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Archive for the ‘missiology’ Category

True Sons of Heaven David Marshall

David Marshall. The True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture. Seattle, WA: Kuai Mu Press, 2002. 216 pp.

This book has far too many problems that can’t be ignored.  I will begin looking at the problems first and then what’s good with the book; but the weakness far outweighs its strength and I hesitate suggesting this work to anyone else.

The first problem is rather minor but everything else that follows concerns with the content of the book.  This book has bad editing.  The book has three sections but the numbering of the section is off; for instance, part one is labeled as part two, and part two is labeled as part three, etc.    In the first chapter the endnotes are missing.  I think the editors were asleep on the wheel and honestly I think if they did a better job scrutinizing the content of the book, I think the book wouldn’t have been published in the first place because I think it does not even fulfill the expectation of an undergraduate essay.

The author David Marhsall did quote various sources but there were many times I wished he explained better what it was or who it was that he was quoting—and why was it significant.  It is not helpful for the general reader when the sources of these quotes are not explained.

The book’s thesis is that “many important symbols and ideas within Chinese culture points to Jesus” (7).  Some of his evidences of how Chinese culture points towards Jesus and Christianity does not seem to logically follow.  For instance, on page five Marshall talked about how Beijing’s Temple of Heaven had twelve red outer pillars and that the number twelve and the color red pointed to the apostles.  I don’t know how the color red necessitate that it is the apostles’ blood in view.  We must also not forget that the Apostle John was not martyred so it is hard to see 12 red pillars.  Later in the book Marshall would argue that the Forbidden Palace’s three layer roof is proof of the Trinity but this seems somewhat of a stretch.

Another of his evidence that Chinese culture points towards Christianity is Confucius.  For instance on page 9-10 Marshall claims about Confucius that he “did more than anyone in China to point people to this way.”  I would say that is a bold claim.  I have reservation with Marshall’s claim about Confucius when Marshall in the book also admitted that Confucius “did not know how to approach heaven” on page 41, that “one thing Confucius lacked: closeness to Heaven” on page 56 and also how “he did not know how to bridge the gap between heaven and earth, or fully understand why it needed to be bridged” on page 57. How can one point to the way when he is ignorant of all the essentials of the Way?  Marshall also believed that Confucius’ talk about Sheng Ren (Holy Man) anticipates the Messiah and one of his defense of this is that “Confucius never said the Sheng Ren would be Chinese” (42).  But Marshall here is making a fallacious argument from silence.  There are so much question begging assertions that the book makes about Confucius and Jesus that it is hard to keep track of them; for instance on page 68 the author claims that both Jesus and Confucius and Jesus “are going the same direction” except Jesus makes it “a dangerous adventure” (68).

Marshall also tried to argue that in the past Chinese thinkers did know the God of Christianity.  I think he failed to interact with the strongest arguments of those who disagreed and instead Marshall engaged in a defense the Chinese concept of God is personal.  While I do believe that Chinese does have some conception of a personal God that hardly makes it the Christian God.  He also failed to account for the silence of Chinese intellectual figureheads with the concept of the Trinity, something that is distinctively Christian.  Marshall’s discussion about God’s transcendence and imminence is misplaced in the debate.  Added to his confusion is Marshall’s statement that “there are passages in the Bible where the boundary between God and man appear a bit fudged, too, such as Paul’s famous ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’” (24).  When one look up Acts 17, we do see the passages affirm God’s transcendence and immanence but it does not present it as being muddled.  God is indeed transcendent but also His presence is everywhere though that does not mean God is His creature or creation.

It does not help Marshall’s cause when he is theologically weak that affects his discernment and presentation.  For instance, he talks about Nestorians as “the first Christians in China” (25) without acknowledging their heretical status.  There is the danger of syncretism in Marshall’s theology.  He claims on page 68 that “Jesus and Lao Zi were ‘spiritual brothers.’”  I wished the book was more pronounce and clear concerning sin, Jesus’ death and salvation.  Even when he does talk about those subject towards the end of the book, he doesn’t connect the relationship of sin to justification and Jesus’ work on the cross which I see as essential for one’s Gospel presentation.

