Contextual Theology for the Twenty-First Century
Lansdowne, Carmen, The Ecumenical Review
Contextual Theology for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Stephen B. Bevans and Katalina Tahaafe-Williams, (2011) Wipf and Stock, Eugene (USA), 154 pp.
This is a coherent, well-laid out collection of articles based on a consultation on contextual theology held in 2009 at United Theological College, Sydney (Australia). Drawing together a global ecumenical group of contextual theologians, ecumenists, and missiologists, the volume is divided into three parts: 1) Contextual Theology and the Twenty-First Century Church; 2) Theology in Particular Contexts; and 3) Contextual Theology and the Mission of the Church.
In one of his articles, Bevans' previous work on mission as prophetic dialogue is highlighted. This seems an appropriate theme because prophetic dialogue is an undertone evident throughout the consultation. It is a clear intention behind the variety of perspectives presented in the collection.
Within this variety, it is clear that some positions presented on the topic of contextual theology are be in contention with others. This "creative tension" (a phrase used by the late South African missiologist, David Bosch) is what makes this small volume such an engaging and important read for anyone interested in mission, contextual theology, or theological education in general. For students, I believe the various positions offered give a good cross-section of the developments in contextual theology, and at the same time, the discipline as it has developed thus far is quite heavily critiqued. For established scholars, the richness of the dialogue sparks the imagination, appropriate for re-engaging the imagination in the theological and missiological task, as called for by many of the contributors. From the traditional to the challenging to the downright funny, the book has much to contribute to global, ecumenical thinking on the ways in which theology both takes away from and contributes much to the life we believe God wants for us in abundance.
As a testament to how engaging and inspirational this volume is, it is possible to read it in a single sitting, but the reader is coaxed back to reflect, to re-read, and to think through the various strands of the book. …