Contextualization in foreign missions

Posted on 17 May, 2011

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At the June annual meeting of the Presbyterian Church in America, an interesting overture (Overture 9: "A Call to Faithful Witness") will be discussed. It has to do with the PCA denomination approving a clear position on the role contextualization plays in world missions and to what degree gospel-centered contextualization becomes not gospel at all (i.e. syncretism).

This has to do with the C1-6 contextualization spectrum, in particular, the line between C-3 (less contextualized) and C-4 (more contextualized). I find myself to be comfortable at C1 and C2, pretty comfortable at C3, and C4 pushes me too hard, which is right where, it would seem, the debate takes place in PCA circles. You might check out “C1 – C6 Spectrum developed by John Travis” to get an idea of the spectrum for yourself (and also check out the chart at the top of the Jim Leffel article below).

You can get a feel for what’s at stake reading Basil Grafas, who is critical of the enterprise:

“The hope, of course, is that Messianic Muslims will redefine and reshape Islam according to the Bible. The concern for removing “cultural” barriers has also led over the last 10 years to the creation of Insider Bible translations. These are characterized by a commitment to using vocabulary and phrasing familiar to, and acceptable to, Muslims. Some of these advocate, for example, the replacement of offensive phrases such as “Son of God” by more acceptable and less “confusing” (if incomplete) alternatives such as “Isa al Masih” (Jesus the Messiah).”

Below are some articles to get you started on the issue.

These are a few of applications by proponents of the principles.

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Posted in: theology