On some level, everyone contextualizes their communication/message
At least among the folks likely reading this blog or attending T4G, we all agree that our efforts at contextualization should not distort the gospel message or the necessary entailments of the gospel.
What limitations are created or ought to be acknowledged when one takes a principle developed for truly cross-cultural settings and applies them in settings where everyone shares the same basic cultural milieu and world view?
In the domestic context, does the increased similarities and the likelihood of substantially shared world and life views blur the distinctiveness of church v. world?
”Contextualizing” in shared cultural space might simply be immersing ourselves more deeply in the culture we’re already in, which, I think, is another way of describing increased worldliness.
It seems to me that a lot of the popular discussion of contextualization suffers from an incomplete statement of the goal. Contextualizing isn’t the goal.
We really need a solid working definition of “culture.” Personally, I don’t think the Evangelical world is anywhere near as sophisticated as it sometimes imagines itself to be when it comes to defining and “engaging” the culture. This, too, can contribute to the church’s mission drift, to pastoral misdirection, and to creeping worldliness.
Perhaps the most hotly contested contextualization missions strategy right now is the so-called “insider movements” and even the viability of the C1-6 contextualization scale. From where I sit, these forms of contextualization (by which I mean levels 4-6 as I understand them) misunderstand Islam in five critical ways.
These views of contextualization seem to me to misunderstand the nature of cross-carrying, persecution-facing, costly conversion and the nature of the rewards promised to those who suffer for the Name of Christ. In saying this, I am not making light of the potential or actual suffering and persecution of MBBs. I’m simply saying that it seems to me that the C-scale has no place for radical costly discipleship in its conception of conversion and following Christ.
These views of contextualization seem to me to misunderstand the nature of the called-out, visible local church.
These contextualization strategies seem to me to misunderstand the nature of Islam as a system that emphasizes outward obedience and forms combined with social and cultural expectations and pressure that form a steel shackle on the mind and heart.
These contextualization strategies misunderstand the necessity of thinking about and pursuing a Christian identity with biblical entailments that sever the grip of ethnic and religious backgrounds.
It seems to me that these contextualization approaches misunderstand one of the core apologetic issues in Christian engagement with Islam–the inerrancy, inspiration, reliability and superiority of Christianity, including Christian purity and faithfulness to the Scripture.
In the end, the entire C-scale presents syncretism rather than faithful contextualization. It blends Christianity and Islam in such a way that, if taken seriously, leaves neither Islam nor Christianity intact. Such adherents will never be accepted among Muslims and radically misrepresent Christian faith and practice. We need strategies that foster faithfulness and distinctiveness in Christian life and obedience, not strategies that obscure the costly grace of following Christ.
The Absolute Centrality, Necessity, and Supremacy of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified, Buried, Resurrected, Reigning and Coming for His Eternally Elected, Saved, Sanctified, and Glorified People.
We’re simply speaking of the Gospel here. It’s absolute because there is zero cooperation with those who intentionally deny, distort, or denigrate this message.
An Unshakable, Unwavering, Unflinching, Relentless Dependence Upon the Fully Inspired, Inerrant, Authoritative, Necessary, and Sufficient word of God.
The Utter Urgency, Beauty, and Priority of Thinking, Feeling, and Living as One New Humanity or Spiritual Ethnicity in Christ.
The Foundational, Binding, Sacrificial, and Distinctive Mark of Love Requires I Give Myself to Loving Others and Allow Myself to Be Loved by Others
The Undeniable Importance, Integrity, and Consistency of Both Practice and Method with 1-4 above.
Surely godly Christians can differ on a variety of methodological issues and practices that are indifferent. But we cannot pretend all methods and issues are inconsequential. We must define practice and method boundaries for our cooperation lest we by our cooperation uncritically endorse things that undermine our message and our cooperation. I want to cooperate with men who rank method last in importance compared to the great truths of the faith. But I want to cooperate with men who do rank method and practice as important, even as we admit a charitable range of freedom without compromising critical convictions.