Christianity and Culture: The Idea of a Christian Society and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1939, 1948, 1967, 1976, T.S. Elliot
Perhaps a bit dated work (1939), but it remains a standard text in the field of church and culture studies.
How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity, Rodney Stark, ISI Books, 2014
God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, Rodney Stark, Harper One, 2009
Global Shift: The New History Vectors, Thom Wolf, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor School of Business, Distinguished Speaker Series 2006
In this lecture, Thom addresses the flow of history from a Christian and sociological perspective. He delineates the three history vectors: history-stream, history-shift and history-servants.
Wolf argues that the stream of history for the past 3000 years has had a general west-ward arc. From Babylon to the United States – history has moved from Mesopotamia to the west. Now, history is moving westward to the far-east! Further, he demonstrates the major shifts in history. For example, we are experiencing the shift from modernism to post-modernism. These significant shifts in history (e.g. The Reformation) provide opportunities for new servants of history to emerge. Wolf contends the most recent history shift has resulted in a new era where the ordinary now serves right alongside the clergy or the professional Christian.
Social Change and Development: A Research Template (2012), Thom Wolf
In this booklet, Wolf analyzes the key differences between Progress-Prone and Progress-Resistant Cultures. Wolf is seeking to discover the best possible cultural settings for human beings to flourish. He notes the cultures that are marked by creativity and cultivation are generally progress prone. Conversely, those that are characterized by constraint are progress resistant.
Wolf contrasts these two types of culture through an 8-fold analysis paradigm. He charts the differences as he discusses: time focus, work, merit, education, women, sense of community, ethics and worldview/civic pluralism. His conclusion is that human beings have greater opportunity to flourish in a culture that is progress-prone.
How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, N. T. Wright, Harper One, 2012
Wright argues that we all have simply misread the Gospels. He argues that simply seeing the Gospels as evidence for Jesus’ divinity, His fulfillment of prophecy, His Messianic role, His example, His teachings – as well as a host of other things – all shortchange the REAL meaning of the Gospels. His argument is that the Gospels bear witness to how God became King in Jesus!
Boundless Faith: The Global Outreach of American Churches, Robert Wuthnow, University of California Press, 2009
This book was written as an analysis of the relationship between American Christianity and globalization. As he states in the conclusion to this book, his findings cast serious doubt on three widely held beliefs: the assumption that American Christianity has withdrawn from the wider world, that local congregations now service only their own members and that American Christianity is primarily an evangelical voice in U.S. foreign policy. Further, Wuthnow demonstrates the truth about the continued influence of American Christianity across the world.
America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity, Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University Press, 2005
In this volume from 2005, Wuthnow effectively argues that the religious diversity in America today is unlike anything our nation has ever encountered. For most of our history, religious diversity meant – Protestants, Roman Catholics and Jews had to learn to live together. Now the major world religions are integrated in the fabric of American society at unprecedented levels. And, immigration has tilted the diversity scale towards more pluralism than anyone could have ever predicted a generation ago.
Wuthnow suggests this pluralism affects every aspect of life in America. Whether it be economical concerns, ethical values or commitment to a democratic governance – religious pluralism now plays a significant role unlike any other time.
American Christians need to learn the skills of contextualization for effectiveness in living the Gospel – here in America! Thinking through cultural issues is not just the task of missiologists and missionaries. We now have to embrace the shifts in our cultural context if we are going to continue to be effective in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ within our own borders.
To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, James Davison Hunter, Oxford University Press, 2010
This is perhaps the most provocative book published on the subject of cultural engagement in recent memory. Hunter, a Professor at the University of Virginia, notes that various evangelical entities have set out “to change the world” as indicated in mission statements or actions. However, he sets forth an argument that this is a somewhat foolhardy goal. He concludes that “changing culture” is not the goal of Christianity in the first place. He contends that the answer is the practice of faithful presence on the part of Christians across the broader community. This one is truly worth the read.
Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite, D. Michael Lindsay, Oxford University Press, 2007
Michael interviewed 360 leaders from the various “halls of power” – the academy, entertainment, business and politics. Michael points out just how influential evangelical Christians have become in recent years. Lindsay distinguishes between “populist” evangelicals and “cosmopolitan” evangelicals. The cosmopolitan Christians are the “move-the-dial” Christians who can use their influence to affect society at large.
The Next Christians: How a New Generation Is Restoring the Faith, Gabe Lyons, Doubleday, 2010
Gabe distinguishes between the “separatist” and the “cultural” approaches of cultural engagement by Christians in the past. He offers what he considers a third option – restorers – this next era of Christianity led by the next era of Christians (Next Christians) will be given to an investment in the restoration of culture. In short, here are his six characteristics of Next Christians: Provoked, not offended Creators, not critics Called, not employed Grounded, not distracted In community, not alone Countercultural, not “relevant”
Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, Andy Crouch, InterVarsity Press, 2013
Andy’s follow up to Culture Making is a biting exposé of the common abuses of power in our culture. He offers the perspective that power is a gift to be stewarded by real people in real time. It is a hard-hitting book that leads to much soul-searching and reflection for any serious reader. He explains how spiritual disciplines can be used to assist us in the journey of bearing God’s image as opposed to playing God!
Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, Andy Crouch, InterVarsity Press, 2008
Andy argues that “culture is what we make of the world.” He concludes that Christians have spent too much time critiquing, copying and consuming culture. His main contention is that believers should be both cultivating and creating culture. In this discussion, he distinguishes between gestures and postures with regard to Christians and their relationship to culture. Andy’s mantra is that we should/must be making culture as faithful followers of Jesus.
CHURCH AND CULTURE
RESOURCES FOR THE SACRAMENTAL JOURNEY
5 Kinds of Christians: Understanding the disparity of those who call themselves Christian in America
A new national survey co-sponsored by Leadership. Reported by Helen Lee – available online.
Christians and Culture
Research article for Probe Ministries by Jerry Solomon, former Director of Field Ministries and Mind Games Coordinator for Probe Ministries, served as Associate Pastor at Dallas Bible Church after leaving Probe. He received the B.A. (summa cum laude) in Bible and the M.A. (cum laude) in history and theology from Criswell College. He also attended the University of North Texas, Canal Zone College, and Lebanon Valley College. Available online.
The Christian and Culture, Lecture by Rev. Herman Hoeksema
A lecture in the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, on May 9, 1940. It was presented under the auspices of the Young Men's Society of the above-mentioned church. It was first printed as a pamphlet in response to many requests to have it in a form which could be
thoughtfully studied. Available online.
Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome, Rodney Stark, Harper San Francisco, 2006
The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, Rodney Stark, Random House, 2006
These next 6 books by Rodney Stark offer philosophical, sociological and historical accounts of the struggles, challenges and incredible growth of Christianity since its inception. Stark offers unique insights into the cultural engagement endeavor in each of these works. I can’t emphasize enough the impact his insights have had on my understanding of the intersection between Church and Culture.
The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries, Rodney Stark, Harper One, 1997
The Cat and the Toaster: Living System Ministry in a Technological Age, Douglas A. Hall, Wipf & Stock, 2010
Since 1964, Doug and Judy Hall have served the New England community through the Emmanuel Gospel Center in Boston. Doug is the President for the Center and he has charted the development of the “Quiet Revival” experienced among the churches in Boston.
In this book, Hall addresses the differences between primary and secondary culture and how this distinction enables church leaders to be more effective. Further, the main point of his book is the discussion of the key differences between living systems and constructed systems. As you can tell by the title of the book, the key example he uses throughout the book is the significant differences between a cat (living system) and a toaster (constructed system).
View From The Top: An Inside Look At How People In Power See And Shape The World, D. Michael Lindsay, with M. G. Hager, John Wiley and Sons, 2014
This book is the culmination of Michael’s Platinum Study – based on interviews with 550 of the elite leaders of every sector in the United States culture. CEO’s, senior officials and even two former Presidents of the United States participated in the most significant longitudinal study of key leaders in America. Michael (now President of Gordon College) offers key insights on the value of networking and how strong leaders shape culture.