This is an article by Andrew F. Walls in ‘International Bulletin of Missionary Research’… I am blown away by the ideas herein. Many years ago, in a missions class at Liberty taught by my second missions mentor, Larry Haag, I learned the word contextualization. In this article, Walls certainly does give us great fodder for how we must understand our culture in order to contextualize the Gospel into our culture. Some sample from that article are…
What was God doing in the Greek world over all those centuries when he was preparing Israel for the coming of the Christ?This is not Paul’s question; for Paul, the Jewish missionary,the astonishing revelation was that the Gentiles were to havesuch a significant place in God’s salvation; it was the present andfuture, rather than the past, that gripped him.” But Justin and hiscontemporaries have to deal with the past. The Greek worldviewand its intellectual foundations were too comprehensive to beignored; they had to be converted. And so the second-century generation of convert apologists develop principles for the critique of this Hellenic inheritance. Justin, still wearing the philosopher’s short cloak that was the contemporary equivalentof the academic gown, introduced the Christian-and especiallythe prophetic-Scriptures into Greek intellectual discourse as asourcebook of comparable, even superior, antiquity to that of theGreek literary tradition. All the time he is wrestling with theconvert’s question-how to turn an existing way of thought andlife toward Christ, how to critique the heritage, affirming, denying, discriminating. (P.100)
Origen was the first, says Gregory, to incline him to philosophize-by his wordscertainly, but also by his actions. Christian theology was annotated, as it were, by Greek writers-“So that we were taught tocollate with all our powers all the writings of the ancients,whether philosophers or poets, rejecting nothing because we hadnot the necessary discrimination.” They should not, in fact, rejectout of hand any school of philosophy or any body of learning,Greek or barbarian, but bring them into critical relationship withthe body of Christian theology until they form a commentary onit, not a substitute for it. (p.102)
For Plato, as for the young Justin, the end of the philosophic questwas the vision of God. For Origen, the philosophic quest is thepreparation for the Christian life. In this and many other respectshe is most Greek when he is most Christian, and most Christianwhen he is most Greek. (p.102)
Still more striking is a passage in his letter to Gregory Thaumaturgus, where he connects the construction of the tabernacle in the wilderness with the spoiling of the Egyptians. Thegold cherubim that indicated the holy presence were made fromEgyptian gold as were the pot that held the manna and the othervessels used in worship; and the curtains of the tabernacle weremade from Egyptian cloth. Materials that were being misused inthe heathen world were thus used, thanks to the wisdom of God,for the worship and glorification of God. The work to which heurges Gregory is to put Greek learning to the same sacred use. (p.104)
Egyptian gold and Greekmaterials are to be used for the glorification of God, but it isnecessary to watch out lest idols be manufactured in the process.For this reason Origen urged on Christians, learned and unlearned, the duty of discrimination and sought to provide themwith tools for the purpose. (p. 104)
There isno merit in unreflective attachment to opinions. For Origen, onlythe Word, the Logos, deserved unconditional attachment. (p.104)
Walls, Andrew, “In Quest of the Father of Mission Studies” (IBMR, vol. 23, #3, July, 1999).