by A. Scott Moreau and Mike O’Rear
The number and quality of contextualization resources on the Web is constantly growing. Here we concentrate on the element of contextualization most frequently discussed: theology.
The number and quality of contextualization resources on the Web is constantly growing. In our last installment, we focused on stories as a means of making the gospel “stick.” Here we concentrate on the element of contextualization most frequently discussed: theology. On our associated MisLinks page.1, we arranged the links on the page under two primary headings: general resources and resources by continent. As usual, there are too many links to discuss in our space here. Thus, we encourage those of you with live Internet connections to browse our MisLinks page for additional resources as you read this article.
There are several general resources for contextualized theology. The Association of Professors of Mission offers a growing list of syllabi on contextualization taught by teachers from a variety of perspectives. When we checked the site, two courses were available under the Contextualization heading.
A second helpful source is a database of more than 2,140 annotated articles and book listings dated from 1970 to 1999 on contextualization. This is available in two forms. First is Annotated Contextualization Bibliography (ACB).2 This version includes individual sections of the bibliography split by topic, area of contextualization and geographic region. Each section is accessible from any location in the ACB through the links table at the top of the page. The second version of the database is searchable by several of the database fields through a pull-down menu. For example, we used the pull-down menu to select “annotations” and searched for the word “Christology” to find fifty-eight entries.
The most abundant source of materials are three repositories of online articles and books. LookSmart; click on the Articles tab) holds 3.5 million articles from more than seven hundred publications. A search on “contextualization” yields two hundred hits. However, since contextualization is not restricted to mission use, the search needs to be narrowed. We searched for “contextualized theology” (using the quote marks to force the two words to be found together), which yields sixty-six hits, a manageable number to skim through.
The largest Web-based repository entirely devoted to online mission articles is the Network for Strategic Missions KnowledgeBase (NSMKB. Topics are assigned to all articles in the NSMKB (more than 1,400 unique topics in all), and the most helpful topics for our purposes here include “contextualization”,3 with 190 articles and eight sub-topics; “contextual theologies” (fto=1768), with one article and nine sub-topics; and “ethnohermeneutics” (fto=1729) with five articles.
The last research repository is Questia.com, a subscription-based Internet library service with 48,000 books and 390,000 journal, magazine and newspaper articles. A search on “contextualization” yields 1,643 hits. As with LookSmart, many do not deal with Christian contextualization. Searching for “contextualized theology,” (without the quotes) however, yields 734 hits, including 624 full-text books, ninety-seven journal articles and thirteen magazine articles. Most include a paragraph or two of free material, but a subscription is required for full access. The site offers numerous other helps to subscribers, including electronic bookshelves and bookmarking, citation tools, automated bibliographic construction and more through the “Read” tab.
Several journals regularly publish articles on context-ualization and make their past issues available on the Web. Search each index to learn what resources are available or to find a particular article. Keep in mind that most of them offer incomplete listings. Those we link to are
• Bulletin for Contextual Theology, focus on African theologies)
• Direction (Mennonite Brethren sponsored journal)
• Evangelical Missions Quarterly
• International Journal of Frontier Missions (frontier missions focus)
• Journal of Asian Mission (Asian focus)
• Mission Frontiers Magazine
• Taiwan Mission Quarterly
• To All Men All Things (Hindu focus).
INTRODUCTIONS AND OVERVIEWS
Our last set of general resources consists of introductions to contextualization. The Introductions page of the ACB lists 132 such articles. Additionally, we provide links to several introductory articles such as Todd Johnson’s “Contextualization: A New-Old Idea” (id=13107),4 the SIM position paper on contextualization, Larry Caldwell’s “Doing Theology Across Cultures: A New Methodology for an Old Task”* (id=13944)5 and the full text of “The Willowbank Report”, a historically important document in which a group of evangelicals wrestled with the interplay of gospel and culture.
RESOURCES BY REGION
Though all contextualized theology should be recognizably biblical, its form will differ for each culture of the world. Thus, we split resources by continental region. For each region we provided links to both general resources and specific articles.6
Africa. The NSMKB has thirteen articles under the topic of African Theologies (fto=2001); the ACB African Theologies page lists 205 annotated articles. A final general resource is “African Theology and Social Change”, Ian Ritchie’s doctoral dissertation on the relationship between changing social conditions in Africa and the development of contextual theologies there. It includes an extensive bibliography of works in both English and French on African Theology.
