What is Contextual Theology?

Contextual theology is a category of theology that recognizes the contextual nature of theology and uses parts of that context to inform the theology in development. Context is everything that is happening alongside the theological process that could potentially inform it, including the sociopolitical, cultural, racial, economic, ecological, and historic climate. All theology takes place in a variety of contexts, but it is up to the theologian and defined within the theological method they use to decide what piece(s) of context are used to inform the development of their theology.

The contexts for the development of womanist theology include the civil rights movement in the United States, the development of Black liberation theology, and the ongoing oppression of Black women through multiple facets of their identities. The quotation includes multiple indications of context including phrases like “If Black liberation theology wants to include Black women…” and “Black liberation theology’s bias against Black women” suggesting that they were not included in the movement. Williams directs theologians to review what is missing in “Biblical aspects of the community’s faith-journey are revealed in sermons, songs…” specifically for the experiences of Black women due to socio-political bias.

The contexts for the development of liberation theology include Gutierrez’s experience in Latin America working with the poor and oppressed, seeing where the church was only working for the needs of the middle class and above, and finding language and similar issues being called out through Marxism including class struggle, capitalism, and minority ownership in the means of production. Lifting the oppressed from poverty and achieving social change through praxis is a necessary foundation in liberation theology.

The contexts for the development of eco-feminist theology included the development of nuclear technologies which were a huge concern for environmental activists. The impending ecological crises between a potential nuclear meltdown and the destruction of the environment launched a piece of the feminist movement that focused on a Mother Earth goddess and which McFague adopted into Christian theology with a metaphorical God as a mother aka earth.

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