The Ethics of Contextualization

October 10, 2011 — 5 Comments

It may not seem like I need another series going on the blog. Yet, after some of the recent conversations I’ve heard about The Elephant Room both past and upcoming, I decided for my own clarity of thought, it might be good to explore contextualization. Specifically, I’d like to explore the ethics of contextualization. This series will not be so much a “how to” guide as much as some boundaries or guardrails for our reasoning when we embark on our various contextualization tasks.

If you are involved in ministry, you will contextualize. No, scratch that. If you are a Christian and you talk to non-Christians ever, you will contextualize. No, scratch that. If you talk to anyone ever about anything, you engage in contextualization. As soon as you start explaining anything, you’ve begun contextualizing some item of knowledge in order to make in more understandable to whoever you’re talking to.

As Christians, our general task is to contextualize the gospel in order to present it to our surrounding culture. On the one side, you can under-contextualize and lack not connecting the gospel to any point in the life of your hearers. The extreme of this would be to simply read the text of Scripture to your congregation in the original Greek or Hebrew, offer a prayer, and then end the service, hoping the Holy Spirit applies the Word to their hearts.

Fortunately, I’m not aware of anyone that fails to contextualize this poorly. We contextualize Scripture to our American culture by reading it in English. We try to explain the text using illustrations from daily life that people are familiar with. We seek out application points that relate to the way people in our culture actually live. All of this is contextualization, and all of it is necessary.

What I’m going to concern myself with in this series has more to do with over-contextualization rather than under, since I think with both seeker-sensitive churches, and even the hipper young, restless Reformed churches this is more of a problem. We’ll start by exploring contextualization a bit further before examining the nature of ethical choices and then working through a few case studies.

So far, it should look something like this:

That’s where we headed, let me know what you think and maybe even give me some ideas for topics to examine!


Posts Twitter Facebook

I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Celebrating Hell In the Name of Contextualization « Words With Nate - October 13, 2011

    […] post is part of the Ethics of Contextualization […]

  2. How Seminary Helps Contextualization | Think Theologically - October 20, 2011

    […] post is part of the Ethics of Contextualization […]

  3. Book Review: Community | Think Theologically - October 24, 2011

    […] groups. I felt that the chapter on ownership (p. 65-81) is something that is greatly needed. Also, in light of some discussion on here, I thought the discussion of contextualization was on target and helpful (p. 107-109, 130). As far […]

  4. Union With Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church | Think Theologically - December 26, 2011

    […] His solution is that “today’s church should replace its talk of ‘incarnational ministry’ with the more biblically faithful and theologically dynamic language of ministry as participation in Christ.” (Ibid.) Billings then proceeds to examine this ministry model as it appears in youth ministry, the missional church, and cross-cultural missions before doing an in depth exegetical study of Philippians 2:1-11. The result is little foundation to build an incarnational ministry upon, and I think Billings thesis above is vindicated rather easily. I am probably going to interact with this chapter in more detail at a later time, especially since it has implications for the on-going series The Ethics of Contextualization. […]

  5. Top 11 Posts of 2011 | Marturo - March 5, 2012

    […] How Seminary Helps Contextualization (part of The Ethics of Contextualization […]

Want To Add Your Thoughts?