Thursday, March 20, 2008

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
...contextualization and the cross of Christ

this is worth repeating

MIND YOUR FAITH:

Using the vernacular of the day isn't contextualization; it is speech, communication (cp, 1 Cor. 9:18-23). But when the message gets altered within a certain methodology to appeal or fit within a specific cultural paradigm, then that is no longer just communication, but contextualization.

Example:

Communication:
"Jesus was born of a Virgin named Mary. She was a woman who found favor with God. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.""

Contextualization:
"Jesus' mom was a poor, unwed teenage girl who was often mocked for claiming she conceived via the Holy Spirit. Most people thought she concocted the crazy story to cover the fact she was knocking boots with some guy in the backseat of a car at the prom."

One communicates truth; the other... fabrication.  
Which one do you prefer?



"A shallow and worldly leadership
would modify the cross to please the entertainment-mad saintlings
who will have their fun even within the very sanctuary;
but to do so is to court spiritual disaster
and risk the anger of the Lamb turned Lion."



Contextualization.

It is the latest buzz word adopted by emerging/emergent/missional adherents who want to be contemporary and cool, yet biblical both at the same time thinking they have found something new that will revolutionize evangelism and redefine the church of the 21st century.

This missional arrogance has its roots in what is known as Sociolinguistics. "It is the study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations, and context on the way language is used. Sociolinguistics overlaps to a considerable degree with pragmatics." (source)

What is of significant importance to note, is that the most vocal of contextualizationists elevate this application of language to the place of equating effectiveness of the gospel message in regards to its ability to effectively contextualize itself in any given culture. IOW, if you preach and proclaim the gospel message as it is given in the fullness of biblical truth, you may not garner the fruit and/or numbers of converts you desire for the kingdom if you fail at contextualizing those same truths. Therefore, the "success" of the gospel transforming lives then becomes directly linked to ones association with sociological pragmatics; rather than to God.

Young, pomo-pastoral 'Chicken Little's" are crying that the "gospel sky" is falling and that there is a crisis of evangelism going on in the world because not as many souls are being saved as we once were; that this maybe the last Christian generation; that most converts occur before the age of 18; and if we don't somehow employ new methods and techniques in our outreach programs then the growth of the church, the faith, and belief in the gospel are straight-jacketed and doomed.

I guess the Lord's promise and declaration is outdated and has lost its meaning today when He said, "I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH..."

What is also of tremendous significance, is that this mode of ministry is being embraced by reformed people across the board as being essential to the mission of the church (missional if you're post-modern). Beloved, the message of the cross is not bound by cultural peccadilloes or idiosyncrasies. And though we are to go to a lost world understanding the times and to become all things to all people without violating the command or standard of Scripture, a simple reading of Paul's epistles reveals the same gospel message absent of distinct cultural moorings and modifications from book to book. His instructive words to the church at Corinth was this: "I sought to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

This simple model for ministry must be asininity (that's foolishness for those of you in Ballard) to the architects of today's contextualized evangelism. How "old school" of Paul to think that proclaiming Jesus Christ and Him crucified would have any real or lasting impact at Corinth. To suggest that the gospel ITSELF is the power of God unto salvation is mere nonsense in light of the seeker-sensible-relevant times of our advanced society.

So what really matters for evangelism to be effective? Demographics? No, doctrine. Contextualization? No, content. Sociolinguistics or strategery? No, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus. Tactics? No, truth. Technique? No, theology. Methods? No, message. Culture? No, Christ.

Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind and with all of your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. Live out the great truths of Matthew 5-7; love the brethren, worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, go into all the world and make disciples, and preach the whole counsel of God and the genuine, authentic, biblical, gospel, of grace. And if along the way you meet a few trendy contextualized-missional-emerging/emergent-seeker sensitive-seeker sensible- "trying so hard to bend over backwards to be culturally relevant" types - pray for them, extend Christian charity to them, point them to the real Mars Hill, and humbly show them a more biblical way. And tell them plainly to repeat three times: we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord; we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord; we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord.

From the context of the Bible,
Steve
Acts 20:24

25 comments:

Terry Rayburn said...

.
.
.
The implications of Gospel Contextualization are more far-reaching than meets the eye.

The debate often centers on the comparatively trivial question of whether we should understand who our audience is, and attempt to communicate with them in words that they understand.

