Friday, October 07, 2005

Contextualization Interview

Contextualization Interview
Rev. Bassam M. Madany

The contextualization movement among evangelicals spread in the1970s and caused a good deal of controversy among missionaries. The following interview with Rev. Bassam Madany took place in the mid-eighties. It is reproduced here to clarify issues, which are intimately connected with Christian missions throughout the world. It must be added that this movement continues to spread among some Christians on account of the claim that contextualizers make for the so-called assured results of their missiological methods. However, in the light of the historic Christian Faith, this movement represents a radical discontinuity with the Apostolic Tradition, as well as with the basic principles of the Protestant Reformation.

Q. It seems that you are uncomfortable with the word “contextualization”?

A. Yes, ever since the mid-l970s, when this word became widely used in missionary circles, it has carried a specific “ideological” baggage. I consider it a loaded word because it has not come to us from a consciously Biblical milieu but was imported from the WCC (World Council of Churches) and bears the stamp of its horizontalism.

Q. But is this a sufficient reason for discarding the entire concept?

A. Of course not. I am not against every form of contextualization. I am simply uneasy about any type that is ideologically oriented. For example, some of its proponents have made a wrong analysis of the work of missions during the last 200 years. They contend that missions among Muslims have failed. This assertion has been made, when most people in the Muslim world have yet to hear the Word of God. Can we expect conversion without the hearing of the message? We must take the parables of our Lord about the proclamation of the Word seriously. We have to integrate the teachings of Paul in Romans l0 and l Cor. 1and 2 into our theology of missions. Then, we would see clearly the priority of proclamation. Even though I reject any ideologically inspired contextualization, I am a firm believer in a Biblical type that allows one to relevantly and irenically [peacefully] present the Christian message to the followers of Islam.

I must also add for the sake of historical accuracy and intellectual honesty that “cross-cultural communication,” which is another buzzword of the contemporary mission