III. EVANGELIZATION AND CULTURE7
Catholics and Pentecostals recognize the complexity of the relationship
between Church and culture. The faith community evangelizes
through its proclamation and through its common life: this means
that our proclamation and our Christian lifestyle are always
embodied in a specific culture. We accept that there is considerable
good in cultures, notwithstanding the fact of humanity's fall
from grace. Pentecostals emphasize the changing of individuals
who when formed into a body of believers bring change into the
culture from within. Catholics emphasize that culture itself
in its human institutions and enterprises can also be transformed
by the Gospel.
and Catholics agree that when the Gospel is introduced into
a dominant non-Christian culture, a twofold attitude is required.
On the one hand, we have to respect, affirm and support the
positive elements in it, elements which will have prepared the
people in advance for the reception of the Gospel or which are
good in themselves. On the other hand, we may have to try to
transform this non-Christian culture from within. To do this
the local people may be in a better position than foreign missionaries
who may be tempted to impose their own culture as a substitute
for the Gospel.
Pentecostals and Catholics also agree that both evangelizers
and evangelized need to realize that neither operate in a cultural
vacuum. Evangelizers act unjustly toward peoples and cultures
if they import political, economic or social ideologies alongside
the Gospel. The evangelized, too, must be aware of their own
culture and religious history and discern how their response
to evangelizers is faithful to the Gospel as embodied in their
own religious history and culture.
Pentecostals point out that in recent years an intentional and
concentrated focus on "unreached peoples" has arisen.
Some Evangelical Christian and Pentecostal movements have targeted
the parts of the globe roughly fitting with the longitude/latitude
configuration (the 10/40 window) for a significant emphasis
of missionary personnel and finances. The 10/40 window includes
regions in which the Gospel has never historically made significant
inroads and shows Pentecostal consciousness that the so-called
"unreached people" have been neglected.
Pentecostals in this Dialogue wish to observe that in some cultural
contexts, such as in Africa, or Asia, or even Latin America,
Pentecostals have actively and successfully engaged in mission
without the benefit of any formal training on issues related
to the inculturation of the Gospel. They have actually communicated
their Christian spirituality, worship, and forms of evangelization
through their local cultures. Pentecostals believe that this
process has been facilitated by their emphasis upon the freedom
of the Holy Spirit, with their consequent openness to the diversity
of forms of expression in the worship and praise of God (e.g.
their recognition of dance as a genuine form of spiritual worship).
Their missionary work has been effective because they have a
missionary model based on the recognition that all members of
the community have been given the gifts or charisms of the Spirit
necessary to share the full message of the Gospel.
not only see the need to evangelize persons, but also see the
need to evangelize cultures, for example through educational
institutions. Furthermore, they have often evangelized through
aesthetics embodying religious values. However, the ultimate
focus of evangelization is the person. Catholics acknowledge
instances of shortcomings in their evangelization, for instance,
by insufficient Christian initiation and discipleship formation
and by not always bringing parishioners to a personal faith
commitment. Shortcomings, however, can often be better understood
if concrete conditions, such as poverty, illiteracy a shortage
of ministers and the structures of oppression are known.
Catholics and Pentecostals recognize that the great social changes
in Western society result in secularization processes and consequently
a decline in religious practice. We deplore and condemn this
secularization process, especially when these attitudes become
part of a political agenda which promotes a value-free society
in the name of tolerance and liberalism. To deplore and condemn
are not enough. More positively, as Christians, we have to understand
these new challenges and help our people to find new ways and
insights to face them in light of Christian values. The fact
is that many people face new challenges without guidelines in
the fields of religion and ethics.
example, over the past thirty years, technological and scientific
innovations have radically changed the concrete conditions in
which human beings are born and die in the "Western world."
Progress in medicine far more than philosophical ideology has
influenced our way of seeing the beginning and end of human
life. In former times, procreation and the birth of a child
depended much more on "chance," and consequently parents
placed their trust in Divine Providence in this matter. Today
an increasing ability to regulate birth allows a child to be
"planned." Well before birth, through the pictures
we see, we know whether the child is a boy or a girl. Further,
the birth of a child takes place in a medical environment, far
from the family home.
the same way at the other end of existence, no society before
has ever seen such longevity such a high proportion of elderly
people. And none has taken death away from the family environment
to such an extent: some 70 % of all people in western societies
die in a hospital, in a medical and technical environment. Such
far reaching changes require that we actively engage in these
challenges and learn as a Christian community how to respond
to them in our preaching, our liturgy and our service. In a
way we have to reformulate the everlasting message of salvation
in a convincing way for contemporary men and women and not simply
repeat it in antiquated language.
delivered on this topic by Rev. William Menzies, President
and Professor of Theology at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary,
Baguio City, Philippines (The Biblical Basis for Mission
and Evangelism: An Evangelical, Pentecostal Perspective)
and Rev. Karl Muller, svd, St. Augustin, Germany (The Biblical
and Systematic Foundation of Evangelization).