A Modern Puritan

Lost in wonder, love and praise. Follow along as we seek to uneclipse Christ in our lives.

Contextualizing on the Mission Field

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“My wife and I were missionaries in Papua New Guinea where we spent two years learning the Myu language and culture before teaching the scriptures and presenting the gospel. Our culture studies were so we could properly understand how they would hear what we taught.

Rather than changing the scriptures we took time to teach about sheep and shepherding and other Old and New Testament practices. One of the ways we did this was during our literacy program. The Myu language had never been learned by an outsider or written down prior to our arrival. Along with teaching and translating the scriptures was a priority to teach the adults and children how to read and write their own language.

In one of our primers we focused on the main biblical cultural topics that would come up in our gospel teaching. We showed them pictures of sheep and pictures of ourselves in the snow back home in Upper Michigan. They did not have words in their language for sheep or snow so we used the common trade language (Melanesian English) words for them. The isolated Myu people are very intelligent and had no trouble understanding foreign biblical culture when it was properly explained.

It would be dangerous to try to find a Myu cultural equivalent to replace the biblical account because none of them are exact representations of scripture. And the Myu Bible teachers are now able to articulate biblical culture in teaching the culture rather than coming up with some local example that falls short. Once you localize the scriptures you would be stuck trying to find “equivalents” that would constantly fall short. This is very dangerous.

There is absolutely no need to change the inspired word of God. It is no different than how we are to teach here at home. Explain the biblical culture so we can truly understand God’s intended meaning. For “All scripture (graphe, written biblical text) is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” (2 Tim. 3:16).”

-Tim Spanton, former missionary in Papua New Guinea, as quoted by Travis Allen at: http://www.gty.org/blog/B111007

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