Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gospel Clothing

"We have to divest our gospel of the cultural clothing in which we have received it and sometimes even of the precise cultural garb in which Scripture presents it. We also have to reclothe it in cultural terms appropriate to the people to whom we proclaim it."
-John Stott, The Message of Thessalonians, pg. 181

I take this to mean that we must be familiar (experts?) with at least three cultures:
1. the cultural background of the Bible
2. the cultural context we minister in
3. and our own culture.

It reminds me also of the quote I heard from D.A. Carson: "No truth which human beings may articulate can ever be articulated in a culture-transcending way—but that does not mean that the truth thus articulated does not transcend culture."


kyle_m said...

Two great quotes and a good observation on being 'tri-cultural'.

So, the big question lingers: How do we identify and communicate the content of the 'culturally transcending' truth of the gospel that Carson refers to?

I suppose that if the tri-cultural manifestations are juxtaposed, the tensions between the cultures could help extract the essential gospel elements from within the culture it first appeared. Hermeneutics is more than word studies … it requires a deep sociological (of community) and psychological (of individuals) awareness -- both in a bygone era and in our current contexts.

This seems like an insurmountable task (especially with the pretentiousness of the multi-syllabic terms used above) … but if Jesus made people, and if people make culture, then Jesus can connect with all cultures, even with using people as a key way for the connecting.

Warrick Farah said...

I like what you said about the tensions between the cultures helping to extract the essential gospel elements, but I think Keller said there is no such thing as an essential a-cultural gospel?

Although you're right that the truth culturally communicated trascends culture.

Maybe that is another tension to be felt and embraced: trying to transcend culture with truth while stilling being in culture.

kyle_m said...

Good point about yet another tension.

Maybe this would be a good way to bring these thoughts together: the gospel core* forms a conceptual apex by which all cultural expressions and manifestations are determined as being faithful or unfaithful to the message of Jesus. The Apex itself, though about a person who lived in a certain cultural setting, is itself transcendent to culture. The Apex would be a ‘proposition’ of truth, not a ‘statement’ as a cultural expression of truth.** The apex is, therefore, not a part of a culture, yet can be contemplated from within any culture. Such contemplation is possible due to people being imago dei and to God extending common grace. So, while the gospel core is culturally transcendent, it is trans-culturally apprehendable because God ‘is actually not far from each one of us.’ (Acts 17:27).

*Gospel Core is essentially Jesus, the Christ, from Nazareth:
the One crucified, risen, reigning, and returning to restore all things for the Glory of the Father by the working of the Spirit so that fallen humanity might be saved by His grace to forevermore rejoice in the unfolding drama of the majesty of the Trinity.

**Propositions and Statements: Propositions transcend Culture; Statements are born from Culture
‘A proposition, philosophers say, is an extralin¬guistic abstract structure, representing a state of affairs (a way the world is or could be). A statement is a linguistic representation of a proposition (a type, to use the terminology in¬troduced in chapter two), while a sentence is a particular utterance or inscription (a token) of a statement. Thus the statements “Snow is white,” “La neige est blanche” and “Schnee ist weiss” (or the equivalent sentences, when said or written on a particular occasion) can each convey the very same proposition, representing the state of affairs of snow’s being white. The contents of certain kinds of mental states (beliefs, desires, fears, hopes, etc.) are generally taken to be propositions.’
~J. P. Moreland and Garrett J. DeWeese, Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult, 54