by R. Daniel Shaw and Charles E. Van Engen
In our ever-changing, pluralistic world it is more than a challenge to communicate the gospel effectively to others.
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706, 2003, 280 pages, $24.95.
—Reviewed by Robert L. Gallagher, assistant professor of intercultural studies, Wheaton College Graduate School, Wheaton, Illinois.
In our ever-changing, pluralistic world it is more than a challenge to communicate the gospel effectively to others. Communicating God’s Word in a Complex World faces these difficulties square on and offers solutions through a hermeneutical framework.
Shaw and Van Engen offer a process by which today’s witnesses of God’s word may model their approach after the authors of the Bible. Using the biblical narrative to teach lessons in communication, the authors encourage the reader to reinterpret and restate the texts for their specific audience based on how human beings know God. The thesis of the book “is that contemporary communication of the biblical message can be modeled after the way the writers of Scripture utilized earlier texts and restructured them for their contemporary audience (xiv).”
In his foreword, Lamin Sanneh suggests that “faithful communication of the gospel occurs when the culture has been penetrated in ways that challenge and transform society on the basis of genuine autonomous response.” Both Shaw, an anthropologist and Van Engen, a missiologist, endeavor to maintain this fine balance as they establish an interdisciplinary conversation in this book. They claim that the proclamation of the gospel involves our theological assumptions, communication theory and cultural awareness—all interwoven by the power of the Holy Spirit. This dynamic process of making God known in specific situations is missional communication.
The authors apply theological, communicational and anthropological principles to the hermeneutical process to enable an understanding of God’s message that is faithful to the Scriptures, appropriate to the audience and relevant to each context. The book is structured in three parts: an understanding of the nature of God’s presentation through the text; an examination of the communicators’ task and the theoretical issues that impact appropriate communication; and an exploration of what happens when new audiences come to understand God’s intended meaning in their context.
This book looks at the nature of God’s communication to humankind and our appropriate response to what God has said in the context of our world today. It calls for relevant communication that leads to effective mission. God’s word is always missional. This work will be a valuable companion to all who are grappling with the complex issues of communicating the Good News of God’s only Son to our contemporary world. And that is no hocus pocus—it’s God’s truth.
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