First, contextualization is theologically sound.
Culture matters. It matters to God, so it ought to matter to us. How do we know that culture matters to God? Three doctrines establish culture’s importance to God: creation, incarnation, and eschatology. God created the first humans and endowed them with a mission: fill and steward the earth on behalf of God (Genesis 1-2). As humans filled the earth, they obeyed God’s directive and created culture. They developed technology, invented music, built cities, and crafted poetry (Genesis 4). Of course, in a fallen world, all life occurs “East of Eden.” Our sin warps our ability to image God, but it does not completely erase our capacity to create something that reflects his glory. That was seen when humanity rebelled against God and built a tower to the heavens. Divine judgment ensued as humans propelled outward in obedience to God. In the aftermath of Babel, humans split up, and various cultural-linguistic groups emerged in fulfillment of the original divine mandate to fill the earth (Genesis 11). Thousands of years later, diverse peoples descend from this seminal moment. We are living out a fractured reality that is both broken and blessed. It can be tempting to look back at the brokenness of Babel and the tumult of our time and think that culture is a curse, not a blessing.
And yet, the Incarnation of Jesus demonstrates that culture still matters to God, even in a fallen world. The Son of God did not come to earth as a culturally neutral robot. He came as a Jewish man who ate Jewish food, embraced Jewish style, wore a beard, worked a trade, and spoke Aramaic with a Galilean accent. Jesus came in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham: all families of the earth would be blessed through the family of Abraham (Genesis 12:3). To save the world, the Son of God became Jewish.
In the aftermath of the Resurrection, is culture now abolished? We find the answer when reading the final pages of Scripture. The eschatological destiny of God’s people is that of a multinational kingdom comprised of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9). The New Earth will be a place in which the glory and honor of the nations will be stewarded, and the Tree of Life will provide healing for the nations (Revelation 21-22). In heaven, the Edenic vision will be realized. God will eternally dwell among humans in all their culturally embodied glory.
This quick survey of the cultural implications of creation, incarnation, and the Eschaton demonstrates that culture matters to God. Contextualization is, simply put, expressing the gospel in culturally embedded ways. Contextualization makes sense theologically because it takes seriously the communicative dimensions of what the Bible says about the enduring importance of culture. We would also expect culture to be taken seriously in the pages of Scripture. In fact, this is exactly what we see in the Book of Acts.