I've never seen anyone disagree with doing that, but that's not where the problem lies.

The problem is in adapting the Gospel itself to a cultural group in such a way that the Gospel is either watered down, or changed completely, so as not to "disturb" the "culture" of the audience, and make them more accepting of the message.

This can take such gross forms as "allowing" someone to remain a Hindu or a Muslim, while "accepting" Jesus, and continuing in their pagan practices, or attending Mosque and praying their five prayers a day.

This is suppposed to be more palatable to them, and also not alienate them from their friends and family, allowing them to "evangelize" further.

These concepts "emerged" from the mission field originally, much of it evolving out of the Lausanne Conferences (1974, 1989).

It was at Lausanne that a new emphasis on things like social justice and indigenous culture was spread. Not bad things in themselves, but not part of, nor requirements of, the Gospel.

The simple truth is that it's the Gospel itself which is the "...power of God for salvation to those who believe...", not the Gospel plus or minus anything.

To believe the Gospel leads to repentance from those parts of one's "culture" which are opposed to Christ.

There is much more to be said against this cultural contextualization of the Gospel, but for now, here are some links that may be helpful.

First is an article from Aug. 1, 2007 on this blog, by Carla Rolfe, not dealing with contextualization directly, but with the syncretism that often accompanies it (syncretism is the mixing of one religion with another).

See Michele Rayburn's comment under Carla's post, introducing the connection of syncretism with contextualization (Sample quote from Herescope: "Religious syncretism is probably the most dangerous practice that can quickly leaven a church. Deceptive as it is, it has come through evangelism.")

Aug. 1, 2007 COT Post

Here are some other links to articles by Sandy Simpson. He is a missionary to Micronesia, having grown up there in Palau.

Radical Contextualization

Indigenous People Issues

Reasons To Reject

SJ Camp said...

Thank you Terry. Excellent as always. I will look forward to reading the material contained in the links as well.

Grace and peace,
Steve

Alice said...

I was reading in my personal Bible study this week about David and the Israelites, how they were moving the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. They put it on a cart and, as the cart began to tip, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark, and the Lord struck him dead.

What became so clear to me during that study (and as ever, how relevant the Bible is now as ever) is what a message this is to the evangelical church today. The Israelites thought their purpose was to move the Ark to Jerusalem. However, their actual purpose, as is ours, was to glorify God. God had given specifications about how to treat the Ark, just as He's given us specifications on how to worship Him, glorify Him, and preach His word.

The Bible is clear on how to handle God's glory. You don't just stick the glory of God on some wagon and let animals pull it around--that's exactly what the Philistines had done. You don't reach out your mortal hand and try to "steady" God' glory.

I looke around at the church today and all the contextualizing and pandering to culture that is done--it just reminded me of the Israelites, the Philistines, and the Ark. There will be a day when we all answer for how we've handled the glory of God, I think.

Thanks for a great post, Steve.

Carla Rolfe said...

"So what really matters for evangelism to be effective? Demographics? No, doctrine. Contextualization? No, content. Sociolinguistics or strategery? No, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus. Tactics? No, truth. Technique? No, theology. Methods? No, message. Culture? No, Christ."

And amen. Thanks for continuing on with this topic Steve. Your contributions (as well as several others) have helped me clarify this in my own thoughts, and I do appreciate that.

rpavich said...

Steve,
I continually find you sharp, to the point, and clear in your accessments.

I hate to "go Calvin" on you here, and I might be wrong, but I've given this a lot of thought and this idea that we have to do SOMETHING to make the cross more palatable is linked to one idea; I believe....that man is the spark plug that brings about his own salvation.

Every error that you've been talking about starts there.


If we all believed that men are saved BY GOD ONLY, AND ONLY IF HE CHOOSES TO SAVE THEM and that they are saved by the preaching of the cross, then this discussion would never pop up...right? We would never have to ask the question; "how can we make this more effective in reaching the lost?"

Anyway...good post, thanks very much...

rpavich said...

I have to amend my comment; Alice actually struck to the heart of the whole thing...

Had I read closer I would not have commented.

Good one Alice,

bob

Terry Rayburn said...

rpavich,

Good reminder re God's sovereignty. We don't want to get too bent out of shape worrying about an "ant running up an elephant's leg with murder on his mind".