His methodology is problematic because everything points to Jesus Christ, even Mao’s rebellion is something Jesus took to make part of His Way (64-65).  Marshall thinks Jesus was speaking about Mao’s regime when He said brothers will be against brothers, etc (168).  It is a bit of a stretch.  It must also be said that the same method the author use can also be used to demonstrate how Chinese culture points to say Marxism, Islam, etc.  It is a flawed and speculative method.  Plus, I don’t think Mao is a good “bridge” to Chinese culture for Christianity, given how he is a tyrant and also someone who is not necessarily held in high regards among everyone in the Chinese community.

I thought it was ironic that the author could point out “Chinese Buddhism” is “very Chinese, but not very Buddhist” (81).  At times I felt Marshall’s work ended up being more Chinese than Christian.

I think any reference to historical and political realities that the book make must be double checked.  For instance, on page 82-83 the book claims “A symbol of both Mao’s success and his failure is that under socialism, the poor learned to waste this precious grain,” with the grain referring to rice.  Supposedly, “the communists alleviated China’s chronic food shortage” (83).   I had a hard time with this personally since it goes against what history tells us of the man made famine that Mao’s economic policies produced.  In fact, Mao’s policies followed that of Stalin and Mao didn’t change it even with the Russians warning him that it wasn’t going to work since they have done it already themselves.  Given the historical inaccuracy of the statement we must ask what is the basis for Marshall to assert such a horrendous claim and he tells us following the above quote when he go on to say “When I walked by student dorms in China in the mid 1980s, I learned to keep an eye out for uneaten rice thrown through a window” (83).  Assuming this to be true, we must remember that the author’s experience in the mid-1980s was the reign of Deng Xiao Ping and not Chairman Mao.  Chairman Mao has been dead for a decade so the basis for his evidence of Mao’s economic success does not support his conclusion.

There was too many times throughout the book that the author wrote flowery descriptions that didn’t have to do with anything.  There’s a travelogue small talk feel to the book that was not appropriate for a book that was going to rigorously argue how Jesus fulfills Chinese culture.  There were pictures in the book that one has to wonder what did it have to do with anything with the chapter and pictures that made one ask the question: who is this guy?  What is going on?

As I said before the bad outweighs the good in the book.  What I did appreciate from the book is his chapter on how Buddhism cannot fulfill the expectation and longing of Chinese culture.  Of course, one might ask why must Chinese Culture be the standard to judge one’s religion in the first place and if consistent it is also detrimental to the Christian cause since not everything in Chinese culture is right and compatible with Christianity.  It seems as if this didn’t occur to the author giving his silence on the issue.

I also enjoyed it whenever the author discussed Chinese character and how it points to some profound truth or confirm Biblical truths and this is probably the strongest evidence he presents in the book.  Sadly when it comes to the characters pointing to Genesis he shares in the appendix that he is skeptical of it; but if he is skeptical of the strongest evidence in his book, that doesn’t speak a whole lot for the rest of his superficial look at how Chinese culture points towards Christ.

Purchase: Amazon

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I hope you catch the irony with the title of today’s post.Perspective on the Worldwide Christian Movement

For a few months now I have been blogging about my concern with some of the disturbing trends with recent Christian missionary methodology.  One such concern I have is the fact that some seem to be against good reasoning.

An example of this can be seen in the case of C. Peter Wagner.  He is a former professor at Fuller Seminary’s School of World Missions (it has since been renamed the School of Intercultural Studies).  In a previous post I looked at some of the problem found in Wagner’s essay “On the Cutting Edge of Mission Strategy.

One of the things that Wagner said that I didn’t get to unpack in my previous post is Wagner’s view that Jesus prefer a demonstration of miraculous power rather than a”carefully reasoned argument” which he sees as a sign of Western “secularizing influence.”  I quote Wagner in his own words:

One of the more disturbing things we are beginning to discover is that, in more cases than we would care to think, our missionary messsage in the Third World has been having a secularizing influence.  I first realized this when I read an article by my colleague, Paul G. Hiebert, called ‘The Flaw of the Excluded Middle’ in 1982.  He begins the article by citing the question that John the Baptist had his disciples ask Jesus: ‘Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ (Luke 7:20).  Hiebert emphasized that Jesus’ reply was not a carefully reasoned argument, but rather a demonstration of power in healing the sick and casting out of evil spirits” (Wagner, 581).

