Ed Stetzer - Calling for Contextualization: Part 2, The Need to Contend and Contextualize

Stetzer's second dose of contextualization is a good read. I have made my own comments on his blog. But, I'll add them here too under the hyperlink.

Ed Stetzer - Calling for Contextualization: Part 2, The Need to Contend and Contextualize

Ed, another great article. As a reflective practitioner who named his third child after Hiebert and Roberto de Nobili, I almost expect to find a major divergence with you eventually. But, so far, so good. Just a few comments . . .

You’ve written:

“Some of the ways we worship, how we present eternal truths, and how we live in and relate to society all must be considered.”

Not “some”, brother, ALL.

“What we find in the New Testament is that to be biblical requires contextualization.”

I just want to give a hearty, Bible-believing, Jesus-centered, Sanskrit-chanting, AMEN! . . . errrr . . . tathasthu!

“Yes, contextualization is a dangerous thing.”

Ultimately, this may be a statement that I agree with. However, I am tired of it being assumed (Gilliland’s “razor” and Travis’s scale) rather than demonstrated. Why is it that the practitioner of contextualization always has the burden of demonstrating the danger of non-contextualization while everyone just assumes that an essential relationship between contextualization and syncretism exists. Can it be demonstrated that those who are intentionally pursuing contextualization in mission (following Hiebert’s “critical contextualization”) are more likely to participate in and develop/encourage syncretistic practices that those who do not seek to contextualize? And, we need to be as careful to define syncretism (if we are desirous to warn people against it) as we are to define contextualization.

“Thus, contextualization is a tool. Clear gospel proclamation is the goal. We must not confuse the two.”

But so much more than a mere tool. I am convinced that the pursuit of contextualization should be understood as a spiritual discipline that is based upon a desire to imitate the incarnation of Jesus Christ as the Spirit sends us to the ends of the earth. I’d say that the “confusion” that you are warning against is actually to be desired. For there is no full proclamation of the Gospel without an experience of the “Word made flesh” in the particular context of our mission field. Without an true imitation of the incarnation by God’s ambassadors, can we say that the good news has been fully proclaimed and fully understood? Contextualization/incarnation is truly a goal – because it must be seen as an essential component of “clear gospel proclamation”. Dare I say, an essential component of the gospel itself – the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Hmm . . . but you may not be tracking with me on this last paragraph. It is something I’m still processing.

BTW, since I’m on payroll, let me add:

“I affirm the current version of the Baptist Faith and Message.”

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