Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Conference on Contextualization

My heart is heavy with grief as I write today (Sat). I have just returned from the contextualization conference. I’m grieving because what they taught today was heresy and so many accepted it. All week during the conference I was finding things to be somewhat helpful (some of the things they were talking about we already do in Senegal and there were some helpful tools) and somewhat harmful. Their perspective was that if people were Muslim or Hindu or whatever, then they should remain Muslim, Hindu or whatever, all while trusting in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. They would then be “in the Kingdom” (of God). I say that it is harmful because that has already been tried in Senegal with various organizations and found to be divisive of the church. I could not agree with that as well because it will lead to syncretism, that is the blending of two or more belief systems. We observe syncretism in Senegal everyday as there are aspects to the Wolof belief system that originate from their traditional religion (spirit worship). You can imagine a follower of Jesus who has blended his family’s belief system with the new belief system of Jesus as Savior. This is bad missiology (the practice of taking the Gospel cross-culturally). Although it is heretical, it is more “indirect heresy” if you know what I mean.
What I found heretical is the following quotation from a scholar named Drummond, “My own judgment is that I see Muhammad as an authentic prophet of God, even though like other prophets after the time of our Lord, neither morally perfect nor doctrinally infallible”. The speaker in the conference then read Ephesians 4:11 and asked rhetorically, “I wonder why could we not call Muhammad a New Testament prophet?” I am ashamed to say that I didn’t refute him publically as I should have. I simply got up and left. I was just so shocked. Anyway, I shed my name tag and left as close to tears as I’ve ever been.
I understand what Paul felt as he said of the false teachers that had confused the Galatians, “11And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. 12I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!” (Gal. 5:12, NKJV) That “cut themselves off” actually refers to the idea of not being able to spiritually reproduce. Please forgive me for being so frank with you all, but you should know that I plan on being frank on this blog. I hope that you don’t mind.
I did find some helpful tools at the conference. Also, I was challenged to study the Scriptures deeply to make sure that my methods are rooted in Scripture rather than my own traditions. This should be a constant challenge for any cross-cultural worker. So thanks for praying.

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