I just read an article entitled Cultural Alienation and Contextual Theology by Ziya Meral. The article deals with the western missionary movements being unable to effectively minister in foreign contexts such as the Middle East and China. The article excited me because it helped my reading of Romans. Meral basically attempts to show that all theology must be contextual to the society where the gospel is being preached. We cannot expect cultures who view time so non-linerally to except a modern Western understanding of the gospel. In the same way, I believe that Paul’s great and weighty work in Romans was his attempt to contextualize the gospel for non-Jews. He spends such a long time in the gospel attempting to show why circumcision and the dietary laws having to do with meats should not be imposed on the gentiles. He goes on to explain that there is a way for non-Jews to be grafted into God’s family: we are heirs with Christ through faith.
People are quick to quote two or three verses from Romans, but I don’t think it was so easy for Paul to write. Paul’s indictment of the Jews, the race that he loves, throughout the whole book must be painful for him to write. Please excuse the analogy if you think it is trite, but it is like Paul writing a letter to a team of basketball players who are replacing his world champion basketball players. The only reason he seems to be replacing the world champion team is because of their inability to eat right, exercise, practice everyday, and do everything that one must do to be a good basketball players. He is writing to the new team suggesting, rather than the law, they are being accepted on faith. Faith that they can succeed where Israel failed. But, Paul mentions often, they are “grafted” in. They can be ungrafted just as quickly. Paul is writing a letter of grave importance.
But the analogy breaks down, because Paul is talking about something much more important and wide-reaching than basketball. Paul is talking about the fact that the world has the gospel now. And that gospel will be brought differently to the Jews and the gentiles. It is not through the law that the world will be saved, but by the power of Jesus Christ. And that will take different shapes based on contextual theology. I will have more on this after I have processed this more.