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Allegiance, Truth and Power: Three crucial dimensions for Christian living

 

How do experiential truth and the bondage-breaking power of the Spirit support every believer to have a right relationship with God?

 

Given the fact that the Bible’s primary concern is our relationship to God, a relationship that starts with commitment or allegiance to Him, where are the contextualization studies dealing with relationship? What are the culturally appropriate varieties of commitment and relationship to God through Jesus Christ? And, since spiritual power is high on the list of concerns for both biblical peoples as well as for most of the peoples of the present world, where are the contextualization studies dealing with spiritual power? Doesn’t the Bible have a lot to say about this subject? And might there not be culturally appropriate differences in the ways God’s authority and power are to be exercised from society to society?

Charles Kraft asks: Where are treatments of the more experiential side of Christian life and practice—theology as it is lived, not just as it is thought about?

In 1991 and 19921 I published articles dealing with three encounters that are crucial to the experience and communication of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I labeled these encounters: Allegiance (or Commitment), Truth and Power. As I have pondered these encounters, I have come to the conclusion that these areas are even more important than I had realized.

In my articles, I pointed out that each of these encounters leads to a specific very important dimension of Christian experience: allegiance leads to relationship, truth leads to understanding and spiritual power leads to freedom. Each of these areas is a crucial dimension of the God-connected life. I now believe the areas of encounter are pointing to the three crucial dimensions of Christian experience and witness. If so, we need to theorize concerning contextualization in each of these areas, rather than simply dealing with the truth (knowledge) area.

 

What I Mean By Dimensions

A dimension is an aspect of Christianity that, though closely interrelated with the other dimensions, is quite distinct in its content and, therefore, needs to be defined and treated as a distinct entity. We can focus on this distinctness in several ways. One way is to look at the distinctness of the human problems in view under each category.

We confront allegiance with allegiance, truth with truth, and power with power.

Knowledge, for example, is the appropriate antidote for ignorance and/or error. Spiritual power is what is needed when the problem is satanic captivity, harassment or temptation. Allegiance/commitment to Jesus Christ, then, is what is needed to replace any other allegiance that a person has made primary in their life. We can’t, however, confront a wrong primary allegiance with either knowledge or power. We can only confront one allegiance with another allegiance. Likewise, we cannot confront error or ignorance with either an allegiance or with power. These must be confronted with knowledge and truth. So also with power. We cannot confront power with knowledge or truth, only with power. In other words, we confront allegiance with allegiance, truth with truth, and power with power.

There are those in the evangelical community who are cult watchers. Though they know a lot about cults and biblical truth, they seem to poorly understand spiritual power. They, therefore, are very good at exposing the errors of the cults, but can do nothing with their power. In fact, some of them in their lack of understanding of power, actively condemn legitimate Christian power ministries along with the cult groups.

 

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Category: Fall 2010, Living the Faith

About the Author: Charles H. Kraft, Ph.D. (Hartford Seminary Foundation), is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Intercultural Communication, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, California). He has served as a missionary in Nigeria, and professor of African languages at Michigan State University and UCLA. He has published widely both in missiology and in African linguistics, and his books include Christianity in Culture (1979 and revised 2005), Worldview for Christian Witness (2008), and The Evangelical's Guide to Spiritual Warfare: Scriptural Insights and Practical Instruction on Facing the Enemy (Chosen, Feb 2015). His ministry website is www.heartssetfree.org.

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