Culture in a Post-Secular Context: Theological Possibilities in Milbank, Barth and Bediako

By Alan Thomson

A critique of the over-reliance of contemporary theologians on secular cultural ideas, showing that a theological understanding of culture already exists.

ISBN: 9780227174678


Is culture a theologically neutral concept? The contemporary experts on culture – anthropologists and sociologists – argue that it is. Theologians and missiologists would seem to agree, given the extent of their reliance on anthropological and sociological definitions of culture. Yet this appears a strange reliance given that presumed neutrality in the sciences is a consistently challenged assumption. It is stranger still given that so much theological energy has been expended on understanding and defining the human person in specifically theological as opposed to anthropological terms when culture is in some sense the expression of this personhood in corporate and material forms.

This book argues that culture is not and has never been a theologically neutral concept; rather, it always expresses some theological posture and is therefore a term that naturally invites theological investigation. Going about this task is difficult, however, in the face of a long-term reliance on the social sciences that seems to have starved the contemporary theological community of resources for defining culture. However, rich subterranean veins for such a task do exist within the recent tradition, most notably in the writings of John Milbank, Karl Barth, and Kwame Bediako.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 308

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Alan Thomson (Ph.D., University of Otago) is an adjunct lecturer in the department of Theology, Mission, and Ministry at Laidlaw College, Christchurch, New Zealand, as well as an online tutor at the Laidlaw Centre for Distance Learning in Auckland.


List of Abbreviations


1. Theology and the Neutrality of Culture
2. Challenging the Neutrality of Culture
3. John Milbank and a Theological Account of Culture
4. Milbank, Violence, and Idealization
5. Karl Barth and a Theological Alternative
6. Kwame Bediako and an African Alternative



Endorsements and Reviews

Engaging with an impressive range of resources, Alan Thomson offers an important critical corrective and a valuable constructive proposal. When culture is discerned as a theologically dense reality, the missiological implications in a post-secular environment may be profound indeed. This is an astute book, which will lead the way for applications of its core argument in a number of other areas.
Ivor J. Davidson, University of St Andrews

Thomson observes that the idea that culture is theologically neutral is without credibility. Rather, contemporary theologians are now thinking through the realm of culture from a specifically theological perspective. Students of the theology of culture will appreciate the depth of scholarship in this comparative study.
Tracey Rowland, John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, DC