Evangelize like an Arminian

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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Brad,

The second part of your assertion should also include the fact that all cultures then (even the culture of the Reformers) suffer under this subjectivity. That is why we need the voice of the historical church and also the worldwide church to keep us in check. Again, I think (and hope) that this was Dennis' assertion, and no more.




Ruben gave a good example of a group of Christians under persecution who focus more on the "persecution texts" of Scripture. This often happens. Due to culture and "human situatedness" certain Biblical truths stand out more than others. This is because we approach the Word of God as humans who are part of a culture and time period. If we bow to the Word and struggle to understand what it really says, then we can grasp its meaning. However, we can never do this 100% accurately in all things (though, due to perspicuity, we can grasp all essentials enough for salvation), and some items still get distorted due to our cultural lenses, so that we need to go back to the ancient church, the NT, and also the voice of the Church in other cultures as well, to check our reading to insure accuracy.

For instance, in the West we tend to read things more individually, whereas other cultures are more communal. Keeping this in mind can act as a corrective, since much of the NT is more communal and less individualistic than Western culture, and through awareness, we can remove our cultural blinders to really realize what the NT is saying. Also, just a note, the Reformed confessions also emphasize the corporate nature of worship as well. So, if a Western individualistic believer looks to the church in other cultures and also looks to the historical church in its ancient documents, they might be shaken out of their cultural lens and see that their cultural subjectivity has painted an overly individualistic view of Scriptures, when, in fact, the "Corporateness" of the church is highly emphasized in Scripture and confesssions (in fact, corporate worship is to be preferred over private worship).


So, due to human situatedness, documents from the Reformation era bear evidences of the historical controversies of their time. The Reformation-era documents are very much more against the errors prevalent at the time (those of Rome), leaving out issues such as ancestor worship and animism, and were written to combat those errors ofthat time and place, though the truth contained therein can be applied more generally.

-----Added 12/5/2009 at 02:24:25 EST-----

Forensic justification is not a "Western Concept." It is a Biblical one. But it took the events that happened during the Reformation for us to see this Biblical truth more clearly.

I do not disagree with anything you have said.

I do hope, however, that you are all for getting the Scriptures into the vernacular - which requires that we learn the languages/cultures of others as we apply eternal truth.

I also hope that you realize that some truths are harder or easier to see because of our cultural lenses and, as Ruben says, our "human situatedness." I think (I hope) this was, perhaps, what Dennis was driving at.
Yes, I understand that we need to learn the languages and cultures of others. What I'm reading, however, is that "Western" concerns gave rise to Creedal and Confessional formulations and I think that those who state such ought to consider whether or not it is the poison of "Western" structuralism or deconstructionism that gives rise to this idea. It parrots the idea that history is simply written by men. In other words, here is the natural extension of some of the logic that I'm concerned with:

White men wrote a Confession that reflects upon the history of Creedal formulations as well as the historical outworking of the Scirptures in their times. BUT:
-What do white men have to say to Eastern men?
-What do white men have to say to feminist theology?
- What do white men have to say to Black liberation theology?

Theology is, in many ways, history. It's the way it's communicated in the Scriptures and the Providential outworking of the Church in history is not simply the "power play" of Western men to co-opt and decide what's important. It assumes a very small God and too much of men.

I believe we need to learn other cultures: not only so that we don't offend by those things in our own attitudes that are culturally bound but also so we know where to begin in re-shaping idolatrous patterns of thinking that have enslaved people for centuries.

That said, let's not act like the liberals and try to arrive at the "kernels of Truth" underneath the husk of men's historical labors and cultural blindness. If we throw off the shackles of such thinking, we just might learn from the historical development of some theology and learn even more that would benefit the Church wherever the Gospel bearer trods.
I cannot speak for what Dennis is writing, but I think part of the kernal of his argument was that culture does effect how we view Scripture and attention to culture is important. How much or how little attention, and how we interact with cultures are other issues. But, I hope this was Dennis' main assertion, and if so, I can get behind it, of course, guarding against excesses.

In the NT we have Paul quoting OT Scriptures to Jews, and quoting pagan poets to Greeks. There was a difference of approach. Though, if we dissect all of Paul's messages, we do have a core and a basic list of Gospel truths that, despite differences of emphases or approach, are unchangeable.

I don't think that Dennis was falling into Postmodern deconstructivism. He seemed to be emphasizing the varied approaches that Paul used when dealing with other peoples. He may have been over-emphasizing one aspect to the exclusion of the other, but that is also the danger of his opponents.

