In a lovely Christmas book for children, Madeleine L’Engle called the Incarnation “the glorious impossible”—an unthinkable idea that nevertheless shines with possibility and hope. It’s a good description of the gospel as a whole. And it is precisely the impossibility of the gospel that makes it so culturally potent and so perennially relevant. The gospel constantly challenges every human culture with the possibility that we live within misplaced horizons.
—Culture Making, p.176
In quintessentially modern fashion, Niebuhr framed his book in terms of two highly abstract words: Christ and Culture. What kind of book would he have written—what kind of cultural influence would his book have had—if he had been assigned the title Jesus and the Cultures? Christ is a Greek translation of a Hebrew word; Jesus is the name of a Hebrew man who radically redefined the meaning of that Hebrew word by applying it to his ministry of healing, confrontation, reconciliation, and suffering. Culture is a broad and abstract word, but the historical Jesus of Nazareth, and his first-century followers and biographers, lived very consciously not in “culture” but in the midst of many “cultures.”
—Culture Making, p.180
If we believe that God is still on the move in human cultures, then our most basic questions have to be, What is God doing in culture? What is his vision for the horizons of the possible and the impossible? Who are the poor who are having good news preached to them? Who are the powerful who are called to spend their power on behalf of the powerless? Where is the impossible becoming possible?
—Culture Making, p.214