Mission in the 70s, edited by John T. Boberg and James A. Scherer (Chicago Cluster of Theological Schools [1100 East 55th St., Chicago, III. 60616] 1972, 208 pp., n.p., pb), Church/Mission Tensions Today, edited by C. Peter Wagner (Moody, 1972, 238 pp., $4.96), and Eye of the Storm: The Great Debate in Mission, edited by Donald McGavran (Word, 1972, 300 pp., $6.95), are reviewed by C. Rene Padilla, associate general secretary for Latin America, International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The missionary enterprise directed from the “Christian” West to the Third World is going through deep waters. Most of the older, larger denominations are speedily reducing the numbers of missionaries overseas. The non-denominational missions are, generally speaking, having to increase their efforts to raise support for a decreasing number of volunteers. In Roman Catholic circles, several missionary agencies and journals have disappeared. Interestingly enough, there seems to be a proliferation of literature on “missions,” of which these three symposiums are but a sample. It has been said that in the history of the Church a keen ecclesiological interest has almost always been a sign of decadence, while a concern for Christology and eschatology signals spiritual vitality and missionary advance. If this is so, should not the proliferation of missionary literature be interpreted as a symptom of the crisis of the (Western) missionary enterprise?

Mission in the ’70s is the result of the “Mission 1971” institute sponsored by several Chicago seminaries as an ecumenical venture in the continuing education of field missionaries and mission administrators. It includes eleven major papers, two “reactions,” and as an appendix an address presented to the Midwest Fellowship of Professors of Missions. Five of the writers are Roman Catholic, the rest Protestant. The subjects range from such theological questions as the meaning of salvation, the aim of mission, and the relation of the Christian faith to other faiths to such pragmatic problems as the decrease in missionary support, the transfer of leadership from churches in the West to churches in the Third World, and the communication of the Gospel across cultural barriers. One major question that the institute faced, however, was the relation between social and economic development and mission. By reading the book one could easily guess what is actually reported on this issue by the editors: “No verdict was reached.… We saw that participation in human development is an indispensable aspect of Christian mission today, but some expressed alarm that it was becoming so dominant as to displace other more traditional missionary tasks. This issue is certain to be with us for a long time” (Introduction).

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The overall impression that Mission in the ’70s left on me was that many of the questions its writers raise (whatever one may think of their answers) are certainly the questions that missiologists need to raise today. In the final analysis they can all be reduced to one: What is the Gospel? We may (all too easily) assume that we know all (or almost all) the answers, but an honest facing of this main question in its relation to the Christian mission may show our need to go back to first base. How would our interpretation of the Gospel, for instance, stand up to Carl E. Braaten’s challenge for a theology of mission “with a spine that can hold together the personal and the social, the existential and the political, the historical and the eschatological, dimensions of the Christian faith”? Or how would it come out if it were examined in the light of Warren J. Roth’s claim that Christianity in the West has taken on “a distinctly European character” and that “since the end of World War II, the European and American cultural appendages of the Gospel have become an increasingly heavy burden on those who feel called to carry Christ’s message to people of non-European traditions”? In what may be regarded as one of the best chapters in the book, Ronald Scott comes to a timely conclusion that bears on the same question and will need to be taken to heart by anyone interested in the Christian mission: “Our motivation for the Christian mission must not rest on our cultural orientation, but fundamentally on an awareness of the Gospel and its meaning in the world today, the magnificence of God and His riches in Christ Jesus.”

The second book, Church/Mission Tensions Today, contains twelve essays written by twelve missionary executives who participated in a 1971 Conference at Green Lake (GL ’71) sponsored by the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association (EFMA) and the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association (IFMA). The stated purpose of GL ’71 was to deal with issues regarding the form of the missionary organization in its relation to “sending” and “receiving” churches. The concentration of the papers, however, is on the relation between North American missions and overseas churches. The only exceptions are the chapters “Closing Gaps Between Missions and Home Churches” (Gordon MacDonald), and “Churches: Your Missions Need You” (Charles Mellis and Robert Lehnhart).

