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Contextualization in World Missions: Mapping and Assessing Evangelical Models

by A. Scott Moreau

—Reviewed by W. Stephen Gunter, associate dean and research professor of evangelism and Wesleyan studies, Duke Divinity School.

Kregel Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, 49501, 2012, 429 pages, $28.99.

Reviewed by W. Stephen Gunter, associate dean and research professor of evangelism and Wesleyan studies, Duke Divinity School.

Most instructive to me in Scott Moreau’s Contextualization in World Missions are the opening overview of contextual models and the heart of the book that unpacks the contextual models. These are perhaps the supreme strength of the book that Moreau consciously chooses to use the metaphor and method of models and mapping to set out his findings. It provides the reader with visual, conceptual models that are more easily grasped and retained. The reader will appreciate that for all of the author’s comprehensive knowledge of the related mission theory issues, he does not assume that the reader will come pre-equipped with either the vocabulary or conceptual frames of reference. The book is amazingly readable for the non-specialist.

The part of the book that seems to contribute least to the subject of contextual missional theology is his early chapter on “Revelation,” which is an extended discussion of evangelicals and theories of biblical inspiration.  He appears to make the case that a true evangelical will agree with what seems to be his position of propositionalism and literal inerrancy—“God’s revelation to humankind through the Bible is both verbal (in language) and propositional (truths are revealed) (p. 58). If Moreau followed through to unpack these words with specificity, then we would have a focused discussion on soteriology. What we have is a more expansive discussion of epistemology.

Moreau recognizes that not all evangelicals agree with this specific take on the epistemological issue. He seems to want to make the case that a “message that transcends culture” will be determined by our culturally bound rational processes, and furthermore, that only those who agree with his concept of an “infallible Bible” are actually being biblically congruent.

Perhaps Moreau could include a wider swath of evangelicals if he would go back to his original words about God and revelation and define the scope of the word “infallible.” If infallible means that the Bible faithfully and truly teaches all that humanity needs to know in connection with God’s saving intentions toward fallen humanity, then the Bible becomes our one true source for discerning and thereby participating in the Christian gospel.

Such a soteriological centering of scriptural truth would require a robust inclusion of Christocentricity, and surely be the only comprehensive domain around which a discussion of missional evangelism can take place among all evangelicals. This would also advance the conversation along the lines of “biblical congruence,” and we might even find that words like “infallible” could be replaced by the Bible as our “one true source of saving truth.” Certainly, this is the scriptural message that cannot be captive to any single culture, and so in that sense “transcend culture.” Would any of my evangelical colleagues find this affirmation biblically incongruent?

Students of missional theology and contextualization will return to this book time and again as a trustworthy guide—even those of us professing evangelicals whom Moreau has bracketed out as not being adequately biblically congruent. It says much about a book when its strengths far outweigh that emphasis or two that some judge less stellar. Count me among those who will return time and again to this valuable teaching resource!

EMQ, Vol. 50, No. 2, pp. 241-243. Copyright  © 2014 Billy Graham Center.  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.

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