Gospel & Culture blog
Would you, your colleagues, or your students benefit from a listserv for professionals and scholars in Christian missions? This listserv can be used in the following ways:
- bounce ideas off other professionals and scholars in missions
- ask questions about research in missions
- network with other mission scholars
- announce book publications, job openings, internships, or upcoming conferences
I have created a listserv - now it’s your turn to participate, ask, announce, and network. To join the mission scholar listserv, send a blank email to: MissionScholarfirstname.lastname@example.org
The more people using the listserv, the more useful it will be to all of us. Based on how some other scholarly listervs are being used, I feel confident that it will not flood your inbox with a bunch of unnecessary emails. (The group is restricted, so information will not be publicly available on the web.) You can unsubscribe by sending a blank email to MissionScholaremail@example.com
The gospel is eternally true, and is for all cultures, right? Yes, but missiologists have discovered that it's a bit more complicated than that. Truth doesn't change, but its significance to you or me will be different that to folks in a different context. Just as the value of pi doesn't change, its significance to a mathematician is different that its significance to a child. In the same way, the significance that Christians find in the good news of the Kingdom of God has varied a bit both geographically and across time.
For example, in the 1950's Billy Graham and Bill Bright (of Campus Crusade) could hold massive events explaining the way to heaven. The truth has not changed, but it is hard to fill a stadium in the USA these days with people who are looking for a way to heaven. In the USA these days, Christians emphasize more how a relationship with God can improve your marriage, give you purpose in life, or lead to happiness.
What significance have other cultures found in the good news? The hope we have in the death and resurrection of Christ is fairly universal for Christians- but there are certain central questions, based on context, that also come in to focus. In Latin America for the past four decades, the role of the gospel in bringing economic and social justice has been a central theological issue. Worldwide, Christians know that living out the gospel means loving neighbor- but Latin American Christian communities have made this a central focus of the gospel. This has also been a focus among Black American theologians, and theologians in south Africa.
In other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, though, the social aspect of the good news has not been focal. Central theological questions have been about the morality of ancestor veneration, how to defeat dark spiritual powers, and how to achieve healing. The good news of Jesus, in this context, is his supremacy over the powers of Satan.
Dyrness (1990) points out that if Latin American theology has emphasized the this-worldly focus of the good news, Asian theology has typically focused on the other-worldly aspect, or has remained fairly philosophical: How is Jesus the ultimate meaning of the universe? Asian Christian theology also emphasizes the way Jesus takes away the shame of our collective sin against God, and has focused a bit less on our personal guilt.
It would be no surprise that Arab Christians must think through the role of Israel- a question that all Christians may be mindful of, but which is a daily felt-reality in the Middle East.
By taking in the global picture of how Christians contextualize the gospel, we can find even deeper significance of the good news. For further reading on the contribution of global theologies:
Anderson, G. and Stransky, T. (1974). Missions Trends 3: Third World Theologies.
Dyrness, W. (1990). Learning about theology from the Third World. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Tennent, T. (2007) Theology in the context of world Christianity: How the global church is influencing the way we think about and discuss theology. Zondervan.
Kenneth Nehrbass, Ph.D.
Associate Professor at Biola University, Author, Pastor