Volume 23, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2003
D. M. Yeager
The View from Somewhere
The Meaning of Method in "Christ and Culture"
Accepting James Gustafson's recent argument that right reading and valid criticism of H. R. Niebuhr's Christ and Culture must begin with an informed understanding of Niebuhr's utilization of the ideal-typical method, the author reviews characteristics of Weberian typologies and discusses the levels of criticism to which typologies are legitimately subject. Right appreciation of the text's genre exposes many criticisms of Christ and Culture to be misguided, but it also throws into relief those features of the text that cannot be accounted for by that method, revealing the complexity of a text that advances both a comparative descriptive analysis and a bold theological argument. Recognition of this tension prompts the question whether the one so compromises or constrains the other that the enterprise does, indeed, fail as a whole, even though it remains intensely interesting in all its parts.