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In the article, Hiebert affirms the twin truths that theologies must be true to divine revelation and relevant to current cultural contexts.
He differentiates "between biblical revelation of God and the human theologies man constructs to understand this revelation" , 4 and says all theologies must be tested by the biblical record ,4. Because Hiebert views the local and global church as a family of forgiven sinners helping one another follow Christ more closely, he calls the church to "recognize the integrity and autonomy of.
He pleads for a "fundamental spirit of mutual trust" that sees relationship as "one of partnership in a common effort rather than a unilateral action on the part of one, or a negotiation between competing bodies" ,6. Ten years later, Hiebert developed these ideas significantly, in what is now considered one of the most widely-read and influential articles in missiology: "Critical Contextualization" ; Hiebert traces how the shift from colonialism to anti-colonialism affected missionary paradigms for doing cross-cultural ministry, increasing, in particular, missionary zeal for contextualization.
He applauds the cultural sensitivity sought by missionaries, but is concerned that zeal for contextualization has often led to uncritical contextual judgments resulting in theological error and church disunity.
As a corrective, Hiebert calls for critical contextualization i. To guard this process against syncretism, Hiebert appeals to biblical authority, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the input of an international hermeneutical community. Self Theology Hiebert's views on contextualization led him to see the limitations of the indigenous church model first advocated by Rufus Anderson and Henry Venn in the late nineteenth century.
Hiebert challenged the adequacy of these three qualities, believing a missionary-initiated church that became a fully-functioning three-self church was neither healthy nor indigenous if it simply adopted the theologies formulated in the West. Healthy indigenous churches, according to Hiebert, engaged in their own theological reflection. Hiebert was not the first to see limitations with the indigeneity model see Smalley ; Tippett , but he was the first to identify "self-theologizing" as a major missing component. In , he wrote about the need to add this "Fourth Self" Hiebert a; c.
He pushed for the right of young churches to read and interpret the Scriptures for themselves at a time when many were asking if young missionary-initiated churches should be encouraged to develop their own theologies or not, and what missionaries should do "when these theologies seem to be going astray" a, Though non-Western Christians around the world were discussing the concepts of contextualized "non-Western" theology as early as the s in Japan,1 the contextualization discussion among evangelicals—that had begun in earnest in the s—focused more on missionary efforts at communication and cross-cultural theologizing e.
Hiebert coined the phrase "self- theologizing" and was the first to connect it to the traditional "three- self" model and push the contextualization discussion among North American evangelicals to include this fourth-self concept for mission churches. Epistemology The second path of Hiebert's theologizing—global theology— was grounded in epistemology. In , Hiebert alluded to epistemological shifts taking place within the sciences and in , he wrote two articles specifically addressing these shifts and their implications for theology and missiology. Since missiology seeks to marry theology with the social sciences, Hiebert says the adoption of critical realism as the epistemological foundation for theology and mission will lead missiologists to embrace a system of complementarity that allows for the strengths and viewpoints of the differing sciences i.
This more complete understanding, gained from the integration of multiple knowledge systems, helps missionaries better face cultural differences, pluralism, and relationships with non-Christians. Global Theology Based on his understanding of critical realism, Hiebert argued that hermeneutics was the task of the world-wide community of believers. Though churches have a right to interpret the Bible for their particular contexts, they also have a responsibility to listen to the greater "international" church to which they belong a, It was out of this global dialogue that Hiebert envisioned the development of a biblically-based, supracultural, historical, christological, and Spirit-led "transcultural theology" or "meta- theology" that would compare theologies, explore the cultural biases of each, and seek to find biblical universals a, Why were contextualized theologies not enough by themselves?
Because, Hiebert said, seeking a transcultural theology, not local theologies, is what builds the global Christian community, lets us all share in the church's mission, and helps us "to see more clearly the cultural biases in our theologies and. Hiebert knew that all Christians "see through a glass darkly,"3 but was convinced that through common study of the Scriptures the church could arrive at a better understanding of theology as God knows it. He cautioned that in dialoguing with theologians from 3 This allusion to 1 Cor is a favorite of Hiebert's, found in many of his writings.
In , Hiebert wrote optimistically about the growing number of Christians around the world who were examining biblical absolutes and their meaning in different cultural contexts; he was truly encouraged by the increase in understanding of the biblical message without cultural bias b, In , Hiebert re-examined the impact that the shift from colonialism to anti-colonialism to an emerging globalism has had on missions, anthropology, theology, and epistemology. Though the article covers many of the same themes found in his previous works cf.
