Evangelical Christian jargon: In the best sense, taking the unchanging truth of the gospel and tailoring the presentation of it to a specific cultural context in order to achieve greater understanding; but also used to refer to changing the message of the gospel (always unjustified and inexcusable) in order to make it more palatable in a specific cultural context; also often used ambiguously.
- From scripture:
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, rthat I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV)
- From Contextualization Without Compromise by Tullian Tchividjian:
Becoming “all things to all people” … does not mean fitting in with the fallen patterns of this world so that there is no distinguishable difference between Christians and non-Christians. While rightly living “in the world,” we must avoid the extreme of accommodation—being “of the world.” It happens when Christians, in their attempt to make proper contact with the world, go out of their way to adopt worldly styles, standards, and strategies.
When Christians try to eliminate the counter-cultural, unfashionable features of the biblical message because those features are unpopular in the wider culture—for example, when we reduce sin to a lack of self-esteem, deny the exclusivity of Christ, or downplay the reality of knowable absolute truth—we’ve moved from contextualization to compromise. When we accommodate our culture by jettisoning key themes of the gospel, such as suffering, humility, persecution, service, and self-sacrifice, we actually do our world more harm than good. For love’s sake, compromise is to be avoided at all costs.
- GotQuestions.org: What Is Contextualization?
- 9Marks Journal: Putting Contextualization in Its Place
- Tullian Tchividjian: Contextualization Without Compromise
- Phil Johnson: Context and Contextualization
- John Piper: Don’t Contextualize the Gospel (video)
- David Wells: Contextualization and Foreign Missions, Contextualization and Preaching (audio)
- Together for the Gospel: Panel Discussion on Contextualization (audio)
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