Friday, April 20, 2012

Jesus the great contextualiser

““let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19). How wise! In inculturation the most important quality of the evangelizer is the gift of listening.” (Arbuckle, 164)

More from the wonderfully accessible, deeply insightful Gerald Arbuckle’s, Culture, Inculturation, and Theologians: A Postmodern Critique. As I posted earlier in the week, Arbuckle is concerned that the failure of the church to understand culture is making us naive at best, dangerous and destructive at worst.

In Chapter 10, he explores what we can learn from Jesus the Inculturator. First a definition

“Inculturation is a dialectical interaction between Christian faith and cultures in which these cultures are challenged, affirmed, and transformed toward the reign of God, and in which Christian faith is likewise challenged, affirmed, and enhanced by this experience.” (152)

Then a note on how similar is Jesus culture to today’s postmodern notions of culture:

“There was nothing discrete, homogenous, and integrating about [Jesus's] cultural world because it was filled with all kinds of tensions, fragmentation, and subcultural differences.” (153)

Then analysis of how Jesus used social drama, how he used moments when relationships between groups break; to encourage liminality; and open the possibility of growth.

Example – Mark 10:46-52 Bartimaeus. Arbuckle notes how

  • inculturation is person-centred – Jesus speaks directly to Bartimaeus, socially a non-person
  • inculturation is collaborative – “by his [Bartimaeus] actions is himself an agent of inculturation, challenging in collaboration with Jesus the crowd’s culture that rejects people who are poor.” (155)
  • inculturation requires spiritual and human gifts – “The gift most needed in evangelizers is the ability to listen and converse with people in a way that respects their human dignity.” (155) This is based on Mark 10: 51, the cry of Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus does not assume what type of help is needed, but instead listens.
  • liberation is an integral part of Inculturation – healing is social, cultural, economic, spiritual. Bartimaeus is not only healed of blindness, but finds he is given voice in the community of God, is respected as a collaborator in healing.

The chapter continues with analysis of the SyroPhonecian woman in Mark 7:24-30 and the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42.

Finally he concludes with Jesus use of parables “Probably this is his [Jesus] most important method of inculturation.” (162) He notes how these emerge from an attentiveness to the everyday world of those he serves.

“Simple and ordinary circumstances of daily life such as eating, walking, and even a request for a drink of water often become social dramas of special importance for Jesus in his ministry of inculturation.” (159)

Posted by steve at 04:46 PM

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