Missions, undergirded by a critical realist epistemology, must reevaluate its history, embrace critical contextualization, use double translation to "preserve the connection between meanings, forms, and realities in the translation" , , be incarnational in witness in order to dialogue with others with the hope of persuading them to Christ, and carry out holistic ministry. Missions should embrace the complementarity between social sciences and theology, between ernie and etic analyses, and between cultures; however, it is a biblical worldview that must be the master blueprint on which all of our systems for knowing are mapped.
When speaking of theology in a global world, Hiebert asks the critical question many missiologists have asked, "How do we resolve the tension between theological absolutes and theological pluralism—between Theology and theologies? Nida ; Kraft ; Conn Hiebert's answer hints of missional theology. With the embrace of the complementary natures of systematic and narrative theologies, he calls for the development of "a theology of how to do theology" which begins and ends with Scripture and includes the rights of churches—led by the Holy Spirit—to carry out theologizing in light of their own contexts and in dialogue with the wider hermeneutical community of the church.
Hiebert's theological understandings are clearly informed by his own Anabaptist roots and convictions. Anabaptists' radical embrace of the priesthood of all believers leads to laypeople interpreting Scripture, some even serving as pastors. In contrast to some theologians who seek "to make ever more precise statements of final truth" , , Anabaptists recognize a distinction between God's reality objective truth grounded in Scripture and humans' subjective understanding of it theology, beliefs, and practices.
This distinction makes Anabaptists unwilling to claim that any human doctrinal creed ought to be normative.
Theology must be tested against Scripture, which has ultimate authority. As critical realists, Anabaptists believe knowledge is an integration of God's truth with the specific cultural, historical, and social contexts of human beings. Theology, therefore, directly relates "the unchanging truths of the Gospel to issues of real life" , and leads to a living faith affecting all areas of life, on both cognitive and affective levels. Anabaptists do recognize the limitations of human understanding and knowledge.
Since they "see through a glass darkly" they must continually return to Scripture to evaluate their convictions. However, if theology is both subjective and objective, how does one differentiate between "objective truth and. Hiebert says the answer is not systematic theology, but rather, three tests for identifying error: 1 Is the idea espoused in or based on the Bible? This Anabaptist metatheology is the process by which "different theologies, each a partial understanding of the truth in a certain context" , are created.
They are grounded in Scripture, arise from questions, situations, and problems faced in everyday life, find expression in discipleship, and are limited by the hermeneutical community of the church. Hiebert says this metatheology gives Anabaptists a "center and a limit" when dealing with the diversity implicit pluralism inherent in their practice of the priesthood of all believers , Applying the Anabaptist approach to missions, he asks: Is it possible that the metatheological approach can solve the missiological problems of contextualization and theological pluralism where traditional theological approaches have failed?
What would theology on the international scene look like if these approaches were taken? He believes that, if the international church community integrates this metatheological process, there might be a growing global "consensus on theological absolutes" , Missional Theology in Context Hiebert identifies the purpose of his "Metatheology" article as dealing with "the rise of theological pluralism and the search for a supracultural theology that transcends cultural differences" , In Eternal word and changing worlds, Conn traces the history of interaction between anthropology and the church, identifying two stages of relationship or "Consciousness.
The problem, however, was that he had not seen a model that put these in a proper balance. In the early s, when Conn was writing, the stage had only recently been set to move missions from "Consciousness Two" toward "Consciousness Three"—trialogue. Conn credits Eugene Nida and Kenneth Pike for leading the way toward "Consciousness Three" and says Kraft's expansion on Nida and Pike "moves us to the brink of trialogue" , While he has much to commend about Kraft's "Christian Ethnotheology" model Kraft , 13 , Conn also sees dangers. In his view it could give anthropology and the human side greater weight than theology, has potential for syncretism, confuses the role of the Holy Spirit's illuminating work, and stresses localized theology over universal theology.
Though Conn eagerly anticipates "Consciousness Three," he does not attempt to create a model for doing theology; however, in correcting the imbalances that he sees in Kraft, Conn does suggest that a balanced "trialogue" should include: a specific role for systematic and biblical historical theology, an understanding of theology in relation to cultures and lifestyle, the involvement of a worldwide community in theological development, and ways to guard against the dangers of syncretism should the trialogue become unbalanced. In the introduction to his book Anthropological reflections on missiological issues, Hiebert ,10 cites his indebtedness to Conn's thoughts on the "trialogue in missions" and then goes on to say, "The articles in this book attempt to carry out the trialogue between philosophical, historical, and empirical approaches to the study of both Scripture and humanity" Every element found in this introduction is later expanded in his treatment of missional theology.
They modeled their proposed complementarity on the American judicial system. Biblical theology, likewise, is strong in its understanding of history as a cosmic story of which we are all a part.
