Contextual theology or contextualizing theology refers to theology which has responded to the dynamics of a particular context.
The term contextualizing theology is first used in missiology by Shoki Coe when he argued that the Venn-Anderson three-self principles were inadequate in addressing the sociopolitical context of his native Taiwan. Coe would popularize this notion through the Theological Education Fund of the World Council of Churches. While it was initially understood as part of a liberal approach to theology, it has grown in currency among evangelicals and Roman Catholics.
An individual may come from a particular cultural worldview, such as Arabic or Asian culture, or be faced with particular sociopolitical issues. Hence, examples of contextualized theologies include Latin American liberation theology, Minjung theology, and African theology.
The systematic theologian Regunta Yesurathnam sees contextual theology as including "all that is implied in indigenization or inculturation, but also seeks also to include the realities of contemporary, secularity, technology, and the struggle for human justice." The missiologist Stephen Bevans argues that there is no such thing as normative theology, that "doing theology contextually is not an option" since it is a human enterprise which is created within a particular human context.
Contextualization is used in the study of Bible translations in relation to their relevant cultural settings. Derived from the practice of hermeneutics, it sought to understand the use of words borrowed into the Hebrew Scriptures, and later their Greek and Latin translations.
The word continues to be used theologically, mainly in the sense of contextualizing the biblical message as perceived in the missionary mandate originated by Jesus in the gospel accounts. However, since the early 1970s, the word's meaning has widened. It is now used by secular, religious and political groups to render their message into different settings by adjusting or accommodating words, phrases or meanings into understandable contexts in respondent cultures.
- Coe, Shoki (Summer 1973). "In Search of Renewal in Theological Education". Theological Education. 9 (4): 233–243.
- Coe, Shoki (Autumn 1974). "Theological Education--a Worldwide Perspective". Theological Education. 11 (1): 5–12.
- Wheeler, Ray (April 2002), "The legacy of Shoki Coe", International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 26 (2): 78
- Wu, Jackson (April 2015). One Gospel for All Nations: A Practical Approach to Biblical Contextualization. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library Publishers. ISBN 978-0-87808-629-0.
- Bevans, Stephen B. (2002). Models of Contextual Theology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-57075-438-8.
- Chung, Paul S.; Kim Kyoung-Jae; Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matt, eds. (2007). Asian Contextual Theology for the Third Millennium: Theology of Minjung in Fourth-Eye Formation. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishing. ISBN 978-0-227-17331-2.
- Bergmann, Sigurd (2017). God in Context: A Survey of Contextual Theology. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-351-93280-6.
- Van Engen, Charles E. (2005), "Toward a Contextually Appropriate Methodology in Mission Theology", in Kraft, Charles H., Appropriate Christianity, Pasadena: William Carey Library, p. 194 ISBN 0-87808-358-8