Reviews - Classics

Reviews of liberal-evangelical classics.

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The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, by Carl Henry

review logoThe Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. By Carl F. H. Henry. Originally published 1947; reprinted, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003. 89 pages. Paperback, $12.00.

Carl F. H. Henry is back from the dead. And no, I’m not a fundamentalist so I don’t mean that literally, but I do suggest that Henry’s desire for fundamentalism in this book still finds resonance with today’s evangelical community. Although this book was written in the late 40’s, it seems to eerily touch on issues still pervasive within the evangelical movement 62 years after its original publication. Carl Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism is a short but poignant read into what it really means to be an authentic evangelical. Moreover, this book is essentially a critique of fundamentalism and its inability to equip socially conscious evangelicals. It is a call for evangelicals to actively participate in the world through sound Christian engagement.

Christ and Culture, by H. Richard Niebuhr

Christ and Culturereview logoThough the text came out in 1951, the content of Christ and Culture grew out of a series of lectures H. Richard Niebuhr gave to seminarians in 1949. Many of the aspiring ministers in the audience would have been veterans of the recent conflicts in Europe and the Pacific, well aware of the dangers of elevating a state or political leader to semi-divine status, but equally aware of the great goods that a culture can produce when its people rally around a just cause. What then, Niebuhr asks, ought to be the relationship between Christ and culture?

Niebuhr begins by alerting us to the timelessness of this “enduring problem.” There is an inherent tension between Christ, his character, and the claims he makes on his followers on the one hand, and the demands of culture, any culture, on the other. The Romans early on made this point when they highlighted the extent to which followers of Christ neglected their cultural and social duties, but the tension persisted even as the empire was “christianized." Throughout Christian history some have argued (and even today some still insist) that Christians make the best citizens, but Niebuhr calls the reader’s attention to the perpetual potential for opposition that lurks below the surface. Culture never captures Christ. Christ is never tamed.

Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, by Reinhold Niebuhr

review logoLeaves From The Notebook Of A Tamed Cynic. By Reinhold Niebuhr. First published 1929; reissued Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990. 152 pages. $26.95.

One of the great liberal Protestant theologians of the twentieth century, Reinhold Niebuhr, offers an autobiographical account of his early years as a pastor in Leaves From The Notebook Of A Tamed Cynic. Reinhold (1892-1971), brother to H.R. Niebuhr, contributed enormously to theology, ethics, and political philosophy during his later years as professor at Union Theological Seminary (New York City). Among his many accomplishments, Niebuhr had a hand in bringing German theologian Paul Tillich to America, essentially saving Tillich from the Nazis he had repudiated. However, this book consists of Niebuhr’s journal entries prior to his later fame and accomplishments.