by Jims | February 2nd, 2010
Anderson, Gerald H., ed. Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions. New York: Macmillan, 1998.
As is evident from the title, the nature of this book is a compilation of articles contributed by experts in the field of Missiology. The experts have contributed to a work that is without parallel. Although note listed as work related to the history of mission, it is nonetheless and key resource in missions history and the study of Christian history. Each article is devoted to the biography of missionaries. All the missionaries one would expect to be included are, but there are also men and women who may have been neglected by history had this work not been complete. The authors of each article are careful not to merely examine the successes of each entry, but also to note their failures. Each submission includes cultural challenges faced by the missionaries and their efforts to advance the gospel in diverse areas of the world. A unique aspect of this biographical compilation is that those who are considered supporters of field personnel are also included. Leading figures that remained in the sending agency are noted for their contribution to the spread of the gospel. A contribution to the academic field is also made in this work. At the end of most articles is a bibliography that enables the interlocutor to continue his quest in examining these missionaries.
Barzun, Jacques. From Dawn to Decadence. New York: Harper Collins, 2000.
His expertise in the field of cultural history is evident in this defining work of his career. Barzun blends a mix of historical encyclopedia like information with a refreshing element of narrative and plot. The first section does not deliver the story like narrative promised in the introduction of the work. These pages read more like the dry, encyclopedia entry that Barzun presents a polemic against in his preface. Once the narrative style of detailing the historical events is inaugurated, the book fulfills its purpose and causes the reader to find few places where it is acceptable in the flow of discourse to pause. This flow of the historical record is unique to Barzun’s work in that other works that detail the same time period are more like minimally dimensioned snapshots. Barzun weaves each story together and clearly demonstrates the interrelated influence of one historical event to another. Barzun is honest in his assessments and failures of the five hundred year period that he examines. He often seems harsh in his analysis of certain key figures in his historical epic, but nonetheless allows the reader to see the failures of many well known heroes. He does not limit his examination of history to just those figures familiar to the reader, but takes a deeper examination approach by noting many seemingly obscure figures that played minimal roles in history. By their inclusion, Barzun presents a three dimension view of the historical context, rather than making the reader perceive that the key figures operated alone in their quests. Barzun’s organization, upon first appearance, seems static and isolated by chronological arrangement. However, he regularly points the reader to other periods of time by which he demonstrates the interrelatedness of historical events. Four major periods keep order to the interrelated narrative.
Bosch, David J. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. New York: Orbis, 1999.
Bosch provides a reflective definition of the historical shifts in missions, which is characteristic of those proponents of an ecumenical approach to missions, where the methodologies of mission work do not originate nor are evaluated by one’s theology, but rather by the united effort of the religious community. He allows the reader to see that the historical changes in methodology were not just efforts at new ways of accomplishing old goals, but were often shifts in biblical and theological mandates for missions. Bosch takes the reader on a journey of paradigm shifts in historical missionary practices that led away from the primary mission of evangelism to an emphasis on humanitarian efforts. He allows the reader to examine the detrimental ramifications that have historically emerged as a result of such a shift.
Dargan, Edwin Charles. A History of Preaching, Vols. 1 and 2. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968.
Although a work related to the field of preaching, Dargan’s volumes provide excellent insight into the study of mission’s history. He allows the reader to examine the communication challenges throughout the history of preaching in diverse cultures. Dargan formats each period beginning with a summary of tone of preaching for the specified period. These insightful sections aid in the understanding of the climate and culture in which the preacher carried out his ministry. Dargan covers issues related to the religious institutions’ perceptions of preaching, governmental perceptions of preaching, and cultural receptivity of the preacher’s message. This descriptive inclusion allows the reader to understand the complexity of the preacher’s task in each period, and it provides insight to the external contextual influences upon the preacher in each age. A second issue related to each historical period’s introduction is Dargan’s insights on cultural issues related to the day. He provides the reader insight into the preacher’s world by over viewing political issues, cultural expectations, religious institutional pressures and changes, major world and religious events, moral climate, regional and national interests, and academic characteristics. Dargan provides, in each introduction, insights into the preacher’s use of scripture, style of delivery, and priority of certain doctrines as related to the chosen age.
