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Posted April 2, 2005

Book: The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of the Faith
Author: Andrew F. Walls
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, pp. 266

An Excerpt from the Preface and Introduction:

This volume brings together a selection of pieces written over a twenty-year period. Most were originally prepared for oral delivery; nearly all have appeared in print before, and one or two have even been granted the dignity of translation. For some time, friends have asked for a collection of such papers, which had appeared in various settings and in several countries. The book arises from deference to their judgement, and in response to their insistence, rather than from any confidence of my own.

. . . The first of these is a reflection on the nature of the Christian faith, seen from the perspective of its historical transmission. The second looks at the transmission process in relation to the special case of Africa, and considers the special place of Africa in Christian history. The third focuses on the missionary movement from the West as a model of what happens — to both partners in the process — as the transmission of faith takes place.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The “Indigenizing” Principle

Church history has always been a battleground for two opposing tendencies; and the reason is that each of the tendencies has its origin in the Gospel itself. One the one hand it is of the essence

of the Gospel that God accepts us as we are, on the ground of Christ’s work alone, not on the ground of what we have become or are trying to become. But, if He accepts us “as we are” that implies He does not take us as isolated, self-governing units, because we are not. We are conditioned by a particular time and place, by our family and group and society, by “culture” in fact. In Christ, God accepts us together with our group relations; with that cultural conditioning that makes us feel at home in one part of human society and less at home in another. But if He takes us with our group relations, then surely it follows that He takes us with our “dis-relations” also; those predispositions, prejudices, suspicions, and hostilities, whether justified or not, which mark the group to which we belong. He does not wait to tidy up our ideas any more than He waits to tidy up our behavior before He accepts us sinners into His family.

The impossibility of separating an individual from his social relationships and thus from his society leads to one unvarying feature in Christian history: the desire to “indegenize,” to live as a Christian and yet as a member of one’s own society, to make the Church (to use the memorable title of a book written in 1967 by F. B. Welbourn and B.A. Ogot about Independent churches in Africa) A Place to Feel at Home.

Table of Contents:

Part One

The Transmission of Christian Faith

1. The gospel as prisoner and liberator of culture
2. Culture and coherence in Christian history
3. The translation principle in Christian history
4. Culture and conversion in Christian history
5. Romans one and the modern missionary movement
6. Origins of old northern and new southern Christianity

Part Two

Africa’s Place in Christian History

7. The evangelical revival, the missionary movement, and Africa
8. Black Europeans — White Africans
Some missionary motives in West Africa
9. The challenge of the African independent churches
The Anabaptists of Africa?
10. Primal religious traditions in today’s world

Part Three

The Missionary Movement

11. Structural problems in mission studies
12. Missionary vocation and the ministry
The first generation
13. The western discovery of non-western Christian art
14. The nineteenth-century missionary as scholar
15. Humane learning and the missionary movement
“The best thinking of the best heathen”
16. The domestic importance of the nineteenth-century medical missionary
“The heavy artillery of the missionary army”
17. The American dimension of the missionary movement
18. Missionary societies and the fortunate subversion of the church
19. The old age of the missionary