Contextualized Local Theology Quote


“Theology is always done with a ‘backpack.’ In this backpack we find all the things that our family and friends, our culture and tradition, our training and experience have packed for us. We have packed only a few things ourselves. We hardly know about all the things we carry. No question: it is a mess. Our backpack is full of things we do not use and it lacks other things we we need. It contains proverbs we have heard, the books we have read, our memories of people and encounters and experiences, and our favorite words and ideas. No two theologians have the same backpack.

… Jesus, human and divine, accepts the challenge of the local culture with its chances and limits. He raises his prophetic voice after having been introduced to the local culture. He does not start from scratch. Genuine prophecy has to use familiar concepts in order to have an impact. ‘Only a theology firmly rooted in a culture can be genuinely prophetic in that culture. …Prophecy is effective when it reorganizes knowledge already part of the culture. To stand completely outside is to be ignored. Thus, the more contextually rooted a theology, the more acute can be its prophetic voice and action.'”

              -Clemens Sedmak, “Doing Local Theology” pages 16-17

This quote is about contextual theology, but it clearly speaks to the missionary setting. Effective giving of God’s message (using the original idea of prophecy) requires utilization of a local theology. Who is best to develop local theology? Implicitly it is locals. Explicitly it may be the interaction of the missionary (hopefully trained in theology and developing theology) and locals. The worst occurs when a missionary has no explicit skills in theology and lacks the insiders implicit understanding for local theology. The end result is likely to be a foreign or failed message.

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