As a diachronic system, biblical theology mirrors statutory law 5 He speaks of the integration of systematic, biblical, and anthropological theology 11 ; the need for complementarity between systems of knowing 12 ; and the steps of ontology 11 , phenomenology 12 , and missiology It seems to me that the time has now come when the missions and missionaries might well consider the question of re-organizing themselves on a different basis so that the missions and the Chinese church will hereafter not appear as two parallel organizations, and that all activities initiated, maintained, and financed by the missions should be expressed only through the Chinese church….
A second suggestion is that the Chinese church, through the highest church council, should be encouraged and given the privilege to deal with the mission boards in matters of mutual interest, so that a closer fellowship and a more direct relationship between the Chinese church and the churches in the West could be established. From that time on, missionary societies and boards became mission units of the churches, and leadership of autonomous churches cooperated with each other in a new way.
This was what most career missionaries had been working towards for years, but hard for some to accept or understand. Building on this policy statement, under the leadership of the late Robert A. Thomas and after more than four years' study and discussion in the DOM board of directors, General Principles and Policies was approved at the Anaheim General Assembly in It said, "The time for western domination of the church's life and witness around the world is past.
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Partnership and mutuality, servanthood and sharing are the words descriptive of world mission today. The document speaks of multinational economics, because partnership calls for that kind of advocacy for the Third World. It maintained that from the point of view of churches in the Third World, the management of the earth and its resources is exploitative and oppressive and calls for "solidarity with the poor in their struggle for liberation and justice.
Some partners like the United Church of Christ in the Philippines drew up detailed manuals on how persons were to be recommended and selected, who was responsible for financial oversight, personal conduct, and employment agreements. The partnership policy was implemented by the Common Board by having a voting member from each of the six regions. This is important and valuable but imperfect, because it is not certain how the church represented experiences and shares fully in the actions of the Common Board.
This can be perceived in observations by the partner board members and concerns that North Americans still think about mission in a unilateral and possessive way. The fault, in my opinion is the inevitable nature of North American denominationalism. African, South Pacific, Caribbean and Asian churches predominate. The process is based on mutuality, interdependence, communication and a structure for common planning and decision making on an equal basis.
There is an important proviso: Cevaa does not exchange or send personnel, member churches do. The objective is that there be among all the churches of the Community a true exchange by means of persons, human beings who go and who come, discover, seek to understand a culture and to translate what is essential in their own. Specific policies used by the churches today for ecumenical missionary service are very similar to one another.
A fifth standard is awareness of the signs of the times.
A current book list shows the concern of intellectuals for the future of democratic society, the need for community, the gap between rich and poor, and standards of justice and truth. A contrast is Robert D. We could cite Ann Coulter on one side and Michael Moore on the other. Thomas Friedman writes about the world being flat. Seminars are held regularly on the crisis of the environment, human rights, and the globalization of information and production.
This spiritual challenge addresses heads of states and government representatives in its political and social form. The Church has a responsibility to worship and follow the living God who is mysteriously present in the world, both hidden and revealed, and at the same time the Church must be aware of what is going on in the world, today, moving us towards an unknown future. Theology of Mission is our attempt to discern and to participate in the Mission of God, embracing all people, and giving meaning and purpose to human history, in fact to the discovery and perception of the universe.
To all people, the moral nature of life and the structures of society are central to the joy, hope, justice and peace of a new generation. Aus der Wahrheit Christi leben. This is why Theology of Mission is closely related to worship, to the chapel as much as to the library. It calls for intercessory prayer - radical dependence on God - and must be sustained by meditation of God's Word in Scripture and God's Spirit in human experience, as much as by theological reflection.
It is awareness of the sacred will of God. We do not speak of the Missio Dei in the third person, because God is the subject of mission in a global context. Because the spiritual and intellectual challenge is essential to our times, the Bible is central in a special way, not only because it is the book of the Church, but because it makes its own claim to our response in repentance, faith and fulfillment: "that they might have life and have it abundantly. It is the Bible that conveys the theological basis of mission: not just the great texts of the New Testament that we rely on, as important as they are, but the global project of God, the basileia, Kingdom or Reign of God preached and promised by Jesus.
Only after we have understood what God wills for the world can we talk about the Christian mission in the world. Only then can we turn to the mission texts of the New Testament: Matt with Matt.
Local theology for the global church : principles for an evangelical approach to contextualization
The Great Commission texts must never be taken by themselves but always with the sense of the whole Scripture behind them. The mission Jesus gave his disciples is not an abstraction but is seen in all of his life and teaching, especially his stand for the poor. A seventh standard is theological imagination.