Paper Example on Niebuhrs Five-Fold Typology

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According to Matthew 6:32-33, the scripture says, For the pagans pursue all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. This implies that Christians should not focus on earthly things but should be humble before the creator and act according to His will.

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Richard Niebuhrs typology on Christ and Culture has raised numerous debates during its 15th anniversary. In fact, any individual can establish his or her own typology of the supporters as well as the critics of the five famous motifs. Stanley Hauerwas, William Willimon and John Howard Yoder claim that people should reject Richards typology. On the other hand, reformed historians such as George Marsden, maintain that Niebuhrs approach should be transformed. James Gustafson has a belief that people should accommodate the perspective with little modification. According to Gustafson, he argued that his ability to use the typology to the supporters and critics reflects its usefulness in the society. Most of the evaluators of the typology have focused on its face value in comprehending the historical Christian Movements and theological ideas. With the role of the previous evaluations, the concerns about the importance of the typology can benefit the application of sociological techniques to inquiry.

In the new type of law focusing on Christ against culture, Niebuhr concentrates on absolute authority of Christ and rejects the loyalty to the culture since he believes that the culture is fallen. He views the typical examples of this perspective in the book of first John. According to I John, the scripture states, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world." Niebuhr values this approach because it is derived from the leadership of Christ, balances all other functions of Christian associations, and is a distinctive early Christian attitude. Also, he asserts that it is an insufficient response because it is not effective to the changing cultures.

The second is the Harmonious approach focusing on Christ of Culture. This aspect harmonizes culture and Christ by overlooking various conflicting components in the society and the New Testament. Supporters of Christ of culture have selective attitudes towards these elements. Also, Christ is abstract and rational instead of concrete and historic. However, Niebuhr argues that such people beyond partial knowledge and reason. He says that, "a revelation that cannot be completely absorbed into the life of reason." There are two positive aspects recognized by Niebuhr, it assists in the expansion of Gods kingdom as well as increasing awareness about the power of civilization in leadership.

Christ above culture is a synthetic approach almost similar to the harmonious perspective. It recognizes the gap between culture and Christ, but puts more priority on Christ. Synthesists take culture to have positive value on the society; however, it is not perfect. This makes Christ as the instructor instead of the judge. Also, the approach asserts that good products of culture and Christian teachings are distinct but not contradictory always. Niebuhr provides typical examples of Thomas Aquinas and Clement of Alexandria under this category. Clement survived in the period when Christians were minority, and as a result, his interest was restricted to "culture of Christians" instead of "Christianization of culture." According to Niebuhr, the position of synthesists is attractive because it opens the way for cooperation between non-Christians and Christians at the basis. Also, they sustain the distinctive religious message. About the Christ and culture in paradox, the radicals are sensitive to identify the depravity of culture and human beings. Explicit paradoxes appear in "divine wrath and mercy" and in "law and grace." Niebuhr claims that Martin Luther was a great Christian leader who affirmed life in culture under which Christ ought to be followed. Also, Luther suggested that rules followed culturally were independent of the church law.

The conversionist perspective is the Christ as the transformer of culture. Supporters of this approach are able to recognize the radical sin in the culture and human. However, they have a positive stance towards their culture. This approach seems to be applicable in the Fourth Gospel as well as the theology of Augustine of Hippo. Niebuhr views the concerns of John with the heavenly transformations of people in the present time. John did not interact with the outside world and the church. Also he thought that this transformation was only possible to few. Niebuhr asserts that John had an exclusive flavor. Regardless of Augustine being an example of cultural transformation, Niebuhr wonders why he did not carry out the views of the conversionists intensively.

More Evangelical versus Less Evangelical Churches

The more evangelical churches are different from the old institutions because of their priorities. They spread the word of God through training ministers and disciples, furthering social activities, evangelizing, renewing families as well as lobbying governments. The work of sanctification, cultural transformation and mission is perfect regarding salvation. On Sunday, they are entirely devoted to worship sacraments, business of mission, and Bible studies are scheduled to the midweek services. Evangelical theologians blame the radical preference of the church ministry of laypeople and pastors who sell out to the broad culture. In evangelical churches, the religious traditions based on the New Testament are shaped by the Western cultural traditions. At times, they confuse Christianity with some aspects of their culture. This is a good example of "Christ of' culture" under which nationalism has merged with the cause of Christ.

More affluent vs. less affluent churches

According to the argument of Jonathan Bonk, lack of connection between the Western missionaries and the poor is inevitable and necessary result of Western affluence. However, he missed the reason for this disconnect in Gospel communication. In the more affluent churches, pastors are not able to relate with their parishioners. Also , missionaries working with each other are unable to connect, and as a result, end up misunderstanding one another to a point of jeopardy. Generally, they are more focused with addressing the ontological issues of life instead of practical problems. On the other hand, the less affluent churches emphasize on practical issues such as assisting the poor. According to Niebubr, John did not mix with other people. This is the case for this group of conversionists who differentiate Christ from human achievements. Therefore, the more affluent churches fall under the Christ the Transformer of Culture.

Protestant vs. Orthodox/Catholic churches

Based on the Roman Catholic or Orthodox theology, the discussion about the Church precedes other things. Also it is considered before divine revelation and the doctrine of God. The Church is said to be involved in producing the Bible and the dispenser of all graces. According to the Catholics, it is not Christ that guides the church, rather, the he is led by it. In the context of the Protestants, the Christ leads the church. The beginning of the Protestants started with sheer visibility of the divine spirit as well as softening of class, cultural and denominational boundaries. Therefore, this group of religious institutions falls under Christ above culture

More culturally diverse vs. less culturally diverse churches

Respecting the hallmark of churches currently is something new for the churches advocating for diversity. Diversity was introduced in the day of Pentecost and Trinity was developed to respond to the issues, which arose among the early Christians. Diverse churches refer to the inherited churches. After meeting on Sunday and having a normal church service, the church round a meal inclusive of the Bible passage as well as a period of mediation. The pre-existing model of the institution was plopped into a housing estate or a school, rather than allowing it to emerge out of a specific social group. In this form, it is able to adjust to the needs of different cultures and people. Based on the Niebuhrs five-fold typology, this group respects the culture and maintains religious messages. As a result, it is prevalent in Christ and culture in paradox.


"Christian Denominations: Beliefs And Theology Religion facts". Religionfacts.Com. Last modified 2016. Accessed December 1, 2016.

"Fresh Expressions Serve A Society That Prizes Diversity". Last modified 2016. Accessed December 1, 2016.

Harper, Brad and Paul Louis Metzger. Exploring Ecclesiology. 1st ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2009.

Niebuhr, H. Richard. Christ And Culture. 1st ed. New York: Harper, 1951.

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