Theological and Missiological Implications of Contextualization: Interdisciplinary Analyses of the Notion of Context

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Practical Theology

First Advisor

Arthur Just


The missiological derivatives of the notion "context," such as contextualization and contextual theologies, are perceived as an integral part of missiology by the vast majority ofmissiologists. However, the implications of the notion "contextualization," as it was coined by the Theological Education Fund in 1972, have never been accepted unanimously by missiologists.

The dissertation examines the interdisciplinary debate and implications of the notion context. Some major caveats of context in relation to missiology are noted. Context is found to be a virtually indefinable notion subjected to nearly unlimited kinds of interpretations as well as manipulations. As such, context is a matter of interpretation. Some ofthe major caveats that are noted are context's ability to localize, individualize, and relativize.

The dissertation further analyzes the impact of contextualism on Christian theology and missiology. Taking into consideration the unlimited scope of things that can be associated with context, the return to indigenization or inculturation as a notion of missiological adaptation to various settings is suggested. In the light of research findings on the use of context, a return to orthodoxy as the forming paradigm of missional thinking is offered. Instead of introducing contextual theologies, a return to traditional or classical theologies is suggested. An emphasis on liturgy-as a means of doing mission and which eases the tension between the desire to be relevant to particular settings and the concern that the very core of Christianity is not lost-is evaluated. Also, the impact of contextualism on Lutheran missiology and theology in general is discussed.


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