D’Costa, Gavin. “The New Missionary: John Hick and Religious Plurality.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 15 (April 1991): 66-69.
This article, although brief in length, provides excellent insight into the historical debate within missions’ movements. John Hick promoted a movement away from a Christocentric approach to missions into a Theocentric approach. This shift has produced a divide between missions that concentrates on evangelism to missions that is for the purpose of humanitarian aid. The contribution to the study of missions’ history is also its bibliography that provides a wealth of additional sources for the study of this subject. Pluralism, according to the article has been in existence since the first missionaries were called to minister along side of other religions. Hick’s polemic is on in favor of weakening the current evangelical strategy of missions’ evangelism. This mission is accomplished by taking the attention off Christ and putting it on a generic use of god.
Eitel, Keith E. Paradigm Wars. Oxford: Regum, 2000.
Keith Eitel’s work is a republication of his dissertation. It provides insight into the more recent historical events in missions related to shifts as a result of postmodernism and pluralism. The contribution of this work to the study of missions’ history is multiple. First, Eitel provides analysis of key events in Southern Baptist missions’ history that is unique to the field of study. Second, he includes appendices that allow the student to examine the historical, philosophical models. Eitel also offers a good summary of the manner in which missions is effected by philosophical shifts. Eitel also notes three strategic principles emphasized during the Parks era that addressed the issue of postmodernism. The principles were “a move away from Enlightenment assumption of a ‘subject object dichotomy,’ which was more evident in the gradually phased models of indigeneity; movement away from Enlightenment patterns of culturally ethnocentric paternalism toward cross cultural identification; movement away from Enlightenment patterns of denominational dependence or unchecked independence toward independence with local accountability, or interdependence (missionary and church).” The overriding emphasis of each principle was the movement away from the appearance of an institutionalized movement, which postmodernists vehemently reject. The old missionary strategy of local indigenous groups governed by a Western board would no longer work in a postmodern culture.
Filbeck, David. Yes, God of the Gentiles, Too. Wheaton: Billy Graham Center, 1994.
David Filbeck presents a polemic in favor of embracing this view of pluralism, for in his view, it causes mankind to see God in a manner He chooses, rather than in man made systems of revelation. Filbeck’s experience on the mission field in Thailand seems to have somewhat skewed his view of missions’ theology. He does, however, provide an excellent resource for examining missions from an Old Testament mandate. He notes that the challenge on the mission field is often a debate with ancient religions over the validity of Jesus, who was born after some of their god’s and leaders, came into existence. Filbeck provides and answer, namely that the missionary mandate as well as God’s plan of salvation began log before their religions ever formed. The contribution to historical missions studies provided in this work includes a biblical historical view of missions as a model and mandate. He provides an excellent biblical overview from both Testaments regarding the historical foundations for missions.
Hesselgrave, David J. Communicating Christ Cross Culturally. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991.
As a major contribution to the field of missiological studies, this work by David Hesselgrave allows the reader to see the progressive advancement of communication theories throughout the history of missions. One of the primary values of this work in relation to missiological studies is its extensive bibliography. The bibliography was expanded in the second edition. Hesselgrave discusses the difficulty that missionaries face in communicating. No matter what age or culture in which the gospel has been communicated, Hesselgrave notes, that the best model has been the cybernetic model which includes: sender, receiver, channel, code, encoder, decoder, noise and feedback. These may vary from model to model but each component has been primary in the historical communication of the gospel. Hesselgrave, unlike most works on cross cultural communication, includes an emphasis on the Holy Spirit. The author holds communication as the greatest challenge to any missionary in any age, and that successful communication happens when the missionary’s purpose coincides with that of the Holy Spirit.
Kane, J. Herbert. A Concise History of The Christian World Mission. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982.
