Sunday, September 7, 2008

Contextualizing the Gospel

One of our readings from missiology class was about contextualizing the gospel. Basically, how do we reach across cultural barriers and communicate the gospel effectively. Do we, like postmoderns, conform the message to the ideas and concerns of the culture? Do we see the meaning of scripture to be flexible and changing with time? If not, then how do we reach other cultures?

Once, I was speaking with a Japanese friend about Christianity, and the topic of values came up. My friend explained that the Japanese cherish things that are temporary, that don't last. For example, the cherry blossom only blooms once a year and for about a week. This tree's blossoms are considered most beautiful, especially since their beauty escapes you. It does not remain forever. The Japanese take their families and friends flowering viewing during this time to enjoy the experience while it lasts. But this is not limited to flowers, they cherish loved ones, and relationships and life because it is fleeting. So, life is meaningful because it is impermanent. If that is so, Christianity does not make things important, rather it makes them unimportant.
I propose that this is very different from Christianity, obviously. In response, I told her that Christians don't cherish things because they are permanent or impermanent, but because their value comes from God. This being true, we can appreciate things that are impermanent and those that aren't. At the time I wanted to say that we can appreciate impermanent things too and agree with her that they are valuable, but I realized that agreeing with her didn't make sense. So, I explained why we can appreciate things and value them for different reasons.

We didn't discuss the gospel at that time, but what we talked about did have to do with a Christian view of values versus a Shinto/Buddhist view. What is important, agreeing or disagreeing with unbelievers? Should we show the contrast in ours beliefs or the similarities? But really, are not we obligated to explain why we believe something, whether we are in agreement or not? My point is to ask, how do we teach others about the faith, whether they are Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, protestant or pagan? What do you think our priorities are in contextualizing the gospel?

by Samuel Gantt


nick said...

Contextualizing the gospel means speaking in a way that the message of christ goes to the hearer and passes through the hearers filter and is the same way on the other side. How might you do that with you Jap buddies?

nick said...

someone once said communication is the law of negotiated meaning.