Worth reading is Orlando Costas’s The Church and Its Mission (Tyndale House Publishers, 1974). A native Puerto Rican who long lived and studied in the United States, Costas emerged to champion a modified “theology of liberation” while professor of missiology in Latin America Seminary. His plea for the Church’s “total” task, as against evangelical preoccupation with the “primary” task of verbal gospel proclamation, espouses a diaconate concept of salvation that meshes into the struggle for justice and peace on earth.

Now secretary of studies and publications for the Institute of In-depth Evangelism, Costas rejects the Wheaton and Frankfurt declarations as too conditioned historically to provide a normative global concept of evangelical mission. He opposes any imposition of such North Atlantic approaches either on ecumenical Christianity or on evangelical churches in the Third World (p. 214). While he hails the theology of liberation as “first and foremost a Latin American theology,” he nonetheless considers it significant for “the rest of the Third World” and even for “the church universal” (pp. 221, 223).

Liberation-theology rejects a missiology that, despite 400 years of Christian presence, perpetuates in Latin America “the largest Christian area of the world of poverty” (p. 231). Costas views North American missions abroad as beholden to international business interests; despite a profession of political neutrality, their indifference to the status quo reinforces an economic domination that perpetuates impoverishment of the masses (p. 246). Instead of going along with the exploitation of the disadvantaged, Christian mission should espouse the cause of the oppressed.

Although one usually hears from foes, not friends, of Christianity ...

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