The following are ex-scripts from a conversation on Facebook regarding the contextualization of the Gospel. As a disclaimer I will say that while I agree that the gospel or good news of Jesus is eternal and requires no context but the one it brings of it’s own accord, I believe we have a responsibility as ambassadors of Christ to make an effort to provide as clear of a communication of that message in whatever cultural context we find ourselves in as possible.
“Do our folks really need all that much re-education in order to communicate with the lost?”
In many cases, I would say yes.
We have created a very noticeable Christian sub-culture. My atheist coworkers affectionately call it “Jesus-junk” (here’s an example) We have segregated ourselves in many respects. We’ve created a “Christian” version of almost everything.
We need to take a sober stock of what we’ve surrounded ourselves with. What is acceptable/beneficial to take part in. For example, social media. We missed the boat the first time around, but thankfully we were given a second chance when MySpace lost it’s foothold and Facebook took it’s place.
We also need to take into consideration what we need to stop taking part in. Like right-wing politics to the point we end up wrapping the Cross of Christ up in the flags of our fathers.
Finally, as Christians who are under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We should actually be in a better position to gauge and plot a course through the turbulent waters of our culture. Especially in a time when most people are simply carried away by any new fad, technology, etc.
Christians ought to serve as anchors even when the culture at large has no sense of moorings. And we should lead not just morally or ethically, but economically and technologically as well.
So yes, we need to be students of the culture we find ourselves in. Just as doctors don’t start prescribing medicine without examining a patient first, we can’t expect to sent culturally illiterate people into the world and expect them to have the best possible results.
“The state of a man’s heart is not dependent upon his culture.”
No, but the state of the culture a man finds himself in does determine how and if that man’s heart may be reached by varying means.
While I agree that the gospel transcends culture, I believe we are clearly tasked with figuring out the best ways to communicate the truth of the gospel in varying contexts.
Just like we can’t ignore context when interpreting Scripture, we also can’t ignore it in relation to the lives of the people we seek to reach and expect to be efficient communicators.
“I do not share your appraisal of illiterate evangelists. Success of the gospel does not depend upon the education, class, background, training, or experience of the messenger.”
True. Baalem shows us that God can apparently use even an ass to get His message across. But do we really want to make Him? Isn’t part of being a good ambassador knowing one’s cultural context?
Yes, God can use any means he wants. However he has chosen to use us and he has charged us with seeking after the wisdom provided by the Holy Spirit.
I believe Francis Schaeffer’s predictions regarding a fundamental epistemic shift in our culture has largely come true. Sadly, our present discussion about whether (rather than how) to understand the culture shows we still largely simply haven’t gotten the message.