Welcome to the Bible In Context|
The Bible in Context raises questions of whether the Bible is always understood in context or not. Look at Mt. 6:5, "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men." This is an historical context that teaches humility, but relates to praying in the local religious and Jewish cultural context of the synagogue.
Our meeting with Muslims, people of the East, calls us to try to not only strip off our Western use of Scriptures, but to show Easterners that they too have a place in the Scriptures. Forbid that we require Easterners to become (culturally) Westerners before they become followers of Jesus.
How do Muslims sometimes find themselves faced with eternity in the Word of God? I learned this by asking my pastor friend, a former Muslim from Algeria, how he came to Jesus Christ as Lord. He said, "Simple, Don. I read the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden and then gave my life to Jesus as Lord." When asked how this could be, his reply taught me about the context of the Scriptures that really speaks to Muslims in way where Scripture never spoke to me at all as a Westerner. He replied, "When Adam and Eve were in the Garden, the Bible says that they were 'both naked, and they felt no shame.' Gen. 2:25"
My pastor explained that eastern peoples feel shame, defilement and honor or dishonor, rather than guilt or grace. Are we mincing words here, or are we witnessing the Word of God so great, so vast, that it speaks to people of every culture? The key is how we share appropriate Scriptures with Muslims who need story contexts, shame and honor contexts, and wisdom and proverb contexts.
The Muslim convert pastor friend took me still deeper into Genesis. His next point was that after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, that their pristine lack of shame was dashed into gross defilement. However, God spoke and asked, "Adam, where are you? Who told you that you are naked?"
God never speaks personally to human beings in Islamic thinking, due to the fact that God would be dishonored to a human level, known as "shyrik." In Genesis, God not only spoke to Adam and Eve, but to sinful Adam and Eve, in the midst of their defilement, their dishonor and their distance from being pure and righteous. God still calls and still cares today as He did in the Garden.
Our pastor friend knew that his Lord revealed Himself in Genesis, and that Jesus Christ was clearly his Savior, because God cares and speaks during our distress. This is the Bible in the context of shame and defilement, bringing a Muslim convert pastor to follow his Messiah Jesus. In the Jewish culture, for example in Luke 2:42, Jesus was 12 years old, sitting in the temple. Here Jesus did not reject Jewish culture, but used and reinforced the aspect of sitting among Jewish teachers at the temple as a young boy. Can we act out and approve of non-Christian cultures in places where we can bring in God's word into a new cultural context?
For further reference, please read or listen to the audio MP3 or MP4 DVD of Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, by Rob Bell from the Mars Hill church. You will be challenged to the core. My approach is the interface of multi-cultural and Biblical studies. Rob Bell's approach is historical, theological and Biblical studies being constantly contextualized by each generation.