Friday, December 31, 2004

Contextualization and "The Rock"

There is a sizable debate among theologians and preachers (not that a distinction between the two can be made lightly) regarding how the gospel is to be brought to the world in the context of change. Many have likely heard the charge that the bible as we have it has no meaning for me today... that it is outdated, or cannot speak to today's people with today's concerns. The question of the debate is: How do we make the gospel effective in today's context. Hence the word "contextualization".

There are those who feel that there is no need to make any special effort to make the bible 'speak' to this generation. They say that the bible is perfectly effective as it is, and it oes not need any 'help'. If we preach the gospel, the gospel will do the work, we need only to let the lion out of its cage and get out of the way.
Others feel that there is a great need to bring the gospel to every generation in a way that speaks personally to that generation. Perhaps with their own dialects, cultural and intellectual. They want to do whatever it takes to make the gospel speak to everyman at his own level.

As with every theological debate I have ever encountered, the answer is likely to meet somewhere in the middle. Any extreme, in life or doctrine, in my experience has ended up in disaster.

While this is true I would like to take a moment and indulge myself in what some might call an extreme of contextualization, while others would simply say, "right on". I would also like to invite you (whoever 'you' happens to be) to add your own ideas of what may seem like an outrageous example of contextualization, just for fun. Perhaps mine will serve as a good example of what I mean.

In Matthew 16, Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ. Then Jesus says "You are Peter, and on this rock I shall build my church"...

Wouldn't it be great if a pastor, preaching on this text, or one of Peter's sermons, at the end of his exposition, would pause and say ...

"Can you smell what the Rock is cookin'?"

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