Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day 2 - Contextualization (2014 Timothy Keller Conference in Hong Kong)


"If what we have learned yesterday could be summarized as gospel into personal motivation (see Gospel Dynamics), today we're going to see how the gospel goes into the community," Keller spoke. If a person is greedy, we can tell. What if the whole society becomes greedy, it will be invisible. Don't ask a fish about water, because it doesn't know. Most of the time, culture is invisible. If a foreigner goes to a new country, the culture becomes more visible. Each culture has it's particular sin, and the gospel provides the particular redemptive hope. More people move into a city, the city culture becomes more complicated. For example, to the same church, the its neighborhood with Hindu and Pakistan background thinks the Christianity not conservative enough, while with Caucasian background views the Christianity way to conservative. If you want to address to them, contextualization is a skill. Tim Keller will presents this topic:

  • Definition
  • Cases of why we should
  • Practical methods
  • How the gospel equips us

1st: Definition

Contextualization is not compromised, is not giving what they want, is the biblical truth they need to hear, is not an agreement but powerful with clarity.

2nd: Cases why we should

(I put the conclusion of this part ahead) The gospel you received is not pure, it's a contextualized product given to you. If you don't contextualize, you overlook their culture. If you over-contextualize, you overlook your own culture.

Contextualization is biblical

In 1 Cor 1:21-25, Paul made distinctions between Jews and Gentiles. He challenged different cultures. Yet he even goes back affirmation of different cultures.

Culture Problem to gospel Contextualization Redemption
Greeks Philosophy and Reasoning fool Real wisdom: fulfill both justice and love need faith to cross
Jews Seeking result weak:why He died Real power: triumph the death need faith to crucified savior

Contextualization is inevitable

Every culture has differences. They can't 100% match and mean the same thing. Every aspect between different cultures has its own context and needs to be contextualized: our illustrations, humor, emotions, view of time, and etc.

Contextualization is reasonable

Some people are more logical (this → this → this); some more influential (wisdom instinct); some practical (see how it works). Their reasoning  is different. Thus, our persuasion should be different.

3rd: Practical methods


Learn their culture. Do it externally by reading books, novels, or etc. (ex: the real meaning of "Yankee.") Do it internally by knowing people from the culture. If you're with them, their problems will in your head. When you preach or read, you begin to see the answers from the Bible.

2 compensational strategies

(For some reason I lost my tracks in this part, can't figure out which are the "two.") Each culture has its story line and narratives. You identify it, challenge it, and find a happy ending in Jesus Christ.

Ex. 1: Study what happened  to Greco-Roman world. Greek has their own idea of "logos." From Keller's understanding, it's very similar to the idea of "天 Tian" in Chinese. And in John 1, John used the word "logos" and redefined or explained how it relates to Christian God.

Ex. 2: Mulsim doesn't have an image of God. If you have it, then you're trying to control or shaping him. Then he is not God anymore. For Christians, it's totally true in Old Testament. However, in New Testament, Jesus is the image of God so that we can know God better. God contextualized himself not  saying what we're wrong but solving our problems.

Ex. 3: NY story on human rights. An human-right fighter tires to help oppressed women in Africa. But they refused because they don't want her western value or culture. Christian can respond by telling: Nothing is relative. There must be a definite right and a definite wrong. Your human right idea must be based some definite value. Otherwise, you can't promote it.

Ex. 4: When a traditional Chinese with Confucianism immerses himself in Western Capitalism. The result in inability to find rest. We should preach Sabbath rest from the gospel. Because what underneath the work is still working, it should be rest in Christ.

Ex. 5: something about J. R. R. Tolkien. 

4th: 2 basic tools


1 Cor 8:9, we don't put stumbling blocks in front of people. We remove unnecessary things and offense. Even our humor could offend others. We only offend people in the gospel but nothing else.

Common grace and sin in each culture

Ex. 1: Western people want to believe a god with love. They don't like God's wrath or punishment. However, if you love someone (kids), you will get angry and punish them on the wrong. How could we want a loving God but reject his wrath or punishment.

Ex. 2: On inerrancy and Bible as the whole counsel of God. You love a friend and preserve his whole image. If we tear apart what we like and what we don't from the Bible, it's not God anymore. It's a man-made God in your own imagination and creation, not a real God.

Ex. 3: If there is not conflict or fight in your marriage (or friendship), at least one person doesn't let the other one know who he (she) really is. A sinner is logically different (contradict) from a real perfect God. It's impossible for you reading the Bible (knowing Jesus) without finding conflicts in you heart.

Brief conclusion

Don't please them, not afraid of criticism. Neither over-adapt the culture or under-adapt the culture. The gospel is Jesus, both human and divine nature, a perfect contextualized example, Word in flesh. Amen.
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因為 Every Good Endeavor 這本書 ( 註1 ) (written by Tim Keller ),才有機會接觸到《魔戒》作者托爾金(J. R. R. Tolkien)的短篇小說與散文。托爾金是個天主教徒,像他這種文學家,字裡行間不是碰巧置入的贅字,而是時兒明...