Contextual Theology

by Rayola Kelley

Q: I attend a church that believes that the message remains the same, but the methods must change to be relevant to our generation. Although I already have a good idea as to your response about this issue, I still wanted to know, “What say you?”     

A: The idea that the message of God is the same, but the methods have to change to adjust to the times is erroneous. Such a concept developed out of the Emergent Church movement. According to the information I have on this matter, the Emergent leaders work from the premise of contextual theology. This is where you take the spirit and message of the Gospel, along with Christian tradition, the current culture, and social changes and you combine them in order to make the methods in which you reach out to people relevant to their times. It may sound wise, but as one writer puts it, it is simply the humanization of theology. Any time a spiritual matter becomes man-centered or humanized to make it more acceptable to the world, it has not only become defiled and ineffective, but it is heretical.

          The message of the Gospel is straightforward. Man is separated from God due to sin. God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross in our place so that we can be saved from the consequences of sin and be reconciled to God. The method for delivering the message was set forth in the Scriptures. It is also straightforward. We are to preach the Gospel and teach those who choose to believe the Gospel to be followers of Christ. It is the message that contains the power of God unto salvation, and not the method (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; John 3:16-17; Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). In other words, there is no method to fulfilling our calling or commission. One only has to reason if the message remains the same, it would only make sense so does the means by which it needs to be delivered.

          The reason there is no need to change the so-called “methods” attached to the message of heaven and our commission as a body of believers is because the message of God is truth. It is to be proclaimed in the power of the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Clearly, the only thing you can do with truth is proclaim it, present it, share it, and teach it in sincerity and with the powerful conviction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. When man tries to make the truth pliable in some way, he will take the edge off of it that can bring contrast, conviction, and change. Any time man tries to make truth acceptable to the world’s philosophies, palatable to fleshly appetites, and pleasant to rebellious attitudes, he will mishandle it by watering it down or twisting it to fit into his perverted reality.  

          Let us now consider man’s patterns when he has attempted to adjust the truth in the past. When man attempts to silence the truth, he will strive to demote or outlaw it by calling it unloving, obsolete, wicked, and unjust. When he tries to adjust truth, it becomes propaganda and diplomacy; when he perverts the truth, it becomes indoctrination; when he changes the truth, it becomes a viewpoint, and when he denies the truth, it becomes a point of debate. However, the Bible is clear that those who mishandle the truth will experience God’s wrath, and those who twist it will taste damnation. The Apostle Paul was clear that we can do nothing against the truth, only for it (Romans 1:18; 2 Corinthians 13:8. See also 2 Peter 3:16). We must never forget that in the end the truth that we may have lightly esteemed, changed according to selfish agendas, or rejected altogether will ultimately judge us.

          If your particular fellowship is perverting the message of the Lord in any way, you need to flee from it or face the possible repercussions of coming under some form of judgment. We are living in times that call us to soberly line up to the center of what is true and real, and not allow the different tides of this world to take us out with its waves of folly, delusion, and destruction.