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It was Emil Brunner who stated that “the church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.” This well-known aphorism is quoted in the Introduction (without mention of the author’s name) and becomes a recurring theme throughout the book. The missionary nature of the Church is a premise that no one needs to argue. The problem comes when the attempt is made to define the relation between the “younger churches” that have developed around the world—“the great fact of our time,” largely a result of the missionary movement—and the parent (mostly North American) missionary societies. Now that the “home base” is everywhere and that the existence of the “younger churches” is “no longer based on any significant foreign financial or organizational support, much less control” (Winter), what is the place of foreign missionary personnel (and, consequently, of missionary structures)? Are they not a hangover from the past?

To various of the authors the answer is quite obvious. Robertson McQuilkin, for instance, argues that, since the evangelistic mission of the Church—“proclamation, persuasion, and establishing congregations of God’s people”—will not be complete until every person in the world has heard the Gospel, “the role of the (foreign) missionary evangelist is more needed today than ever.” In a similar vein C. Peter Wagner claims that “the fourth world”—“all those who, regardless of where they may be located geographically, have yet to come to Christ”—is the “top-priority objective of missions” and therefore “the day of the [foreign] missionary will not be over until the present age ends.” Interestingly enough, both Mc-Quilkin and Wagner explicitly agree with McGavran’s statement that church-mission relationships are “important chiefly if they enable effective discipling of men and ethne to take place.” The conclusion is clear: the church-mission question need not be discussed except as it relates to the “top-priority objective of [North American] missions,” previously defined by (North American) missiologists since the “younger churches” have nothing to say on the subject of the Christian mission. It does appear as if at least for these missiologists the main purpose of GL ’71 was to encourage missions not to bother about church-mission tensions but to keep up their good job until the end of the age!

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A much more realistic approach to the whole question is needed. Now that the missionary “home base” is everywhere, there are church-mission tensions that may turn either creative or cramping in relation to the Church’s mission, depending on how they are faced. Surely, they will not be solved by being disregarded in the name of a top priority defined a priori in North America. All too often, for instance, the impression is given in the Third World that the expansion of Christianity is tied up with Western imperialism (as is shown by Warren Webster in chapter five). Can this image be changed before all major policy-making for the ministry in the “mission field” is transferred from the Western bases to the nations concerned? Again, if (as claimed by Mellis and Lehnhart) in informing the “sending” churches about overseas missions “it now takes real courage to place integrity ahead of emotional impact in our written communications,” should not for the sake of integrity the breaking of the “communication gap” between “sending” and “receiving” churches become a “top priority objective of missions” now? Or should this also wait until the end of the age? Moreover, what is to be done about the frustration of nationals over the complexity of overseas missionary structures, which, according to Philip Armstrong, GL ’71 brought out?

Encouragingly, a few of the writers (particularly Armstrong, whose chapter is worth the whole book) are aware that there are church-mission tensions that will not be solved by an appeal to platitudes and that “the breakdown of any dichotomy of mission and church overseas is essential for survival.” If there are no more who are so aware, perhaps it is simply because the book reflects the situation at GL ’71: “Strangely enough, most evangelical missions at Green Lake would feel that they have a good working relationship with the national church.… However, nothing became clearer from the panel of international church leaders at Green Lake than their desire to have barriers removed to clear the way for a massive proclamation of the gospel” (Armstrong). By the way, is not the total absence from the authorship of this book of these “international church leaders” to whom Armstrong refers symptomatic of the way (North American) missions are on the whole relating themselves to (overseas) churches?

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Eye of the Storm is undoubtedly one of the most stimulating works published in the field of Christian “missiology” in the last few years. Here are, all in one volume, the arguments and counter-arguments of representative church and mission leaders, participating in “The Great Debate in Mission” that has been taking place (almost exclusively in the West) during the last two decades. The editor (founding dean of the School of World Mission and Institute of Church Growth at Fuller Seminary) and the publishers are to be commended for bringing together thirty-one documents on such critical questions as the nature of evangelism and the meaning of church growth. This is the greatest value of the book—that it lets people like J. G. Davies, J. C. Hoekendijk, J. B. A. Kessler, D. A. Hubbard, John R. W. Stott, and Max Warren (to mention a few names) speak for themselves regardless of their theological position. McGavran’s hope is that, by acquainting themselves with the issues, Christians will “help direct their missions into correct channels.”

