By Duane K. Friesen
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The description of a second-century alternative vision of life in the Epistle to Diognetus is striking. Christians do not speak a different language, dress differently, live in separate cities, eat different foods, or practice different customs. Yet they practice an ethic of love and respect to all even when they are treated with disrespect and persecuted. They are generous to others despite the fact that they are poor, and they treat their children differently from those around them. The Epistle challenges us especially in identifying the church as a transnational body, a global community existing among the nations.
To name is often to divide and distinguish, to think in categories of either/or: spirit or matter, good or evil, truth or falsehood, God or history, church or world, Christ or culture, life or death, order or chaos, freedom or determinism, form or novelty. As the church seeks to sing God’s song, it will need to listen and discern carefully. What is that song? In what way can the church join in singing the songs of the culture in which it lives? Where will it sing another song—a song that will grate upon the ears of those who sing the songs of the dominant culture?
17 ANALYSIS AND EVALUATION OF TROELTSCH AND NIEBUHR Strengths Realistic social and cultural analysis. An adequate theology of culture must do the kind of realistic cultural and social analysis that we A METHOD FOR RELATING CHURCH AND CULTURE • 51 find in Troeltsch. Troeltsch faced squarely the serious challenges to the church posed by modernity. He identified both the sociological forces of a modern bureaucratic and technological culture that challenge the church’s traditional social philosophies, as well as the intellectual forces of historicism and relativism that undermine the certainties of the church’s theological foundations.