In this essay I will analyzes Escobar’s thesis and compares and contrasts his theological contribution with other theologians. I will discussion Escobar’s contextual approach as compared/contrasted in relation to one theological theme with two other contemporary theologians. I will summarize how Escobar’s overall theological contribution either expands or challenges the theological perspectives of the two theologians chosen. Lastly, I will look at how these perspectives would influence my ministry if I were in a culturally diverse ministry setting.
In 1970 there was a group of theologists who came together and wanting to liberate themselves from a traditional fundamentalist view; they formed The Latin American Theology Fraternity called The International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. There hope was to establish their own identity within the fraternity because it was not tied to anything else. They received the chance to speak at a worldwide mixed denomination situation where they each deliberated spiritual matters that connected with the hardships of the Latin American people. In 1973 the Chicago Declaration was an effort to balance civic responsibility with Christian belief. Twenty years later as crisis arose it was renewed. Samuel Escobar was a leader who was among the first to know that a special methodology was necessary to get people to work together based on shared beliefs. His theology is structured by reevaluating Biblical disclosures and relating them to both social and political realities as he aims his concentration on a theology of mission work. In his book The New Global Mission I read about his lengthy thoughts on this matter.
In there he is able to consider a new missionary drive and explores how he thinks evangelical mission work ought to be done. The Christian church’s mission on a more global front is to bring together believers from around the world. Escobar established a theology which started with the fraternity that merged social, church and state. Escobar understood that evolving cultures may not always be in line with traditional Christian beliefs. Missionary work needs to investigate each new situation for the best possible outcome of all involved. Escobar proposed a missionary work that assigns the bond faith with in its tasks. He hails the success of spiritual works as integral to a mission. The overall effort must bring forth the involvement of each person who desires to share their faith socially. The projected outcome would be a church able to combine its mission objective with the desire to share its faith with others.
Contextual theology disputes the differences of who and when theological literature was written. Theology also argues the contextual change in the setting. As the need arises to interpret various new religious questions new theology is formulated. Evangelicals now try to relate the theology to mission work in a framework that recognizes cultural changes. Escobar’s theology is said to have incorporated both social science and Biblical revelation. He was an avid supporter for the Bible and started the basis for the theology of mission work. He believed that working missionaries carry out the work as noted in evangelical revelations. The early theologian did not attempt to relate passages in the bible to the current events of the world. Escobar meet with both Pannenberg and Moltmann on this topic.
Moltmann believed theology needed to relate to experiences in life. Pannenberg does not view this issue as relevant. He knew that the scriptures stated for followers to await a specific moment in time when the final truth, that which we cannot understand with limited knowledge would be revealed to us. Moltmann’s theology is grounded in biblical descriptions to him the scriptures are more than mere tales, they are real historical events and should be clarified as such. Pannenberg’s view on Biblical history is very much the same. Grenz when asked summarized Pannenberg’s theology as a notion of faith which is not a way of knowing in addition to reason but it is grounded in public historical knowledge. Both theologians offer their interpretations of the Bible not by considering it a legend but by claiming its historicity and its accurateness.
The role of the gospel is also stressed by Escobar just like the other two theologians he approaches the issues by considering the Scriptures first, the world and how the Scriptures apply to the issue. Theology might not necessarily be dependent on the Bible but it tries to imply a need for knowledge and understanding of God. Evangelicals and missionaries would be inconceivable without the Bible. Escobar argues that evangelicals must first acknowledge that they themselves have a long way to go in terms of deepening their understanding of biblical based mission work. In order to establish this as valid they must base it on sound biblical teachings.
Escobar goes on to further state that theology history and the social science are useful as tools used for better understanding of God’s word and for contemporary mission work but only God’s Word that is inspired and always able to renew the mission. Escobar relates theology to history as he correlates these to sciences which are substantially valid for providing rational arguments in regards to the existence or the non existence of God. Many scientists disregard the Biblical truth as actual fact and indeed are moreinclined to read the Scripture as fantasy instead of historical true events. Evangelicals who are without adequate historical awareness or biblical training are subjected to making mistakes. He goes on to further emphasize that criticism must stand as the instrument of correction. The most basic convictions must remain a solid ground for evangelists and they must learn to embrace and sustain what is critical nature.
When confronted with a setting that encompasses different cultures and we need to relate the Biblical truth in a way that is comprehensible and accurate for everyone we need to draw a line between what we think is valid and what individuals who are part of different cultures regard as such. We may stand solid for a certain group of individuals but it may not be relevant to a different group of people. It is with in this understanding that contextual theology is able to relate and the situation relates to the Bible being multi-cultural for all people. The Bible was written above culture and stands for everyone. In this sense working within a multi cultureal environment requires one to gain thourough knowledge of specific cultures while being open to sugesstions and having the ability to realate those ideas to traditional Biblical truths.
Escobar, S. (2002). “Changing Tides: Latin America and World Mission Today,”Orbis Books Escobar, S. (2011). “A Time for Mission: The Challenge
for Global Christianity,” InterVarsity Press
Ford, David F., ed. (1997). “The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian theology in the twentieth century (2nd ed.)”. Malden, MA
Grenz, S.J. (1988). “Wolfhart Pannenberg’s quest for untimate truth” Religion online. Retrieved August 20, 2014
Grenz, S. J., & Olson, R. E. (1992). 20th-century theology: God and the world in a transitional age. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.