Missionary, Come Back!, by Arden Almquist (World, 1970, 201 pp., $5.95), Call to Mission, by Stephen Neill (Fortress, 1970, 113 pp., $3.95), The Third World and Mission, by Dennis E. Clark (Word, 1971, 129 pp., $3.95), Student Power in World Evangelism, by David M. Howard (Inter-Varsity, 1970, 129 pp., paperback, $1.25), and World Mission and World Communism; edited by Gerhard Hoffmann and Wilhelm Wille (John Knox, 1968, 142 pp., paperback, $2.45), are reviewed by Samuel F. Rowen, coordinator of program development, Missionary Internship, Farmington, Michigan.
Publishers are investing many pages in the subject of world missions. This means there must be a good market for such books. That this outpouring of comment on world missions should come at a time when the Western Church is experiencing an identity crisis is perplexing. Some see the great interest in “over there” as merely a cop-out for failure at home; others view it as a necessary by-product of an affluent church, or as a sign of inevitable involvement in the global village; still others think it reflects an intense commitment to the truth of the Gospel.
Three of the authors whose books we consider here—Almquist, Neill, and Clark—deal essentially with the theme of the place or role of the missionary. The one great reality that faces the contemporary missionary is that the Church is. The truly pioneering missionary is a vanishing species. Therefore, the role of the missionary in relation to the existing church is of crucial importance. This topic determines the structure of Almquist’s Missionary, Come Back! and Neill’s Call to Mission. Both begin by discussing what the missionary did right, and conclude by building a case for a continuing role for the missionary.
Almquist is a medical doctor who served in the Congo and is now world-missions secretary for the Evangelical Covenant Church. In his first three chapters he so vividly describes the failures of missionaries that I began to feel the situation was beyond redemption. But then he shows their positive contributions effectively enough to make his plea for a continuing missionary involvement seem plausible.
Almquist’s passionate approach is both the strength and the weakness of the book. Those who are doing missionary work wrongly are, he says, the ones who preach an “Edwardian Gospel,” a name he derives from Jonathan Edwards. In his attack on the Edwardian Gospel he quotes approvingly Arthur Glasser; one wonders what he would say if Glasser turned out to be an advocate of that Gospel.
Almquist accepts Zabriskie’s exegesis of Acts 10:9–16, and this allows him to accept the secular world as the starting point for missions. He says:
By Christian secularity I mean the attitude of mind and style of life of the Christian who finds in secularization not only no threat to the Gospel, but a legitimate and even necessary explication of the Gospel regarding the relationship of the Church and the world, the Kingdom of God and the city of man.
Such a conclusion is rather determinative for the understanding of the Christian mission. However, there are more convincing foundations than the inadequate handling of Acts 10:9–16. The other great burden Almquist bears is that the majority of those pursuing the missionary vocation are of the fundamentalist commitment—the kind, he says, who are not needed.
A contrast to Almquist’s book is found in Bishop Neill’s balanced, scholarly work, Call to Mission. Neill calmly examines the reasons why some feel that missions is dead. He quickly gets to the heart of the matter: the reason for involvement in missions is that the Gospel is true.
Almquist finds as the main justification for missions the fact that the missionary is still needed in the life of the developing nations. I have an uneasy feeling that even though he pleads for an end to Western imperialism, there remains in his argument a subtle form of imperialism (i.e., “We have what you need”). Neill shows that the basic consideration is not whether the missionary is wanted or not but that the Gospel is true.
Neill is an outstanding historian of missions and calls upon his broad knowledge to illustrate his points. One point deserves careful attention, especially by those going through the tensions of transition in mission-church relationships. He says that the under-thirty Christians in India have all grown up knowing nothing but independence, both politically and ecclesiastically. These younger Christians are the ones asking for missionaries, he says, but missionaries of a special kind. He recommends that relationships with the younger Christians be cultivated as the working base of the future. Their elders who went through the pangs of independence have slow-healing wounds that make it hard for them to think positively about the role of the missionary. However, those who haven’t experienced these tensions offer the possibility of a meaningful relationship with the national church.
In The Third World and Mission, Clark offers a disturbing analysis of evangelical missions. He defines the third world as “the independent nations of Asia, Africa, and South America who increasingly want to determine their destinies apart from the influences and pressures of the so-called great powers.” The seventies will see two major factors influence the course of the third world, he says—the communications revolution and education. Other important influences will be “the conflict between affluence and poverty, industrialization and its shattering of the family, and technological developments with their depersonalizing effect.”
