Contextual Theology

Stephen Bevans wrote a book titled Contextual Theology. I highly recommend it. He gives some very helpful categories for understanding the way that theology is done. I found the following quotes very insightful and challenging. Take a look and let me know what you think.

“Contextual theology takes two things seriously: the experience of the past (recorded in Scripture and preserved and defended in tradition) and the experience of the present, that is, context (individual and social experience, secular or religious culture, social location, and social change…Contextual theology is done when the experience of the past engages the present context.”

“There is no such thing as ‘theology;’ there is only contextual theology. Contextualization is a process that is part of the very nature of theology itself….We don not simply see, Ian Barbour points out; we only ‘see as.’”

“What becomes clear, in any case, is that even a cursory glance at the history of theology reveals that there is has never been a genuine theology that was articulated in an ivory tower, with no reference to or dependence on the events, the thought forms, or the culture of its particular place and time.”

“As theology becomes more of a reflection on ordinary human life in the light of the Christian tradition, one might ask whether ordinary men and women might not, after all, be the best people to theologize.”

“Theology is reflection in-faith on God’s revelation in particular situations.”

“Since the Middle Ages and the beginning of scholasticism, theology has been regarded as a scholarly, academic discipline. Its main location has been in the university or seminary, and its main form has been discursive, whether in the classroom lecture or in the scholarly article or monograph…Classical theology understood the form of theology to be discursive and academic, it understood the theologian to be a scholar, an academic, a highly trained specialist with a wide knowledge of Christian tradition and the history of doctrine with a number of linguistic and hermeneutical skills.

Such a picture of theology and the theologian made sense as long as theology was conceived of being a reflection on documents that needed considerable background and skill to understand. But when theology is conceived in terms of expressing one’s present experience in terms of one’s faith, the question arises whether ordinary people, people who are in touch with everyday life, who suffer under the burden of anxiety and oppression and understand the joys of work and married love, are not the real theologians—with the trained professionals serving in an auxiliary role.”

“A number of contextual theologians insist that theology is not really done by experts and then ‘trickled down’ to the people for their consumption. If theology is truly to take culture and cultural change seriously, it must be understood as being done most fully by subjects and agents of culture and cultural change.”

“The role of the trained theologian (the minister, the theology teacher) is that of articulating more clearly what the people are expressing more generally or vaguely, deepening their ideas by providing them with the wealth of the Christian tradition, and challenging them to broaden their horizons by presenting them with the whole of Christian theological expression. As Filipino theologian Leondardo Mercado puts it, ‘the people are the best contextualizers;’ the role of the theologian is to function as a midwife to the people as they give birth to a theology that is truly rooted in a culture and moment of history.”


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