A National Study of Protestant Congregations (Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute, 1990). Among other things, this survey of mainline Protestants revealed a surprisingly high acceptance of secularism and of a 'privatized' faith. Only 32 percent of the members of mainline denominations in this country believed that their faith had anything to do with their life outside the church.
Neill, Stephen. Christian Faith and Other Faiths: The Christian Dialogue with Other Religions, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: Oxford U. Press, 1970).
Neuhaus, Richard J. The Naked Public Square. Religion and Democracy in America. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1984). Former director of the Center on Religion and Society, founder of the Religion and Society Report, and current editor of First Things, Neuhaus was one of the first church leaders to warn about the threat of totalitarianism if religion continues to be restricted from public and political discourse: "The truly naked public square is… a vacuum begging to be filled… the disestablishment of religion leads to the establishment of the state as church… [and to] the religion of relativity… The barbarians are those who in principle refuse to recognize a normative ethic or the reality of public virtue" (pp. 86-87).
Newbigin, Lesslie. Foolishness of the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986); The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989); Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991). The Rt Revd Newbigin is an ordained minister in the Church of Scotland. He has served as a missionary in India (1963-1974); as a bishop in the Church of South India; as General Secretary of the WCC; and as the minister of a United Reformed congregation in England. He is currently working as a consultant for the British and Foreign Bible Society's "Open Book" project. He has authored many books which relate the gospel to contemporary culture. In The Gospel in Pluralist Society he asserted: "In the famous story of the blind men and the elephant… the real point of the story is constantly overlooked. The story is told from the point of view of the king and his courtiers, who are not blind but can see that the blind men are unable to grasp the full reality of the elephant and are only able to get hold of part of it… It embodies the claim to know the full reality which relativizes all the claims of the religions" (pp. 9-10; cited by A. McGrath in A Passion for Truth, p. 213).
In the Spring 1997 issue of the Bible Society's new journal, TransMission, Newbigin asks what, if anything, made Europe unique. He answers: "The short answer is that for a thousand years, Europe, unlike the rest of the continent, was shaped by a story. It is the story of the Book—the Bible. It is the story of the origin and goal of the entire cosmos and of the whole human race, and of the choices available to us in this life and their consequences …It is a unique interpretation of universal history." Moreover: "It [the Biblical story] provided a unique set of answers to fundamental questions that every human being has to ask;" and also a "context for the ordering of the public life of society." Newbigin recounts the dismissal of this heritage through the religious wars of the 17th century and the Enlightenment, and concludes with an appeal to "recall" and "recover" a heritage: "without which our public life threatens to descend into the meaningless hedonism of the consumer society" (pp. 3-4).
Niebuhr, H. Richard. Christ and Culture. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1951); The Kingdom of God in America (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1937). H.R. Niebuhr (1884-1962), professor of social ethics and theology at Yale Divinity School, 1931-1962, urged Christians to involvement in the reconstruction of society. His classic text, Christ and Culture, describes five different ways in which the church has related to culture in the past: antagonism ("Christ Against Culture;" cf. Tolstoy); capitulation ("The Christ of Culture;" cf. A. Ritschl); synthesis ("Christ Above Culture;" cf. St. Thomas); dualism ("Christ and Culture in Paradox;" cf. Luther, Kierkegaard); and transformation ("Christ the Transformer of Culture;" cf. Augustine and Calvin). Niebuhr was aware that pure types are rare, and that often specific periods and movements in church history have revealed a blend of approaches.
Recently Niebuhr's approach has been criticized by R. Clapp and others for examining "Christ" in separation from "Culture," rather than as a source of a new culture, e.g.: "So for Niebuhr, 'Christ' is something to be grasped and understood in contrast to 'culture' (thus the two poles of his book's title)…[so that] within their conceptuality it is impossible to imagine or enact the church as itself a culture or a 'nation'" (A Peculiar People, pp. 64-65); cf. W. Willimon and S. Hauerwas, Where Resident Aliens Live, pp. 55-56; 72-73; John H. Yoder, ed., Authentic Transformation (Nashville, TN.: Abingdon, 1996), pp. 1-74).
In The Kingdom of God Niebuhr examined the roots of American nationalism and individualism in Reformation assumptions, e.g.: "If the church had no claim to the supreme political power, did this not mean that kings had the right to claim this power? If the church was in error in maintaining complete rulership over the economic life, did not this show that the economic man was entitled to rule himself?" (p. 29).
Niebuhr, Reinhold. The Nature and Destiny of Man, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1941/43, 1964); Moral Man and Immoral Society (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932m 1960). Reinhold Niebuhr (d. 1971) taught Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York (1928-1960). In this famous work Niebuhr defends the Judeo-Christian worldview as the truest and most meaningful interpretation of human nature and history. In Vol. I: Human Nature, Niebuhr asserts that: "Modern culture has…been a battleground of two opposing views of human nature," i.e.: "the Graeco-Roman," or "dualistic" view ("good mind"/"evil body"); and "the Biblical view," which "knows nothing of a good mind and an evil body" (pp. 5-7). Vol. II: Human Destiny includes an insightful critique of Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee, e.g.: "it is Toynbee's great merit to see [the] element of tragic destiny in history where Spengler sees only the organic growth and decay of historical organisms" (p. 303, n.2).
