– Description: This view does not make the ‘battle’ between Christ and culture (ie. Do not say either Christ or Culture), but rather it sees the ‘battle’ between God and man (Holy God vs sinful man) (117). The adherents stress that God orders culture, and thus culture is neither good nor bad. When man sins, his rebellion against God is expressed in cultural (actual) terms, yet that doesn’t mean that culture is bad. Culture, they say, is sustained by God, and they see the harmony (synthesis) between Christ and culture as the best way to address the ‘problem.’ Niebuhr notes, “They cannot separate the works of human culture from the grace of God, for all those works are possible only by grace. But neither can they separate the experience of grace from cultural activity; for how can men love the unseen God in response to His love without serving the visible brother in human society?” (119).
– Some positives: It attempts a fine balance between seeing Christ as part of culture (as the incarnation), and yet being outside culture (as God who sustains culture). Through this position, we can arrive at moral law for society, and even Christian involvement in society. Niebuhr explains saying that God created man as a social being and it is impossible for society to function without direction from God. The Church, therefore, while functioning for a spiritual purpose, has also an earthly purpose of being guardian/custodian of that divine law (136), and in that sense serves the world.
– Some negatives: One of the problems that bothers Niebuhr is that this position when pushed to its limit leads to the institutionalization of Christ and the gospel. This is evident especially when this position can draw attention away from the “eternal hope and goal of the Christian” towards instead the “temporal embodiment” in a “man-devised form” (147). Also, “they do not… face up to the radical evil present in all human work” (148).