“…it is not necessary to move with the times in order to address the times. On the contrary we are not called to endorse but to challenge the presuppositions, values, ideas, standards, and lifestyles of our non-Christian contemporaries, while at the same time restating the gospel in a way which resonates with them and which offers them a viable and attractive alternative. Theology is of little use if it cannot be communicated as gospel. Authentic Christian theology has an ultimately missiological purpose.” John R.W. Stott, Theology: A Multidimentional Discipline

I pulled this qoute out of Stott’s section on contextual theology in the feshrift for J.I. Packer (Doing Theology For the People of God), he has some great wisdom to share about the dangers and necessities of being contextual with our theology. His opening sentence above could easily be misunderstood if we take him to mean that we should never move with our times, instead what Stott’s getting at is that not everything that happens under the modern or postmodern sun is godly. Many times the most missiologically helpful thing we can do is not move with our times, but move counter to them.

Challenging their presuppositions about supernaturalism, freedom, and happiness; pressing them to consider the why behind their values; asking them to consider the reasons behind their ideas; and helping them see that their standards and their lifestyles are all formed out of a mixture of borrowed capital and distorted revelation. This is no small order and doing it requires the sort of humility and relational carefulness that many inside the church are not easily marked by. But it remains to before us to do with integrity.

Still its not enought to be counter-intuitive to the cultural movements of our day, according to Stott, we need to be able to deliever the messag of the gospel in a viable and attractive manner that will be a fesible alternative to the pull of the world. When we share the gospel with our neighbor they should be able to say “it resonates with me,” regardless of whether they recieve it or not. We can have all the technical scholastic theology available to us via historical reflections or creedal studies or etc., but in the end according to Stott theology that cannot be communicated is of little use.

Put in another way, authentic theology is theology in service of the missio dei…

(Photographic art by Ayoumali, piece titled “Trading Spaces“)