Still, He "sovereignly" saves one guy from being hit by a car, not like Samantha the TV witch, but by another guy pulling him out of the way at the last moment.

Human instrumentality in God's sovereignty is THE wonder of the world.

thank you for loving Jesus said...

Contextualization is a Leonard Sweet term. It is a New Age term. Just do a google search on New Age Contextualization. Go to Sweet's own site http://www.leonardsweet.com/sweetened/links.asp
and you will see all the players.

Now do a search for contextualization on crossroadto.com

Do the same search method for another New Age buzzword: bridging.


Allelon and Leadership Network are transforming the traditional Christian church. Actually, it is first called "transitioning". Once you have transformed then you become "illuminated"... Read New Age Alice Bailey's, Problems of Humanity, the chapter on the church.

Remember the words "Transformational Leadership", Missional, and Spiritual Formation. All of this is being taught in Christian colleges and seminaries. Elderboards are being trained in it. Your children are being taught it through youth programs such as Youth Specialties and Rob Bell's Nooma videos. This is going on in all the purpose driven and Emergent/Emerging churches.

Now go back to sleep. This has nothing to with you. Do not contend for the faith. These are only the people that you know and love.

This is called compromise. This is called being lukewarm. In Revelation chapter 3.. remember the Lord spits them out.

Read Rev. 3:19. I like that part.
"Those who I love, I reprove and discipline: therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice...."

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

I like the way John MacArthur expresses the problem of "contextualization gone wild" that I think Steve Camp is also speaking out against. From a recent magazine interview:
-------------------------------

You have no doubt heard the arguments: We need to take the message out of the bottle. We can't minister effectively if don't speak the language of contemporary counterculture. If we don't vernacularize the gospel, contextualize the church, and reimagine Christanity for each succeeding generation, how can we possibly reach young people? Above all else, we have got to stay in step with the times.

Those arguments have been stressed to the point that many evangelicals now seem to think unstylishness is just about the worst imaginable threat to the expansion of the gospel and the influence of the church. They don't really care if they are worldly. They just don't want to be thought uncool.

That way of thinking has been around at least since modernism began its aggressive assault on biblical Christianity in the Victorian era. For half a century or more, most evangelicals resisted the pragmatic thrust of the modernist argument, believing it was a fundamentally worldly philosophy. They had enough biblical understanding to realize that "friendship with the world is enmity with God. Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).

But the mainstream evangelical movement gave up the battle against worldliness half a century ago, and then completely capitulated to pragmatism just a couple of decades ago. After all, most of the best-known megachurches that rose to prominence after 1985 were built on a pragmatic philosophy of giving "unchurched" people whatever it takes to make them feel comfortable. Why would anyone criticize what "works"?

Whole churches have thus deliberately immersed themselves in "the culture"--by which they actually mean "whatever the world loves at the moment." We now have a new breed of trendy churches whose preachers can rattle off references to every popular icon, every trifling meme, every tasteless fashion, and every vapid trend that captures the fickle fancy of the postmodern secular mind.

Worldly preachers seem to go out of their way to put their carnal expertise on display--even in their sermons. In the name of connecting with "the culture" they want their people to know they have seen all the latest programs on MTV; familiarized themselves with all the key themes of "South Park"; learned the lyrics to countless tracks of gangsta rap and heavy metal music; and watched who-knows-how-many R-rated movies. They seem to know every fad top to bottom, back to front, and inside out. They've adopted both the style and the language of the world--including lavish use of language that used to be deemed inappropriate in polite society, much less in the pulpit. They want to fit right in with the world, and they seem to be making themselves quite comfortable there.

SJ Camp said...

Jim
Wow!

Exactly!

I have been so moved by some of the quotes being posted here in the combox this weekend from Tozer to MacArthur. Excellent my brother.

John really drove the theological nail into the postmodern emerging/emergent coffin.

ScriptureZealot said...

Jim from OldTruth.com said...
Quoting John MacArthur who argues against contextualization:
"You have no doubt heard the arguments: We need to take the message out of the bottle. We can't minister effectively if don't speak the language of contemporary counterculture."

This is ironic because we're supposed to be the counterculture. As in The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 : Christian Counter-Culture) by John R. W. Stott.

How can the counterculture adapt to the counterculture? Amusingly and sadly confusing.
Jeff

Douglas said...

