David Fitch says and assumes, “yes,” but I doubt it. The “missional” movements are not really fundamentally different from the middle-class, pedestrian “church growth” movements of 25 years ago. They all seem to assume that accommodation is something that we do as we reach out to others. This is confused. William Wilimon prosecuted the case against “translation” a long time ago. It is not we who “grow” the church or “build bridges” or “reach out” by accommodating or translating anything. Let’s start where John started: “In the beginning was the Word….” God the Son is the revelation of God. He is the accommodation of God to us. The written Word is accommodated to us. We don’t need to “make it relevant.” It is the Word of God! It is relevant. We just need to speak it. Paul spoke it at the Areopagus. He preached the law by pointing out their religious impulse and how misdirected it was. In effect, he called the idolaters. He pointed out how they confuse the creature for the Creator. Then he preached the gospel. Many there thought it was foolishness. Indeed, to those who are perishing, it is foolishness, but it’s God’s foolishness.
Maybe we feel the need to “translate” and “accommodate” the faith because we’re trying to communicate the wrong thing? David tells a story about a man with a drug addiction who was confronted and walked away. This small group lacked something. David thinks its one thing, not knowing the particulars, I wonder if it’s another: the basic biblical categories of law and gospel. This drug addict (or any sinner) needs to hear two words: the law (God demands perfect righteousness, hates your sin, you are a sinner, and if you are not righteous before God, he hates you) and the gospel: God the Son is the righteousness of all those who believe and that righteousness is given freely, unconditionally to all who trust him alone for their salvation. There’s hope for that drug addict. He need not walk away because he’s not “serious” enough abot the Christian life. He needs to repent and believe. If he’s sorry for his sin and wants our help we should love him enough to help him. If he’s not sorry for his sin, if he’s impenitent, we should tell him the law. It’s that simple.
That’s a message that can be understood in every culture and in any language. We do not need to “modernize” it or accommodate it or translate it. God has his own metaphors and analogies and similies. We need to learn to speak God’s analogies, metaphors, and similies and stop making up our own.
This post first appeared in 2008.