Contextualization: Some More Thoughts

Okay, okay…I am getting back to this polarizing discussion on contextualization. It took a little longer than I hoped. I decided to wait until my class with Dr. Scott Moreau came, so I could get a little grounding into my musings.

When we contextualize our faith, we want to make sure we do not end up with something altogether different in the end. The key to this effort begins with scripture. All contextualization must stand firmly rooted in scripture.

So let me dive into a phrase that often says more than people intend in contextualization. Far too often I hear people say, we need to contextualize the gospel.

Some use this saying innocuously, while others clearly come with an agenda behind that saying. They say things like, we need to ask what is good news to these people. In beginning this way, they inadvertently say the good news can be changed to capture the imaginations of an audience.

If you cannot tell yet, I get uneasy with the term contextualize the gospel. Are they saying that the gospel can be bent, pulled, squeezed, or even twisted to fit into another shape? Does the gospel morph or have an opportunity to be reinterpreted? I dare say, no. The gospel that Jesus preached, the teachings that Paul passed on to Timothy that he implored Timothy to pass on to good men who could in turn pass it along, II Timothy 2:2 remained static yet found dynamic expression within each local context. The unchanging gospel of the unshakeable King Jesus gets lived out in our faith and worship in varying forms and customs. This is what we contextualize. I loved how Dr. Moreau framed contextualization. He put it as contextualizing our entire faith.

In his upcoming book on the contextualization as seen in the evangelical landscape, Dr. Moreau brilliantly describes the gospel as an anchor for contextualization. When we attend to contextualization, we must be anchored in the gospel. When we keep our anchor in scripture, we can begin on firm footing.

What do you think of when people say they are contextualizing the gospel?

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