Clark does not question the validity of the missionary role but rather tries to determine what the role should be in the present decade. His most far-reaching proposal is related to the missionary compound: “… to dismantle all foreign mission compounds as well as to break up concentrations of foreign personnel.… At the latest, 1975 could be set as the target date to implement this action. Concentrations of foreigners and the old type mission compound would be an anachronism by the end of the 70’s.”
While this is a book that all evangelicals would do well to read, it carries with it the prevalent messianic optimism about the use of modern means of communication. To the author our great advance in technological gadgetry means that “great numbers can be reached through communications for far less money.…” But such optimism fails to take into account the sufficient data showing that the mass media are ineffective in bringing people to the place of decision. It is still the personal encounter that is decisive in communications. We must understand the role of the technological revolution in communications without forgetting that the key matter is the personal communication of an understandable and true message.
In Student Power in World Evangelism David Howard gives a readable account of how students have been a formative force in world missions. The book is built around what he feels are the two points that will motivate Christian young people to involve themselves in world evangelization: the biblical basis for world missions and the historical fact that God has significantly used students in world evangelism.
Howard sees the basis of world mission in the doctrine of creation. (It is interesting that in the footnote to this conclusion he cites Johannes Blauw and J. H. Bavinck, saying they began with Genesis 1:1. The reader could easily assume that these authors agreed about the mission of the Church. But Bavinck’s critique of Hendrik Kraemer would equally apply to Blauw.) This focus upon the essential biblical starting point for world missions is important. Evangelicals have devoted much energy to understanding the doctrine of creation as over against evolution. In so doing they have failed to grasp its foundational significance for the Church’s social and evangelistic responsibility.
World Mission and World Communism is a collection of papers given at the Academy of Missions at Hamburg University. The book analyzes the relation of the Church to Communism in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. As is true of most compilations, the chapters are of unequal value. But the first two, dealing with revolution, are worth the price of the book.
Heinz-Dietrich Wendland says the Church has failed to develop a proper understanding of revolution. He sees the doctrine of creation as the cause for what he decries as the conservative reaction against revolution. He quotes Tillich in denouncing the “Creation Myth” and calls instead for an eschatological ethic. A creation ethic says that society is responsible to remain within the boundaries or spheres established by God’s creative purposes. An eschatological ethic looks to the future and views things as “not yet” (even God himself). So creation again becomes a foundational issue in understanding the mission of the Church.
There is a great similarity here with Richard Shaull’s view of history as the starting point for understanding the mission of the Church. But to make history or eschatology the norm for ethics or the mission of the Church has consequences. Only a determinative word from God holds the prospect of a satisfying solution, not only for what the Church ought to be doing, but also for the real needs of men.
The other important doctrine that emerges in the book has to do with the Kingdom of God. Historically, the way one views the Kingdom of God determines how he understands the relation between church and state. Wendland, with the Lutheran view of the separation of kingdom and church, maintains the goal is not the founding of Christian societies and institutions but the “ ‘humanization’ of society, the improvement of law, of social and international peace.” Ludwig Rutt, a Roman Catholic, in discussing the Catholic attitude toward Communism underscores the place the Kingdom of God has in determining what the church-state relationship should be.
Not all these books are worth the same amount of time and cost, though each has value. I prefer Call to Mission, probably because of a bias to read whatever Bishop Neill writes. But The Third World and Mission is significant for the missionary, missions executive, and layman who are concerned about evangelical missions. Student Power and World Evangelism should receive a broad reading and will have particular value for students. The book that will have probably the smallest reading public (it may necessitate rereading), World Mission and World Communism, is possibly the most significant. Here is a good introduction to the rationale for the development of a “political theology,” which is sometimes difficult to distinguish from Marxism. To understand how the Church can become the vanguard of revolution, one would do well to start here.
Undressing White Christians
Your God Is Too White, by Columbus Salley and Ronald Behm (Inter-Varsity, 1970, 114 pp., paperback, $1.95), is reviewed by James S. Tinney, who teaches black studies at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.
This book is the first on Christianity and racism to be co-authored by a black and a white. The fact that both are evangelicals is a bonus and places the volume alongside those by Pannell, Skinner, and Howard Jones. Skinner’s Black and Free and Pannell are autobiographical, Jones is analytical of Negro religion, and Skinner’s How Black Is the Gospel? is sermonic. Your God Is Too White is none of these. Instead it is the biography of a WASP, it analyzes the crooked line of white religion, and it is polemical.
