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25 June 2013


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It may seem counter-intuitive, but a refusal to contextualise may often be a root cause of syncretism. We too readily equate contextualisation as the thin end of the wedge that is synchretism. The non-contextual appearance of the gospel in Latin America in the 15th and 16th centuries has arguably birthed one of the most synchretistic expressions of Roman Catholic Christianity.

Mark Ord

Thanks David, It's useful to point out that the line of contextualisation runs both ways. It is not as though we have the uncontextualised gospel and then, in various new situations, we contextualise it. We find ourselves already in the process. Reading made me think that justification through faith may be the best example of the contextualised gospel – certainly a compelling presentation of the gospel in a particular setting (ours).

I am not so sure, though, about the distinction between meaning and significance. I wonder if it leaves too fixed a point in an unreachable past situation (the mythical author's intention). It is also very linear, a sender-reciever model of communication that is not conducive to mission. We could use a way of thinking about meaning that showed it developing and growing, at least being explored and its new potential being realised, and not only (though also) being passed on. The Mizoram example may be telling, perhaps the 6 years was needed for Lorraine and Savidge to develop a communication that could be participated in on both sides, sufficient for meaning of the gospel to be made new and vital within that setting. I remembrance that Carey had 7 years in India without so-called results. Maybe the time is to learn to converse, rather than present(?). Certainly I remember John Wilson telling me that it would take 6-7 years to feel properly at home in a language (and perhaps a culture) to be comfortable in communication. A comment that depressed me at the time (a month after arriving in Italy), but also thinking about how long we would be in Italy. It's got me thinking, thanks.

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