Although brief in its descriptive models, this work provides a good overview of missions from the first century to the twentieth century. It is written on a scholarly, research level, but is useful for all who desire a general overview of the progression of the missionary advancement throughout history. Helpful to the reader is Kane’s method of concentrating on one specific area of the world in each of his concise sections. This style allows the reader to investigate the overall missions’ movement within a time period in light of specific geographical areas. Although one reading Kane’s work will come away with many questions, it is nonetheless a work that is valuable for the student of missions’ history. This book should be read prior to the more detailed accounts of missions’ history. The reason for the assignment of such a place in a reading list is that this work allows the student of missions to gain an outline knowledge of missions’ history that serves as an excellent foundation for future readings.
Larkin, William, and Joel F. Williams, ed. Mission in the New Testament. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1998.
This is a study in missions’ history from an evangelical perspective. Obviously from the title, the concentration of content relates to the missions’ efforts in the New Testament. This compilation of essays allows a diverse, yet theologically consistent, group to make significant contributions to the field of study. The greatest contribution of this work is the establishment of a biblical basis for mission efforts in the church today. Strong polemics are provided in most of the article, aiding the reader in developing a method and strategy for missionary efforts. A historical foundation for the missions’ advancement serves as a starting point for all studies and efforts in propagating the gospel. Essays concentrate on the work of various biblical writers and genre’s. Each section contributes to the study of missions by detailing the foundation on which all missions throughout history is derived.
Moffett, Samuel Hugh. A History of Christianity in Asia, vol. 2. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2005.
A History of Christian Missions in Asia 1500-1900 is the second volume of Moffett’s trilogy on the history of missions in Asia. Moffett notes that the challenge in uncovering the interrelatedness of mission’s history and Asian history is somewhat difficult. Empires and religions often converged with ambiguity in matters of which influenced the other. The reader is often challenged to maintain continuity in reading Moffett’s work. There are many illustrations from one period and geographical regions utilized in other periods. This continuous movement between periods and places results in a journey that is difficult to follow through a well researched history of Asian missions. He offers a disclaimer that history does not occur in periods or specific chronological boundaries, but rather in people, events, and progressive influences. Moffett, however, primarily tells the Asian mission story in a chronological arrangement, but allows periods to overlap in order for the narrative to flow. Moffett concludes his work with “five debatable generalizations” regarding the global context of Asian church history, particularly related to the nineteenth century. First, if the measure of growth is the number of Christian adherents, the nineteenth century was a great success. Second, the nineteenth century was a Protestant century. Although Catholics boasted more numbers, the Protestants grew by greater percentages. Third, the nineteenth century was the century of evangelism. Evangelistic fervor was revived by Dwight L. Moody, whose message was to proclaim, persuade, and then organize the church. Fourth, the nineteenth century was the century of women in missions. Not only was the wall of single women broken, but also the wall against black women was destroyed. Fifth, the century’s characteristic mission structure was the volunteer movement.
Neill, Stephen. A History of Christian Missions. London: Penguin, 1964.
One of the first contributions to the study of missions’ history that is evident in a scan of this work is the bibliography. As characteristic with the rest of the work, Neill appears to have the student in mind while writing and organizing material. The bibliography is divided by geographical location. One desiring additional information on a particular area or movement noted in the primary text can readily find sources. Neill traces, not so much missions’ history, but the progression of the movement. Beginning in the first century and concluding in the twentieth century, Neill takes the reader on a detailed journey of missionary advancements. Helpful to the reader is the manner in which Neill concentrates on specific regions. This allows the reader not only to get a general idea of the movement of missions, but also specific case studies. Although he often speaks in generalities about certain places, he nonetheless provides enough specifics to allow the reader to investigate and draw conclusions on specific movements.
Newbigin, Lesslie. A Word in Season. Michigan: Eerdmans, 1994.
Newbigin’s examination of the history of pluralism uncovers a globalization of societies that has “led missionary societies to move away from the one-directional model of mission to a model that emphasizes sharing, listening and dialogue” (185). Newbigin provides detailed analysis of what has historically occurred as pluralism has risen to the forefront of the missionary endeavor. He notes the danger of pluralism has historically been an erasure of truth in favor of an elevation of human knowledge. Newbigin’s contribution to the field of historical missions’ studies includes an examination of major institutional advancements that have altered missiological practices.
