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From the perspectives of history and sociology, the Christian community has been related to the world in diverse and even paradoxical ways.
Given the inherent fragility of human culture and society, religion in general and the Christian community in particular frequently are conservative forces.This development took place in both the toward the existing political order was determined by the imminent expectation of the kingdom of God, whose miraculous power had begun to be visibly realized in the figure of Jesus Christ.The importance of the political order was, thus, negligible, as Jesus himself asserted when he said, “My kingship is not of this world.” Orientation toward the coming kingdom of peace placed Christians in tension with the state, which made demands upon them that were in direct conflict with their faith.Thus, its historical expressions may be as diverse as the Jeffersonian United States and Hitlerian Germany.The other three types that Niebuhr proposed are variations on the theme of mediation between rejection and uncritical endorsement of the world.The opposition develops into , which are comparatively small groups that strive for unmediated salvation and that are related indifferently or antagonistically to the world.
The exclusivity and historical discontinuity of the sect is signified by its adherence to believers’ baptism and efforts to imitate what it believes is the New Testament community.
The “Christ and culture in paradox” type views the Christian community’s relationship to the world in terms of a permanent and dynamic tension in which the kingdom of God is not of this world and yet is to be proclaimed in it.
A well-known expression of this position is ’s law–gospel dialectic, distinguishing how the Christian community is to live in the world as both sinful and righteous at the same time.
It has served the typical religious function of legitimating social systems and values and of creating structures of meaning, plausibility, and compensation for society as it faces loss and .
The Christian community has sometimes exercised this religious function in collusion with tribalistic nationalisms (e.g., the “German Christians” and Nazism) by disregarding traditional church tenets.
This “many-sidedness” may be seen in the Christian community’s relationships to the state, society, education, the arts, social welfare, and family and personal life. The political power of the Christian proclamation of the coming sovereignty of God resided in its promise of both the establishment of a kingdom of peace and the execution of judgment.