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Contextual Theology Terri Martinson Elton. Acts 2:1-13 1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like.

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Presentation on theme: "Contextual Theology Terri Martinson Elton. Acts 2:1-13 1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like."— Presentation transcript:

1 Contextual Theology Terri Martinson Elton

2 Acts 2: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” New International Version, ©2010

3 “contextualization is at the heart of urban youth ministry. It is the locus, the place where the work takes place.” Arzola, Prophetic Youth Ministry, 60 “Contextualization gives theology hands.” Ibid., 61

4 What is contextual theology? “There is no such thing as ‘theology’; there is only contextual theology: eminist theology, black theology, liberation theology. The contextualization of theology – the attempt to understand Christian faith in terms of a particular context – is really a theological imperative.” Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology, 3

5 What is contextual theology? It is both a new, discontinuous and continuous approach to theology in comparison with traditional or classical theology. ibid

6 New or discontinuous Classic theology understood there to be two loci theologici (theological sources): scripture and tradition (the content of which does not change). Classic theology is therefore above culture or being historically conditioned. Contextual theology acknowledges those two loci theologici, but adds another: present human experience – or context. Bevans, Models, 3-4 It is subjective in the fact that “the human person or human society, culturally and historically bound as it is, is the source of reality, not a supposed value- and culture-free objectivity.” Bevans, Models, 4 “contextual theology understands the nature of theology in a new way. Classic theology conceived theology as a kind of objective science of faith.” Bevans, Models, 3

7 New or discontinuous As Charles Kraft says, “God, the author of reality, exists outside any culture. Human beings, on the other hand, are always bound by cultural, subcultural, and psychological conditioning to perceive and interpret what they see of reality in ways appropriate to these conditionings.” as quoted in Bevans, Models, 4

8 Contextual Theology Experience of Past Recorded in Scripture Preserved, defended in tradition Experience of Present Personal/communal Culture Social location Social change

9 Continuous “contextualization is also something that is very traditional.” Bevans, Models, 7 “ every authentic theology has been very much rooted in a particular context.” Bevans, Models, 7

10 Why must theology be contextual today? External Classical approaches are not longer sufficient. Many of the older theologies are seen as oppressive in nature. Growing identity of local church – demanding contextualizing. Understanding of culture in contemporary social sciences is changing. Internal Incarnational factor of Christianity. Sacramental nature of reality Nature of divine revelation. Catholicity of the church Heart of Christianity in the Trinity Bevans, Models, 12-15

11 Who does it? All people from within the context, including but not limited to a trained theologian - “If theology is truly to take culture and cultural change seriously, it must be understood as being done must fully by the subjects and agents of culture and cultural change.” In dialogue – “Theology must … be an activity in dialogue, emerging out of a mutual respect between ‘faith-ful’ but not technically trained people and ‘faith-ful’ and listening professionals.” Bevans, Models, 18

12 What makes contextual theology orthodox? Robert Schreiter, in Constructing Local Theologies, names 5 criteria : Inner consistency – do the claims you make fit within the claims of Christianity as a whole? Translate to worship – lex orandi, lex credenda – does the way we pray point to the way we believe, and vice versa. Orthopraxis – do your actions fit with your claims? Open to criticism from other churches – are you open to criticism from other “local” theologies? Strength to challenge other theologies – and vice versa – can your claims challenge others?

13 What are models? Bevans uses model to mean: a theoretical model. “It is a ‘case’ that is useful in simplifying a complex reality, and although such simplification does not fully capture that reality, it does yield true knowledge of it.” Bevans, Models, 31 Each model represents a different way of theologizing as it takes context seriously, each has a different starting point and makes distinctive presuppositions. Six Models: Countercultural, Translation, Anthropological, Praxis, Synthetic, Transcendental, Anthropological

14 A Map of the Models of Contextual Theology Transcendental Anthropological Praxis Synthetic TranslationCountercultural Experience of presentExperience of Past (context) Human experienceScripture CultureTradition Social Location Social Change

15 Translation Model Experience of PastExperience of the Present (context) ScriptureHuman experience Culture TraditionSocial Location Social Change - Most commonly employed, and often most thought of. - Insistent that the gospel message is unchanging…just need to translate into culture. - Any translation has to be a translation of meaning, not just words (or grammar)

16 Translation Model Bevans, Models, 44 Alternative title: Accommodation; adaptation Basis in Scripture and Tradition: Acts 14:15-17; Acts 17:2-31; John XXIII – Vatican II Revelation: Tends to be interpreted as propositional, context-oriented Scripture/Tradition: Supra-contextual; complete Context: Basically good and trustworthy Method: Kernel/husk; know the context so as to effectively insert the gospel Analogy: Bring seeds, plant in native ground Legend: “putting the gospel into” (Bruce Fleming) Critique: + = takes Christian message seriously, recognizes contextual ambiguity, can be participants and nonparticipants in a culture - = naïve notion of culture and gospel, propositional notion of revelation

17 Anthropological Model Experience of PastExperience of the Present (context) ScriptureHuman experience Tradition Culture Social Location Social Change - Opposite end from the translation model. - Culture shapes the way Christianity is articulated – and sees each context as unique -Important to understand that Christianity is about the human person and her/his fulfillment. -Anthropological for two reasons: Centers on the value and goodness of the human person Makes use of insights from anthropology - Starting point is human experience – so look to the individual person for key insights.

