24 May 2008

Christ and Context

I've been reading Above All Earthly Powers by David Wells (an intriguing read, by the way). In the introduction under the sub-heading Christ and Context he observes, "Those most self-consciously biblical in their views have often eschewed this work, and their suspicions about it are not entirely unjustified. There is a long trail of contextualized theologies, written over the last half century, in which the external dimension virtually replaces the internal, cultural interests eclipse biblical norms, and the result has been the kind of compromise, trendiness, and manipulation which ends up promoting worldly agendas, be they political, social, ideological, or personal, in place of biblical truth. This has been a sorry tale. And somewhere in the making of each of its works the fatal step was taken to allow the culture to say what God's story should sound like rather than insisting that theology is not theology if it is not listening to God telling his own story in his own way." (pgs. 6-7, emphasis mine.) Thoughts anyone?


Anonymous said...

It depends on where people are going with "context". I'm not sure to what "this work" refers in the quote; simply the work of considering context?

Context--grammatical, historical, cultural, etc--is critically important, unless we decide that the Bible is fundamentally different from other books in a very unreasonable way.

Let me elaborate. First of all, of course I do believe that the Bible is fundamentally different from other books in that I believe it was inspired by God. However, that's a pretty broad definition.

What I don't believe, and what history doesn't support, is the idea that the Bible was dropped into our laps as a direct from-God-to-us piece of communication. We have to accept that the Bible can, and ought to be, investigated in much the same way as other literary works.

Other Christian sects throughout history have had various differences in their received canon. Did they have a different Holy Spirit, or none at all? Of course not. The point here is not to say that all views thereof are equally valid, but rather, that even something as critical as the canon of Scripture has to be open to, well, critical review by Christians.

Likewise, translation. The simple fact is that translation requires tons of context that the Bible itself does not supply. Translation is not a simple matter of taking the original text and a lexicon, because the lexicon itself is a product of study and research.

Actually, to my way of thinking, the simple fact of translation is the death knell to the idea that the Bible supplies all of its own context. The fact is, natural revelation and special revelation exist together, and you can't understand one without the other.

I'm off my soapbox now.

Reformed Renegade said...

I’m not quite sure where you’re coming from here, Scrape. The emphasis I placed on the author’s statement was to highlight the fact that in the process of contextualizing the gospel we have allowed culture to restate what the Bible says rather than insisting that only the Bible can do that. In asking for comments I was hoping to elicit an exchange in this area of culture & contextualization.

Anonymous said...

Ah. Sorry. I was thinking of a different use of "context", but when you say, "contextualizing the gospel", I got it.

I apologize for hijacking your post with my misunderstanding. Feel free to delete my comment.


Reformed Renegade said...

Scrape -
No problem, my friend. We need to discuss your comment sometime - would be a good discussion!