In the midst of this conversation surrounding the emerging/ent church, there has been a funny reaction by a few bloggers and church leaders. The reaction has been to the contextualization of the good news of Jesus to postmodern culture. A recent example of this can be found on the Pyromaniacs blog in a piece by Phil Johnson about Acts 17. This has been pointed out here. I have a few questions for those that feel that contextualization is wrong.
- What language did Paul use in Athens?
- When Paul was speaking to the Athenians, did he use Jewish concepts of the Messiah? Did he use the religious concepts of his target community?
- When Paul message in Athens (Acts 17) is compared with other messages in Acts, do you not notice any differences in gospel presentation?
- When you share the message of Jesus to your children do you communicate to a child's level or do you uncompromisingly confront your children with the full truth of the gospel?
- When Jesus communicated with people, did he not use the metaphors of everyday life to convey truths about the kingdom of God?
- When Jesus' disciples began to communicate the good news of Jesus in the Hellenistic context did they use terms from their own religious traditions or terms in the host culture?
To say that communicating within context is compromising illustrates an ignorance of the vast variety of cultures and thought patterns in the world. It does not mean that truth is being compromised, only communicated. Contextualization can be done badly…that is certain. Contextualization that fails to communicate the good news of Jesus is bad contextualization. It is equally bad to contextualize to culture that is different from that of the target community. Every message we proclaim is deeply contextual. The question is simply: For which context are we proclaiming the gospel? Our own?