Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Bill Bright’s (1921–2003) Four Spiritual Laws Reimagined: A Narrative Approach to Meaningful Gospel Conversations for an American Twenty-First-Century Secularized Context
by Monaco, Cas, Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2020, 359; 28257548
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation focuses on one of the key paradigmatic shifts evident in this era of twenty-first-century missiology. These shifts provide the impetus for this dissertation and help to drive the argument that Bill Bright’s evangelism tool, Four Spiritual Laws, shaped within his twentieth-century context, is insufficient for our current era and context. This study argues for the necessity of a reimagined, narrative approach to meaningful gospel conversations for an American twenty-first-century secularized context. The main research question is this: How can Cru honor Bill Bright’s vision and maintain his commitment to evangelism by training others to present the gospel in an American, twenty-first-century secularized context?

This study begins by examining the twenty-first-century religious and sociological context through the lens of cultural critics Charles Taylor and Philip Rieff. They characterize the twenty-first-century context as secularized—exclusively humanist and void of sacred authority. This secularized context is set in juxtaposition with Bill Bright’s twentieth-century context. The genealogy of his theological, missiological, and methodological development is examined in order to better understand his development of Four Spiritual Laws. This research surfaced the significance of Bright’s evangelical context in surprising ways, particularly as it relates to the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland from which the ecumenical, evangelical streams of mission emerged along with a parallel Roman Catholic stream.

These discoveries led to the call for a faithful recontextualization of the gospel for a secularized context. A narrative approach to meaningful gospel conversations is proposed by way of four prominent features of twenty-first-century recontextualization. Feature One provides an overarching theological framework that affirms the Bible as the True Story of the Whole World (TSWW) and the gospel as Good News for All. The TSWW tells the comprehensive story of God’s mission in the world and provides meaning for all of history and for each person’s life. Feature Two requires the church to yield to the full weight of God’s authority. In addition, Feature Two contends that a Trinitarian, Christocentric, eschatological hermeneutic is a vital interpretive element of the TSWW. Feature Three posits that faithful recontextualization for the twenty-first century must reflect the multicultural reality in America today. This includes an increased awareness of the cultural variation in America and a willingness to engage cross-culturally and inter-culturally. Feature Four necessitates a dynamic and dialogical encounter with culture that is marked by the following components: (1) an affirmation that the Spirit-created church lives as the very body of Christ in the world; (2) a dynamic and prophetic faith; (3) a reciprocal and cruciform way of discipleship; and, (4) a heightened awareness of secularization.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Robinson, George, Ashford, Bruce
Commitee: Lawless, Chuck, Choi, Peter
School: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Department: Department of Graduate Studies
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 82/6(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Theology, Religion
Keywords: Bright, Bill, Gospel, Metanarrative, Missio Dei, Recontextualize, Twenty-first century
Publication Number: 28257548
ISBN: 9798698569572
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