Monday, December 17, 2007

Your Weekly Dose of Gospel's the folly of what we preach (not contextualize) that saves

There has been a well spirited and vigorous discussion on this blog and others about the postmodern notion of contextualization of the gospel. Without being redundant (for you can read the other articles and the metas on this subject here at COT if you choose) I am concerned about this latest trend in evangelicalism to make our methods in how we do evangelism and the messenger in who does it seemingly more important than simply the message it self.

As the Apostle Paul says in a very powerful clarification of the cross and the prohibiter inherent to the message of the cross:

"Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." -1 Corinthians 1:20-25 (emphasis mine)
There is an offense to the cross beloved: "a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles." But to the elect of God (those who are called of both Jew and Greek) "Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God." And no amount of cultural identification, relevantism, or analysis will add to, increase, make or produce one more convert to Christianity. It is the gospel we proclaim - "we preach Christ crucified..." that saves. And notice, this pleased God to design effective evangelism by the preaching of the cross to save. It is this "folly" - proclaiming Jesus Christ the Lord to those who are perishing that honors God. Not calling in the latest marketing gurus; Barna pollsters; contextualized techniques; seeker sensible and relevant services.

The words of Paul in Philippians 1:21
serve as convicting commentary
on this situation at hand when he says:
"all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ."

The gospel IS relevant in and of itself beloved; and it needs no dressing up, or propping up to make inroads into the depraved sinful hearts of unregenerate men or women today in any culture. It alone is the power of God unto salvation...

This is what is needed in evangelical circles today. Not to contextualize the truth, but to reclaim the purity of the gospel message and to lovingly, boldly, uncompromisingly, unapologetically, and accurately herald its life-saving message.

My friend and mentor, Dr. John MacArthur, has really captured this burden in a recent interview on this subject. I commend his timely remarks to you highly:
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 Christianity 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 stylishness 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.
(source: Jim at Old Truth)


S.J. Walker said...

Good stuff Brother.

Our Sunday School Class has been studying Ephesians. Nothing fancy, or over simplified, just verse by verse exposition. Imagine that. It's so encouraging to see good, deep questions coming from those high school kids and knowing that there are shovel fulls upon shovel fulls of answers in that Wonderful Book. Contextualize that.

Thanks Bro Steve

P.S. It's cool to be first in the list of "commenters". Usually, at places like this and Pyro, I'm number 97,235.

God Bless

Team Awesome said...

Why is this in English? YOU ARE CONTEXTUALIZING!!!!

SJ Camp said...

team awesome
English is not a contextualization. It is communication!

Wresting the language to edit the message in order to appeal to a specific audience subset in our postmodern culture would be contextualization.

I.e. - You are saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Communication.

"I know it's important to have faith in Jesus, but have you considered that Jesus has faith in you?" Contextualization. (by Rob Bell).

Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. Communication.

Jesus came to help us all redeem a planet suffering from global warming caused primarily by human agency. Contextualization.

One is truth; the other fabrication.

Contextualizing truth or the gospel message usually ends up corrupting the message even if it is ever so slight.

Hope this helps qualify a bit more.

BTW, what would you consider to be some biblical examples that lend weight to your views?

Col. 1:9-14

Team Awesome said...

Contextualization is fundamentally communication. Pretending that what you do is communication and that makes it ok, while what those people over there do is contextualization and that makes them all wrong is a ridiculous false dichotomy specifically designed to justify yourself and condemn others.

S.J. Walker said...

team awesome,

There is no "false dichotomy" in the examples Steve laid out. You expect me to believe that communication and contextualization are fundamentally the same, yet you give no examples.

How can we be corrected, as apparently we(over here) are wrong and you (over there) are right, idf we are not given specific examples of how we are wrong.

We say something is wrong or right or whatever, and give examples; you just say we're creating false dichotomies, we're hypocrits, and we countless other Phariseeical allusions, but there are, let me see....yep: NO examples to back this up.

These are pretty basic principles of "communication".

I'd like to see where, Biblically, you're coming from. Do you have some examples of what you're talking about?

Jim from said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim from said...

Dear awesome (TR):

If I'm not mistaken, I think this blog has posted rules about anonymous profiles, in case you decide to comment again. / Steve, I sent you an email.

SJ Camp said...

team awesome
I do appreciate you posting here, but as others have said I have a strict rule here about no anonymous posting.

If you would be so kind as to fill out the blogger profile and enable it for viewing so that we can who you are that would be great. You can say what you want to say here, but you must be prepared to defend your views biblically if possibly and be challenged if you do a drive-by like you have done here.

BTW: I don't allow drive-by comments either. Again, say what you want, but you must back it up with examples, prove your case, and engage biblically as to your views.

Your comment will be deleted by the end of today if you fail to comply. We will see if you are really interested in a conversation of faith or not.

Grace and peace,

Team Awesome said...

First, I want to apologize for turning this into a drive by comment. I hadn't meant to, things just got busy.

Secondly, as I explained to the always smarmy Ken Silva over at, I am not unblocking my blogger profile because I contribute to a blog of personal friends which is lighthearted and the commnets are currently unmoderated. We'd like to keep it that way, and in order to do so I have to keep the blog hidden from guys like Silva and his followers who bring with them an air of unpleasantness.

I did not mean for this post to seem anonymous, I changed the settings on my blogger account due to the aforementioned reason. Although I did identify myself as Team Awesome to Keith int he comments over at

As you've probably guessed I am Tim Reed, I contribute over at, and if you want to continue the conversation you can make an exception to your policy. If not, then I suppose "We will see if you are really interested in a conversation of faith or not."

S.J. Walker said...


I'm sorry for your feeling of ill will toward Mr. Silva. I'll be praying you have victory over it.

Keith Schooley said...

For what it's worth, the word "contextualization" doesn't have any particular postmodern emphasis. It's what we're doing when we apply the word "idolatry" to something in which an actual idol--a physical representation of a false god--is not in view, or when we take passages like "greet one another with a holy kiss" in a non-literal fashion, or extend the specific debatable matters in Romans 14 to debatable matters in general.

You may call this "application" rather than "contextualization," but it's application in a different context, which is the point.

SJ Camp said...

Thanks Keith.

I do think that some of the conversation surrounding this issue can be and is semantics. But I do think that at the heart of today's meaning and usage of this word, it does have the potential to alter the message to the culture that is not in keeping with biblical truth.

Merry Christmas to you brother.