I have SLOWLY been working on my book on Missions Theology. I am putting here a couple of diagrams that are associated with the sections related to Contextual Theology.
- The first one is the one related to Models of Contextualization. I am using Stephen Bevans six models.
I try to relate the six models of Stephen Bevans to the focus on the Word of God, Human Context, and Individual Reflection. Of course, all six models take seriously, to some extent, all three areas, but there is a tendency to lean towards one of the poles.
Translation and the Countercultural model emphasize the Word of God over the others. As such, they tend to be appreciated more by Evangelical groups. The Anthropological model gives greatest weight to Human Context.
The Transcendental and Praxis Models I have put as closest to Individual Reflection. Both are intentionally iterative. The Transcendental Model is related to David Tracy’s model for theological reflection. The Praxis Model is the iteration between action and reflection, which is also the general pattern for Practical Theology.
This leaves the Synthetic Model. I would love to place it at the Human Context end of things to make the diagram symmetric. However, the Synthetic Model takes human tradition, praxis, and the Word of God and intentionally synthesizes it. Since those three each point to a different pole, that means that the Synthetic Model fits best in the middle.
2. The second on is Tests for Sound Contextual Theology. This also draws, more loosely, on some work by Stephen Bevans.
These tests help determine whether a contextual theology should be seen as a healthy localization of the Christian faith or not (or as Bevans would say, “in bounds” or “out of bounds”).
The tests are from Divinity, Community, and Function. For previous descriptions of these categories, one can go to a previous post of mine:
I thought about adding more tests. These include:
- Test of Cultural Relevance (Does it draw from local symbols?)
- Test of Cultural Resonance (Does the theology speak to the unspoken concerns and passions of a culture?)
- Test of Aliveness (Does it identify its need to change as culture changes, or does it see itself as “having arrived at ultimate truth”?)
However, upon further reflection, it does occur to me that while these may be good benchmarks for good theology, they are not really tests of orthodoxy.