Theology away with the fairies or countercultural

The last two models of contextual theology that Bevans mentions are the transcendental and countercultural models.

The transcendental model focuses on one’s own experience as a person of faith. This models assumes that the human mind operates in identical ways in all cultures, it insists on the struggle for authenticity of a particular subject, conditioned by history, geography, and culture. It proposes the task of constructing a contextualized theology through a conscious consideration of the affective and cognitive operations in the subject. The importance is no longer on the theology produced, but on the person who has theologized and them becoming authentically them!

This model argues, obviously, that the best contextualizers are those who are members of the context themselves. The transcendental theologian is both highly aware of their own position as theologizing subject and that which one has been converted to and with (traditional Christian theology, liturgy, specific Christian thinkers). ‘The self’s wrestling with the new thoughts produces an authentically contextualized theology.’

This method seems to me to be rather vague and to some degree, pointless. It is in my opinion “theology away with the fairies”.

The countercultural model gives the warning that context needs to be treated with a good deal of suspicion. This model assumes the redemption, rather than the creation, approach to culture and claims that if the gospel is to truly take root within a people’s context, it needs to challenge and purify that context. This model also realizes that some contexts are simply antithetical to the gospel and need to be challenged by the gospel’s liberating and healing power. This is not to say that this model is anti-cultural but rather that culture always contains pagan elements. This model emerged and is most appropriate in cultures where Christianity has taken root and then lost its influence on that culture; i.e. Western Europe and North America.

Witness this quote from Lesslie Newbigin.

‘ Like others I had been accustomed, especially in the 1960’s, to speak of England as a secular society. I have now come to realise that I was the easy victim of an illusion from which my reading of the Gospels should have saved me. No room remains empty for long. If God is driven out, the gods come trooping in. England is a pagan society and the development of a truly missionary encounter with this very tough form of paganism is the greatest intellectual and practical task facing the Church.’ (Lesslie Newbigin, Unfinished Agenda: An Updated Autobiography 2nd ed., 1993, p.236.)