Although some readers will criticize it for being mostly negative in attitude, they cannot say it is a diatribe. It is reasoned, logical, and supported by a body of footnotes. Only the person trained in black history will find the early chapters, which give a basic orientation to the black-white situation in America, redundant and slow reading.
That the book is primarily sociological in approach is no weakness either. Its biblical treatment of every situation is adequate enough to enlist the support of the wary as well as to defrock the super-righteous.
Substantially, Salley and Behm fulfill our expectations by their general indictment of organized Christianity (“a monolithic whole in the broad, popular sense”) and their defense of the non-discriminating, true Christian faith (“an independent religious reality”). On the whole, the book appeals to the black man on the thesis that “the white American who has perverted history to exclude his own atrocities and the black man’s achievements also may have perverted Christianity.” What is surprising, but nonetheless true, is that some unsuspecting persons are called to trial.
Mr. Citizen of the North, will you please take the stand? You are charged with refusing to admit the presence of the Negro, “insensibly fitting blacks for a continued subordinate role” by emphasizing industrial skills, and closely accepting the South’s solution to the problem.
How about you, Mr. Quaker—will you tell us the whole truth? The whole truth is that you neglected to encourage the freedmen to join your own churches, so that as a result you are today a part of a white church.
And where is the anti-slavery Protestant? You too are hereby indicted for limiting your concern to education and evangelism as solutions.
Oh, yes. Will Mr. Social Gospeler please submit to questioning? Let the world know that you too “neglected the racial problem and either adopted notions of racial superiority or refused to rebuke those who did.” Witness Munger, Gladden, Rauschenbusch, Abbott, Herron, and your unashamed colleague, Josiah Strong.
That broad sweep of guilt does not exonerate the evangelical. It is well known and often admitted that he has generally neglected social reform. (Although Timothy Smith’s book Revivalism and Social Reform betrays this pattern, it deals only with the era preceding the Civil War.) What comes as a novel idea is that the evangelical interest in foreign missionary work went hand in hand with social Darwinism to take religious and secular minds off racial injustice. (Moody and Sunday also were guilty of holding segregated campaigns.)
Other positions taken by the authors will probably raise more ire, because they deal with interpretation more than historical fact. Salley and Behm see inter-racial sex as the root of white fears. (Eldridge Cleaver and Kovel’s White Racism: A Psychohistory agree.) They call for structural change to precede attitudinal change (which goes a step beyond the liberal’s both/and proposition, and two steps past the evangelical’s change-of-heart Gospel). They call the Nordic Jesus a phony. (The foreword says, “The white Jesus is dead.”) And they say that Christ’s turn-the-other-cheek admonition applies only to persecution for the sake of Christian testimony, not to secular, civil-political, or national battles. (This subtle justification of violence will surely offend not only the peace churches but many other exegetes as well.)
Although the thesis of the book enlists my full support, I question some isolated statements. The NAACP is cited as the first protest organization; this is incorrect. DuBois’s Niagara Movement preceded that organization by three years and was a separate entity, although DuBois also helped found the NAACP. I doubt whether the authors’ rigid demarcation of eras—(1) slavery, (2) segregation, and (3) ghettoization—can be sustained; the last two terms overlap in meaning and may even be said to be identical.
Likewise, there is growing evidence that their charge, “the black church doesn’t attract the young,” is false. Baldwin at one time said this (the authors quote him), but his last book reverses his preoccupation with the failures of the black church, at least to some degree. Anyway, it must be remembered that Baldwin is representative of the disillusioned intellectual who himself “tried” Christianity—a highly emotionalized version at that—as a youth. He is hardly representative of the average teen-ager. (A Scripture Press survey in 1969 showed that black churches have more teen-age vacation-Bible-school classes than do white churches.)
Weak treatment of the Book of Philemon is also apparent. The authors devote enough space to the letter, but they seem on the defensive (the only place in the book where this happens) and leave the reader feeling that Paul did not adequately destroy the slave-master relationship. A much better treatment may be found in, for instance, Tilson’s Segregation and the Bible.
Finally, the book is short on answers. Several times it quotes Richard Wright, “We all know exactly what to do, though most of us would rather die than do it.” Now, for the majority of persons that is undoubtedly truth in the raw. But there are others, even if a slim minority, for whom specific directives would be a welcome addition to the book. A book that so accurately undresses white Christians should, it seems, leave them defenseless even on the last stand.
