25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 11 July 2004
The new edition of Bevans' Models of Contextual Theology (first issued in 1992)is to be welcomed: partially because contextual theology is an area that deserves the attention of all conscientious theologians, but also because it smoothes over some of the problems with the first edition. After a couple chapters outlining the task, he gives a detailed account of the six models he sees in the field: translation, anthropological, praxis, synthetic, transcendental, and countercultural. This last did not appear in the first edition, and serves to correct the impression a reader may have received that the author expects the gospel to support the status quo. Nevertheless, this assumption is still present in certain parts of the book, and taints its argument. The other main ax Bevans seems to want to grind is that theology is not primarily propositional. Whereas this is an important direction in which to turn, in response to a naive adherence to doctrinal positions, it also rules out the possibility of dialogue. For whether we like it or not, language is the medium in which we are corrected, challenged, and brought into question. This absence of dialogue is the main problem I have with this otherwise excellent overview, which although displaying a disregard to the problems of the clash of civilisations, is to be recommended as the standard introduction to contextual theology. It just needs something more on how we read theology which is not our own.
5 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 2010
Contextual theology is very important, as it enables contextualization of the gospel in different cultures. However, Bevans' book is not a particularly helpful place to start in thinking about contextualization.
Bevans is writing from a Catholic background and therefore his starting point is that there are two sources of theology: Scripture and tradition. To these two he then adds a third, culture. He is also writing from a pluralist position, and therefore thinks that Scripture contains several "theologies are all different and sometimes even contradictory of each other..." (p7). This leads him to describe six models for contextual theology, which are actually contradictory - but that doesn't worry him, given his pluralist position.
The first and sixth models ("translational" and "countercultural") are broadly biblical as their foundation is on Scripture. Both models are keen to preach "Christ crucified," using terminology that is appropriate for the new cultural context. The countercultural model takes this further, and recognizes culture reflects God's common grace (his goodness to all people), and also mankind's rebellion against him. Therefore, when the gospel is proclaimed it will rebuke and challenge various aspects of a given culture. The remaining models are all largely founded on culture, and are therefore much less biblical, if at all. This means that these four models actually lose any recognizable concept of the gospel. Fundamentally, the problem with this book is that is fails to work from a biblical position.
Another concern with the book is the models approach that Bevans takes. Don Carson in his book "Christ and Culture Revisited" has shown that, in a very similar context, a models approach is unhelpful and actually unbiblical: rather than Scripture suggesting several discrete paradigms, leaving us free to "pick and choose" (which is what Bevans advocates given his pluralist position), biblical theology leads us to recognize that the "canon's `rule' lies in the totality of the canon's instruction" (Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited, 41). Therefore, we need to listen to the whole of Scripture, to be able to rightly determine how culture should be viewed. From this foundation, a biblical contextual theology can then be developed.
Overall, I would not recommend this book as it is profoundly misleading, because of Bevans' wrong foundations. Carson's "Christ and Culture Revisited" would be a much more helpful read, even though he's not actually thinking about contextual theology, as he gives a good biblical framework of culture from which to think further.