I’m still developing my theory on this but in the meantime I’d like to plant a seed in your mind. Let’s explore it as an exercise in the five common attitudes between the church and the world, as described by Niebuhr. In the story where Jesus pardons the adulteress, let’s imagine the Pharisees had instead brought the woman before you, a judge in a hypothetical Christian nation where the law clearly prescribes death by stoning. What would you do, and why?
3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
Although you will probably have a strong opinion about which formulation of “Christ X Culture” is correct, I’d recommend doing the exercise from all five points of view. This as a fun intellectual exercise, if only to force contradictions within the formulations you disagree with, and you will have mastered the essential differences by the end. This is a very good discernment test as well.