As one can see, Wagner came to his position through the writing of another professor at Fuller Seminary’s School of World Mission: Paul Hiebert.  The relevant quote that Wagner read is quoted below:

The disciples of Jesus asked Jesus, ‘Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ (Luke 7:20 RSV).  Jesus answered, not with logical proofs, but by a demonstration of power in curing the sick and casting out evil spirits.   This much is clear.  Yet when I once read the passage from my perspective as a missionary in India and sought to apply it to missions in my day, I felt a sense of uneasiness.  As a Westerner, I was used to presenting Christ on the basis of rational arguments, but by evidences of his power in the lives of people who were sick, possessed and destitute” (Hiebert, 407).

Note how both Wagner and Hibert appealed to Luke 7:20.  Here is Luke 7:20-23 in context:

20 When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the[o]Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’” 21 At that [p]very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. 22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, thepoor have the gospel preached to them. 23 Blessed is he [q]who does not take offense at Me.”

There are problems with what these two Professors of Fuller Seminary has to say against “reason:”

  1. Wagner’s and Hiebert’s position is self-refuting in that they are both against carefully reasoned argument, and yet they end up trying to present what they think is a carefully reasoned argument for their position when they invoke Luke 7:20.  On the one hand they don’t think carefully reasoned arguments are legitimate but they inevitably presuppose the endeavor is legitimate when they try to set forth their reason against carefully reasoned argument.
  2. Wagner believes “carefully reasoned argument” is an example of Western missionary’s secularizing influence upon the Third World.  But this does not logically follow.  Wagner commit the logical fallacy of slippery slope when he thinks that carefully reasoned argument is going to lead one to become secularized.  This is not the case and portray a misunderstanding of what reasoning is on the part of Wagner; if one’s premises is not secularized but Biblically informed and “sanctified” then one will not become secularized in their conclusion.  Again, Wagner’s concern does not logically follow.
  3. It is important to exegete Luke 7:20-23 accurately.  Nowhere in the passage does Jesus condemn “presenting Christ on the basis of rational arguments” (to use Hiebert’s own words).
  4. In light of point 3, it must be pointed out that both Hiebert and Wagner commit the logical fallacy of a false dilemma when they present the option as either we accept Christ’s miracle as having evidential value or we accept rational arguments as having evidential value.  Why must a Christian accept either/or instead of both/and?
  5. We can agree with Hiebert and Wagner that Jesus’ purpose of performing miracles was to confirm the truth about the claims of Jesus Christ for as Hebrews 2:3-4 attests on the nature of signs, wonders and miracles: “how will we escape if we neglect so great asalvation?[d]After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various [e]miracles and by [f]gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” (Hebrews 2:3-4)  But notice Jesus expected the right extrapolation of what the miracles mean and this proper interpretation of what does the evidence mean is act of engaging in reasoning.
  6. Point 5 enjoy further support from the immediate context in Luke 7 if one examine verse 22.  What Jesus told the disciples of John the Baptist is very significant since this is an echo of Isaiah 61:1 as presented in Luke 4:18.  Jesus description of what He is doing also should make His hearers think of Isaiah 26:19, 35:5-6.  This heavy use of Isaiah’s terms and phrases indicate that Jesus wants John to think Biblically in interpreting the evidence of Jesus’ miracles.  He is making an argument!  He is not merely arguing from miracles alone but bringing in Scripture to show that His miracles fulfill Messianic Prophecies.
  7. The most ironic thing about Wagner’s complaint that missionaries who use carefully reasoned arguments are “secularizing Third World Nations” is that it is those who are like him who are secularizing Third World Nations and not the ones who believed in the Sanctified Use of reason and argumentation, etc.  Note how Wagner thinks the performance of miracles are sanctified for the Christian but reasoning is not.  This is the same paradigm that secularists adopt when they separate the domain of God and the miraculous from the domain of “reason.”  Contrary to his claim, it is the Christian who do employ sanctified reasoning that is consistent in rejecting the dualism of secular/sacred.

Bibliography

Hiebert, Paul. 2009. “THe Flaw of the Excluded Middle.”Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 407-414.

Wagner, Charles Peter. 2009. “On the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy.”Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 574-582.

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C Peter Wagner on the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy

Charles Peter Wagner is probably best known as one of the leaders of the Church Growth movement that was a former professor of Church Growth at Fuller Seminary up until 2001.  He has also founded Global Harvest Ministries and Wagner Leadership Institute.  Wagner himself was a missionary in Bolivia from 1956 to 1971.

