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ISBN/ASIN : 0687022738
Manufacturer : Abingdon Press,U.S.|
Release data : 27 April, 1995
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A courageous new vision for being the church in the world.
Since 1950, H. Richard Niebuhr's Christ and Culture has set the terms for understanding the relationship of the Church to the wider culture. He delineated five ideal types or stances, but clearly preferred the "transformationist" type. The influence of Niebuhr at this point cannot be overstated as the book was a staple of seminary courses throughout North America, influencing 3 generations of pastors and theologians. The sole dissenting voice for some time was that of Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder who, in a privately circulated manuscript, contended that Niebuhr mis-discribed the "against" culture type and was guilty of both Trinitarian errors and a mis-use of typology. Now, at last, that inciteful critique is presented in a polished and revised form. However, Authentic Transformation is not simply the published form of Yoder's critique of Niebuhr. It also presents a previously unpublished article by Niebuhr and a partial defense of Niebuhr by Lutheran ethicist Diane Yeager. The book's greatest strength, however, lies in the concluding two chapters by the editor, Baptist ethicist Glen Stassen. In his first chapter, Stassen basically agrees with Yoder's critique of Christ and Culture, but places this work in the larger body of H. Richard Niebuhr's work. In this way, he shows what influences and factors caused HRN to make the mistakes Yoder notices and what features of his larger work could correct those problems. In the concluding chapter, Stassen gives a programmatic statement for what kinds of concrete practices churches would need to embody in order to "authentically transform" the wider culture. In this he draws on insights from Yoder & Yeager, his own original biblical work, and recent sociological studies of effective and ineffective congregations. Although the final chapter was written solely by Stassen, Yoder and Yeager endorse it's conclusions in broad terms. The result is a tour-de-force for Christian ethics: a thorough critical re-thinking of the relationship of Christianity and culture combined with concrete guidelines for implementing authentically transformative practices.