Re-Thinking Christ and Culture

There are a couple of recent competitors to Niebuhr’s classic, Christ and Culture. The WHI guys interviewed the Craig Carter, author of a recent book on this topic. It’s stimulating. Carter is right that Constantinianism (ancient and modern) is borne of an over-realized eschatology. He’s also absolutely right that the post-War neo-evangelicals were uncritical of Niebuhr’s categories and latched on to his vague “Christ transforming culture” category because it enabled them to get what they wanted, the proverbial seat at the proverbial table. Niebuhr wanted to make American Christianity (and culture) safe for the liberal, Protestant mainline ruling class. The evangelicals wanted back in the game after 20 years in the fundamentalist wilderness.

Two caveats. 1) I doubt that Constantinianism is a heresy, strictly speaking. It’s an error or perhaps heresy in the broad sense, but the author did not define the term in the interview. 2) I doubt that Augustine was the first Christian thinker to regard the state as “secular” (not profane). Still, it’s a good interview and provides food for thought. 

There is an alternative to the “Christ transforming culture” and an alternative to making the culture into Christ. It’s the two kingdoms model.

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. So if it wasn’t Augustine, who was the first Christian (specifically a non-canonical author) to consider the state as secular?

  2. No, I doubt Carter’s claim, as I heard it on the WHI, that Augustine was the first. I it in the Ep to Diognetus which is a few hundred years before De Civitate Dei. Gotta go. I’m blogging the conference.

  3. I read part of the epistle dealing with Christians living in this world and their relationship with it.

    I also sensed a bit of Greek philosophy in chapter 6 when it spoke of the body and soul.

Comments are closed.