contending and contextualizing

The church must both contend for truth and must contextualize truth to be effective in evangelism. Compare II Timothy 1:14 to I Corinthians 9:22.

Hunter Beaumont’s diagnosis of the current evangelical moment is that we are over-contextualizing and under-contending:

But in postmodernity, the cultural scorn has shifted. The supernatural is plausible again, but exclusivity and assertiveness are now taboo. The quickest way to ruffle skirts in our pluralist world is to come off rigid or narrow. So the new breed of preachers is tempted to lop off anything that sounds too exclusive—the Bible as universal truth, Jesus as the one mediator between God and man, and God’s judgment, along with its remedy, penal substitutionary atonement. This is where our generation must contend or perish.

What do you think? agree or disagree?


One Response

  1. I agree…at least with the quote you posted. I haven’t read the article in its entirety.

    Everyone must contextualize the message to some degree. If you preach to an english speaking congregation in english, you have contextualized. I don’t know of anyone who thinks preaching the gospel to english speakers in the spanish language is a good idea. It is also unhelpful to use illustrations, metaphors, idioms, etc that would be foreign to the hearers.

    With that said, many who are fighting in the name of contextualization are really leading a Toys R Us movement in the church. I call it that because of the Toys R Us slogan “I don’t want to grow up”. The fight for contextualization in the church has become a fight for loving Jesus and not having to grow up. It is a movement of people who want to have their cake and eat it too.

    When Paul speaks in 1 Cor. 9:22, it is extremely important to understand the context of ch. 9. The whole chapter is Paul speaking about the use of Christian liberties and his willingness to GIVE THEM UP. He is willing to give up being paid, getting married, and/or eating certain food or drinking certain drink for the sake of the gospel (9:4-14). He gives everything up as to not be a hinderance to the gospel.

    The issue comes when people try to use “I have become all things to all men” as a license to be just like the culture or anything else they want to be. What a great idea! As Christians we can find a group of worldly people we want to be like and then become just like them. All we have to do is tell them about Jesus every once in a while, right?

    To those who would pursue the Toy R Us model, I would urge to reconsider 1 Cor. 9. Everything Paul “contextualizes” with are Christian liberties that are sacrificed for the benefit of the gospel. The question we need to ask as Christians is, “What have I given up for the gospel’s sake?” If your flavor of contextualization makes life easier, I would venture to say that it is not what Paul refers to. Paul would be “appalled” to see his words being used for people to pursue every Christian liberty they can imagine. More than pursuing Christian liberties, it is giving up liberties. An illustration of what Paul meant would be for a beef loving Texan, like me, to forsake eating meat in order to reach my neighbors and co-workers who are vegetarians. If they find eating meat so reprehensible that they will not listen to the gospel, Paul says to lay it aside.

    Instead of finding Christians who are sacrificing liberties (contextualizing), you are much more likely to find those fighting to keep Christian liberties. Have you talked with anyone lately who has decided not to marry for the gospels sake? Have you talked with someone lately who is trying to convince you that their worldly speech and/or drinking habits are for the gospel? I am sure that it’s the latter. That is not Pauline contextualization.

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