New Testament History, by F. F. Bruce (Doubleday, 462 pp., $8.95). The first third of the book recounts the Roman and Jewish context, then fifty pages survey the lives of John and Jesus, and the last half is a history of the first two generations of the Church. The best available treatment by an evangelical.
Esther, by Carey A. Moore (Doubleday, 117 pp., $6). Latest addition to the Anchor Bible.
Popular Song and Youth Today, by Louis M. Savary (Association, 160 pp., paperback, $2.95), Contemporary Film and the New Generation, by Louis M. Savary and J. Paul Carrico (Association, 160 pp., paperback, $2.95), and Peace, War, and Youth, by Louis M. Savary and Maureen P. Collins (Association, 191 pp., paperback, $3.50). A valuable informative series for those who do not listen to popular music, see popular films, or read popular peace-war literature. Each medium reflects the conflicting philosophies current among the young.
The Ethical Demand, by Knud E. Løgstrup (Fortress, 237 pp., $8.95). The book, now in its eighth edition in Denmark, is here translated into English for the first time. An important book, drawing examples from such novelists as E. M. Forster and D. H. Lawrence, in the continuing drama of situation ethics.
This Dramatic World: Using Contemporary Drama in the Church, by Alfred R. Edyvean (Friendship, 96 pp., paperback, $1.50). A good introduction to several major modern playwrights. Each playwright’s most famous play is discussed. The author contends that, while not necessarily Christians themselves, such men as Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, and Arthur Miller write from a Christian world view.
Moral Issues and Christian Response, edited by Paul T. Jersild and Dale A. Johnson (Holt, 467 pp., paperback, no price given). Fifty well chosen readings representing diverse viewpoints on abortion, church pronouncements, civil disobedience, genetic manipulation, homosexuality, pornography, premarital sex, racism, violence, war, and other topics. An excellent way to enhance serious reflection on the issues on which evangelicals should write more adequately.
Reformers in the Wings, by David C. Steinmetz (Fortress, 240 pp., $8.50). A very welcome study of twenty of the sixteenth-century reformers other than the best known.
The Shattered Self: The Religious and Psychological Search for Self-Hood, by Theodore A. McConnell (Pilgrim, 109 pp., $5.95). An introduction to six definitions of adulthood. The author summarizes the ideas of Erikson, Allport, Fromm, Frankl, May, and Maslow. A good book for those who have neither time nor inclination to read first hand the works of these men, but who want an overview of modern psychological thought.
Does Science Confront the Bible?, by James W. Reid (Zondervan, 160 pp., $3.95). Discusses such witless questions as “Does the Bible speak of cars?” or “Does the Bible also refer to modern road buildings?,” finding affirmative answers in such passages as Nahum 2:4 and Isaiah 40:3–5. The only things of worth in this book are the interesting photographs.
The Gay Militants, by Donn Teal (Stein and Day, 355 pp., $7.95). One who is “gay and proud” gives a journalistic account of the two-year-old activist movement of his minority group.
Authority and Rebellion, by Charles E. Rice (Doubleday, 253 pp., $5.95), and The Decline and Fall of Radical Catholicism, by James Hitchcock (Herder and Herder, 228 pp., $6.50). Two lay Catholic professors criticize the radical movement in the church, but the former argues instead for the maintenance of orthodoxy and the latter for more moderate and achievable reform.
Russians Observed, by John Lawrence (Nebraska, 192 pp., $5). Personal impressions and observations from trips spanning 1934 to the late sixties act as a street barometer of social, economic, and religious attitudes and progress. Sir John’s admitted love for Russia, his journalistic experience there, and his fluency in the language combine in fair and often positive descriptions of a reputedly oppressive reality. His adventures in tracking down churches and monasteries reveal much about Orthodox and Baptist activities in Russia, and the religious “revival” within the working classes despite the continual closing of churches. From Lawrence’s contacts with Russian citizens the reader gets a rare, intimate look at their daily life.
Dimensions for Happening, by Lois Horton Young (Judson, 96 pp., paperback, $2.50). A handbook of creative Bible study through art and music for church leaders of teen-age groups. Interesting and valuable for those who are oriented toward the visual, rather than the verbal.
Set Forth Your Case, by Clark H. Pinnock (Moody, 144 pp., paperback, $1.50). A new publisher and appendix for a well received apologetic work first issued in 1967.
Signs of the Times, by A. Skevington Wood (Baker, 126 pp., paperback, $1.25). A readable, reasoned approach to biblical prophecy and current events.
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