Nida, Eugene A. Message and Mission. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1990.
Nida’s work concentrates more on methodology of communicating the gospel in a cross cultural setting than it does on a history of missions. However, the insights provided throughout his assessments of cross cultural communication’s strategies are invaluable to the study of missions. Whether missionaries have faced the issue of pluralism, language barriers, or cultural dividing points, the issue of cross cultural communication has remained in every era of missionary activities. Throughout the work, Nida provides historical challenges that have faced each missionary in diverse contexts. One of the greatest strengths of Nida’s work is its contribution to the field of theological missions’ study. Nida gives a strong polemic in favor of a clear theological foundation for all missionaries. This work can serve as a measuring rod for ever missions’ era by noting each missionary’s efforts in light of Nida’s plan for communicating cross culturally.
O’Brien, P. T. Gospel and Mission in the Writings of Paul. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995.
This work is one of the greatest contributions to the field of missiological studies. Regardless of the particular work one is reading related to the subject of missions, O’Brien’s contribution can serve as a foundational statement on missions. Practically, O’Brien connects the life of Paul with the mission of evangelism. He allows the reader to see that for Paul, missions was not just a calling or a discipline to dissect, but rather a lifestyle into which one is immersed. The author concentrates his analysis on Paul’s writings to the churches in Ephesus and Philippi. The author interweaves Paul’s theology with his philosophy of missions. The work is a unique contribution to missiological study, for it allows the reader to examine the theological mandate for Pauline missions’ strategy rather than just the geographical journeys and personal encounters that most works related to Paul and missions provide.
Stanfield, V. L. Notes On The History of Preaching. New Orleans: New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1963.
Stanfield’s notes are related to preaching, but he includes many great missionary preachers throughout his work. His contribution to the field of missions is as significant as that to the field of preaching due to his extensive insights into missions’ movements throughout the world. This work primarily contributes to the historical studies of missions in relation to missionary communication. Beginning each section with a summary of preaching in the time period covered as well as the cultural context is helpful to the study as the reader discovers how each of the chosen preachers played a role in developing the genre of preaching in their era. Several of the introductions include the primary moral issues facing the preachers of said era, allowing the reader to gain insight into the motives behind specific emphases in preaching.
The strength of Stanfield’s work finds its source in his treatment of the culture, world events, and societal influences presented prior to each major section. From these contextual overviews the author demonstrates that his selected preachers were not in a vacuum, but preached, wrote, and taught often in reaction and sometimes in anticipation of moral, political, and religious challenges to the faith. Highlighting cultural changes in science, philosophy, literature, education, and art, Stanfield provides the reader a comprehensive picture of the world in which the preacher carried out his work.
A brief biographical sketch of each preacher, presented in paragraph form, provides the reader an overview of selected preacher’s early influences, educational background, writings, and type of preaching style or method, and theology. Particularly helpful to the reader is Stanfield’s organization of material by date and by nationality. Listing the preachers with their contemporaries allows the reader to examine how various preachers of the same time and under the same cultural and religious influences were similarly and sometimes diversely affected. This categorization also allows the reader to view the direct influence preachers had on societal changes and geographical religious movements.
Taber, Charles R. The World is Too Much With Us: Culture in Modern Protestant Missions. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1991.
This book is written as a tribute to the bicentennial of William Carey’s book that launched the modern missions’ movement. Tabor’s book is not only a history of missions, but also a study of cultural issues that have influenced missionary strategy and methodology. The work is significant to the study of missions’ history for it demonstrates the challenges missionaries have encountered in nearly every culture. He weighs the movement of the gospel against the tolerance of missionaries to accept diverse religious beliefs. He appears hostile towards conservative movements that sought to stand firm on the exclusivity of Christ for salvation. He seems to exclude what is almost necessary, namely a method of determining what is most influential, theology or culture. Even with this gross exclusion, Taber provides great insight into the challenges encountered by missionaries over the past two hundred years. He also allows the reader to investigate the failures of those who weighed too heavily on either side of the argument.
