The contextual theology movement


       Inculturation is a term used in Christianity, especially in the Roman Catholic Church, referring to the adaptation of the way Church teachings are presented to non-Christian cultures, and to the influence of those cultures to the evolution of these teachings.


       The coexistence of Christianity and other cultures dates back to the apostolic age. Jesus instructed his disciples to spread his teachings to the ends of the earth (Mk28,28, Mk16,15).Saint Paul's speech to the Greeks at the Aeropagus of Athens (Acts 17:22-33) could be considered as the first attempt of contextual theology. At the Council of Jerusalem in 50, it was confirmed that Gentiles and Jews could be accepted as Christians; but cultural conflicts between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians continued until Christianity incorporated the Greco-Roman culture.

       Similar inculturation occurred when the Roman Empire ceased and the Germanic and Medieval cultures became dominant, a process taking centuries. Early practitioners of inculturation in the history of missions include St. Patrick in Ireland and Sts. Cyril and Methodius for the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe. After the schism of 1054, the Roman Catholic Church was largely restricted to the Western parts of Europe. Attempts failed to broaden the sphere of influence to the cultures of the Middle East with the crusades and the Latin Empire in Constantinople (1204-1261).

       The Protestant Reformation generated a division in the Western Church. However, at the same time, Spanish and Portuguese discoveries of the Americas, Asia and Africa broadened contact with other cultures and civilizations. After the discoveries of new territories and the Council of Trent (1545-1563) the movement became more systematic, when the Roman Church had to ponder how and to evaluate elements of ancient non-Christian cultures.

       In his 1894 encyclical Praeclara Gratulationis Pope Leo XIII praised the cultural and liturgical diversity of expressions of faith within the Catholic Church. On November 20, 1919, Benedict XV appealed to the Catholics of the world, to support missions and especially the development of local clergy, favouring a de-Europeanization of the Catholic missions.

                 The introduction of the Gospel means inculturation and not the destruction of local cultures.

Pius XII emphasized this because not all seemed to understand this point. He wrote in Summi Pontificatus that a deeper appreciations into the various civilizations and their good qualities are necessary to the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. John Paul II said also: "The incarnation of the Gospel in native cultures and also the introduction of these cultures into the life of the Church."