This article is an attempt to identify some of the aspects of Contextualization from a panoramic perspective. I chose seven articles that may be considered important for any course on the Contextualization of Theology for missionary training. These articles were culled from an informal reader on aspects of contextualization compiled by Prof. Sudhir Isaiah (A Contextualization Reader, 385 pages).
I present a brief summary of the selected articles and then review their relevance.
1. Contextualization: Asian Theology by Dr. Bong Rin Ro (Executive Secretary of Asian Theological Association)
In this article, the author traces an historical background of contextualization and its relationship to indigenization. He divides various Asian theologies into four models:
- Situational theology, and
- Biblically-oriented theology.
The leaders of the Theological Education Fund (TEF) created the term “Contextualization,” to be applied in the areas of mission, theological approach, and educational method and structure.
Indigenization tends to be used in the sense of responding to the gospel in terms of traditional culture.
In an excellent summary, and in order to understand contextualization in missions theology, Ro makes helpful distinctive differences between East and West today:
- Preoccupational Barriers: East-economic survival, bribery, cheating, sufferings, life is to be lives and not measured by the clock. West-affluence, sex, drugs, alcoholism, crimes, complacency, time consciousness, bustling busy life.
- Political Systems: East-communism, socialism, “guided” democracy, benign dictatorship; West-democracy, capitalism, extreme individualism.
- Philosophy: East-pragmatic, practical, symbolic, sign-oriented; the ethical way of life; West-Western thought is logical, abstract, conceptualized, and neglects the truth; Aristotelian logic; Platonic idealism for ultimate things; Westerners today turn to Eastern thought.
- Traditional Heligious Heritage: East-most religions originated in the East; West-traditional Western theology (Judeo-Christian).
- Philosophy of History: East-no concept of history, cyclical view of time (rise-process-fall); West-pessimistic views; optimistic views (Karl Marx); pessimistic-optimistic: Christian (creation-process consummation).
- Theological Beliefs: East-emanation (Hinduism), impersonal god (Vedantism); man is part of god and God is part of man, therefore, man has no separate identity; Hinduism has no concept of original sin; sin is ignorance of the oneness with Brahman; human nature is good in Gautama; no concept of forgiveness of sin; relative truth (Hindu-Buddhism); all religions are true and false; reincarnation; Nirvana; no heaven and hell (except in Mahayana Buddhism); West-personal God in creation; man is made in the image of God; sin is a direct transgression against God’s commandments; original sin; absolute (Christian) truth; immortality; heaven and hell.
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