Church and Context (Part de primo)

29 Mar

1. Principles of Contextualization*

In order to communicate an eternal message, an unchanging truth, to an ever changing people, contextualization of one form or another must be on our agenda. But what should our contextualization look like?

Paul gives us a useful picture.

Cultural Accommodation

This is all about gaining opportunities to preach the Gospel. Finding places of contact in culture that allows communication to take place.

1 Cor 9:12-23 – Paul says he’s willing to become all things to all men…for the sake of the Gospel. This is a classic text which is basically saying Paul sought to associate himself with different groups at different times all with the ultimate intention of Gospel proclamation. This is an often overlooked aspect of the passage.

1 Cor 10 – Paul shows us that there are limits to this accommodation. Areas which would require his Gospel to be compromised are a no go.

Acts 16:3 – Paul, in getting Timothy circumcised, shows that the motive behind behaviour is very important. (This is in stark contrast to his unwillingness for Titus to be circumcised).

Cultural Confrontation

Don’t make the mistake that it’s 1-way traffic between Gospel and Culture. Where Gospel and culture clash, Gospel must win. A clash is inevitable as all cultures are fallen.

Acts 17:16-31 – Often seen as another model for accommodation, but that is to overlook Paul’s undermining of all the false & inadequate aspects of their religion/culture. Paul concludes by calling for repentance.

1 Cor 2:1-5 – Paul shows that even in his ‘all things to all men’ mentality he is willing to challenge the conventional rhetoric of the time to see real commitment to Christ.

1 Cor 11:2-16 – Paul picks up on areas within the church. He addresses several cultures in one fell swoop. Jewish culture, Greek culture and Roman culture, none is spared.

Cultural Transformation

When Jesus Christ becomes king in a culture things must change. This is not to say that every area is transformed, but same change is inevitable.

Acts 19:18-20 – Paul, having preached the Gospel, sees a massive turning away from the magic and idols of the culture.

1 Cor 1:16 – Paul writes how certain practices are common and evident in all of God’s churches. This implies any new churches will transform their culture to conform.

*I recently had the pleasure of attending a lecture on Urban Contextualisation by non other than the now Director Designate of FIEC, John Stevens. The contents of this challenging and thought-provoking lecture will form the content of 3 posts over the coming days.
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4 Responses to “Church and Context (Part de primo)”

  1. Chris Oldfield 29/03/2010 at 9:19 am #

    you might enjoy this excerpt from Benno van den Toren

    “It is crucial, however, that evangelicals continue to ask what proper contextualisation should look like. Although the Gospel in its entirety needs to be contextualised, it should not be adapted to culture in a manner that makes it lose its counter-cultural edge. It is precisely as a foreign and critical message, which speaks of a salvation that comes from elsewhere, that the Gospel can be a truly liberating force. that is why proper contextualisation is only possible when we go beyond a mere effort to synthesise Gospel and context, but instead evaluate the culture in the light of the Gospel message. Thus the context as a source of theological reflection should always be evaluated in the light of Scripture as the primary norm.”

  2. Sinead 29/03/2010 at 5:48 pm #

    I just started the reading for my essay on contextualisation….watch out or you might get quoted! 😛

    • sammydaviesjr 30/03/2010 at 9:27 am #

      Always check the rules on whether a website is quotable or not…I think articles posted are, not sure about blog posts.

      Still, it’s a good stimulus for thought!

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