Wagner has an essay that appeared in an anthology on the Worldwide Christian Movement that I want to look at more closely:

Wagner, Charles Peter. 2009. “On the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy.” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 574-582.

What Wagner pushes forth in his essay is for Evangelicals to have a “fresh look” with incorporating “supernatural power” with missions.  Wagner states this in the conclusion of his essay:

I feel that one of the callings that God has given me is to be an encouragement to traditional Evangeical non-Pentecostal and non-Charismatic institutions so that they will begin to take a new look at mission power–ministering supernaturally as we encounter the enemy” (Wagner, 582).

And also in the middle of his essay:

I believe that we Evangelicals need a fresh look a supernatural power, a fresh awareness of worldview and a fresh examination of the theology of the Kingdom” (Wagner, 579).

By “supernatural power” Wagner has in mind the ministry of supernaturally healing the sick and casting out demons.  Wagner does admit in the essay that

We are still at the beginning stages of this, and we are not yet satisfied with the way we are doing the job, but we are trusting God to continue to teach us so that we can in turn teach others” (Wagner, 582).

The anthology does not say when Wagner wrote the essay but if the last few years is any indication with his institute providing leadership and training for the New Apostolic Reformation Movement, it isn’t heading in the right direction.  The following are my concern for Wagner’s “cutting edge” of missions strategy:

1.) First off, concerning the New Apostolic Reformation Movement, I don’t have the time or space to rehearse the theological problems and heresies spewing out from this group but my friend Lyndon Unger has done a good job describing it in his Primer on the NAR.  If NAR is the fruit of Wagner’s more mature stage of the “supernatural” that he talks about in his essay, we shouldn’t seek to merge it with missions since it is bad even for those within the church.  Why export it overseas?

2.) Second, it seems that Wagner’s cutting edge approach towards missions suffer from the problem of theological integrity.  Wagner is essentially a Charistmatic but doesn’t seem to own up to it.  Note what he says:

The third wave involves those of us–and I include myself–who, for one reason or another, do not personally wish to identify with either the Pentecostals or the Charismatics.  We love, respect and admire our friends in those movements, and we pray God’s blessing on them in all their work.  We recognize that currently they represent the most rapidly growing segment of the Body of Christ worldwide.  We have learned a great deal from them and desire to learn more  But our style is slightly different.  We minister in very similar ways, but explain what we do in alternate theological terminology” (Wagner, 579).

From the above, does Wagner distance himself from the Pentecostals and Charismatics over actual theological content?  Wagner says the difference is not of essence but of “style,” which incidentally “is slightly different.”  He even said “We minister in very similar ways.”  The other difference between him and Pentecostals and Charismatics is an “alternate theological terminology.”  I think his alternative terminology is much ado about nothing: We can have an alternative terminology for “horse” in Chinese (“ma”) but that doesn’t make it not a horse in essence.  He is a Charismatic and ought to own up to it.  Will God bless a strategy that does not uphold integrity?

3.) Third, the cutting edge of missions as described in Wagner’s essay has the spirit that sees doctrine as irrelevant in general and Reformed theology in particular.  Wagner agreeably quotes Richard De Ridder of Calvin Theological Seminary taking a swipe of Calvinism as being irrelevant for modern missionaries, saying

One thing deeply impressed me: how irrelevant so much of traditional Reformed Theology was to these people and their situation, and how seldom this theology spoke to their real needs.  The question that concern Satan, demons, angels, charms, etc., are not of great concern, nor do they receive much attention in the West

When the ‘Five Points of Calvinism’ were preached to these people, they often respond with the question, ‘What’s the issue?’  Missionaries and pastors were scratching where they didn’t itch” (Wagner, 580).

Now one does not have to be Reformed to see the problem with this attitude.  First off, the professor dismisses “traditional Reformed Theology” as not address the concerns that arise from “Satan, demons, angels, charms;” but historically it was Reformed Theology that liberated Medieval Europe from the shackles of “Satan, demons, angels, charms.”  It also rescued people from the shackles of superstitions.  This liberation of Reformation Europe was possible because once you have a Sovereign God who controls all things, with authority over all things including “Satan, demons, angels, charms” there is no need to be overly occupied with fear of them.  Also Reformed Theology is heavily Christ-Centered and a Christ-Centered Theology include the truth that Christ is the Creator and controller over everything including the forces of darkness:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16 ESV)

