George Marsden's Analysis Of Christ And Culture

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George Marsden, a historian at the University of Notre Dame, argues Niebuhr’s analysis of the Christ and culture problem could be near the end of its usefulness in its present form. Marsden, as a historian, is aware of how Niebuhr’s historical setting influenced his work. Christ and Culture was written right after the horrors of World War II; because of this Niebuhr wanted to show how Christian influences could make a positive contribution toward tolerance. He addressed the accusation that “Christianity has made no positive contribution… to civilization or to culture” by developing the typology we have been studying (6). However, because these types are so broad they are historically inadequate and have been subjected to numerous critiques. Marsden’s first critique is Niebuhr’s abstract definition of Christ. Based on Niebuhr’s faith tradition he “tended to separate the Christ of faith from the Jesus of history” and, in his work, seems to be describing a Christ who stands above culture (6). However, Marsden argues that when Niebuhr mentions “Christ” he really means “various Christians’ efforts to follow Christ” (7). Marsden contends Niebuhr might have utilized the word “Christ” to make it clear he was dealing with the teachings of Christianity,…show more content…
Marsden argues Niebuhr uses the word to describe anything people do together—which includes everything from language to warfare. Marsden proposes, “we must adopt much more discriminating and specific meanings” when using the word culture (9). When Niebuhr mentioned culture, Marsden argues he meant either higher learning and the arts or dominant cultural structures. There is also a multicultural objection to Niebuhr’s arguments. Today there is a greater awareness that culture means different things to different people, and that most often people use subcultures to define who they are—this phenomenon was not popular when Christ and Culture was
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