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A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society

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Christians feel increasingly useless, argues Rodney Clapp, not because we have nothing to offer a post-Christian society, but because we are trying to serve as "sponsoring chaplains" to a civilization that no longer sees Christianity as necessary to its existence. In our individualistic, technologically oriented, consumer-based culture, Christianity has become largely irre Christians feel increasingly useless, argues Rodney Clapp, not because we have nothing to offer a post-Christian society, but because we are trying to serve as "sponsoring chaplains" to a civilization that no longer sees Christianity as necessary to its existence. In our individualistic, technologically oriented, consumer-based culture, Christianity has become largely irrelevant. The solution is not to sentimentally capitulate to the way things are. Nor is it to retrench in an effort to regain power and influence as the sponsor of Western civilization. What is needed is for Christians to reclaim our heritage as a peculiar people, as unapologetic followers of the Way. Within the larger pluralistic world, we need to become a sanctified, subversive culture that develops Christian community as a truly alternative way of life. Christians must learn to live the story and not just to restate it. Writing inclusively with considerable verve, Clapp offers a keen analysis of the church and its ministry as we face a new millennium.


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Christians feel increasingly useless, argues Rodney Clapp, not because we have nothing to offer a post-Christian society, but because we are trying to serve as "sponsoring chaplains" to a civilization that no longer sees Christianity as necessary to its existence. In our individualistic, technologically oriented, consumer-based culture, Christianity has become largely irre Christians feel increasingly useless, argues Rodney Clapp, not because we have nothing to offer a post-Christian society, but because we are trying to serve as "sponsoring chaplains" to a civilization that no longer sees Christianity as necessary to its existence. In our individualistic, technologically oriented, consumer-based culture, Christianity has become largely irrelevant. The solution is not to sentimentally capitulate to the way things are. Nor is it to retrench in an effort to regain power and influence as the sponsor of Western civilization. What is needed is for Christians to reclaim our heritage as a peculiar people, as unapologetic followers of the Way. Within the larger pluralistic world, we need to become a sanctified, subversive culture that develops Christian community as a truly alternative way of life. Christians must learn to live the story and not just to restate it. Writing inclusively with considerable verve, Clapp offers a keen analysis of the church and its ministry as we face a new millennium.

30 review for A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society

  1. 4 out of 5

    Longfellow

    While Clapp is not an academy-sponsored theologian, his effort here is in large part a theological one. Simply put, he desires to remind or inform us (the Church) of where we’ve come from, make us aware of where and what we are now, and propose an idea about who and what we should be becoming. Clapp’s two important contextual points: to inform us of the historical reality of Constantinian Christianity (since Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the empire, Christians have b While Clapp is not an academy-sponsored theologian, his effort here is in large part a theological one. Simply put, he desires to remind or inform us (the Church) of where we’ve come from, make us aware of where and what we are now, and propose an idea about who and what we should be becoming. Clapp’s two important contextual points: to inform us of the historical reality of Constantinian Christianity (since Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the empire, Christians have been aligned with the powerful—high up in the social hierarchy—and are by default aligned against the weak, the poor, the outsiders, the under-privileged) and to point out that Christians have absorbed the liberal/Reformation/post-modern assumption that the individual ultimately contains more access to truth and carries more authority than community, which by default makes faith a private rather than a public matter. These realities we have absorbed into our faith and our faith-lives, but these are contrary to the history of God’s relationship with His people—with all people—as well as contrary to the life of the early church and the first believers. We need neither to “retrench” ourselves in the ideas of Constantinian Christianity nor “capitulate” to the values our culture seems to be requesting (a message of what-you-do-is-up-to-you but come to us to feel good about yourself). Rather, the Church is called to be—and is—its own distinct culture. It need not operate under the sanction or the auspices of official government, and it need not shape its message toward that which holds the greatest appeal. With all this background consistently serving as a lens through which to understand Clapp’s thesis, he offers a chapter by chapter survey of the things which have formed (and still form) the Church as a unique and revolutionary culture: worship, liturgy, and the communal reading of scripture are a few examples. I'm tempted to suggest that every layperson in the church should read this. Why? Because Clapp provides—in brief—centuries of context of which many of us 21st century Christians are unaware. Another reason for the layperson to read this is because Clapp succinctly covers a broad scope of ecclesiastical issues without watering them down to soundbites or careless simplifications. In each chapter, he provides Christians with context for their faith, offering details of both history and thought, distilling the thinking of influential theologians into snackable but healthy portions. But the context offered is much more than a history lesson; Clapp shows the significance of understanding the terms pre-Constantinian and post-Constantinian as they relate to the church's current position in the world. Beware: the current American understanding of faith in God is evaluated critically in Clapp's analysis, and I am convinced his critical view is not only accurate but also crucial to any movement toward God’s will being done “on earth as it is in heaven.” The Irresistible Revolution: living as an ordinary radical (Shane Claiborne) is proving to be a provoking and fitting follow-up read to A Peculiar People. If Clapp’s book is a theological treatise on what the church should look like, Claiborne’s book is this treatise applied, an illustration of what this imagination of the Church actually looks like (at least one version of it) in the gritty yet fecund soil of real life.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Adam Parker

