Podcast Episode #8

What do we talk about?

Jackson, Werner, and Carrie discuss how practically to apply a model of contextualization. A formula has an input and an output. That is not what we mean by biblically faithful and culturally meaningful contextualization. This model of contextualization is not a formula, it’s a process.

Since it’s not enough to say that Bible and culture are both important, we first examine how exactly they interrelate. This is how we begin to understand the balance between them. Within contextualization, some components are firm and unchanging. Some aspects are flexible. Other parts are always fluctuating (i.e., those coming from contemporary culture). Jackson offers a few mental models to help us grasp these dynamics.

Contextualization is like a tire. Both firm and flexible. Roads and rubber might fluctuate, but the rim is firm. In this analogy, we discern how the Bible and culture relate within the context of contextualization. Central to the task is understanding the relationship between the Bible and culture.

Finally, we answer the question, “What process do we follow when contextualizing the gospel?” Jackson lays out four stages that alternate our attention back and forth between culture and Scripture. Since contextualization must be done in a concrete setting, we talk about what contextualization might this look like for an Eastern honor and shame culture like China and elsewhere.

They mention four stages of the contextualization process.

  1. Identify Biblical themes
  2. Interconnect Cultural Themes
  3. Interpret Scripture
  4. Infer Cultural Significance

Contextualization begins with interpretation. It is improved with greater understanding of cultures. As we get older, we get new insights into Scripture. The same thing happens when we include more cultures. We broaden and deepen our understanding. There’s biblical culture and the reader’s culture. We both with us when we study Scripture. Westerners tend to skip over genealogies, but many other cultures see the linages as helpful in establishing honor and integrity in the Biblical story.

This episode builds on episode one (How the Bible Frames the Gospel) and episode two (Contextualization and Syncretism). Creation. Covenant. Kingdom. At least one of these themes is present everywhere the gospel is explicitly mentioned in the Bible.

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Jackson unpacks several of these ideas on his blog.

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