Amidst a crunched, crazy schedule, I thought I should take some time to write this post on Contextual Theology. This is a vast area of theology which was covered in approximately 4 hrs. at the Theologate under the Module – Emerging Trends in Theology. Today I sat for the examination of this module and I thought of sharing some of the preparations I made with regard to a certain aspect of this branch of Theology.
Okay, so you’ve read the title. If you surf across the web, you’ll find tons of theological definitions on what Contextual Theology is. For me hard meat boiled, Contextual Theology is an Encounter with God, happening Right Here and Right Now. And no, I’m not talking about Prayer (for once 🙂 ). Instead of mystically rising to heaven and trying to understand God, you bring Him where you are, to the current context you are in. And Contextual Theology is by no means Inculturation.
In order to Contextualize Theology, our lecturer presented us with Stephen Bevans’ Models for Contextual Theology. At the last minute when I was preparing for the paper I went through my notes on the different models. Geezzz that left me with a headache and nothing else at all. I couldn’t wrap my head around all these models. I didn’t have the book, so it was like searching for something in the dark. So as usual, I sought my friend who helps me out with crisis like this. Mr. Google, of course!
Following is a summary (almost a summary 😉 ) of the six models, with information gathered from the web. For a detailed explanation, I have included some references below only because I hate spoon feeding every little thing…
I love analogies. And if you find your head twisted with these models, turn to the analogies presented by Bevans, it’ll definitely make your life lot easier.
1. Translation Model
You take the seeds you have go to another country or city to plant them. In this model, you reveal the core message of the Gospel in a completely new setting. That is, you proclaim the Gospel to those who have never heard of it nor knows that it exists, a completely new cultural, linguistic or historical context.
When you’re taking the Gospel message to a foreign community who speak a foreign language, obviously you have to face the problem of Linguistic Translation. You can solve this problem with two approaches,
- Accuracy / Consistency – Translate the original message to the new language, where each word of the original is an absolute match to the new language word that is parallel to the original word.
- Comprehensibility and Relevance – Strain out the gist of the original message and give it to the people in your words.
Then again, you can’t mess around with God’s Word. Though Bevans prefers the second option, he says that you cannot compromise with the first option when it comes to the Gospel. True that! What if someone interpreted it wrong?
2. Anthropology Model
You’re land that is in another country already has some seeds sowed in it, so you only have to water them so that they can grow. In this model, there is a vague understanding about the Gospel in the context. So it’s not completely new! In this the primary focus is on the our common friend, the Human Being. This model upholds and reveres culture and the members of that particular culture.
3. Praxis Model
Okay so the seeds are sown, plants have come up, now you have to tend the garden and make it a better place. In this model, it assumes that Christianity has a stand or say in a particular context, so it’s not completely new or alien to the culture. Since Christianity is already established, you judge your cultural values in the light of the Gospel tradition. This model focuses on Action.It presents a cycle.
4. Counter – Cultural Model
At the first look of the analogy, I personally thought “Errr isn’t that the same as the earlier model??!” Well yes and no! The term Counter – Cultural means being different from and above culture. Yes, you engage with the culture but your fidelity lies to the Gospel. It calls for a radical change in the culture. It is similar to the Praxis Model but this model takes a prophetic stance. This model’s focus is on the Gospel. It emphasizes the difference between the Gospel and Culture.
5. Synthetic Model
Analogy – Cross-Pollination
This is my favourite part of gardening. A hybrid of two plants. This model presents a process of Dialogue. It is a dialogue with a pool of people having different viewpoints. This model is closest to the Gospel, where in the Gospel also we see how different views are brought together through dialogue and forms a true synthesis.
Analogy – I cultivate my own garden in the hope that another will be inspired to cultivate their own garden.
Don’t get carried away with the name of the model. In this I become a role model to another. It’s pretty much the same approach I follow with my posts. You share your own religious experiences based on the cultural, historical and religious settings that you come from. In this model, one has to be cautious on how to identify authentic theologies of individuals. In order to be authentic theology, it should be inline with the teaching of the Church.
So there you go, the six models of Bevans’ almost in a nutshell 🙂