Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Defining Evangelicalism’s Boundaries: The Process and Parameters of Contextualization with Special Reference to C5 Approaches to Muslim Ministry

Here is a paper by Rick Love (check out his new site and blog) titled Defining Evangelicalism’s Boundaries: The Process and Parameters of Contextualization with Special Reference to C5 Approaches to Muslim Ministry (2005).

Here is the introduction:

The topic of contextualization is a personal passion and biblical topic over which I have spilled much ink. Because of this, I am too often dissatisfied with both missiologists and theologians on the subject. More often than I would like to admit, evangelical missiology, as practiced, reflects “the marriage of mediocre anthropology and shallow theology” (Burrows 1995:175). But it is also true that evangelical theology too often reflects a monocultural perspective without evangelistic orientation. Thus, as I have argued elsewhere, Evangelicals are genuinely in need of “missiological theologians and theological missiologists” (Love 1995), especially as we seek to evaluate C5 approaches to contextualization among Muslims.

Love’s paper defines the gospel and evangelicalism, discuses the process of contextualization from a “centered-set” approach, and sets Biblically-based boundaries for the parameters of contextualization around of the person of Christ, the work of Christ, and our confession of Christ.

The paper is very interesting (if you’re into this sort of stuff!).  If you read it, make sure to soak in all the footnotes too.  I especially appreciated the section on the problematic practice facing C5ers of affirming the Shahada.

The confession, “Jesus is Lord” (Ku,rioj VIhsou/j) was a masterful contextual term used by the early church. Ku,rioj was used in the Septuagint to translate the term “Yahweh.” Thus, for a Jewish audience, confessing Jesus as Lord was a bold proclamation of Jesus’ divinity. And since the OT was the Bible of the early church, we can conclude that this was the meaning intended by the early church whenever they confessed Jesus as Lord.

Confessing Jesus as Lord was also the way believers affirmed their loyalty to Jesus (the one and only Lord) in contrast to Hellenistic deities, which were called “lords” (Ku,rioi). In addition, it was used to profess their allegiance to Jesus in contrast to “Lord Caesar” (Ku,rioj Kai/sar).

The paper concludes:

So where does this put me on the C scale? C4.5 is as far as I’d go –depending on the context!  I cannot affirm the Shahada. But I can affirm the fact that there are millions of Muslims who don’t believe standard Islamic teaching about Muhammad’s prophet hood either. So there still seems to be plenty of room for C5ers to identify with the community of Islam, remain insiders, and see messianic movements among Muslims.

One of the goals of this paper is to show how a “theological missiologist” addresses the issue of evangelical boundaries. I have tried to illustrate what it would mean for a missiologist (or missionary) to dig deeply into the Scripture, our evangelical heritage, and into the context of his or her target people to theologize cross-culturally.

If I have been successful, then I have paved the way for the next hurdle facing C5ers: How will these insider movements relate to the Church universal – the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church?

Read the whole thing (21 pages).

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