Monday, November 9, 2009


The other day I tweeted about a revamped TV series from the 80's. It was a very cool modern adaptation of the old series with new themes like "sleeper cells" and "media manipulation". My tweet was stright-forward, that I liked it and the new "greatly contextualized" script. A good friend responded by asking if "contextualized" was even really a word. And of course...that got me thinking...

Wikipedia defines contextualization as: "Contextualization is used in the study of Bible translations in relation to their relevant cultural settings. Derived from the practice of hermeneutics, it sought to understand the use of words borrowed into the Hebrew Scriptures, and later their Greek and Latin translations." It goes on to explain that since the 1970's the word has been secularized and much more widely used. So here is my thought.

Have we over-contextualized the Faith in our efforts to have meaningful application? I'm not talking about relevance, but about true meaning. Go pick up just about any devotional book at your local retailer and you will find your daily inspiration summed up in one or two verses. Most often not even a full passage is listed, much less enough of the text to provide ample meaning. True hope is not found in looking for inspiration, but by searching for depth and understanding. We have truly become lazy Christians. We are content to find our understanding through our pastor's quips and quotes, and not connecting the scriptures ourselves. I often hear people speak of reading the passages cover to cover, which is a great practice, but few speak of finding the meaning the author intended for the text. Why were these words included? Who was he talking to?

I know that I say this at the risk of sounding like a professor or an over-achiever, but we are lazy. Schools in Jesus' day required a memorization of the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) by the age our children would be heading to middle school. Jesus didn't quote the scriptures because He was of a Divine nature, though He was. He quoted them because he learned them the way every other child who sat beside Him at school did. Think about it. Jesus quoted the Old Testament text with everyone He came into contact with. He was memorizing to berate people, but to show Himself as one who had a knowledge of God's plan.

I truly understand the need for some contextualization. Topical messages and illustration do help connect our disconnected society. However, I believe we can contextualize "in context" to God's word. Find the authority behind the words of God. It is far more than an inspirational text.

So remember this the next time you pick up your devotional. If you feel inspired by a verse out of context, imagine how empowering the Truth will be!