Posts Tagged Contextualization

Just plant the seed

I should perhaps clarify where I stand.  I don’t care for the term contextualization, nor the word indigenization  that went before it (even though it   has only six and not seven syllables).  I do, however,  agree with the approach, in as much as I understand it.

When you want to pass the good news of Jesus Christ on to those of another culture, first strip your presentation,  as much as possible, of those trappings unique to you-  robed choirs, organs, liturgy, ecclesiastical hierarchy, white wedding gowns, Christmas traditions, the cult of the individual, whatever, and pass the news on in seed form. Once planted it can spring up in new soil, rooted in Christ but leafed out in new foliage, addressing felt needs in appropriate ways.

My personal opinion is that a good way to communicate such a divested gospel is through developing  accurate, natural, translations of the Word of God in each language.  People  died to translate the Bible into English- a gift past valuation to me, one I feel obligated to pass on. Bible Translation is often  a partnership between two cultures, with those who already fortunate enough to  have a translation helping  others still waiting. When the work is done, that outsider who has contributed skills or technologies to the process, then steps back and says, “This is the gift of God for the people of God. May his Spirit lead you also, in its application within your culture.”

Afterward, we are welcome to borrow from each other what is helpful.


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Seven syllable words give me hives.  Possibly this is because I spend many of my working hours attempting to redefine translation issues in plain English.

So when I came on the agenda for a planned conference where every speaker’s topic included the word “contextualization”  I started ransacking the cupboard for an antihistamine. But then I thought that perhaps I was just being stubbornly out-of-date so I went on line for a definition.

Turns out that this is a current buzzword specific to the field of Bible Translation, and missiology- at least that’s what Wikipedia thinks.

“The term contextualization includes all that is implied in indigenization or inculturation, but also seeks also to include the realities of contemporary, secularity, technology, and the struggle for human justice… Contextualization both extends and corrects the older terminology. While indigenization tends to focus on the purely cultural dimension of human experience, contextualization broadens the understanding of culture to include social, political, and economic questions. In this way, culture is understood in more dynamic and flexible ways, and is seen not as closed and self-contained, but as open and able to be enriched by an encounter with other cultures and movements.”- Regunta Yesurathnam

I think I’m glad that the Bible was written in Greek and Hebrew and not English.

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