Contextual theology: a critique

By Rev. Jared Magero, Kenya

Karen Bloomquist is an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, where she has been professor of theology. She has also served as Director of the LWF Department of Theology and Studies.  Today she presented a workshop on doing theology contextually.

I commend Karen for giving clear meaning of what it means to contextualize the message of God. According to her, to contextualize is a process of assigning meaning as means of interpreting the environment within which a text or action is executed. The term includes all that is implied in indigenization or inculturation, but also seeks also to include the realities of contemporary, secularity, technology, and the struggle for human justice. She said that theology is more than studying the doctrines that emanates from the bible, is more than ethical reflection, but it is living, dying and being damned, it is to raise questions amidst actions, it is translating what is learnt from seminaries to the present context, adding that theology needs to be dialogical, reconceptualized and interactive.

As it stands today while contextualizing theology, particular social, cultural and ecological situations must be put into account, because interpretation of Christianity’s shape and content interacts with a large number of factors in the context within which they are created.

I accept and agree with Karen that, there is dire need for contextualization in a way that it gives meaning to the present generation. But as Lutherans we have to remember that we are traditional, we are evangelical and we are reformers. We need not run away from our slogan which made us what we are, the sola scriptura which is the norma normans of all our understanding in matters that appertains to salvation of all our souls. In my own opinion, doing theology contextually should not give us room de-link from the truth of the scripture. We need to strive that we give answers to the presently emerging questions and problems without necessarily interfering with the sola scriptura slogan for it is our only pride we have; it gives us our identity.

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One response to “Contextual theology: a critique

  1. It’s good to return to this site and interact with the wider Lutheran communion.

    Perhaps the more fruitful way forward is to clarify what is the relationship between our theological engagement and reflection which takes into account both contextual and confessional concerns.

    While, I’m happy to appreciate and align myself to the Lutheran heritage, the fact remains that even that (e.g. the Solas) is a contextual response in a given time and space (i.e. the abuse of the Roman Catholic church of that time).

    The quest towards discovering answers to the questions of our times is being faithful to how Scripture is formed, given and passed on to convey answers to their times. Of course, theologically, we see this as God’s revelation to humanity through the feeble human words and history. And surely, we value the authority of Scripture, without using it to silence critical engagement with it as well as the world.

    I suppose, we’re on the same page even though we might articulate the way we engage in theology differently. 🙂

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