Tucker, Ruth A. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.
Tucker covers the history of missions from its early beginnings in the Jerusalem. This work is written on a college course level, but is beneficial for anyone desiring a fresh and insightful look at missions’ history. Tucker allows the reader to see more than just the facts in regards to missions’ history. She takes the reader on a journey through history that is void of any static monographs filled with recitations of dates, places, and people. These crucial elements in the field of missions’ history are certainly included and her research is not in question. However, Tucker takes the task of historical reporting a step further. She allows the reader to walk the streets of the cities she describes, talk with the people of history, and experience the events. She does more than just tell the story, her writing style allows the reader to relive the historical encounter. Her attention to the contributions of significant individuals is not just filled with glowing reviews of their successes, but also points out their trials and failures. It is a work where scholars can find information on places, dates and people, but also one in which the lay reader interested in missions can be challenged by the effort of missionaries throughout history.
Walls, Andrew F. The Missionary Movement in Christian History. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1996.
Reading Walls is like viewing a picture book. Each snap shot is full, expressive, and effectively descriptive. Every section of Walls’ works is filled with extensive detail, but several elements are deficient. Walls contributes too much attention to Africa. His service as a career missionary in Africa allows him insights not available to the researcher without field experience, but it also standardizes his work and analysis to that one region, sometimes to the neglect of other regions. Africa appears to serve as the quintessential example of all theories, practices, and methodologies of Christian missions. Certainly, Walls would not affirm this assessment, but the perception, with so many references pointing to Africa, is that it is the model by which all other Christian movements are evaluated. Rather than creating a new culture, the transmission of the faith, according to Walls, is conducted through cultural confrontation, then transformation through the gospel. This confrontation is not for the purpose of superimposing a Westernized or European Christian culture on others, but on interjecting the gospel with sensitivity to culture’s practices without compromising the change aspect of the gospel. In order to break the reader of his preconceived ideas of what “true Christianity” looks like, Walls demonstrates the substances of the faith on which Christian communities throughout the ages placed value. From these various values, Walls contends that Christianity has continuity, regardless of the emphasis of various Christian cultures.
Walls, Andrew F. The Cross Cultural Process in Christian History. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2002.
Walls describes the challenge of cross cultural communication in terms of sitting in a seat in a movie theater. One’s vantage point in such a place determines what one sees. It is imperative that the missionary learn the vantage point of the culture he is attempting to reach. This vantage point allows the missionary to ascertain with relative accuracy the best starting point for communicating the gospel. Therefore Walls concludes, “This means that the influence of Christ is brought to bear on the points of reference in each group. The points of reference are the things by which people know their identity and know where, and to whom, they belong” (51).
Two of the greatest challenges to the transmission of the faith throughout Christian mission’s history are the ability to create a sense of belonging to the Christian community in diverse cultures, and developing the sense in those cultures that they are no longer at home in this world. The cultures do not change, but based on his first premise, the new believers within those cultures must alter their perception of who they are and the value of the culture in which they live. One such element that challenged the premise of transmission was Christendom. This ideology began as Europe came to Christ, not as individuals, but as entire groups, therefore defining Christianity as a political and social system. As Christianity began to spread the one defining community of faith was no longer possible. Walls does not address the issue of the coherence of all communities of faith that he detailed in the beginning. It seems that a justifiable argument can still occur in favor of Christendom, with allowances for culturally diverse emphases. This is one of the cases where Walls’ analysis is lacking and the reader is left to question Walls’ stance on the matter. The bulk of this work constitutes a diatribe on the tremendous movement of God on the continent of Africa. It is there that Walls indicates the definition of Christianity for the next generation will emerge. He considers the west in a post-Christian stage in its history. This statement appears to find foundation, only on the dramatic increase of conversions in Africa. This post-Christian assertion is an area where Walls could have provided the reader with greater analysis, perhaps by eliminating some of the details about Africa.