Tuesday, June 28, 2005

On Contextualization...

In Malaysia, we spoke a great deal about contextualization... and it's many levels and applications and so on.

What do I mean with contextualization? It is a way of (to use NT Wright's language) appropriating the Gospel into different contexts. Not being so concerned with specific words, but more with concepts. Learning from and listening to a culture to see where God is already at work and then showing how Jesus, this Jewish prophet and Universal savior, fulfills their tradition... and confronts it... setting things in their proper place.

Let me give an example for some context about contextualization. In the old world, missionaries would come in to foreign lands and convert the natives and give them Western religion. They would make them leave all their heritage and culture to embrace Western culture along with Christianity (and diseases and economic practices and all the other stuff that often came with Christianity and colonialism).

This is not contextualization. This is a complete lack of it.

Contextualization might look more like the book Peace Child, where missionaries go into a culture to listen to their stories, learn their language, begin to understand the fabric that is their culture, look for metaphors, then appropriate the story of God to them in their own language... and by language, I don't just mean spoken/written language, I mean in their own cultural language.

So, for a Muslim to follow Issa al-Mesih (Jesus), it might look a lot like worshipping God in their mosque, continuing to pray to God 5 times a day... and perhaps rediscovering God and allowing God to redeem the redeemable of their culture.

We have talked a great deal this past weekend about contextualization. It is a big deal in a non-Western country with several folk tribes still in tact. What is the story of God in an Eastern context?

More on this later...


Chris said...

nice thoughts, that rings so true to my Spirit. I know one thing, I do not need to see America in Asia...I want to see the beauty of the Asian culture and how God can redeem that culture. We are praying for you and Holly!

Eric Wakeling said...

Ryan - I check your blog every now and then and I resonate with this post. It made me so sad when I was at UCSB and the anthropology professor who studied the Yanomamo people of South America relentlessly bashed Christian missionaries because of the "old world" method you described. I was a "Christian" in the seats and I agreed with the professor, but I also felt like people saw me as one of those missionaries. I hate getting lumped in with that (that relates to your George Bush post too). It's exciting to see how different cultures after hearing about the message of Christ and the gospel (salvation and kingdom living) decide to "do church or the life of a Christ-follower." We can learn from the raw, organic nature of their ecclesiology. It will be interesting to see what Ryan Bolger at Fuller does with this - they are experimenting with taking Christ to American subcultures and seeing how they would "do church" without any direction.
Peace be with you. Feel free to enjoy my blog as I enjoy yours.