The Gospel is universally and absolutely relevant for every human being on the planet, no exceptions, with absolutely no need of contextualizing, not barely, not any. Stories and analogies and parables so on and so forth we use from outside of Scripture to help explain the Gospel so that the hearer understands more clearly may need to be contextualized but the Gospel itself, the very Word of God, does not need to be contextualized at all, it already is contextualized by God Himself. The Gospel transcends time and space, it is for all cultures and for all people and does not need to be modified, twisted, tortured, distorted, taken out of its already in context state to tickle the hearers ears. The true Gospel contains both law and grace, bad news and good news and is not to be watered down whatsoever. The seed of the word of God can be planted and watered anywhere and everywhere in the world, anytime, night or day, in season and out of season. The Gospel is the same anywhere. One plants the seed of the Word of God, another waters it but it is God who causes the growth. The word of God does not need contextualizing, it needs to be faithfully translated and truthfully exposited. Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon, line, here a little, there a little.

Isaiah 28:9 "To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? 10For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little." 11For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the LORD will speak to this people, 12to whom he has said, "This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose"; yet they would not hear. 13And the word of the LORD will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

The Word of God needs to be very very very carefully and accurately and correctly and rightly handled. 2 Timothy 2:15

Ever since I read R.C. Sprouls' book "The Holiness of God" years ago I have hardly seen any real and consistent holiness in the professing church. I have hardly seen the fear of God in many professing Christian lives. I have hardly heard about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment coming (Acts 24:25) from many pulpits and books and other media. Many teachers around the world are leaving out all the hard sayings of Scripture to tickle the ears of their hearers. I heard a softened gospel at Church yesterday. I heard a "receive and believe and then you will be born of God" message yesterday. No repentance preached, no law proclaimed, no exceedingly sinfulness of sin against the One and Only Holy Righteous God mentioned. Nothing about how awesome God is. It grieved my soul.

Where is the fear of God to be found? Where is the trembling at God's Holy Word to be found.

"The true fear of God is a child-like fear. Some of the Puritans used to call it a "filial fear." It is a combination of holy respect and glowing love. To fear God is to have a heart that is sensitive to both His Godness and His graciousness. It means to experience great awe and a deep joy simultaneously when one begins to understand who God really is and what He has done for us. Therefore the true fear of God is not a fear that makes a person run away and flee from God. It is a fear that drives him to God. Love for God and fear of Him are, therefore, not at all incompatible. To think that they are is to fail to see the richness of the character of the God we worship. It is to ignore the way in which knowing Him in all of His attributes, and responding appropriately to Him, stretches our emotional capacities to their limit. Scripture portrays the fear of the Lord and the love of the Lord as companion emotions."
P.J. (Flip) Buys from The Fear of God as a Central Part of Reformed Spirituality

The Fear of God

For years this excellent study has been helping Christians to "perfect holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1). Pastor Martin lays out the basic substance and implications of this great biblical theme. An entire sermon is devoted to practical counsels for maintaining and increasing the fear of God in our hearts.

"There is a dire need among Christians today for an accurate understanding of and response to the biblical concept of the fear of God. Pastor Al Martin has done a masterful job of addressing this need through his cassette series, The Fear of God. It will challenge your mind and convict your conscience. Most of all, it will lead you toward a deeper relationship with God and a more thorough obedience to Him." (Jerry Bridges)

I pray these studies are a blessing to the Body of Christ.

The Fear of God: A Forgotten Doctrine

Steve and others,

excellent posts and expose of the "contexulizing" business.

Thank you all for helping me to see this problem more clearly and what to do about it.

rpavich said...

Douglas,
You are 100% correct.
And thanks for the link,

bob

Ed said...

It seems ironic to me that after reading Steve's article and the comments of those who posted a reply, I'm struck by an overall attitude of arrogance and condemnation and not grace seasoned with salt. Virtually everyone makes sweeping statements throwing all Emergent / Postmodern believers under the proverbial bus without prejudice. There also seems to be suh a reaction against contextualization that you run to the other extreme - one that, if we were all honest - doesn't even make sense. Every one of you engage in contextualization whenever you read your modern English translation of the Bible or watch a Christian movie or listen to Contemporary Christian Music. Even the great hymns of the faith are exercises in contextualization. Many classics are converted bar songs. How is this any different that using the cultural realities of our day to communicate the gospel?

