Can we validly apply the name “science” to missions?

If we mean an exact science like mathematics, the answer is No. On the other hand, if we mean “classifiable and verifiable knowledge,” an affirmative reply may be admitted.

In any case, Professor J. H. Bavinck, of Free Amsterdam University, Holland, has written a book, lately published by the Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, to which he gives the title An Introduction to the Science of Missions. It is a book of substance: always thoughtful, frequently thrusting, and altogether thorough (What are the Dutch if they are not thorough?).

Professor Bavinck is equipped with a formidable vocabulary. In the Introduction he discusses “apostolics” and “prosthetics,” possible terms to be used in describing the discipline of Christian thought within which we place the world mission of the Church. “Apostolics” would be used to denote “the notion of missions in general,” the concept of the Church as a community of the “sent.” “Prosthetics,” interestingly enough, is derived from a Greek word which in Acts 2:41 is translated “added:” “And there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls.” The word reappears in verse 47: “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Both terms are rejected in favor of the phrase “the science of missions.” This is defined by Bavinck (in words borrowed from Abraham Kuyper) as “The investigation of the most profitable God-ordained method leading to the conversion of those outside of Christ.”

“Elenctics” is an extraordinary word that is used as the subject of the book’s second section. Drawn out from the Greek verb elengchein, it speaks of the whole phenomenon of conviction of sin, and the shame or condemnation ...

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