Also, I am not sure whites wrote the creeds, since Jesus was born in the ancient Near East, and the early church was first in Asia Minor and then North African, before it was ever European. But, I do think that the historically controversies of that time forced the era of Confessionalism. If it were not for those historical controversies and the need for groups of Protestants to define themselves, we would have not had the great explosion of confessions during that short time period. Thus, we see how God works through history and how "human situatedness" affects our theologizing to some degree in the reason and emphases of how we define ourselves.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
So, due to human situatedness, documents from the Reformation era bear evidences of the historical controversies of their time. The Reformation-era documents are very much more against the errors prevalent at the time (those of Rome), leaving out issues such as ancestor worship and animism, and were written to combat those errors ofthat time and place, though the truth contained therein can be applied more generally.
Are you aware of any Churches that are pushing animism and ancestor worship as Biblical?

Confessions are not meant to cover every set of cultural sins that the Scriptures might address. They are not even meant to be a comprehensive theological or practical treatise involving every possible theological controversy that might arise.

They usually arise during controversy to draw boundaries as to what is/isn't orthodox when error arises that is leading the Church away into error. They provide safe boundaries within which the normal teaching ministry of the Word can take place to address any number of issues that people are struggling with and are not meant to be all-encompassing checklists that a particular Christian in a given cultural context can rely upon simply to answer every question or receive full instruction on a subject.

I would also suggest that animism and ancestor worship are not unique to the Eastern cultures and that the Church has had to wrestle with these things everywhere she has trod (including early European and Near Eastern culture).
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
So, due to human situatedness, documents from the Reformation era bear evidences of the historical controversies of their time. The Reformation-era documents are very much more against the errors prevalent at the time (those of Rome), leaving out issues such as ancestor worship and animism, and were written to combat those errors ofthat time and place, though the truth contained therein can be applied more generally.
Are you aware of any Churches that are pushing animism and ancestor worship as Biblical?

Confessions are not meant to cover every set of cultural sins that the Scriptures might address. They are not even meant to be a comprehensive theological or practical treatise involving every possible theological controversy that might arise.

They usually arise during controversy to draw boundaries as to what is/isn't orthodox when error arises that is leading the Church away into error. They provide safe boundaries within which the normal teaching ministry of the Word can take place to address any number of issues that people are struggling with and are not meant to be all-encompassing checklists that a particular Christian in a given cultural context can rely upon simply to answer every question or receive full instruction on a subject.

I would also suggest that animism and ancestor worship are not unique to the Eastern cultures and that the Church has had to wrestle with these things everywhere she has trod (including early European and Near Eastern culture).
Yes, I am aware of animistic churches and also places where churches sinfully downplay the syncretistic honor/worship to ancestors. While this is widespread throughout fallen humanity, it does, in fact, predominate in Non-Western churches.


Rich, I see from your post above that we are in essential agreement. I can say amen to what you wrote.



Are there any other points of concern?

Perhaps in Dennis' zeal to emphasize the "cultural" he unintentionally downplayed the "universal."

I have seen both syncretistic churches that sold their souls to culture, and I have seen North American "imports" that applied a cookie-cutter American evangelistic program to peoples whose culture and lifestyles varied widely. In our zeal to guard against one error, sometimes people fall into emphasizing what sounds like the other extreme.


Should I start a thread on the role of the social sciences, linguistics, anthropology in the missionary task? This appeared to be one of Dennis' main contentions.

-----Added 12/5/2009 at 03:58:19 EST-----

P.s., I am trying to bow out of this thread. Dennis's argument seemed to have strayed from arminian/calvinism dynamics in evangelism to cultural issues and discussing those issues might be better done in a new OP.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I appreciate the interaction Perg. I sensed essential agreement but I simply wanted to underline this aspect because it is a tired argument that our Confessions or our theology is simply "Western." I believe you remember enough from previous posts over the years how much I despise American imports of ideas that have nothing to do with the "catholic" faith and have everything to do with Americans who don't understand what is/isn't cultural. I simply don't believe that the Confessions themselves are the fount of those problems. Rather, clumsy, unthoughtful and, in many cases, cultural misapprehensions of a faith once for all delivered to the Saints are the real root.

The challenge of any missionary activity, whether at home or abroad, is to allow the Word to transform and renew our minds. The Word is neither "liberal" nor "conservative" with men deciding to advance new cultural ideas or preserve old structures but each generation needs to be challenged as to how it is taken captive by the spirit of the age.

I don't have the quote but one of my Elders notes that Mike Horton gives a great analogy. Whenever you lose your keys, you always go back to where you first left them. The Confessions and Creeds represent a time where the Church had a clear sense of the Keys and they are useful to go back to not to confirm ensconced cultural ideas but to challenge them so we know how Christ and His light challenges the darkness that surrounds us in ever new ways (or a re-hashing of very old ways that we tend to forget).

Thanks for the interaction. You are welcome to start whatever thread you like that speaks to any rabbit trails that might have been formed.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Thanks Rich.

Yes, I have appreciated your posts while you were in Okinawa about American Exported religion. And I do thank God that we are one Church, throughout all ages and we can go back and find our keys when we lose them.

I'm bowing out and, after a rest, will perhaps explore social sciences, anthropology, linguistics, etc, in missions, trying to see both the benefits and dangers of the use of these sciences.
 
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