There is a very important point that is being missed in this conversation: relevance, contextualization, and a commitment to preaching the gospel are not mutually exclusive. I absolutely affirm the gospel as given to us in the New Testament. And, like Jesus, I see great value in considering the context of my day and my audience when communicating it. Are not parables an exercise in contextualization? When "the fullness of time" came and God sent Jesus to the planet, was that not the greatest contextualization ever - the Word becoming flesh - God invading our context and becoming one of us?

Please understand something about these "Emergents" that you claim to know about with certainty: it is an ignorant and dangerous thing to make the bridge between contextualization and syncretism. They are not the same thing. I reject syncretism. I embrace the gospel. And I seek to understand my culture and it's language so that I might better communicate the gospel. And this does not mean it's about me and my ability to communicate (as many have suggested that all contextualizers are somehow self-seeking), it is about seeing people embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I applaud the strong defense of the true gospel and the intent of many of you to stand up for truth. I stand with you. But in your efforts to stand for truth, it seems your dialogue descends into an overgeneralized attack on brothers and sisters who are trying to share the gospel with as much fervency as you. Before continuing this crusade against the perceived evils of contextualization or relevance or whatever buzz word you wish to use to describe it, consider the very medium by which you continue your efforts: the internet (more specifically, the bogosphere). Whether you admit it or not, you are using the language of the culture to communicate your message. You are practicing contextualization as you seek to condemn it.

SJ Camp said...

Ed
Even the great hymns of the faith are exercises in contextualization. Many classics are converted bar songs.

That is just a myth--untrue.

Using the vernacular of the day isn't contextualization; it is speech, communication (cp, 1 Cor. 9:18-23). But when the message gets altered within a certain methodology to appeal or fit within a specific cultural paradigm, then that is no longer just communication, but contextualization.

Example.

Communication:
Jesus was born of a Virgin named Mary. She was a woman who found favor with God. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel"

Contextualization:
Jesus' mom was a poor, unwed teenage girl who was often mocked for claiming she conceived via the Holy Spirit. Most people thought she concocted the crazy story to cover the fact she was knocking boots with some guy in the backseat of a car at the prom.

One communicates truth, the other a fabrication (the fabrication is written by Mark Driscoll and is being used as a promo for his book "Vintage Jesus").

Hope this helps make the point a bit more clear.
Steve
2 Cor. 3:5

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

That is such a good example of contextualization changing the message. That is EXACTLY the kind of thing that we need to stand against. It might sound cool to a certain audience, but it is NOT cool to alter the message of God's Word. Unfortunately this goes on all of the time now days. Just a small example: a while ago many of the trendy churches were doing a sermon series on Jesus Being the "bread of life" (as scripture calls Him). But they packaged the sermons with the Wonder Bread logo, almost turning Jesus into a super hero type representation. There is no reverence and awe in that, and it is a subtle modification of the biblical message.

Ed:

The "bar songs" rumor got started due to the fact that many hymns used a musical structure called "bar form". Paul S. Jones talks about this in his book Singing and Making Music, also James Swan discusses it on aomin.org if you search there. This applies to Luther's hymns as well as Wesley's; I've never heard Isaac Watts' hymns mistaken in this manner. Anyway, it's pretty important to put the kibosh on that rumor, because it gets used even by megachurch pastors today to help justify turning worship into a pseudo rock concert.

Ed said...

Peace. Grace. Goodbye.

Brendt said...

(that's foolishness for those of you who live in Ballard)

Always good to see our Lord and Savior Rush Limbaugh paraphrased. Especially when it's at the expense of Christian brothers and sisters.

andy said...

Hi, is this contextualization

Isaiah 11:5

5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist

Ephesians 6:14

14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place...

Paul wrote the epistle during his Roman imprisonment..He uses a uniform of the time i.e Romans,to make a point more clearer to the reader...

The reader would know the Roman uniform,and also know that the belt of a Roman could be worn without the breastplate,but a breastplate couldn't be worn without the belt I.E You cannot be righteous if you don't wear the belt of truth..

