Sunday, May 06, 2012

Contextual theologies and the bankruptcy of Liberalism

I have been reading up on third-world theologies recently. One thing that I soon perceived is that third-world theologies are the illegitimate offsprings of liberal theology. The cry for "contextual theologies" often comes from those who find that so-called "traditional" Western theologies are meaningless to the inhabitants of the Third World, and thus the desire to recontextualize the Christian message for their respective cultures.

It is not surprising that people in the Third World find so-called "traditional" Western theologies meaningless for them. Liberalism in all its forms (traditional liberalism, Neo-Orthodoxy etc) are basically Western philosophies that are not grounded in the truth of God's Word. It is not surprising that Third World cultures do not find Hegel, Kierkegaard, Schleiermacher, von Harneck, Ritschl, Barth, Bultmann and others like them relevant.

Sadly, these Third World theologians have jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Having abandoned Liberalism, the "theologies" they advocate have the appearance of relevance while being just as spiritually helpful as the liberalisms they have rejected. A more "holistic" theology that uses concepts meaningful to native folk religions and worldviews can seem more relevant, yet it is just as helpful for the people as Western liberalism has been for Europeans, who have been leaving the faith in droves (as seen in the dying churches of Europe).

Only the Gospel (which has been rejected by mainstream Western theologies since the Enlightenment) is totally relevant for ALL cultures. Only the Gospel is universally relevant. In their rejection of the bankrupt liberalisms, the Third World theologians are only continuing version 2 of the Liberal project. Such theologies are as nourishing as stones to the people, and ultimately cannot save them from the wrath of the Holy God who has revealed His universal message of salvation in the Scriptures.

11 comments:

Sze Zeng said...

Well said, Daniel. Indeed the gospel is relevant to all cultures. The challenge that I face very often is how to describe it in such a way that people from various backgrounds understand how is the universal gospel relevant to them, that they able to grasp the message in spite of their own worldview, lifestyle, etc.

Not easy task.

PuritanReformed said...

@SzeZeng:

the contact point is the Imago Dei and the Fall. All men know they have something different from animals, and all men know they fall short of their own standards of right and wrong, nevermind God's standard

Sze Zeng said...

Thank you for these, Daniel! Helpful!

Btw, are you finishing your studies at Westminster Seminary soon? How long more to go?

PuritanReformed said...

@SzeZeng:

at least a year

Linda said...

Yes the Gospel objective truth to all the world. People especially liberals forget that the Gospel did not originate here in the West anyways. It begain in the Middleast in Jerusalem with the first century Church. Gee, One has to wonder how we here in the West were saved by the Same GOSPEL....

PuritanReformed said...

@Linda:

for them there is no one Gospel, only the winning Greek "gospel" above all the other competing gnostic "gospels."

PuritanReformed said...

The liberals are sortof consistent. The only question is why they would bother to continue calling themselves Christians.

Linda said...

Amen "Only the Gospel is totally relevant in all cultures"

that's because Christianity is based on a living dynamic person-Jesus Christ who is Alive and well -The Resurrection~~~

PuritanReformed said...

@Linda:

agreed

Nick Chui said...

Hi Daniel

Chanced on your blog. You might remember me from NUS.

I agree with you that this is jumping from the frying pan to the fire.

I critiqued certain trends in "Asian theology" and also grappled with the question of inculturation from a Catholic perspective in my Masters thesis.

It's entitled "On Being Catholic and Singaporean: Identity and Mission with reference to Ecclesia in Asia"

PuritanReformed said...

Hi Nick,

What kind of masters is this exactly which you have completed? Was it done in NUS?