The question whether a culture can be “redeemed” for God’s purposes is a controversial, yet very important one to seek an answer to. As David Hesselgrave & Edward Rommen write: “There are two dangers in approaching the task of contextualization”*)
- The fear of irrelevance if contextualization is not attempted,
- The fear of compromise and syncretism if it is taken too far.
There is a need to use existing cultural forms that can be baptized and pressed into the service of Christ if the Gospel is not denied in the process. Unless this is done it is likely that only the surface layers of a culture will be changed. But since by definition contextualization appropriates indigenous linguistic and cultural forms, it always risks cultural and religious syncretism. The only viable choice in the face of these two dangers is a contextualization that is true to both indigenous culture and the authority of scripture.”
In many ways, the challenges faced here are the same that we see in Acts 10. It took the Lord some serious convincing until Peter saw that God does not show favoritism to any people group, ethnic or cultural background, or nation of origin, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:35)
“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. “Acts 17:26-27 (NIV)
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)*) Contextualization – Meanings, Methods and Models, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker, 1989, page 55