THE CHALLENGE OF CONTEXTUAL THEOLOGY

Peter Onyekwelu Okafor

Abstract


Theology is commonly defined as “faith seeking understanding” (fides
quaerens intellectum). Since what we mean is Christian theology, we can also
define it as Christian faith trying to understand the things of God as revealed in
Jesus Christ. As Jesus is the Word made flesh, he is God in context, sharing
our condition in the human culturally conditioned world. He was a male, a first
century Jew, and shared the culture of his own people. In this mystery of the
incarnation, he made use of all that is familiar to us, in order to communicate
his divine life and grace. This is the way for theology to follow if it is to
remain relevant in today’s world. Theology must be contextual. It must speak
to man where he is. It must address human questions and concerns in the light
of the faith. In this way, theology is no longer simply a study of God but a
study of what God says and does in a context. This is because we Christians
believe in God who is present and active in each local context – in the face of
neighbour and stranger, in the depths of human culture and experience, or in
the life we seek to build together. That is why theology ought to be contextual.
It is not just a matter of academic analysis, it rather emerges from a life of
prayer and practice – in a community that meets God in Word and Sacrament,
that listens to the wisdom of Tradition, and that seeks to discern and respond to
his presence and action in the world. It is therefore the contention of this article
that the challenge of contextual theology is the challenge of relevance. Every
genuine theological reflection must show its relevance by engaging
consciously the context of its theologizing.

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