The theology of missions, 1928-1958
Anderson, Gerald H.
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The problem of this dissertation is the historical development of the theology of missions during the period from 1928 to 1958. It is an historical study, chronological and descriptive in its approach. The term "theology of missions" refers to those theological presuppositions or underlying principles which determine the motives, message, methods and goals of the Christian missionary enterprise. The study is limited to Christian writings other than Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. Beginning with a survey of background events from the late nineteenth century and especially from the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference of 1910 there is presented a study of major events and publications that are of fundamental importance for an understanding of the developement of the theology of missions during the period under consideration. The study is developed largely in periods marked by the world meetings of the International Missionary Council, as is indicated in the three major chapter headings: "A Decade of Re-Thinking and Reaction: 1928 - 1938"; "A Decade of Crisis and Cooperation: 1938 - 1948"; and "A Decade of Assembly and Advance: 1948- 1958." It is the conclusion that there has been, despite brief periods of recession, a constantly advancing and deepening thrust in the developements toward a re-formulation of the theology of missions. This is seen most clearly in the progressive confrontation of Church and mission with theology, an encounter which is responsible in large measure for the progressive narrowing of the gul£ between Church and mission, from 1900 when the missionary enterprise was considered to be primarily the responsibility of missionary societies rather than the churches, until 1958 when plans were being made for the integration of the World Council of Churches and the International Missionary Council. The stages of this development are indicated in a study of the major international missionary gatherings, their attitude and approach to the theology of missions. At Edinburgh in 1910 the major concern was simply with strategy or "How Missions?" It was felt that the Great Commission of Christ provided an adequate basis for the missionary obligation; a basis that should be obeyed, not questioned. At the Jerusalem Conference of 1928 the discussion was oriented around a consideration of the goals towards which missionary operations should be directed, and could be summarized with the question ''Wherefore Missions?'' The Tambaram, Madras meeting of 1938 went one step further towards a deeper understanding of the Christian mission and discussed the roots of the Christian mission, especially the nature and locus of revelation. This meeting could be summarized with the question "Whence Missions?" At the Whitby meeting of 1947 the mission was defined in terms of evangelism and was viewed by members of an indigenous world church as "Partners in Obedience." The question was "Whither Missions?" and Whitby took the first step towards launching a major ecumenical study of "The Missionary Obligation of the Church." The discussion of this topic reached a climax in the question "Why Missions?" at the Willingen meeting of 1952. But it was not until the Ghana Assembly of 1957-58 that the missionary enterprise asked the most radical question in its history, "What is the Christian mission?" The answer to this question, however, as indicated in this study, awaits further study and discussion, some of which will come at the joint Assemblies of the World Council of Churches and International Missionary Council at Delhi, India in 1961. It is pointed out that an answer to this question and the formulation of a theology of missions also involves a re-examination of the nature of the Christian Gospel. The other conclusion indicated by this study is that the direction for the formulation of a theology of missions is leading towards an approach from the theo-centric point of view in trinitarian perspective. It is observed that the major attempts to formulate a theology of missions in the period under study have been oriented around culture-centered, mancentered, church-centered, Bible-centered, Kingdom-centered, and Christ-centered points of view. And while all of these doctrines are important for the theology of missions and must be involved in the perspective of the total formulation, it would seem, on the basis of this study, that when any one of them has been made the central point of focus and orientation for the formulation of a theology of missions, it has proven inadequate for the task, tending to narrow the scope of the missionary enterprise and causing it to go astray. On the basis of the trends and developments indicated in this study it would appear that it is from a theo-centric point of orientation, beginning with the primary affirmation of the historic Christian faith, "I believe in God," that the theology of missions will need to be formulated in order to give proper direction, scope and meaning to the Christian mission. [TRUNCATED]
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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