Albert Outler, in his Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit, discusses how John Wesley “plundered the Egyptians” in order to communicate the Gospel. Wesley, whom Outler calls a “folk theologian”, found ways in which to effectively communicate the Gospel to large crowds.
Outler explains that the early church father, Origen coined this metaphor upon reading Exodus 12:28-36. A metaphor, as Outler explains, “pointing to the freedom that Christians have (by divine allowance) to explore, appraise, and appropriate all the insights and resources of any and all secular culture” (77).
The 20th century theologian Paul Tillich, in his Theology of Culture, suggests that religion and culture need to come together like a fine balanced weaving. One cannot over power (or over shadow) the other. A balance between religion and culture is needed, Tillich argues, in order to effectively communicate the gospel.
Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster, in their book The Godbearing Life, suggest that one of the roles of youth ministry today is to translate the gospel. We can translate the gospel using elements of culture such as literature (both classic and modern), science, philosophy, flim/television, and technology. If we do not make the connection between our lives, our world, and the Gospels, then the Gospel will never get translated.
Wesley was known as a man of “just one book”, that book being the Bible. For Wesley, Scripture was primary. According to Outler, “It was [Wesley's] profound sense of the Bible as a ‘speaking book’ that gave him his freedom to ‘plunder the Egyptians’ and guided him in the use he made of their treasures” (80). Wesley lived in the Scriptures. And by doing so, he was able translate the Gospel he lived in, in an effective way that took the Gospel to places it otherwise may never have gone.
Aren’t we called to do the same?