Theology and Culture: A Guide to the Discussion

By D. Stephen Long

A concise and informative overview and analysis of how the idea of culture is used and understood in modern theology.

ISBN: 9780227173251


How can we speak about God without assuming that God is nothing but our own speaking, nothing but our culture’s effort to name what cannot be named? How can we deny that our speaking of God is always culturally located? To answer these questions, we need to pay close attention to what we mean by culture, and how we use this very complex term both in our everyday language and especially in the language of faith. Culture is an exceedingly complex term that nearly everyone uses, but no-one is entirely sure what it means. This work examines various uses of the term culture in theology today.

Long’s insightful book seeks to push the theology and culture conversation beyond unexamined truisms and self-satisfied dogmas. In his analysis, he provides a useful summary of the contribution of Richard Niebuhr, but also suggests that in the light of the increasingly influential theology of Henri de Lubac, there is a need to modify Niebuhr’s approach. In de Lubac’s view, Christ transforms cultures, rather than standing outside them, and the dynamics of this transformation is now a pressing theological concern which transcends confessional boundaries.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 124

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

D. Stephen Long is Professor of Systematic Theology at Marquette University. His other recent publications include Calculated Future: Theology, Ethics and Economics, John Wesley’s Moral Theology: The Quest for God and Goodness, and Speaking of God: Theology, Language and Truth (forthcoming).



1. Theology and Culture: The Promises and Perils
2. What is Culture?
3. Confusing Nature and Culture
4. Language
5. Diverse Uses of “Culture”
6. Culture and God
7. Theologians and Culture I: The Work of Ernst Troeltsch
8. Theologians and Culture II: H. Richard Niebuhr’s Typology
9. Theologians and Culture III: Paul Tillich’s Protestant Principle
10. Theology, Modernity, and Postmodernity
11. Contemporary Theology I: Post-liberal, Analytical, Post-modern Feminist
12. Contemporary Theology II: Radical Orthodoxy, Communio Catholicism, Anabaptist Witness



Endorsements and Reviews

Modernity, Steve Long tells us with his patented acerbity, is a broken record that never stops repeating its supposed novelty. If broken records require sharp, swift smacks to be knocked out of their tiresome grooves, Long’s palm-sized book delivers a salutary slap that gets us back on track – and out of confused modern conceptualities that pit theology against culture. An excellent, masterly introduction to its topic.
Rodney Clapp, author of A Peculiar People and Border Crossings

This work, as the title suggests, offers a bird’s eye view of the state of play between theology and culture. It provides a valuable summary of the contribution of Richard Niebuhr to the subject, but also suggests there is a need to revise Niebuhr’s classifications in the wake of the rising influence of the theology of Henri de Lubac common to both the Radical Orthodoxy and Communio Catholic scholars. From de Lubac’s perspective, Christ transforms cultures, rather than standing aloof outside them. The dynamics of this transformation is now a pressing theological concern which flows over confessional boundaries.
Tracey Rowland, author of Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II

For its remarkable brevity and ease of reading, Stephen Long’s recent guide to theology and culture provides an excellent overview to the host of issues surrounding such a rich and often controversial topic … Long’s guide will remain an important starting point for anyone interested in understanding well the complex relationship between theology and culture.
Taylor Worley, in Theological Book Review

Long succeeds in demonstrating the primary nature of this question [theology’s relation to culture] and its importance as a foundational discussion for theology … this would make a most thought-provoking book for an advanced college student, or for an undergraduate seeking an effective and speedy introduction to the debate.
Brutus Green, in Theology, Vol 114, No 4

The nature of culture is vital to the theologian because the question ‘can we speak about God’ becomes a question about culture.
Ed Moll, in The Churchman, Vol 127 (3)

Stephen Long provides students and instructors with a much-needed (and appreciated) guide to the relationship between theology and culture. … an ideal resource for an ‘issue-based’ course in theology or as a supplemental text for a course on modern theology.
Micheal W. DeLashmutt, in Modern Believing, Vol 54.4