Thursday, March 15, 2007

I'm Not Dead Yet!*

Just a quick note to let anyone who cares know that I haven't been abducted by aliens and I haven't discarded this blog. Just been busy. I'm trying to get a post on John 10 rolling, I've got an old paper on the theory of a Wednesday crucifixion that I need to put into bloggable form, and I've also been doing some thinking about contextualization.

It seems to me that "traditional" church (whatever that means) has been deemed irrelevant to our culture (I guess I'm talking USA specifically, and perhaps Western culture as a whole), and that both the "seeker sensitive" and some aspects of the "emerging" movements are intended to make church more relevant. In most cases, the attempt is to make church (and by extension, our view of Jesus) more similar to the lives of the people we're trying to reach. In essence, put Jesus into a polo shirt, or give him some funky tattoos. But is that what is really going to reach people? Maybe people don't want more of the same; maybe they want something different. Or maybe that's what God wants for them. It doesn't seem to me that most revival movements have occurred because people have been given a more palatable Jesus; rather, people have been challenged and responded in a life-changing manner.

So anyway, that's as far as I've gotten. Maybe I need to think more like a blogger (as Joe Carter recently wrote) in order to keep things going. Or maybe if I toss out my half-baked ideas, some of you will come along to fully-bake them. Any takers?

*For anyone who recognizes my Monty Python and the Holy Grail reference in the title, this is one of those famous movie sayings that never happened, like "Play it again, Sam" from Casablanca. Just thought I'd share. For no particular reason.


  1. I'm pretty delinquent on my blog at the moment, too. Maybe I'm just trying to lower expectations. :-)

    Contextualization is a tricky subject. Every effective cross-cultural missionary does it. In fact, some of the ways that the gospel gets contextualized by missionaries would probably make us very uncomfortable. Just think how severely Paul would be pilloried today for equating God with a pagan idol on Mars Hill. Remember how Billy Graham was criticized after 9/11 for equating God with Allah? How is that different than Paul?

    Regardless, every church translates the gospel for a given culture. Most translate it into their own culture whereas missionaries translate it into someone else's culture. Both the "seeker" and "emerging" movements are attempts to translate the gospel into someone else's culture.

    Granted, some use contextualization as an excuse for simply doing things that make them feel cool. It has been and always will be abused. Contextualization is not wrong, the abuse of contextualization is wrong.

    The goal of contextualization, IMHO, is to make the gospel easier to understand, not to make it easier to accept. The gospel of Jesus is never easy to accept. True contextualization is not "dumbing down" the gospel to make it seem more attractive, it's simply translating it into the language of the hearer.

  2. I wasn't trying to rant on contextualization in general. It's necessary and desirable, not only to make the gospel comprehensible, but to make it applicable. But I'm not sure what we're doing in the name of "relevance" is contextualization.

    I didn't hear about Billy Graham, but equating the Christian God with Allah is not the same thing that Paul did on the Areopagus. If he had actually equated God with a named idol, then yes, it would be the same. But an altar without an idol to an "unknown god" is fair game.

    I don't think the seeker and emerging movements are translating the gospel into another culture; I don't think these are genuinely different cultures. It's more akin to the liberal "lives of Jesus" movement in the 19th century, in which theologians looked into the well of history and saw a Jesus very much like themselves peering back at them.

    The seeker Jesus exists to make our marriages and careers and sense of self-actualization better. The emergent Jesus allows us to feel smugly superior to the sellout older generation, and be delightfully ambiguous about hell and whether one actually has to believe in him to be saved.

    These are broad and unfair generalizations. As I think you know, I think there is much of value in both movements. But I don't see "making Jesus relevant" as having a seriously positive impact on the culture (USA) in which it is being tried the most.

  3. Dear Keith,

    Are you sure you're being honest with us? You sure seem dead. Frankly, if we do not hear from you soon, like the tremmers I experience when I do not eat fried chicken for a week, I think I may start into convulsions.

    Peace. With that, I am...