Contextualization in World Missions: Mapping and Assessing Evangelical Models by A. Scott Moreau
Andres Scott Moreau has written a comprehensive, well-researched and enlightening book on the issue of contextualization in world missions. The sheer research that went into this book is amazing even when looking at the bibliography, notes, and graphs. The book is divided into 2 sections, one that deals with foundations of contextualization and another section that deals with mapping models of contextualization. Rather than comment on each chapter, I would like to highlight some high impact points that Moreau makes and how they make a difference for the role of world missions and our mission as Christians.
The Nature and Scope of the Book
The two sections of the book are designed to be an important reminder that the process of contextualizing the gospel begins with laying a foundation involving presuppositions or prior beliefs. Only then can you map models of contextualization after an inquiry into foundational beliefs. Moreau takes up the issue of revelation in regard to Charles Kraft’s work with an eye toward towards the implications of Kraft’s view of the dynamic process of revelation. Moreau writes, “for Kraft….Content is important but not central….He contends that models which focus on static information “turn living events into cadavers, capable of being dissected but no longer capable of life” (59). Kraft here seems to be reacting strongly against models of revelation that overly use grammatical and historical data that imbed the message of God’s revelation in analytical tools. Moreau points out that Kraft goes too far in some cases by presenting a view of biblical revelation that is open, that is able to added to in further generations. What I took away from this somewhat complex argument is that what we believe about revelation consequently affects the way we do missions work in a global context, hindering or advancing both our evangelical foundations and our desire for gospel growth in various communities.
I think the format of the book is majorly helpful in trying to pull together the key points in Moreau’s argument. For instance, in focusing on the initiator as prophet, Moreau asks at the end of the chapter, “What characteristics of the prophetic initiator are most attractive to you personally”? (292). This key questions helped me to focus on the role of the prophet’s voice here, one of speaking out for the oppressed and marginalized, calling others to repentance. What the reflection questions did for me was help me to see these initiators on a local context and then to extrapolate what that would look like in a global context. With added resources for further study, this book was tremendous in providing much needed resources to go deeper with each issue.
Details and Examples in the Text
The immense bibliography in the back of the book is one detail of this work not to be missed. Moreau’s bibliography incorporates missiological journals, books and resources while leaving out theological works from around the world. The example of Cindy Perry’s work with Nepalese Christians in coming to grips with important festivals from their Hindu heritage was eye opening to say the least (268). The question is asked is exactly the one we should ask, “How can we retain our integrity as Nepalis and affirm the positive values in our culture, especially those consistent with biblical values?” (268). For these Christians, the point relates to how can they take part in Hindu festivals in such a way as to honor Christ but engage in the uplifting elements of our one’s culture. The role of initiator as Pathfinder blazes a trail of new opportunity and growth in the Christian community while acting in ways that bring out the best of one’s culture while honoring Christ, this is exactly what happened in the Christian Women’s Conference in Nepal.
This book was a comprehensive look at the process of contextualization in world missions. Yet, I have to say, these issues of contextualization are not only for world missions contexts, but can be worked through in our own communities as well. The local and global applications found in this book suit both the world and local contexts. If you want to know the issues of contextualization and don’t know where to turn, pick up this book and you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks to Kregel Academic Publications for the review copy of this book in exchange for review.