In addition to the general resources, we link to several articles on African theologies, from Joy Anderson’s “Behold! The Ox of God?” (available at EMQonline in the EMQ Archives by subscription) to Jack Partain’s “Christians and Their Ancestors: A Dilemma of African Theology” and Ernest M. Ezeogu’s “Essays in African Theology”.
A Catholic perspective can be found on the INSeCT site in James C. Okoye’s “African Catholic Theology”. Methods of developing African theologies are discussed by Tite Tienou in “The Problem of Methodology in African Christian Theologies”* (id=13382) and by John Gration in “Willowbank to Zaire: The Doing of Theology”* (id=10735).
Asia. Examples of Asian contextualized theology are available through the NSMKB topics of Asian Liberation Theologies (fto=2270; one article), Asian Theologies (fto=2002; thirteen articles) and Chinese Theologies (fto=1155; fifteen articles). The pertinent pages in the ACB are Asian Theologies (235 annotated articles), Dalit Theologies (twenty-five annotated articles), and Minjung Theologies (minjung.htm; forty-four annotated articles).
An additional general resource for Catholic articles and thinking is the Center for Contextualized Theology and Ethics, a site maintained by The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas in Manila. Eleven articles are provided on their “Researches” (sic) page.
Literally hundreds of articles on Asian theologies are available, though we list only a few. They include Chuang Tsu-kung’s “Communicating the Concept of Sin in the Chinese Context” (id=4588) and Paul Henry DeNeui’s online thesis “The Development of a Multi-Dimensional Approach to Contextualization in Northeast Thailand”.
International Journal of Frontier Missions published several articles that we link to, including “Doing Theology among Cambodian Refugees,” by Sheri Kafton (id=13946); “Doing Theology among Filipino Peasant-Farmers,” by Abigail F. Ramientos Harootian (id=13998) and “Doing Theology among the Ibanags,” by Clifford Peters (id=13997).
Herbert Hoefer wrestles with provocative issues in the Indian context in “Jesus, My Master: ‘Jesu Bhakta’ Hindu Christian Theology” , while Jose M. de Mesa, from a Catholic perspective, focuses on “Making Salvation Concrete and Jesus Real: Trends in Asian Christology” (id=7429).
Latin America. Latin American theological reflections are accessible through the NSMKB topics of “Liberation Theologies” (fto=865; six articles) and Latin American Liberation Theologies (fto=2269; seven articles). The ACB lists thirteen annotated resources on Caribbean Theologies (theocar. htm) and seventy-nine on Latin American Theologies. Two other links offer more general liberation theology resources (though not exclusively Latin American): Centre for Liberation Theologies (of Leuven University) and Theological Studies.org.uk’s Liberation Theology page, a bibliography with links to fifteen articles available online.
In academic circles, Latin American theology is often equated with liberation theology. The number of Web pages on “liberation theology” is overwhelming. A Google search on the term results in 72,700 hits; the same search in Questia.com returns 1,344 items and 370 in LookSmart. Even narrowing Google to “Latin American liberation theology” produces 1,640 hits. For an evangelical critique of liberation theology, we link to Ron Rhodes “Christian Revolution in Latin America: The Changing Face of Liberation Theology”, the first of a three-part series originally published in Christian Research Journal.
Contextualization of theology in Latin America includes far more than just liberation theology, however. For example, Clayton L. Berg, Jr., and Paul E. Pretiz offer a helpful survey of Latin American autochthonous churches (parallel to African Initiated Churches) in “Latin America’s Fifth Wave of Protestant Churches”* (id= 10068). Kenneth D. Scott wrestles with a parallel issue in Peru in his article “Latin America: Peruvian New Religious Movements”* (id=10776). To provide contextual insights into the fastest growing segment of the Latin American church, read Karl-Wilhelm Westmeier’s helpful “Themes of Pentecostal Expansion in Latin America”* (id=9947).
Middle East. Surprisingly few general resources sites exist on context-ualizing theology in the Middle East. The NSM topic Middle East theologies (fto=2276) offers three articles, while the ACB: Middle East Theologies listing has only eight annotated items.
