D.A. Carson is arguably the greatest N.T. Theologian alive today. Carson has published over 50 books and this week I read one of his latest books: Christ and Culture Revisited (April 2008) and I highly recommend this book! D.A. Carson revisits H. Richard Niebuhr infamous and highly influential book "Christ and Culture" (1956).
Fifty years have passed since Niebuhr's book debuted, and Carson reevaluates Niebuhr's five categories on how Christ and Culture relate and how Niebuhr's categories have impacted the world for better and for worse. I would have appreciated the first quarter of the book if I had actually read Niebuhr's work, but I sheepishly admit that I have not read it. Nevertheless, D.A. Carson explained each of the five categories before he critiques them, so I still recommend this book, even if you have not read Niebuhr either.
Christ and Culture Revisited begins by reevaluating each of Niebuhr's five categories:
- Christ against culture
- The Christ of culture
- Christ above culture
- Christ and culture in paradox
- Christ transforming culture
Carson discusses the impact of these five views on society and government. The advance of Secularism and Democracy and their influence on Christianity is discussed at length, especially in the case of "the separation of Church and State" in America and in European counties.
Carson provides revealing insight into Jesus' famous statement "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." (Matt 22:21). Carson makes a great point that although Caesar's image is on the coin, Caesar is a man made in the image of God. Carson also noted the treasonous implications of not paying tribune to Caesar. This particular passage has been used as a proof text for "the separation of Church and State." Carson considers some of the fundamental flaws in the philosophy of total separation.
I enjoyed Carson's evaluation of Thomas Jefferson and his Jefferson Bible. Most people are surprised to learn that the separation of Church and state is not part of the original constitution or bill of rights. The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from establishing a state religion but does not require the total separation from all religious involvement. Most of the original framers were Calvinist Christians but due to the advance of Democracy, Jefferson's subsequent writings have raised the high wall between state and church. Some of Jefferson's writings and Supreme Court precedent cases are also scrutinized by Carson.
Carson touches on many other topics like Just War and Faith Based programs, and Theocracies. Overall, the book is a highly insightful into the worldviews prevalent today. I highly recommend this book as well as all of Carson's books and lectures. He is one of the few authors that I return to read again and again.