Look Out for Black Ice   1 comment

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I once taught at a Christian school that had deep fundamentalist roots. The administration was convinced that women should wear dresses and that Christian music did not have instrument combos — guitar, keyboard and drums together was edging toward rebellious and the base guitar was evidence of Satan’s work within the soul of modern man.

Those folks were utterly lacking in contextualization of the gospel. They had obscured the gospel with ideas and expressions external to the gospel. They honestly believed that musical genres were an essential feature of the Christian faith.


Syncretism is the opposite error. It is the mixing of Christianity with something else. In an attempt to contextualize the Gospel, some Christians might uncritically accept the religious convictions of a particular culture. Should they believe and present these religious convictions in a manner that distorts or denies the Gospel, they are guilty of syncretism.

So, how do we avoid those two extremes — the black ice of contextualization?

First, conduct an honest self-evaluation that includes an understanding of the history of the Christian church and a focus on the gospel. Be honest in what you find. Then hit pause and ask yourself — what would Jesus do? Not what does your church say Jesus would do, but what would the Jesus of the Bible actually do? Sometimes, you will find the answer in Scripture.

What would Jesus do about sexual immorality?

There is no evidence that He was having sex with anyone, male or female. He also touched on sexual immorality in some of His topics. You might need to know something about the Old Testament verses He used in order to come to that conclusion, but that’s not hard today. Cross-references are the beauty of the computer age.

What would Jesus do about alcohol?

He turned water into wine and it was REALLY GOOD wine. But there are no Biblical examples of him getting drunk, which ought to tell us something. Through His followers, He taught that our bodies are His temple and demanded that we keep His temple clean for Him. That speaks to drugs, over-eating and a whole host of other activities as well.

What would Jesus do about the poor?

You can find that out.

Did Jesus honestly believe that faith was more important than charity to the poor, the lame, the infirm, the widow, etc.?

That is also discoverable, though you might have to find out what He meant in the parables when He compared the Kingdom of God to some human event.

Contextualization is an important component of effective gospel ministry. The gospel is an eternal, trans-cultural reality, but it comes to us within the context of individual human cultures. Contemporary Christians should carefully seek to discern the difference between gospel truth and cultural tradition. They should thus present the gospel in a manner that is culturally relevant, taking care to practice caution to avoid adopting cultural practices that have irredeemably pagan underpinnings.

One response to “Look Out for Black Ice

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  1. Pingback: Cultural Dance | aurorawatcherak

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