Book Review: Theology and Culture

Book Review 21

Long, Stephen D.  Theology and Culture: A Guide to the Discussion (Cascade Companions).  Eugene: Cascade, 2008.  124 pgs

In this short work Stephen Long provides a helpful introduction to the important issue of theology and culture.  In keeping with the spirit of brevity of Long’s work, only a couple salient points will be touched on.

One of Long’s central concerns in this work is language.  In particular, Long addresses the pitfalls surrounding metaphors in general and in particular the metaphor of “culture.”  He wants to help the reader see the problems language causes, particularly as it relates to talk about God, since all language is culturally embedded.  How can one escape the prison of the “linguistic turn?”

Rather than provide firm answers to this and other related concerns (although at times his preference for a Christological explanation is evident), instead Long provides a survey of how people have tried to deal with the dilemmas inherent in understanding theology and culture.  Long’s survey is a model of “concise breadth,” dealing with thinkers like Troeltsch, Niebuhr, Tillich, Milbank, Balthasar, Tanner, and McClendon, as well as movements and events like Radical Orthodoxy, Vatican II, Communio Catholicism, Reformed thought, liberal protestantism and more, all within less than 60 pages!  The explanations are accessible for the novice and thorough enough to see the issues they raise.

This is a fantastic guide to the complex issues surrounding this topic for the beginner.  Further, Long is a clear, concise writer who strikes a nice balance between charity and ascerbic wit, making it a pleasant read.  I highly recommend it for those who want to look into the issue, or need a refresher.

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