18 Anthropological Model Bevans, Models, 61 Alternative title: Indigenization; ethnographic model Basis in Scripture and Tradition: Matt 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-20, John 3:16; Justin Martyr Revelation: Tends to be understood as “personal presence” Scripture/Tradition: Culturally conditioned, like all human expressions, incomplete Context: Basically good and trustworthy, equal to scripture and tradition Method: Know the culture to “pull the gospel out of it” Analogy: Seeds are already in the ground; just need to be watered to sprout. Legend: “take off your shoes” (Max Warren) Critique: + = takes context seriously; provides fresh perspectives of Christianity, starts with where people are - = prey to cultural romanticism

19 Praxis Model 2) reflection - analysis of context - rereading of scripture and tradition 3) committed and intelligent action (praxis) 1) Committed action - “the praxis model of contextual theology focuses on the identity of Christians within a context particularly as that context is understood in terms of social change.” Bevans, Models, 70 - Theology formed through reflective action. - It is about discerning the meaning and contributing to social change. - Inspiration not from classic texts or classic behavior, but from present realities and future possibilities. - Theology defined in way of being, way of acting. - Key notion – God’s revelation.

20 Praxis Model Bevans, Models, 77 Alternative title: Situational theology, theology of the signs of the times, liberation model Basis in Scripture and Tradition: Prophetic tradition, James 1:22; Irenaeus, Barth Revelation: Envisioned as God at work in the world, calling men and women as partners. Scripture/Tradition: Culturally conditioned, like all human expressions; incomplete Context: Basically good and trustworthy but can be distorted; should be approached with some suspicion, can be equal to scripture and tradition. Method: Practice/reflection/practice – in unending spiral Analogy: Garden needs to be constantly weeded, the work never ends, practice makes one a better gardener. Legend: “to know Christ is to follow him” (Alfred Hennelly) Critique: + = strong epistemological basis, provides an ‘alternative vision’, influence on theology - = critiqued for close connection with Marxism

21 Transcendental Model Experience of Past scripture Tradition Authentic subject Contextual Theology (individual and communal) Experience of the Present Human experience Culture Social Location Social Change -The task of constructing a contextual theology is not about producing a particular body of any kind of texts, it is about attending to the affective and cognitive operations in the self-transcending subject. - Reality is not “out there” but knowing the subject is intimately involved in determining the reality – the quest. - Begin with one’s own religious experience and one’s experience of one’s self. - Move from personal to general and then to divine revelation.

22 Transcendental Model Bevans, Models, 109 Alternative title: Subjective model Basis in Scripture and Tradition: Mark 2:21-22 Revelation: Tends to be understood as personal presence, encountered in subjective (personal, communal ) experience Scripture/Tradition: Culturally conditioned, incomplete Context: Good and trustworthy, individual experience is clue to wider experience, individual experience is conditioned by the radical communal nature of humanity Method: Sympathy and antipathy Analogy: If I cultivate my garden, another will be inspired to cultivate his or hers Legend: “the most personal is the most general” (Carl Rogers) Critique: + = emphasizes theology as activity, recognizes contextual nature of all theology - = too abstract, false claim to universality, too ideal to be practical

23 CounterCultural Model 1. Conversion Acceptance of the experience of the past (scripture and tradition) as clue to the meaning of history (supernatural sociology) 2. Perspective Using the experience of the past as a lens 3. Interpretation, critique, unmasking, challenging Experience of the Present Experience Culture Social location Social change -Takes context seriously and recognizes some contexts are antithetical to the gospel and need to be challenged. - Draws on the rich and ample sources of scripture and tradition and can be a powerful way to communicate the gospel with new freshness and genuine engagement. - Counter culture is not anti-culture. It more of a strong critical function of context. -The gospel must be communicated with both faithfulness and relevance, but in order to be truly “Good contextualization offends.” Darrell Whiteman. both it needs to be experienced as something contradictory to the human condition, only then will humanity find healing and fulfillment. - Calls forth “the church” to be a witness in society – to be a contrast community – to live a countercultural lifestyle and embody Christian practices. Congregation as a hermeneutic of the gospel (Newbigin)

24 Countercultural Model Bevans, Models, 126 Alternative title: Encounter model, engagement model, prophetic model, contract model, confessional model Basis in Scripture and Tradition: Prophetic tradition, monastic tradition, Anabaptist tradition Revelation: Narrative and story, the ‘fact’ of Jesus Christ Scripture/Tradition: The ‘clue’ to the meaning of history, complete, even though human understanding of it is not, can be understood more completely through the understanding of other cultures. Context: Radically ambiguous and resistant to the gospel, unequal to scripture/tradition Method: Commitment to Christian story as clue to history, use story as lens to interpret, critique, and challenge context. Analogy: The soil needs weeding and fertilizing so that the seeds can be planted Legend: ‘challenging relevance” (Hogg) Critique: + = strong engagement of context and fidelity to gospel, relevant in western context - = danger of being anticultural, danger of sectarianism, tends to be monocultural, danger of exclusivism


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