Questions of Context
The gospel is for every tribe, tongue, and nation (Revelation 7:9), but there is no single biblical or theological model for the relationship between the gospel and these diverse cultures. Indeed, every suggested approach carries its own range of philosophical and theological commitments that all too often remain unexamined. Contextualization is fraught with challenges—yet wrestling with questions of context is essential for how we understand mission, theology, and the embodiment of the Christian faith.
German missiology has engaged these questions in a variety of ways that can both inform and critique Anglo-American traditions. In this compilation and analysis, John Flett and Henning Wrogemann translate and comment on a core thread of German missiological works, explaining both their historical and current significance. Drawn from journals and books across a century of academic discourse, these classic writings trace developments from Gustav Warneck, the father of contemporary missiology, through key thinkers such as Karl Hartenstein, who coined the term missio Dei, down to twenty-first century discussions of intercultural hermeneutics. Along the way they reveal advances, mistakes, and changing definitions as German missiologists interacted with the cultural and political realities of their time.
This longitudinal study, showcasing many texts available in English for the first time, tackles the history and dynamics of contextualization head-on and sheds new light on the state of missiology today. We are reminded, Flett and Wrogemann argue, that we must keep working to honor difference within the worldwide Christian community as necessary to the fullness of our being in Christ.
"All through the twentieth century, German missiologists made important contributions to missiological reflections on culture and contextualization. Studying these contributions is crucial for anyone who seeks to understand contemporary missiological debates. In this very accessible yet thorough volume, Flett and Wrogemann present the foundational texts of German missiology, demonstrating beyond doubt that these texts cannot be ignored. Its structure renders it very suitable for use in academic teaching, while professional missiologists and students of world Christianity will benefit from the lucid introductions and analytical sections. Warmly recommended!"
"Flett and Wroggemann provide for the first time to English readers not only access to landmark essays but also an insightful analysis of developments in German missiology from the twentieth century to the present. These discussions have followed a somewhat different path than in Anglo-American missiology. Thus, even to those who disagree with the authors' conclusions, this volume opens up new horizons for framing the issues."
Introduction: Is It Possible to Abandon Contextualization?
1. At the Beginning of German Mission Theory
2. Grounded in the Orders of Creation
3. Eschatology and Agency
4. The Widening of Horizons
5. Hermeneutics, Communication, and Translation
6. Intercultural Theology
Conclusion: The Proper Complexity of Context