What is the Christian’s responsibility in the world? This may seem like an easy question at first, but it is one that has been debated for ages. The phrase “be in the world, not of the world” is often cited, but what does that mean? You may be surprised to learn that it means different things to different people.
Richard Niebuhr wrote the classic book on this topic called Christ and Culture. In the book, he overviews five different ways Christians through the ages have thought of their role in the world. I do not want to take the time to summarize each view here (I am too lazy), so I’ll refer you to David Naugle who does an excellent job at doing so in his article Christianity and Culture. I urge you to read it.
Niebuhr’s categories are:
Christ Against Culture, Christ of Culture, Christ Above Culture, Christ and Culture in Paradox, and Christ the Transformer of Culture.
When we understand how different Christians view their relationship with the world, we can better understand why we often reach different conclusions on how we live our lives. That is not to say that we need to approve of every view, but it gives us better understanding. And understanding the different views may also help us better think of the world around us.
Read Naugle’s article and let me know what you think. Or, if you are already familiar with Niebuhr’s categories, feel free to comment.