American evangelical authors have often noted and criticized the assimilation into Christianity of cultural values held in high regard in the United States. Among those who have written of this are Richard V. Pierard (in The Unequal Yoke: Evangelical Christianity and Political Conservatism (Lippincott, 1970); Mark O. Hatfield in Conflict and Conscience (Word Books, 1971); and David O. Moberg in The Great Reversal: Evangelism Versus Social Concern (Lippincott, 1972).
But speakers from the Third World who dealt with this delicate issue at the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization had a special contribution to make. They were able to show the effects of what one called “American culture-Christianity” upon the relations between the American missionary enterprise and the Church in the Third World today. Many an American Christian would readily admit with Moberg:
We have equated “Americanism” with Christianity to such an extent that people in other cultures must adopt American institutional patterns when they are converted. We are led through natural psychological processes to an unconscious belief that the essence of our American Way of Life is basically, if not entirely, Christian [op. cit., p. 42].
But at the Lausanne congress this criticism was voiced from the Third World and applied to the missionary enterprise.
As was to be expected, not all the congress participants agreed with those speakers. The debate that followed was inevitable at a gathering that took in so wide a range of national and cultural backgrounds. This variety was an asset; clearly the congress was not dominated by representatives of one particular school, with which all participants were expected to agree. All the speakers ...1
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