Can You Be Too Incarnational

Matt Stone asks some excellent questions on his blog Journeys in Between. Here he poses the one that gets asked of many missionaries…

Can you be too incarnational? – I understand this to mean ‘can you be so immersed in the world that you lose any value as a salt/light influence’?

Matt begins:

“Since Alan Hirsch has goaded me into this discussion I thought I would publish a diagram I have been working on in an effort to try and articulate my own position. In essence my answer is no, you can never be too incarnational, for properly understood that’s akin to asking whether you can be too Christlike.”


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Read more here

As one who grew up in the ‘come apart and be separate’ world it has been a fun journey the last 7 or 8 years discovering that people ‘out there’ are not as they had been described and I have not been infected with ‘non-Christianitis’ as we once worried!

Perhaps a similar question is ‘how far is too far?’ when it comes to contextualisation. When do we actually compromise the gospel and begin leading people astray?

I guess that depends largely on how you define sin doesn’t it… and to what degree ‘sin’ is culturally determined?…

Just some light thoughts on a cool Monday morning here in Perth.

8 thoughts on “Can You Be Too Incarnational

  1. Good to have you back online Hammo. I personally will enjoy the return to the way you challenge us to think… for example… “I guess that depends largely on how you define sin doesn’t it… and to what degree ’sin’ is culturally determined?…”

    The first place to start in my mind is to define a point of reference. The question is, is that point at a cultural level or is it much broarder? Is there an over arching moral code that is common to all humaninty? I know what I would like to say, but what do other people think?

  2. Hi PII – The Rarig name rings a bell but not sure why 🙂

    Matt – I think there is probably is an overarching moral code, but it might be broader than we have allowed it be. I was thinking this while watching the Lost Tribes a few weeks back.

    We accepted that its ok for African girls to walk around topless and for us to look at them, but had the Aussie girls got their gear off and become part of the culture in that way we probably would have reacted differently. ‘Sin’ might be the wrong word to use here, but it seems that what is wrong in one culture may not be wrong in another.

    The overarching moral norm here may be something to do with respect and dignity but it gets expressed quite differently in the two ‘tribes’ – western and african.

    Is anyone ‘right’?

  3. Nice to be here again, short 2 years, how time flies!

    Not one to chuck bible verses around but I remember speaking about a church in the book of Rev, I think Laodicea 3:14. The background to it was that the church had become too synchronised with the local culture and had lost their firm stand, they had become lukewarm and good for nothing. They neither impacted the world for God or man. I guess they had become so entrenched in pleasing man that they had forgotten what it meant to love God first.

  4. How far is too far?

    Distance is a human construct. This comment still comes from the perpective of ‘churchiness’….us and them…the world vs the church. “They’ … I find… don’t see it that way. The “world” is a condition not a people or a culture. If we can’t get past that fact we are looking at life through religious spectacles and everything we do is tainted by that.

    The message is still ‘come apart and be separate’ …but be separate from a worldy condition rather than a worldly place or culture.

    Absolutley…sin is culturally determined as are our beliefs. Truth lies outside these contexts.

  5. So – Garth would you say there are no absolute parameters for human behaviour?

    I have to say that while I recognise our shared humanity, I also recognise that there is some level of ‘us and them’ in that we as the church are the people of God and are supposed to be a distinct community.

    What we do with that identity is another issue, but it is a reality.

  6. Introducing the word behaviour is interesting as its one of those performance indicators of todays church. Indeed one of the expctations. We are behaviour driven because its supposed to reflect who are … but it doesn’t. There are too many wonderful non-believers with role model example servant behaviour. Rather than focussing on ‘what we do’ we should focus on ‘who we are’ as ‘what we do’ then follows as an out pouring of the former.

    You can short cut straight to correct behaviour and ‘churchify’ but not sanctify. I would not align behaviour as a parameter of ‘how far can you go’. I think the brilliant call of the gospel is to un-phased by where you are and still be who you are.

    The us and them relates only to our spiritual regeneration and that alone. Yes there are absolutes….you can’t kill etc but there are more greys than black and whites, and we are to navigate the greys with our knowledge of black and white.

    I think if we don’t lose sight of ‘who we are’ (our condition) then ‘what we do’ (our behaviour) will follow….and then there is no confusion for us.

  7. Pingback: Glenn’s Journey » Blog Archive » Wednesday Wanderings…

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