From the Teacher’s Commentary:
—> In a 1992 article in Ministry magazine, Børge Schantz (1931–2014), a celebrated Seventh-day Adventist missiologist, proposed three guiding principles of contextualization for the Seventh-day Adventist approach to cross-cultural mission:
First, the cross-cultural missionary must correctly understand the biblical stories and teachings in their original context.
Second, the cross-cultural missionary must accurately distinguish between universal biblical teachings and their principles and his or her own cultural values and experience. Though these customs must be, or may be, contextualized, biblical principles, such as the Sabbath, cannot be compromised.
Third, the cross-cultural missionary must develop a genuine and profound interest in, and understanding of, the culture of the people whom he or she serves.
When all these elements are taken into consideration, the ultimate contextualization principle is that, while demonstrating sensitivity to various elements of the local culture, the missionaries must allow the biblical absolutes to determine the new teachings and practices of the converts.
Schantz shared a “note of warning” to the leaders of Seventh-day Adventist mission and evangelism: “Christian churches are tempted to lose hold of pure doctrine and objective ethics when they accept uncritically that God’s Word is always and at all places culturally and historically related. The contextualization process definitely raises some problems. Adapting biblical teachings to the cultures of the world will bring the communicator into contact with elements that are false, evil, and even demonic. The sad result of going too far is a damaging syncretism, forcing opposing religious elements to coexist.”
For this reason, Schantz concluded: “In all cultures, including our own, there are customs condemned by the gospel, and what is rejected by the Scriptures must be rejected by the missionaries and national leaders.” However, this principle does not need to make us more insensitive to the innocent culture of the local peoples. Rather, Schantz prayed that “the Lord of mission must grant us wisdom to differentiate between universals that must be proclaimed worldwide and the optional variables of Western culture.”“One Message—Many Cultures: How Do We Cope?” Ministry, June 1992, p. 11.