In my opinion, Niebuhr’s models are a very helpful foundation to build upon. His models are in no way complete and he has not exhausted the topic. But for those new to the discussion, they provide a starting point, like a child learning to swim in the shallow end. One shortcoming of Niebuhr’s model is the simplicity he portrays this debate to possess. He did mention the difficulty in classifying somebody as strictly one stereotype, but I did not feel as if flexibility on the reader’s part would be welcome. I see the categories as being very fluid, easily merging into the others. The distinctions between the groups are blurry at best. If we think that Niebuhr holds the final answer, we are gravely mistaken. Niebuhr was not unaffected by the cultural influences in his day either. He was writing this book for his contemporaries.
I must reiterate though that I think Niebuhr’s models provide a fantastic beginning point. At the same time, I agree with many of the helpful critiques offered by scholars such as Stanley Hauerwas, especially in regards to the Christological and ecclesial concerns. Both of these topics were extremely lacking. I feel as if these needed to be addressed in a deeper manner (I also recognize that Niebuhr cannot write everything and answer every concern in a single book). Overall, a very influential book and until there is a seminal work to replace it, it will continue to hold implications for all discussions about Christ, the church, and culture.