Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review of Landmark Essays in Mission and World Christianity (eds. Gallagher and Hertig 2009)

Gallagher and Hertig spent ten years in interviews and browsing bibliographies and syllabi in missiological studies in order to find the 15 most influential essays ever written in contemporary missiology. The essays include contributions from Catholic, Orthodox, Conciliar, Pentecostal, and Evangelical traditions. The result are the “absolutely essential articles and papers that no person interested in the mission of the church can not have read” (2009:ix). Landmark Essays in Mission and World Christianity is a must-read for wannabe missiologists (such as myself).

In Part 1, “Biblical Theology,” David Bosch warns against proof-texting to support our own ministries. We must labor to develop a theology of mission from the whole of Scripture. But there will always be various models of mission (even in the NT) because the context is always changing. Next, Karl Barth goes deep into the exegesis and application of the “Great Commission” at the end of Matthew.

In Part 2, “History,” Orlando Costas explores the unfortunate link between modern missionary “enterprise” and liberal capitalist ideology. Dana Robert shows the recent demographic shift of Christianity “southward” and explains, “the future of world Christianity rests with the so-called younger churches and their daily struggles” (60).

In Part 3, “Theology, Church, and Kingdom,” Robert Schreiter proposes that reconciliation (horizontal reconciliation only?!?) is the new model of mission today because the process of economic globalization has created so much strife. Next, RenĂ© Padilla completely dismantles the homogeneous unit principle, “It is quite evident that the use of the homogeneous unit principle for church growth has no biblical foundation” (91). I wonder what Padilla would say about the biblical basis for the insider movement, which is the homogenous unit principle on steroids?

In Part 4, “Evangelism and Contextualization,” Kwame Bediako observes that Africa has been the place for the re-establishment of Christianity that is free from Christendom, and therefore a model for the future of World Christianity. Wilbert Shenk urges the recasting of a theology of mission that is informed and even led by new churches in the majority world. Andrew Walls’, the missiologist and church historian everyone else quotes (even in this volume!), essay on the “indigenizing” and the “pilgrim” principle is included. Wall’s article is foundational for all missiology, IMHO.

In Part 5, “Christianity and The Religions,” Lesslie Newbigin outlines the inclusivist position in regards to salvation of non-believers. Charles Van Engen nuances the Christian relationship to other religions through a model that is faith particularist (exclusivist), culturally pluralist, and ecclesiologically inclusivist. Both authors argue for humble, respectful boldness in our witness.

In Part 6, “Anthropology,” Paul Hiebert’s infamous essay, “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle” shows how the Western worldview has no way to deal with the spiritual realities present in the Bible or the Majority World. Daisy Machado argues for the “disestablishment” of the church (especially in America) from its cultural, political, and denominational ties in order to be able to prophetically demonstrate that “the veneer of Euro-American Protestantism is not required for entry to God’s feast” (197).

Finally, in Part 7, “Global Trends,” Peter Phan critiques Philip Jenkins’ The Next Christendom and says, “Christendom is not Christianity and has nothing do with Jesus and his gospel” (204). Samuel Escobar’s essay concludes the book by pointing to the past, present, and future of mission studies.

I would have added Piper’s initial chapter in Let the Nations be Glad (1989) to this volume. His opening sentence still rings in my ears today, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is.” Few of my colleagues wouldn’t know this sentence. In any case, the essays gathered here are fantastic to have in one volume, and it serves as an ecumenical companion to Ralph Winter’s Perspectives. To be challenged from traditions other than your own is invaluable.

1 comment:

Marti said...

Hey, thanks for the review. Confess I have a copy on my shelf but haven't read it! Some of these things I'm familiar with the idea but haven't read the original sources.