The Role of Culture in Gospel Communication

Introduction One of the most controversially discussed topics in the Church today is the issue of contextualization. A brief sampling of what various Professors and Pastors teach on contextualizing the Gospel will suffice to demonstrate that this issue is controversial. Dr. David Sills Professor of Christian Missions and Cultural Anthropology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary defines contextualization as simply the process of making the gospel understood.[1] Dr. John MacArthur, a well known Pastor of Grace Community Church in California, and President of Masters College and Seminary on this point teaches that:  The Church, if it is to be anything, it is to be absolutely distinct from culture, absolutely distinct from the world, absolutely distinct from unbelievers. Paul demands a total break. You can’t marry the church to the culture. Don’t fornicate with the world.[2] Dr. David Hesselgrave was Professor of Missions and Director of the School of World Mission at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, as well as a past President of the Evangelical Missiological Society, he notes that the old gospel must be communicated, but it must be communicated in new ways that engage the attention, empower the thought forms, enhance the understanding, and merit the consideration of people enculturated in systems very different from our own.[3] Dr. Ed Stetzer a noted missiologist and President of Lifeway Research on the point of contextualizing the Gospel argues that Christians...

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