Seven Books on Theology & Culture

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When it comes to interacting with “culture,” Christians face a choice between several options.

  • One option is to live a life that can be characterized as “Christianity against culture,” which views culture as something that a person tries to escape from or fight against.
  • Another option could be called “Christianity of culture,” which views culture uncritically as something that can be accepted wholesale into a person’s life and church.
  • A final option can be called “Christianity in and for culture,” in which a believer seeks to live Christianly within his or her cultural context and for the betterment of that context, while not rejecting it wholesale, on the one hand, or accepting it wholesale, on the other.

Here are seven recommended reading sources to help you consider how you should approach culture as a Christian:

1. Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling
By Andy Crouch (InterVarsity Press, 2008) 

An engaging and persuasive treatise on the Christian community’s calling to “make culture” rather than merely “engage the culture.”

2. Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It 
By Greg Forster (Crossway, 2014)

A well-written and easy-to-read book arguing that the key to cultural transformation is Spirit-induced joy in God and the gospel.

3. To Change the World: Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World 
By James Davison Hunter (Oxford University Press, 2010)

A sociologist argues that Christians should aim to be “faithful present” in their culture.

4. Lectures on Calvinism 
By Abraham Kuyper (1898. Reprint. Eerdmans, 1943)

In this small book, Abraham Kuyper argues that our Christianity should affect every sphere of human life and culture.

5. Called to Holy Worldliness 
By Richard J. Mouw (Fortress, 1980)

A small book showing how ordinary Christians can honor God in their culture-making and cultural engagement.

6. Christ and Culture
By H. Richard Niebuhr (HarperCollins, 1956)

This text has become the modern benchmark for discussing Christianity and culture. It has flaws –serious ones — but is worth reading.

7. Desiring the Kingdom
By James K. A. Smith (Baker Academic, 2009)

A more advanced book which argues that secular “liturgies” compete with Christian liturgies in order to shape who we are and form our deepest identities and views of the world.

What are some other resources that you have found to be helpful in learning how to approach culture Christianly?

(This post has been adapted from Every Square Inch by Dr. Bruce Ashford, now available on Amazon.)

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  • culture
  • theology
Bruce Ashford

Bruce Riley Ashford is the author or co-author of six books, including 'The Gospel of Our King' (Baker, 2019), 'Letters to an American Christian' (B&H, 2018), 'One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics' (B&H, 2015), and 'Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians' (Lexham, 2015).

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