Saturday, April 12, 2008

Conceptualization Rather Than Contextualization

In preaching or teaching, it is important to understand that the lesson be taught with the goal not of simply contextualizing the information but for creating new conceptual categories for apprehending and internalizing the message. I'll give part of my testimony as an example:

The two years after I realized my salvation in Christ were tumultuous. I ended up in a church whose idea of discipleship was to teach kids the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostle's Creed, ask if they believed it, give them a book of worship, and call them saved. I, for one, was not well equipped to spiritually survive and I floundered. I knew I needed a good framework for understanding the truth of the Bible so I took a few Bible classes to get an idea of the big picture of the Bible. Then I started studying to form an integrated theology. You see I knew the context of the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostle's Creed, but I didn't have the proper conceptual categories for normalizing any theological truth one could glean from them.

John Piper wrote on this recently. Here are some excerpts:

As we think seriously about contextualizing the message of the Bible, let’s remember that we must also labor to bring about, in the minds of our listeners, conceptual categories that may be missing from their mental framework. If we only use the thought structures theyalready have, some crucial biblical truths will remain unintelligible, no matter how much contextualizing we do. This work of concept creation is harder than contextualization, but just as important.

Here are a few examples of biblical truths that most fallen minds have no conceptual categories for conceiving.

  1. All persons are accountable for their choices, and all their choices are infallibly and decisively ordained by God.
  2. It is not sin in God to will that there be sin
  3. What God decrees will come to pass is not always the same as what he commands that we do, and may indeed be the opposite.
  4. God’s ultimate goal is the exaltation and display of his own glory, and this is at the heart of what it means for him to love us.
  5. Sin is not primarily what hurts man but what belittles God by expressing unbelief or indifference to his superior worth
  6. God is perfectly just and orders the complete destruction of the inhabitants of Canaan.
  7. The key to the Christian life is learning the secret of acting in such a way that our acts are done as the acts of Another.

Please read the entire article here.

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