The Great Commission reviewed in The Westminster Theological Journal

04Dec08

It is the great strength of The Great Commission that, taking impressive cognizance of this profusion of mission research of the last decades, it presents the mission history of the last half-millennium in a form assimilable by upper division undergraduates. 

Whereas the standard volume of Neill viewed the global expansion of Christianity from a decidedly European and late colonial standpoint, The Great Commission has an understandable interest in how the missionary mandate was pursued (for good or ill) within and from the Americas. Particularly of note in this respect are the admirable chapters of Jon Hinkson, ‘‘Missions Among Puritans and Pietists,’’ and Bradley Gundlach, ‘‘Early American Missions from the Revolution to the Civil War.’’ Particularly the first of these goes far to show how deficient was Neill’s treatment of pre-Great Awakening Protestant missions. Further, whereas Neill had been content to rehearse the oft-told tale of meager Protestant missionary interest in the age of Refor mation, Glenn Sunshine’s chapter, ‘‘Protestant Missions in the Sixteenth Century’’ serves the interests of balance well by pointing out that initially early Protestant regions, because landlocked, had neither access to the sea nor any share in the building of seaborne empires. Their early missionary focus was, for the time, ‘‘home’’ mission. The well-crafted chapter of Timothy George, ‘‘Evangelical Revival and Missionary Awakening,’’ helpfully draws attention to the ways in which eighteenth-century missionary effort stood on the shoulders of earlier efforts. 

Most striking of all is the fact that The Great Commission has chapters on mission in Latin America and Africa written by J. Daniel Salinas and Tite Tie ́ nou, scholars native to the regions they describe. In a way very much in keeping with the emphases introduced by Andrew Walls, there is a happy emphasis on the indigenous missionary movements within the various cultures of these continents. Their point is not that western missionaries were never needed, but that, they having introduced the gospel into receptor cultures, the real ‘‘legwork’’ of spreading and contextualizing the Christian message was and is largely the work of nationals. 

Kenneth Stewart
Read the entire review as published in the Westminster Theological Journal (PDF)

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