Rather then being irrelevant, Reformed Theology’s Christology and doctrine of God is an antidote to the problems and questions of “Satan, demons, angels, charms.”  Secondly, who made “Satan, demons, angels, charms” the litmus test of a missionary strategy that is relevant?  I think the professor here confuses felt needs with real needs.  God knows what man’s real need is and has revealed it in His Word.  If Calvinism’s and Reformed Theology’s proposition is true that man is under wrath from God because of man’s sin, then the discussion about man, sin, God, Jesus and the Gospel is more crucial and relevant than the discussion of “Satan, demons, angels, charms” per se.  It is more “relevant” even though the unbeliever “feels” “Satan, demons, angels, charms” are more important.  Thirdly, I have reservation with the claim that people’s response to the ‘Five Points of Calvinism’ is one of a question of ‘What’s the issue?’  The first point of Calvinism, Total Depravity, defines the issue: Sin.  A nonbeliever might not like the issue or disagree with the issue but surely if someone presents the five point of Calvinism correctly a nonbeliever will not say ‘What’s the issue?’  One has to wonder about how truly Reformed this professor from Calvin Theological Seminary is with his incompetence with Reformed Theology.

Conclusion

There will always be people coming forward saying this or that is the new cutting edge strategy for doing ministry, whether it’s missions, evangelism or growing members.  We must never forget to test them whether the method agrees with the Word of God and also whether it is logically sound and factually true.  I think a good example of a cutting edge strategy that suffer from all three defect is Wagner’s missions strategy.

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Introduction

Our series on “Mission, Culture and Being Biblical” have noted that some of the problems with contemporary missions philosophy such as that of the Insider Movement is the result of bad theology.  Specifically we have seen instances of a defective theology of false religion, sin and the church.  Added to this is also a defective understanding of the relationship between the Bible and Culture.

What is culture?

What is culture and how do missiologists define it?  It is not an easy thing to define and missiologists do acknowledge this.  For instance Lloyd Kwast, a former chairman of the Department of Missions at Talbot Seminary once said

There is probably no more comprehensive word in the English language than the word ‘culture,’ or no more complex a field of study than cultural anthropology.  Yet, a thorough understanding of the meaning of culture is prerequisite to any effective communication of God’s good news to a different people group” (Kwast, 397)

The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, a group made up of 33 individuals with theological, anthropological, linguistic and missional background has admitted in their Willowbank Report that

Culture is a term which is not easily susceptible to definition” (Lausanne Committee, 507).

In working towards understanding what culture is, Kwast finds it helpful to see culture as having several layers that addresses certain questions (see the image below):

Lloyd Kwast culture

I do find Kwast conceptual understanding to be helpful and especially insightful is that the core of a culture is one’s worldview.  Those familiar with Presuppositional apologetics will definitely see how apologetics will intersect with culture (a given for most) and also missions (this is by implication, given that missions deals with unreach people group with the barrier of culture).

Dr. Charles Kraft is an important figure who co-wrote a 1979 paper on a new way to reach Muslims that set the trajectory for the Insider Movement.  He describe culture in the following manner:

The term culture is the label anthropologists give to the structured customs and underlying worldview assumptions which govern people’s lives.  Culture (including worldview) is a people’s way of life, their design for living, their way of coping with their biological, physical and social enviornment.  It consist of learned, patterened assumptions (Worldview), concepts and behavior, plus the resulting artifacts (material culture)” (Kraft, 401).

I also appreciate 

What are the possible relationships between the Bible and Culture?

Bible believing missionaries are to share the truth of the Bible to those who do not know Him that is situated in another culture.  But what is the proper relationship between the Bible and culture? These are the  possibilities:

  1. The Bible has nothing to say about culture
  2. The Bible is against everything in culture
  3. The Bible is for everything in culture
  4. The Bible is for and against different parts of culture

What model of Bible relationship to Culture should Christians Embrace?

Bible believing Christians should hold to the fourth view of the relationship between the Bible and culture: The Bible is for and against different parts of one’s culture.

The problem with the first view (the Bible has nothing to say about culture) is that since culture is something that man has made then God has the progative as the Creator of man to pronounce approval or condemnation upon man’s cultural endeavor.  Recall that the definition of culture given by Kwast and Kraft who both identify that the core or deepest layer of culture is one’s worldview.  One’s worldview is inherently religious (or anti-religious) in the sense that religion has been defined by Tillich as one’s ultimate commitment.  Thus, Henry Van Til was onto something when decades ago he said that culture is one’s religion externalized.  If culture is man’s religious expression then the Bible have jurisdiction over culture since it has jurisdiction over “religious” matters.