Paul is using a modern example(of His time) to make a clearer point..

greuber said...

wow......I don't think Ed was that far off in his post if you go back and read it without being defensive.....the points that got argued were fairly minor

Jim from Old Truth

It does come across in a few of these posts that there may be more energy for standing against the way the Word of God is preached than there is in actually preaching it....and by that I mean preaching it without always having to mention how somebody else is doing it wrong.
cudos to Ed for not retaliating.....thats what I find "moving", not hearing quotes against something, but Gods word preached and lived

Brian said...

I think that lots of us young evangelical Reformed folk are aware of something that is lacking, and this may help the old folk understand our position a little better.

The 20 somethings of today are not communicated to by statements about propitiation, the blood of Christ, etc. They don't know what those statements mean. We are striving to talk those our age in a way that will communicate well. I have a number of close high school friends who have never attended church nor read a page of the Bible. So when people like me want to share the Gospel with them, yes, I do talk about the cross and sin and I have to define terms. But sometimes a modern day analogy helps to clarify the issue for them.

I see in the Bible lots of times people use references to contemporary events in order to explain a point. The truth is timeless, but the method by which that truth is communicated is not. Languages change.

So, in regards to SJ's definition of contextualization and communication - I think that is where the issue lies. For example, and please read carefully here, when people of the younger generation say things such as, "Contextualizing the Gospel" they do NOT intend to do as Driscoll did there. Us young Reformed folk love the Bible and doctrine just like you do. We try to use a modern day analogy that is consistent with the timeless truth. To us, that is contextualization. Therefore, in a sense, SJ's definition of contextualization is kind of a straw man, but I don't think he did it on purpose.

This is because the GOAL of any sort of contextualization attempt (assuming good motive, of course) of us young folks is simply good communication. That is speech, like SJ pointed out.

When I read the post, I realized that it's a battle over the definition of the word contextualization not really so much a battle of how we practice. So we should lighten up and listen to what one another mean.

Brian said...

That is to say, us young Reformed guys are not running around making stuff up for the sake of appealing to people.

Brian said...

One more thing:

In order to communicate well, the reading from the example given in the beginning of this blog uses a lot of language people today don't get because they have no Bible background.

Examples of words that don't make sense to this generation: Holy Spirit, angel of the Lord, "save his people from their sins" "just man" immanuel

So just reading that to someone of our age, although maybe everyone in the older generations would completely understand it, would not convey anything anywhere close to the beautiful reality it describes.

Paul Wilkinson said...

The danger with the example that you gave showing the difference between communication and contextualization is that some will become very quick to be the judge and jury when something is suspected of crossing the line.

The Street Bible [UK] and The Kiwi Bible [NZ] are examples where I feel the authors have gone out of their way to be true to the original texts using the idioms of their local culture.

But some observers -- especially in light of this current discussion -- are going to throw the Bible paraphrase out with the bathwater. In the case of the Bible editions I've mentioned, "intended audience" is everything.

As I was taught many years ago, when someone asks, "What is the best rendering of the New Testament?" you should quickly reply, "For whom?"

Mark said...

The whole discussion of contextualization has been a 'hot potato' for over thirty years in evangelical circles. Now that it has gone from experimentation on the mission field to the 'homeside' (e.g., Emerging Church / Emergent Missions), it is raising quite a few eyebrows. As a missionary who has been involved in crosscultural outreach to unreached peoples in Asia for over fifteen years, it is interesting to see how some of the same detractions against contextualization are cropping up again. What Ed said before bears repeating:

"There also seems to be such a reaction against contextualization that you run to the other extreme -one that, if we were all honest - doesn't even make sense. Every one of you engage in contextualization whenever you read your modern English translation of the Bible or watch a Christian movie or listen to Contemporary Christian Music."

We are all products of a contextualized expression of the gospel. Not just geography, but denominational proclivity and racial background all play into how we receive, accept and pass on the gospel to others. You (Steve Camp) said at the outset:

"...when the message gets altered within a certain methodology to appeal or fit within a specific cultural paradigm, then that is no longer just communication, but contextualization."

This is true, Steve. But it does not mean you throw out all contextualization just because of the potential heresies espoused by emerging churches and seeker-friendly ministries. If that were true, many of us old-timers would have never listened to your CCM albums, because they would have been labeled as 'rock music unbecoming of a true Christian believer.' I hope you see where Ed and I are trying to help you understand the difference between contextualization and syncretism. God bless!