While only a few general resources are available, there are still numerous articles, most focusing on contextualization among Muslim groups. To provide perspective, we give you access to Ishtiyaq Danish’s “Contextualization: A New Missionary Approach to Muslims”. Danish is a Muslim who critiques missionary contextualization; his article provides important reading for those who want to understand the insider’s perspective. Dudley Woodberry offers a helpful overview of the issues involved in “Contextualization among Muslims: Reusing Common Pillars”.
Jim Leffel wrote “Contextualization: Building Bridges to the Muslim Community” with the hope of uniting churches, agencies and missionaries on the nature and extent of contextualization among Muslims. In addition to these, Jonathan Culver discusses more narrow theological issues in “The Ishmael Promise and Contextualization among Muslims” and Rick Brown does so in “The ‘Son of God’—Understanding the Messianic Titles of Jesus”.
North America and Europe. Contextualization in Western settings has taken at least two major directions in the past few decades. One stream gives attention to indigenous or minority populations in the West; the other is concerned with contextualizing for majority populations in light of postmodern cultural trends.
NSMKB topics reflecting the first stream are Black Theologies (fto= 2115; one article), Russian Theologies (fto=1921; eight articles), Native American Liberation Theologies (fto=2271; one article), and Native American Theologies (fto=2272; one article). Topics reflecting the second stream are “gospel and culture” (fto=1023; fifty-one articles) and “post-modernism” (fto=853; 19 articles). The ACB listings are focused on the first stream, providing fifty-three annotated articles on Western Theologies; and twenty-one on Western Minority Theologies.
Postmodern Contextualization. Although we offer a few articles, our focus in this segment is links to those sites that offer multiple resources for contextualization in a postmodern setting—though we realize that we have only found the tip of the iceberg. Gospel and Culture follows Lesslie Newbigin’s lead in bringing missiological thinking to bear on communicating the gospel to the contemporary Western world. Several sites focus more on practice and less on theory; when they provide articles, we link to them:
Oceania. The final region for which we provide links is Oceania. The NSMKB topic Oceanic Theologies (fto=2273) has five articles, and the ACB has forty-one annotated articles on Oceanic Theologies (theopac.htm).
The articles we found exploring contextual theology in Oceania include Theodor Ahrens’s “Concepts of Power in a Melanesian and Biblical Perspective” (id=11244), Michael McDowell’s Ph.D. dissertation, “The Contextualization of Cargo Cult Beliefs and the Christian Message in Irian Jaya, Indonesia”, Gani Wiyono’s “Ratu Adil: A Javanese Face of Jesus?” (id=6016) and Michael Frost’s article on postmodern mission in Australia, .
Once again it is easy to see how the Web can provide useful resources, even on topics as narrow as the contextualization of theology. We know that we have not uncovered all the important links to this topic, and we invite you to send us ones we have overlooked.
1. All links start with http:// unless otherwise stated.
2. ACB URLs are referred to only by the individual page name within the site. To reach a specific page, replace the blank at the end of the following URL with the file name given in the article .
3. To save space, topics in the NSMKB will be referred to by the topic number (fto=____) in the body of the article. To reach any topic within the NSMKB, replace the blank at the end of the following URL with the topic number .
4. To save space, articles in the NSMKB will be referred to by the article number (id=___) in the body of the article. To reach any article within the NSMKB, replace the blank at the end of the following URL with the article number .
5. All documents marked with an * are available by subscription to the NSMKB premium section.
6. A link to an article does not indicate agreement with the theology expressed; our intention is to provide samples of the types of Web resources that are available.
Scott Moreau is editor of EMQ and chair of Missions and Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School (Wheaton, Ill.). His e-mail address is A.S.Moreau@wheaton.edu, and the Wheaton Missions Department Web address is www.wheaton.edu/intr.
Mike O’Rear is the president of Global Mapping International (Colorado Springs, Colo.), which is dedicated to providing access to information for church and mission leaders, especially in the Two-thirds world. He also serves as Lausanne senior associate for information technology. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the GMI Web address is www.gmi.org/.
EMQ, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 374-379. Copyright © 2004 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.