Contextualizing the One Gospel in Any Culture: A Model from the Biblical Text for a Global Context

Bibliographic information:

Wu, Jackson. “Contextualizing the One Gospel in Any Culture: A Model from the Biblical Text for a Global Context.” Global Missiology 3 no. 10 (2013).



If there is only one gospel, then why can people not agree on what it is? If this be the case, how can Christians contextualize the gospel when crossing cultures? This articles engages a few ongoing debates among evangelicals in order to answer these critical questions.

This essay puts forth a model whereby one can contextualize the gospel in any culture of the world. While presuming an evangelical view of Scripture, it seeks to correct conventional ideas about how to contextualize the gospel. First, we must consider how recent debates concerning “What is the gospel?” relate to our views on contextualization. If the goal is to contextualize the gospel, then a particular question begs answering: How can people agree about contextualization if they disagree on the gospel?

Second, the essay proposes four questions to serve as a framework to understand and present the whole gospel from the whole Bible. The purpose of the model is not simply to “reconcile friends” within theological debates. Christians need a method that has both flexibility and firmness. The gospel does not change; therefore, the framework of the gospel is firm. The world’s cultures are diverse and ever changing; therefore, a method of contextualization needs flexibility. After all, even within the Bible, there is no single prescribed way of preaching the gospel. One could despair of striking the right balance.

Third, we survey Scripture to find how the Bible answers these questions and thus explains the gospel. Within the diversity of answers, missionaries will find considerable overlap with the cultures in which they serve.

Fourth and finally, the article illustrates in part how one applies this model in a cultural setting. Although this is the ultimate aim of the essay, it is necessary to give our greatest attention to the preceding interpretive question, “What is the biblical gospel?” A possible “definition” of the gospel is derived after careful observation of the entire biblical canon. The contextualization method proposed also comes from Scripture and does not require people to separate so sharply a biblical and cultural perspective. One does not need to pick a particular theological camp over another simply because s/he does not know how to balance complementary emphases and the themes of the Bible. Therefore, Christians do not need to compromise the gospel by settling for (mere) truth.


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