    Rodney Clapp in his book A Peculiar People brought to the forefront of my mind the reality that the church is more than a mere spiritual, ethereal, individual entity, but more a corporate, physical, and political culture of its own. He essentially made me aware of the cultural spectacles through which I had been unconsciously viewing what I thought the church was in total. The author did a good job at pulling from the historical context through which the books of the Bible were written, and extr Rodney Clapp in his book A Peculiar People brought to the forefront of my mind the reality that the church is more than a mere spiritual, ethereal, individual entity, but more a corporate, physical, and political culture of its own. He essentially made me aware of the cultural spectacles through which I had been unconsciously viewing what I thought the church was in total. The author did a good job at pulling from the historical context through which the books of the Bible were written, and extrapolating on that context to help flesh out a more anatomically correct church body. If anything, the book was very empowering and motivated me to speak with more confidence when speaking with and about the church. It gave me permission to consider fellow brothers and sisters as more than just other individuals with their own “personal and internal faith experiences” walking on a similar path as myself, but as very real, very communal people with which I share common language, habits, foods, and beliefs. It reminded me that we as a people are something tangible and identifiable; a collective vessel that through it, the world is introduced to Jesus. For those seeking a more complete understanding of the Christian church, I recommend this read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Craig Toth

    My hat is off to Rodney Clapp! This book is an important resource for helping Christians learn how much the wholesome gospel has been corrupted by unholy ways of thinking and doing that are standard operating procedures in modern Western cultures. The alternative is to embrace a life patterned after Jesus and early Christians. Then, we should hope, the world and the church will see more clearly what it means to be a "follower of Jesus." This book has the ability to help the church BE the church. My hat is off to Rodney Clapp! This book is an important resource for helping Christians learn how much the wholesome gospel has been corrupted by unholy ways of thinking and doing that are standard operating procedures in modern Western cultures. The alternative is to embrace a life patterned after Jesus and early Christians. Then, we should hope, the world and the church will see more clearly what it means to be a "follower of Jesus." This book has the ability to help the church BE the church.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    This treatment has so many good things going for it. It makes a wonderful, mature case for the centrality of the church, working through all the important questions attached to it. Clapp speaks of treating the church as a culture and, toward the end, church as a way of life. His prose is engaging and full of life. This would be a great book for a church study group. If someone wanted a basic, very accessible text on the topic of ecclesiocentrism I'd give them this. This treatment has so many good things going for it. It makes a wonderful, mature case for the centrality of the church, working through all the important questions attached to it. Clapp speaks of treating the church as a culture and, toward the end, church as a way of life. His prose is engaging and full of life. This would be a great book for a church study group. If someone wanted a basic, very accessible text on the topic of ecclesiocentrism I'd give them this.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    i'd give this 3.5 stars if i could. a lot of solid things to say regarding the christian community as culture, but 1. it starts of arrogant and snarky. 2. it was written 15 years ago and it is noticable. seems like this book is a response to the yuppie culture of the '80s. the church is dealing with different issues, now. i'd give this 3.5 stars if i could. a lot of solid things to say regarding the christian community as culture, but 1. it starts of arrogant and snarky. 2. it was written 15 years ago and it is noticable. seems like this book is a response to the yuppie culture of the '80s. the church is dealing with different issues, now.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    A thoughtful analysis of how the church has ended up where we are today, with suggestions for recovering ourselves. At this point, perhaps a bit dated in some of the references to contemporary culture, but not enough so that the message is lost.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Georgiana

    I have very mixed feelings about this book, and am deliberately not rating it until I make some sense of my reactions.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    A good exploration into the idea that the church is a unique culture unto itself and what that means for the church in America today.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Evan Sherar

  10. 5 out of 5

    Howard

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brandy

  12. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Irby

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kester

  14. 4 out of 5

    Edem Excellence

  15. 4 out of 5

    Trip

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steve Starkey

  17. 5 out of 5

    Heather Jackson

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  20. 4 out of 5

    Steve Farson

  21. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Wright

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gretchen

  25. 4 out of 5

    Greg

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sadie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  28. 5 out of 5

    JR. Forasteros

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shin

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