The problem with the second view (the Bible is against everything in culture) is that culture isn’t wrong in of itself.  God’s Word does prescribe to His people answers to the different levels of questions that a culture is composed of: What is real?  What is true?  What is Good or Best?  What is done? (see Kwast’s picture above).

God is not totally against culture in of itself as evident from God’s cultural mandate in Genesis 1:26-28:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [a]sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [b]sky and over every living thing that [c]moves on the earth.”

Even after the Fall has taken place God reiterated the cultural mandate in Genesis 9:7.  The God of the Bible also has not categorically condemn the material side of culture per se; rather He even empowered men by the Spirit of God to do craft work as in Exodus 31:1-6.

The problem with the third view (the Bible is for everything in culture) is that since culture involves the participation of man, man who is thoroughly sinful (Romans 3:23) will inevitably bring his corruption to his cultural activity.  We should therefore not be surprised to see manifestation of man’s depravity and wickedness in every culture.

It is the third view that both the missiologists and the critics of contemporary unbiblical missiologists wishes to address but from two different starting points.

The Concern OF Contemporary Missiologists: Equivocating A Missionary’s Culture with what’s Biblical

Most contemporary missiologists are concerned that people from missionary sending church naively assume that their culture = what’s Biblical.

Concerning culture, Charles Kraft notes the problem one has of being epistemologically conscious of what is merely one’s own culture versus transcendent universal truth:

We are totally submerged in it, relating to it much as a fish relates to water.  And we are usually as unconscious of it as a fish must be of the water or as we usually are of the air we breathe.” (Kraft, 402).

Unfortunately we don’t really notice our own culture until we are exposed to another culture.  And if one is not aware of one’s own culture by being aware of another culture we face the following danger:

We have continually reverted to the assumption that becoming Christian means becoming like us culturally” (Kraft, 400).

The Concern FOR Contemporary Missiologists: Letting an Unreached Culture go against what’s Biblical

A missionary or missiologist can become so cautious of everything in one’s original culture that they then end up spending all their time and energy discerning against it while failing to have the same level of scrutiny for the culture of the unreached people group.  Or one can be so zealous to see the lost come to know Christ that one then pragmatically use the vehicle of the recipients’ culture without as much discernment as they should be having.  In both instances, one can let the culture of the unreached people people group become practically more authoritative than the Bible in one’s philosophy of missions.  When this happen we see the problem of unbiblical compromises or worst: syncretism.

The Solution:

David Hesselgrave’ Three Culture Model is a helpful paradigm in thinking about the solution:

3culture missions

What Hesselgrave don’t want is the arrow with broken line between the missionary culture being transmitted to the respondent culture as Gospel truth.  Instead Hesselgrave is right to note that missionaries must go back to the Bible (arrow from missionary culture pointing to “Bible Culture”) and know it really well which the missionary then brings the “Bible Culture” to the unreached people group in their culture (arrow from “Bible Culture pointing to “Respondent Culture”).

I would add another arrow to the picture: there needs to be an arrow from the respondent culture pointing back to “Bible Culture” to convey the need for the unreached people group to go back to the Bibles themselves and see that it is taught in Scripture.  We see the Biblical support for this idea in Acts 17:11 when it talks about the Bereans that Paul was trying to reach:

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

Essentially what we need more of is the Bible!  In order to avoid either the senders’ culture or the culture of the unreached people group interfering with the Gospel message and biblical evangelistic method we need to know more deeply the Bible.  We need to be faithful to it and trust that it is true when it talks about the human condition and the hope of sinners.  We must not lean on our own understanding and think we are wiser than the writers of Scripture just because our day and age has become more sophisticated in cultural anthropology.

We must not forget 1 Corinthians 1:18:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who [m]are perishing, but to us who[n]are being saved it is the power of God.

Bibliography

Hesselgrave, David. 2009. The Role of Culture in Communication.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 425-429.

Kwast, Lloyd. 2009. Understanding Culture. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 397-399.

Kraft, Charles. 2009. CUlture, Worldview and Contextualization. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 400-406.

Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.  2009. The Willowbank Report.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 506-528.

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