Niebuhr's perspective is capsulized in a "tragic view" of history: "the whole of modern secular culture… assumes that growth means progress…We have sought to prove that history does not support this conclusion…The Antichrist stands at the end of history to indicate that history cumulates, rather than solves, the essential problems of human existence" (pp. 315,318). In Moral Man and Immoral Society Niebuhr argues that: "The interests of individuals are…never exactly identical with those of communities. The possibility and necessity of individual moral discipline is therefore never absent…Nor can any community achieve unity and harmony within its life, if the sentiments of goodwill and attitudes of mutuality are not cultivated" (pp. 274-275). He concludes: "justice cannot be approximated if the hope of its perfect realization does not generate a sublime madness in the soul" (p. 277).
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spake Zarathustra, in The Portable Nietzsche, trans. & ed. Walter Kaufman (New York: Penguin Books, 1982); On the Genealogy of Morals, trans. Walter Kaufman & R.J. Hollingdale (New York: Vintage Books, 1967; 1989). The son of a Lutheran pastor, Nietzsche (1844-1900), a German philosopher, became one of the greatest influences upon the thinking of this century. It is commonly agreed that the current movement called 'postmodernism' represents the victory of Nietzsche's prophetic ideas. Influenced by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche developed an atheistic philosophy which exalted will above reason, and power above weakness. Thus Spake Zarathustra, first published in 1883/1884, became his most celebrated work.
It was his greatest attempt to express his worldview, and it included most of his chief ideas, e.g.: (1) that life is best understood as expressing a "will to power," i.e. the desire for self-mastery and self-transcendence; (2) that the will to power is best expressed by the "Ubermensch" ('overman'), i.e. the courageous, creative individual: "I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome" (p. 124); (3) that "God is dead," i.e. Christianity, with its belief in God and a future life, is an attempt to compensate for cowardice and failure in this life; (4) that "man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss" (p. 126), i.e. life is a battle against nihilism, to create a purpose and a future; (5) that: "the last man" will be the self-satisfied man who no longer seeks to transcend himself, but settles for material well-being: "One has one's little pleasure for the day and one's little pleasure for the night: but one has a regard for health" (p. 130).
Additional ideas of continuing relevance which are expressed in The Genealogy: (1) "values" are relative to every time and culture; (2) values are "created" by the "masters" in control of society; (3) Christian morality is nothing more than the "slave morality" of the weak, who seek to gain concessions from the strong by causing them guilt and shame, and requiring the "sublimation" of natural passions; (4) Christianity, with its "illusion" of other-worldliness, is based upon "resentment" of this world; (5) Greek ethics represents the noble vision of a "master morality," a this-worldliness calling for excellence in this life; (6) a "revaluation of all values" is required, and a movement "beyond good and evil," i.e. beyond resentment and the sublimation of what is natural. In addition to his influence upon such past figures as Jean Paul Sartre and Sigmund Freud, Nietzsche continues to inspire such philosophers of postmodernism as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida.
Nisbet, Robert. The Present Age: Progress and Anarchy in Modern America (New York: Harper & Row, 1988). Nisbet is former prof. of sociology at Columbia U. He is best-known for his History of the Idea of Progress. In The Present Age Nisbet decries the "subjectivism" which dominates current culture, the: "ever-widening preoccupation with the self and its inner recesses, so often at the expense of the great outside, the real world of diverse, behaving, acting, doing people" (p. 126); "The great fallacy, ultimately the evil, of subjectivism is that from it one comes to be convinced that what lies within consciousness, within one person's consciousness, has more reality, more value, perhaps even more truth, than what lies outside the person in the world of external event and change. The objective, the dispassionate, even as ideals, are derided by the subjectivist" (p. 128).
Nisbet identifies the literary "deconstruction" of Derrida and others (the movement toward complete relativism in literary interpretation), and "minimalism" in art and music (the movement toward works of "nothingness"), as the "reigning cultural symbols" today: "each resting securely on the conviction that self-exploration is the mightiest truth of them all" (pp. 133-34). Nisbet declares: "In the end, minimalism is as nihilistic, as dedicated to the destruction of the sacred, traditional, human heart of civilization, as is the deconstruction of Derrida and his predecessors" (p. 132). He indicates his agreement with Charles Newman, who concluded: "we are in the presence of a new class, one Max Weber anticipated …'Specialists without spirit, libertines without heart'" (p. 131); and declares: "We are obviously in dire need of a revolution of ideas right now in America" (p. 135). Throughout the book Nisbet warns of the threat of a "totalitarian" American state patterned after Rousseau (pp. 54-57). He observes what he calls "the new absolutism," the ever-increasing "power of the national state," including the "royalization" of the presidency and the federal government (pp. 76-83).
Noebel, David A. Understanding the Times: The Religious Worldviews of Our Day and the Search for Truth (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1991). David Noebel is the President of Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs, Co., and a member of the American Philosophical Society. Of this text J.P. Moreland, a respected philosopher and Christian apologist on the faculty of Talbot School of Theology, states: "I have never seen a book on general Christian apologetics that is so comprehensive, so thoroughly documented, and so accessible." Noebel compares three worldviews: Secular Humanism, Marxism/Leninism, and Biblical Christianity, and how their different perspectives shape the academic disciplines of: theology, philosophy, ethics, biology, psychology, sociology, law, politics, economics, and history.