The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap Between Christ and Culture

finelineKary Oberbrunner’s The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap between Christ and Culture wrestles with the line between Christianity and culture. The author explains,

The first camp separates itself from people, society, and culture in order to stay “unstained.” They turn God’s commands, plus hundreds of other rules and laws, into a heavy burden that supposedly grants personal holiness .. . These people make up the Separatist camp.

The second camp conforms itself to the ideals and philosophies of the world. … These people make up the Conformist camp.

(p. 22) Oberbrunner describes both camps as irrelevant, because —

it isn’t love that characterizes either camp, as Jesus commands, but unbalance. And the church and the world both suffer because of it.

(p. 23)  Later Oberbrunner explains that the failure of the two camps is a lack of love. The Separatists love God but fail to love people as they should. The Conformists love people but fail to love God as they should.

The solution is to be a Transformist.

Transformists are people in paradox, people living in the world but not of the world. Their lives are characterized by balance and relevance. …

Transformists actually invite tension because they know that where there’s tension there’s growth. … By inviting tension, we invite Jesus.

(p. 111) Oberbrunner ends with the story of a man who has lived a remarkable life as a Transformist. It’s a great story witha powerful lesson.

It’s a good book, and the overall theme is much needed. It’s very helpful to think in terms of transformation (of self and others) in contrast to separation and conformity. However, and maybe it’s just me, I have trouble seeing how to lead a church down this path from this book. I mean, it’s not so much the answer as a very, very good seed idea. Does that make sense?

Now, I’m the first to admit that I’ve had my fill of pre-packaged this-how-you-make-your-church-grow-just-like-I-did books. This one isn’t even about church growth. It’s about a different way of looking at things.

Therefore, this would be a great book for ministers and/or elders to study together, or for a small group to study together. You see, the book doesn’t offer all the answers. Rather, it has some pretty important questions, a seed idea or two, and leaves room for prayer and reflection. And these things are done better, I think, in a group.

So rather than handing this to a committee to start issuing baseball diamonds and wall charts, or using the book to teach a class points 1 through 13, this is a book to be prayed over, meditated on, and talked about.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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3 Responses to The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap Between Christ and Culture

  1. 1 John 4, among other things, makes the point explicitly that you cannot properly claim to love God if you don't love people.

    To many non-believers, this is the greatest failing of professed believers.

    I wish we would spend more time on this than we do on all the doctrinal debates. And, yet, here I am participating in those same debates.

    However, I am trying to spend as much time as I can with people. Because that's all there is here in this world.

  2. Bob says:


    God love you for your statement about spending more time on how to love people. First we need to make friends with them and show that Jesus does live in us. They see Him through us just as God sees Jesus when he sees us.

    The Church at Rome was formed by those faithful Jews, the remnant, that left for home after Pentecost.

    It is sad that many faithful Church goers do not have non believing friends. We seem to lose those people after about seven years after our conversion.

    I too, am confused about true doctrine. I pray for the Grace of God every morning I awake and praise him for his creation and my salvation which I did not deserve.


  3. Joe Baggett says:

    Thanks for this post. These are the posts I like and think beneficial to actually addressing the problems instead of arguing about the same things over and over again. I would suggest that there is a third camp that is emerging. Those of the cultural shapers. This camp seeks to shape the culture through personal transformation, understanding, and responsible dialogue. I think that a distinction must be made. The early apostles certainly did not remove themselves from society. If they hadn’t no converts would have ever been made. Paul made a concerted effort to understand the philosophy and religion of his day in order that he may win as many as possible. Jesus ate with the outcasts. Jesus had to come to Peter in a dream to get him off of his butt to go and see that the Gospel was even for the gentiles. One of the main issues that separates the camps is the approach to the bible. For the first camp most would believe that even taking an occasional drink at a social function is a terrible sin. For those in middle camp the sin would only be drunkenness. For those in the conformist camp drunkenness may not be a sin at all. But anyway the early Christian shaped cultural not through political might, subjugation, coercion or super holiness they shaped culture through personal transformation and a love that the world had never seen before. Being in the world but not of the world is something we struggle to deal with. It is truly a battle of ideas not actual censorship and cutting yourself off from everyone who is not a Christian. In fact the first camp even in all their well intentioned self righteous piety, have created a culture in the church that is actually counterintuitive to the gospel. God comes to man through Jesus this is the only religion in the world where God comes to man and man not to God. Jesus said he came to seek (that means look for and find) and save the lost. He also said that he came to save the world not to condemn it. It is time to learn what “seeking” the lost and leaving the 99 to go find the one is really all about. It requires us to make significant relationships and friendships with people who are not like us. Jesus and the dearly disciples did not set up shop in a building and invite everyone to come in and then write off those who didn’t show up for a Gospel meeting or sit right down for bible study.

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