Authentic Contextual Theology

One of the questions in an assignment that was due this week really jumped out at me. The question asked: “Consider who gets to do authentic contextual theology? Why and How?”

I would love to have a discussion with you who read this as well as my class. When you read my answer, what concerns do you have? What resonates with you? How would you answer the question?

The short answer that I had even before reading this (Models of Contextual Theology by Stephan Bevans) is that everybody does contextual theology every day of their lives. How (or whether) we choose to live out our faith is a theological position taken in a given context. That position may or may not be informed by previous theologies articulated by others in other contexts, but it is our theological decision. My answer would then be that everyone gets to do authentic contextual theology for their own context and has the potential to influence the contexts experienced by others. Others still will need to do their own work of theological development within their unique/non-unique contexts.

Why: My basic presupposition is that there is no actual divide between sacred and secular, only perceived divides. With that as the case even atheists are making authentic contextual theology. Every aspect of our lives is pregnant with theological context, ministers may be trained to examine theological formulations, but all of us live out theology.

How: Through the myriad decisions and actions of daily life our theology is expressed. I would argue that for most of the Western world we tend to function atheistically outside of church buildings. The Western context of compartmentalization keeps us from thinking theologically in our context and there is very little outlet for theological engagement outside of specific church roles. Which is an authentic contextual theology although I would argue that authentic and healthy are not the same thing.


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