read the entire Q&A session, go to the Archbishop's website.
To listen to the MP3, go to University Chichester's website, where the Q&A session was held.