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    Contextualization:  A Good Thing

    Contextualization:  A Good Thing

    JD Greer posted some great thoughts from Tullian Tchividjian on the subject on contextualization.  "For (some) Christians, contextualization means the same thing as compromise. They believe it means giving people what they want and telling people what they want to hear. What they misunderstand, however, is that contextualization means giving people God’s answers (which they may not want) to the questions they’re really asking and in ways they can understand."

    Tchividjian (that guy REALLY has to change his name so I can type it) continues:

    This misunderstanding of contextualization has led these people to argue that cultural reflection and contextualization are at best distractions, at worst sinful. They admonish us to abandon these things and focus simply on the Bible. While this sounds virtuous, it ends up being foolish for two reasons. First, as we’ve already seen, the Bible itself exhorts us to understand our times so that we can reach our changing world with God’s eternal truth. To not contextualize, therefore, is a sin. And second, we all live inescapably within a particular cultural framework that shapes the way we think about everything. So if we don’t work hard to understand our context, we’ll not only fail in our task to effectively communicate the gospel but we’ll also find it impossible to avoid being negatively shaped by a world we don’t understand.

    In a recent interview, pastor Tim Keller put it this way: “to over-contextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol out of their culture, but to under-contextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol out of the culture you come from. So there’s no avoiding it.”

    What do you think?  And how does one contextualize, but not over-contextualize?  How do you balance?

    I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    Todd

    Comments

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    1. CS on Thu, March 11, 2010

      I agree that the Bible has to be explained in light of what it meant at that time, and how that translates to things today.  That makes sense.  We have to understand what was happening to the people in the Old and New Testament within their context, derive the principles, and then can ascertain the application.  But this article seems to have it backwards, in trying to understand our contexts and then reverse engineering things.

      “First, as we’ve already seen, the Bible itself exhorts us to understand our times so that we can reach our changing world with God’s eternal truth. To not contextualize, therefore, is a sin.”

      What verses would denote that?  And is this legalism in action?

      “And second, we all live inescapably within a particular cultural framework that shapes the way we think about everything. So if we don’t work hard to understand our context, we’ll not only fail in our task to effectively communicate the gospel but we’ll also find it impossible to avoid being negatively shaped by a world we don’t understand.”

      I find the opposite to be true.  If we don’t understand the context of the Bible, then we won’t be able to communicate the Gospel.  It’s not today’s time that’s so important as what the Word of God says.


      CS

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