Thursday, October 12, 2006
Missions and Blasphemy
Last week during our Lausanne consultation on postmodern and alternative spiritualities we discussed the process of contextualization, or communication of the gospel in differing cultural contexts. Michael Cooper of Trinity International University led our discussion on this topic, and during some of our follow up discussions Michael drew our attention to a portion of Acts 19 which most of us had missed in our previous reading of this text.
Acts 19 finds the Apostle Paul and his traveling companions in Ephesus. As Paul shares the gospel a riot breaks out as local craftsmen feel their trade in creating religious items related to Artemis is threatened by the Christian message. Eventually Paul's companions are siezed and brought before the people. The city clerk quiets the angry crowd and says, "You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess" (Acts 19:37).
Our issue group found this passage of great interest. Although Paul and his companions shared the gospel and challenged idolatry, they did so in ways that did not blaspheme the local deity.
I find this of great interest in contrast to how evangelicals tend to engage other new religions, such as Mormonism at temple openings, pageants, and General Conference. If the Mormon officials connected with these events were to give public testimony to our activities would they say we have been respectful and have not blasphemed their God? I wonder.
Image source: http://www.bygosh.com/bible/images/097.jpg