I need your help on this one. Dr John Hammett brings a challenge to the emerging church. Its a valid question and deserves an answer. If you have tracked this series up to this point, perhaps you could help us out by giving your response – just give one answer to this poll. But wait until the end of this post before you decide.
John Hammett wants to know “Are there occasions when you take the posture of Christ against culture?” I know Hammett is identifying “postmodernism” as the word we use to define the culture we work in. Many of us no longer use that word because of its misunderstandings. But the question is still legitimate, whatever we call the culture we live in and respond to with the Gospel.
In his paper An Ecclesiological Assessment of the Emerging Church (pdf), Hammett turns to Niebuhr’s 5 approaches to culture:
” . . . their [emerging church] understanding and appropriation of postmodern culture is crucial.
In his classic work Christ and Culture, Richard Niebuhr gave five classic ways in which the church has related to culture: Christ against culture, Christ of culture, Christ above culture, Christ and culture in paradox, and Christ as the transformer of culture. Of these five models, those in the emerging church could possibly accept any of the five as legitimate responses except for the first, for that model sees the need for the culture to change to conform to Christ, rather than for the church to adjust its methods and message in light of the culture. Yet there are a number of voices in contemporary evangelicalism that have, in effect, advocated this model as the appropriate response to postmodernity.37″
Bill Arnold, who has blogged about the emerging church on occasion, has a good summary of the points on his blog [save you buying the book].
Christ and Culture (intro) “Basically, he says that culture is:
1. always social (individuals cannot be a culture unto themselves)
2. a human achievement (it’s not a natural phenomenon, it’s something we create)
3. concerned with values that are chiefly intended to enhance our own well-being
4. focused on the “temporal and material realization of values.” (p.36)
5. “concerned with the conservation of values” (p.37)
6. pluralistic (in any setting there will be a variety of individuals with their own unique set of values)”
Niebuhr present five categories for the ways in which Christians choose to interact with culture. Take a quick look at each one
Sooo . . . which one would you chose? Time to take a vote. There is no right answer. Just choose ONE answer that best describes either you or your emerging church.
I might take a separate poll for Fundamentalists at a later stage because i am interested to see where they place themselves. But if you identify with the emerging missional church in all its forms, go ahead and choose one. And I would really like to hear of examples of a choice between Christ or culture.