This is the last post in this series of on the subject of contextual theology.  This is also going to be the last post I shall make (that I have planned, at least!) about the particular course module that I have now finished.  This post has a summary of the models of contextual theology by the eminent Roman Catholic scholar and theologian Stephen Bevans. It also has a few questions to ponder (and perhaps answer?), plus an interesting hand-out from a publication (I don’t know which one) from the lecturer too.

However, perhaps we could use this post and its comments thread to discuss contextual theology in general.  On this blog, when each of us tries to advance or explain particular faith positions, which models do we use?  Of course, there will be a mixture of models, but there will likely as not, all the same, be a dominant model, different for each of us.  This is one of the roots of disagreement, of course, when we cannot understand why what seems obvious to any one of us (so each of us might think about our own thinking) cannot be understood so easily by the other person.  The answer will be, most likely as not, that the other fellow has different contexts and therefore is inclined to different models of theological thinking. So, at the end of this all, perhaps I can ask people to ponder: if you disagree with someone, don’t do the thing that (so the stereotype has it) British people do to foreigners on holiday: speak more loudly and slowly, because the other person is so obviously stupid and/or not as learned – rather perhaps reflect that the other fellow has different contexts and concerns that cause truth to be seen from different perspectives.  And embodied from different perspectives.  Hence my essays 🙂

That’s what I think, anyway. What about you, reader?  Here are the notes anyway:


1. The Translation Model

“Kernel/Husk: know the context so as to effectively insert the gospel.”

“Bring seeds, plant in native ground.”

2. The Anthropological Model

“Know the culture to pull the gospel out of it.”

“Seeds are already in the ground: just need to be watered to sprout.”

3. The Praxis Model

“Practice/reflection/practice—in unending spiral.”

“Garden needs to be constantly weeded: the work never ends; practice makes one a better gardener.”

4. The Synthetic Model

“Conversation with all partners.”


5. The Transcendental Model

“Sympathy and antipathy.”

“If I cultivate my garden, another will be inspired to cultivate his or hers.”

6. The Countercultural Model

“Commitment to Christian story as clue to history; use story as lens to interpret, critique, and challenge context.”

“The soil needs weeding and fertilizing so that the seeds can be planted.”
Taken from Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology, Revised and Expanded Edition (Maryknoll, Orbis Books, 2002), 141-143.


Contextual Theology: Some Points to Consider

1. The danger of generalizations and unguarded assumptions about cultures, Christian missions, attitudes and experiences.

2. Cultural diversity and cultural change: A rich theological source? A source of bewilderment? Or both?

3. All theology is contextual (from a time and a place). Contexts continue to change. The universal Christ interpreted in particular theological contexts. The idea of a Melanesian Christ for example.

4. The complex nature of identity—who are we? Insiders or outsiders? Is identity fixed or fluid? 5. Who we are (or who we think we are) and what we experience determines theological reflection. The richness and limitations of our experiences are important.

5. All theology is contextually relative including “Western” theology. There is no one “universal theology” superior to any other.

6. Theologians have a lot to learn from each other. The importance of serious dialogue and reflection not only within countries and regions but also worldwide. The potential to construct inter-cultural and inter-contextual theologies. What, for example can Solomon Islanders learn from theology constructed in the ‘western world’ and vice versa?

7. All dialogue partners have something important to contribute. (Geographical location. economic power, size, etc. should not prejudice this).

That’s it.  Except an article below to share too from a publication – I hope it’s legible.

Now to the comments threads – discuss!

Wk4 Handout

One final note: as I mentioned at the beginning.  The author hasn’t copyrighted his notes, as far as I can see, but if there are people with concerns about copyright then I will gladly take down all of these posts on this blog.