“From Alienation and Idolatry to Death and Re-Creation”

The following is a pericope found on pages 60 &61 of Bruce J. Nicholls book , Contextualization: A Theology of Gospel and Culture  which I thought was pretty cool; so, I wanted to pass it along:

“The human problem is a problem of alienation. It is a dual problem of alienation from God and from one’s neighbor. The primary difficulty in the communication of the gospel is that mankind, as individuals and as corporate units of society, do not recognize the true nature of this alienation. Some may be obsessed with the problem of their avidya or ignorance of their true union with God so that they, like the sadhu, are oblivious to the social and economical needs of their neighbors and to the injustices of society. Others, however, may be so obsessed with the problems of poverty, unemployment, social injustice and political corruption that they are no longer aware  of the dimension of their alienation from God. This double blindness is found in every religious and secular culture.”

“The biblical doctrine of alienation begins in Genesis 3 where man and woman suppress the knowledge of God, rebel against his lordship and seek to make themselves equal to God. Paul gives carefully worded theological interpretation of this alienation (Rom. 1: 18-32). Sin in its ultimate form is described as idolatry, to which the creature creates deity in his own image or that of the real world and through magical identification placates or controls his gods, only to become a slave of his own creation. The end is subjection to demonic powers, spiritual and eternal death. Western contextualized theologies have not always realized the importance of sin as idolatry, although they have some knowledge of the occult, which is one form of the demonic power of mystical identification. In religions that recognize a supreme God, idolatry may take the form of the manipulation of the sacred words of scripture or of submission to law in order to control God. Whether by a process of mysticism or by rationalism, in every case man is his own savior from alienation. The alienation described in Genesis 3 inevitably leads to the form of alienation described in Genesis 4, people oppressing each other, ending in violence and death. Because the Fall affected every person and all of creation, the social, the economic and political forms of alienation which begins in Genesis 4 reach to the final fragmentation of language and community described in Genesis 11.”

“The prophet is God’s agent to pronounce judgement on all forms of alienation. The prophets of Israel and Judah rebuked both religious idolatry and social injustice. Amos, for example, rebuked Israel’s syncretistic worship (2:4; 4:4-5; 5:21) and the rich, including their wives , for their disproportionate wealth (3:15; 4:1; 6:4) and for their oppression of the poor (2:6; 6:1-7). Thus, true contextualization calls for both spiritual renewal and for social justice.”

“The gospel brings a new and deeper dimension of alienation to those cultures which interpret alienation solely in terms of social shame, as in Buddhist society. To legalistic societies such as Islam, which know little of love and forgiveness, to societies which fear the spirit world and to those which fear the secret police of secular governments, the gospel offers a new perspective on alienation. Twentieth century forms of alienation are only new forms…”

“The prophetic ministry of the gospel calls for a de-culturalization in every [bold print mine] culture of the accretions of true faith. From Moses to John the Baptist, the prophets condemned elements of culture which were contrary to the Word of God. At the same time the prophets ministry fulfills and recreates the truths of every culture. The gospel renews and transforms those elements of culture which are true to God’s general revelation.”

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