Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rationalizing Contextualization: aka excuses to play footsies with the old nature

In the podcast I linked to yesterday of Ingrid Schlueter interviewing Don Kistler, a point was made that really stood out to me. For those of you who have already had your fill of this topic, I just thought I'd let you know I'm not quite done with it. In fact, due to the fact that it's been an issue my entire life so far, and that I suspect it will be an issue for the rest of my life, its entirely possible that I may never be "done" with this topic.

In any event...

One of the excuses I have heard and read repeatedly by those who use either foul words or obscene/vulgar illustrations to make a point, is that such language must be used to be heard. To be heard, the explaination goes, you have to speak the language of the culture so that they can relate to you, and understand what you're saying. This of course lends to your credibility as being an authentic person and not a religious snob, and makes you and what you have to say relevent to that particular culture and those particular people.

Say whatever you want to say about that rationalization (or contextualization), in some ways it certainly does make sense. In the context of an educated adult speaking to an immature child, it makes sense that you would in a very particular way, use language they they understand. Every public school and home school teacher, and stay at home mom with young children understands this context quite well. The same can be said for travelling overseas or even across town into a very different culture. You would do your best to learn the language and understand the culture, if you didn't already know it, and speak in a way that you could be clearly understood. This is where the legitimacy of this argument ends, however.

When people use this rationalization to justify using language that the Scriptures very clearly teach against, what they're actually doing is nothing more than pleasing their own flesh and indulging in their own sinful desires - the desires of the old man. Yet, those that defend this, talk about "being real" or "getting real" or "being authentic".

The reality is, and this is the point that stood out to me in the SliceCast audio, is that every single one of us is quite capable of "getting real" and being "authentic". No matter how old you were when you were converted to Christ, it wouldn't take much for you (or me) to get in touch with the OLD MAN, and let it really fly. The reality is, each and every one of us could speak this way all day long, because each and every one of us are still in the unredeemed flesh. I know for a fact, that if I decided to get up tomorrow morning and "be authentic", and just act however I want, say whatever I want and blog whatever I want with no restraint whatsoever, there'd be some pretty shocked family members, church family members and you too... readers of this blog. I don't do that, because I don't want to "be authentic". I don't want the old Carla, I know her very very well and I don't like ANYTHING about her. She's quite easily ticked off, has no patience at all (with anyone or anything), is quite proficient at the oneliner cutdowns, makes excuses for her rotten conduct and uses language that would make a long haul truck driver cover his own ears. No, there is nothing good or admirable there at all, and yet that old person is still with me every day, and I battle her off constantly! Authentic? That's being authentic, because without Christ and apart from Christ that IS who I was (and much worse, trust me), and what I still struggle against every single day of my life.

As I listened to this point being made in the SliceCast, the verse of Scripture that came to mind was this one:

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:6)

Other verses that speak to this same theme would be Ephesians 4:17-24, and Colossians 3:5-10. In all of these verses the theme is putting away or putting OFF the old man, the old nature (which definitely includes the way we speak) and putting ON the new man, or the new nature in Christ. It is clear and wonderful exhortation NOT to think, act, speak or do the things we used to do, when we were wallowing in sin and serving the flesh.

It's a daily battle that we DO engage in, and that we do not give in to, and then try to justify it by using the tired old "but if I don't speak this way people wont hear me". Especially as it pertains to sharing the words of life with the lost, the Scriptures themselves could not address this any clearer than they do:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1Cor. 1:18)

The gospel of Christ, the preaching of the cross - that is the power of God unto salvation. Not our lofty speech, not our vulgar illustrations, nothing BUT the simple and yet complex preaching of the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Both the excuses to speak this way and the lame attempts to justify it, are nailed flat to the wall by the very Scriptures themselves.

Either we actually believe the written word and we continually resist conforming to this world, and make it a daily devotion to having our minds transfomed (as Romans 12:12 says) or we keep on being "authentic" (playing around with living/acting/thinking/speaking like the old man) and doing things our own way.

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