Richard Wolfe wrote to the HB to ask for about reading that he and his pastor might do in preparation for the upcoming WSC faculty conference, Christ, Kingdom, and Culture. In response I thought of the “Christ and culture” volumes that were either influential on my thinking or important to the history of the question. Before you read, you should listen to the pre-conference Office Hours interview with Bob Godfrey and David VanDrunen. Here’s a list:
- 1. The text that by which this topic is named, “Christ and culture,” is H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic, Christ and Culture. To say that this book is important is only to say that it largely set the terms in which the modern conversation has been conducted. His historical method is dubious and his conclusions are often misleading and his categories are skewed. Nevertheless, in order to understand the modern discussion one must read this book. As I always tell the students, “read everything but don’t believe everything you read.” D. A. Carson has recently written a critique of Niebuhr, which I’ve not read, about which I can’t comment except to say that anything by Don Carson is worth reading.
- 2. David VanDrunen’s latest work in this field, Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms, is essential reading. Scheduled to be available in mid-January (you may pre-order your copy today and we may have copies in stock, in the bookstore, in time for the conference) this important work gathers together and fleshes out the research that David has been publishing in academic journals for the last 8 or 9 years. If you’ve been wondering what the “two kingdoms thing” is all about this is the work that explains it and shows how and why the distinction between two kingdoms or two spheres has been taught in the history of Reformed theology. You may also be interested in his exposition of the biblical doctrine of natural law.
- 3. Mike Horton’s work Where in the World is the Church? is a terrific alternative to Niebuhr and a very strong beginning to creating a more confessionally Reformed and biblical approach to the relations between “Christ,” redemption and the institutional church in which redemption is administered and “culture,” i.e., our life lived between Sabbaths, as members of Christ’s church and kingdom, in Christ’s world. Addressing the problem even more directly is Mike’s earlier book, Beyond Culture Wars still available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. His more recent book, Christless Christianity is an indictment of the American church for its cultural captivity and The Gospel-Driven Life is the antidote.
- 4. David Wells magnificent series beginning with No Place for Truth is essential reading on this topic. Especially relevant for this discussion would be the volumes God in the Wasteland and Above All Earthly Powers. In distinction from those who seek to perpetuate the Babylonian captivity of American evangelical and Reformed Christians by baptizing the culture, in this series Wells tells the truth about the state of American evangelical theology and its relation to the broader culture. He points a way forward that is as necessary as it may be painful.
- 5. I read Herbert Schlossberg’s Idols for Destruction in 1987. I’ve not re-read it since but I did find it quite helpful then. The thing I remember most clearly was his account of covetousness and the institutionalization of the violation of the 10 commandment in modernity.
- 6. Ken Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes is a hugely popular book on “Christ and Culture” and has been on my reading list for years. I’ve been listening to Mars Hill Audio (no connection to Mars Hill Church) since about 1995 and a subscriber for most of that time. I don’t know why I’ve not read the book but I hope to do before the conference.