Back in February I posted about the missional church’s task of being both relevant and resistant to popular culture (The relevant/resistant tension). I was doing some theological reading today and found the exact same concept in G. Kaufman’s book The Theological Imagination (albeit in more technical terms). After arguing that theology is the task of theology in each generation is "reconceiving and reinterpreting the concept of God in terms that are indigenous to a new situation" he states:
If indigenization were to mean that the idea of God became so completely adapted to the concepts and norms and practices of a new culture that it no longer could serve as a radical standard of criticism for that culture, and thus failed to exert tension toward significant transformation of that culture in the direction of fuller humanization, full indigenization of the idea of God would be its destruction.
Fortunately, he goes on to say, full indigenization does not mean that the idea of God simply reflects culture. Nor does our idea of God remain a fixed, finished thing – something our ancestors figured out and handed down to us. Theology needs to be done in each generation in order to speak about God’s truth to a new situation (relevance to culture), but this must be done in such a way that God remains God, and can speak prophetically and critically to the new idols and destructive practices of the new situation (resistance to culture).
It seems to me that few people right now are emphasizing both. We see people who emphasize resistance to culture, and fear that any step toward relevance is a step toward compromise. We also see people who are so afraid of being irrelevant that they have completely capitulated to the culture, creating a theology that cannot critique, only coddle.
But what we really need are some people who embrace both relevance and resistance (and I think there are a few out there), who dare to re-imagine theology for our new situation.
It seems to me that the emerging/missional church people are trying to indigenize theology for a new situation