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May 04, 2009


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Michael, since stackhouse apparently uses Niebuhr's typology at length, does he anywhere address the myriad scholarly literature on how Christ and Culture methodology is flawed from the get go?

Bill Crawford


Looking forward to the series. My background (converted from an unchurched home in college in '71) has been in Westminster Theo Seminary-influenced Reformed communities.

Most of my thoughts re Christ and Culture have been reactions to the theonomic/reconstructionist movements within that tradition.

I think cultural transformation is a by-product of Christians being obedient. To my mind, the church has gone astray whenever it makes this secondary result of living Christianly the primary goal.

Bill Crawford

Michael W. Kruse

Darren, he actually doesn't make much use of the typology. It all but disappears after Chapter 1.

He spends the last 12 pages of Chapter 1 highlighting four critiques. To some degree, he is critical of the critics. For example, I know that the typology is frequently treated as a taxonomy by critics, probably because latter scholars have tried to use it this way in other works. It is not a taxonomy and critics who fault Niebuhr have misunderstood his aim. Stackhouse does have his own concerns.

Understand that Stackhouse sees his ethic as a form of Christian realism. Any discussion of this is going to bring near the thoughts and frameworks of recent Christian realists. Therefore, he wants his readers to be conversant with this typology and the three thinkers he has chosen.

Part III of the book, where he develops his own views, could literally be read as a stand alone book with no reference to the first four chapters. I believe he mentions the typology once just prior to the book's conclusion.

Michael W. Kruse

Bill, thanks. Glad to have you along for the ride. :-)

Travis Greene

"How about you? Do you have a “home” in these two approaches or are there others that speak to you? Do you agree with Stackhouse's notion Christian ethics?"

I grew up in the first category, in the conservative style ("We're gonna take back this country for Jesus! One person at a time!"). Lately I'd describe myself as more Mennonite in orientation, though I recognize some of the problems that go along with that.

I suspect thinking incarnationally may be a way forward here. In his taking on of human identity, Jesus is the ultimate Christian realist. He comes to the world as it is, and engages it. He does form a distinctive, alternative community around himself, but it's for the inherently outward-focused purpose of fulfilling God's mission and sharing what Jesus accomplished on Easter, both (what we would call) evangelistically and in terms of social justice.

Michael W. Kruse

Interesting background. I've known several Mennos in my life who've moved toward Mainline or toward Evangelical communities. It is interesting to see over the past decade or so more stories like yours.

Great thoughts, Travis. Thanks.


Is Stackhouse a Lutheran. When I studied the book "Christ and Culture" I recall reading Luther and Kierkegarde in conjunction with the chapter on C and C in Paradox.

I have an appreciation for both the Cultural transformation and the holy distinctiveness. I think Reformed theology in a way actualy embraces both positions. Both positions have an urgency and an intensity about them.

I am not a fan of the C/C paradox. Seems a little too wishy washy for me. Dare I say a little too middle class. The other 2 positions are a little more edgy.

For what it's worth the way I have come to describe my ethics/politlical theology is Puritan Egalitarian (Rejected terms include Ralph Nader Conservative and Consumer Reports Liberal).

Michael W. Kruse

Ceemac, I don't recall his denominational affiliation, although Lutheran doesn't sound right. I can't remember.

"Seems a little too wishy washy for me. Dare I say a little too middle class."

And I think that is a frequent criticism. I should make clear (as we will see in coming posts) Stackhouse isn't embracing C/C notion of paradox as the answer. Rather the C/C paradox helps elucidate important tensions that are frequently minimized.

"Puritan Egalitarian"

I've been trying for years to come up with a label for years and I keep moving farther from success rather than closer.


I've been pondering labels ever since a few years back I realized that for the most part the liberals I hang with have more conservative habits than many "conservatives" here in Dallas.

Michael W. Kruse

I hear ya.

Bill Reimer

Stackhouse quotes "Glen Tinder" rather than "Glen Taylor".

Michael W. Kruse

Man, I've got get these graduated lenses fixed. :-) Thanks for the correction.

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