If the Gospel means anything, it goes without saying that no true Christian can fail to regard the proclamation of the Gospel to all men, conversion, and the planting of churches as essential to the Christian mission. Were McGavran’s efforts entirely addressed to an affirmation of these aspects of mission over against a theology in which mission is completely secularized, I know beyond doubt which side of the “debate” I would stand on, in faithfulness to the Gospel. I must confess, however, that reading this book has confirmed me in a long-sustained conviction that the one-sided view advocated by McGavran is not the answer to the one-sided view advocated by the secularists. The issues are much deeper than they would appear to be from the perspective of the American missiologist. Quite definitely, the choice is not between a view of the Church as something that “has value in itself” and a view of the Church as “an instrument toward making this a better world” or between “discipling the nations or having love for one another” or between “soteriology or ethics.” In both developed and developing countries, a disembodied Gospel—soteriology without ethics—simply will not do. The most urgent need of our “fantastically growing churches” in Latin America, for instance, is to become less concerned with their own (numerical) aggrandizement and more concerned with the application of the Gospel to practical life. The biblical message knows nothing of soteriology without ethics or faith without works. The discipling of the nations of which Matthew 28:19 speaks involves baptizing men everywhere and teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded his apostles. In the light of it, there is no basis for the claim that the Church “must grow in numbers before it can grow in grace” (italics mine). How long should the Church in Latin America wait until it begins to grow in grace? Can a church really exist without koinonia and diakonia? Are the works of faith optional? One wonders if it is not precisely the type of thinking represented by McGavran that has produced the nominal Christianity that characterizes many of the churches in this part of the world. “Church growth” á la McGavran is definitely not the answer to the problems of the Church in Latin America!

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Not all the arguments posed against McGavran’s concept of the Christian mission by several of the contributors to Eye of the Storm can be explained as expressions of a secularized Christianity. Far from it! At least to one reader, however, there is in McGavran a blind spot that prevents him from fully acknowledging what his opponents are saying. His own chapters, whether meant as an answer to Hoekendijk, or as a denunciation of a wrong strategy as “the real crisis in mission,” or as a restatement of the right strategy, or as a defense of a definition of mission as “proclamation” over against “presence,” or as a critique of the Uppsala Draft on Mission, are little more than variations on the same theme. One would wish that these chapters had developed the more balanced position contained in his sixth contribution (“Uppsala’s ‘Program for Mission’ and Church Growth”) and particularly in the note at the end of that chapter: “The main goal to be kept in mind is that Christian mission, its theology and its program, must serve the two billion at the point of both physical/social need and their eternal salvation” (italics his).

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If these three symposiums prove anything, it is that the greatest need of the Church today is a rediscovery of the Gospel. Without it, mission will cease to be God’s action through his people and be turned into either dialogue or proselytism.

Christians And Social Chance

Liberation Ethics: A Political Scientist Examines the Role of Violence in Revolutionary Change, by John M. Swomley (Macmillan, 1972, 243 pp., $6.95), Ethical Resources For Political and Economic Decision, by Harvey Seifert (Westminster, 1972, 174 pp., $5.75), Commands of Christ: Authority and Implications, by Paul S. Minear (Abingdon, 1972, 190 pp., $4.95), and A Social Action Primer, by Dieter T. Hessel (Westminster, 1972, 138 pp., $2.95 pb), are reviewed by Watson E. Mills, associate professor of philosophy and religion, Averett College, Danville, Virginia.

In recent years the mainstream denominations have been reawakened to the ethical demands of the faith in a way that equals any period in church history. Perhaps the obviously grave ills of our society have made it impossible for the Church to talk only about theology. The traditional role of the minister as overseer of the flock has been radically altered to enable local church communities to take an active part in solving the problems that confront all Christians.

In the midst of this return to the ethical teachings of faith, some writers are content to talk about the ethics of Jesus or of the New Testament. Others write from the vantage point of philosophical ethics, seeking to throw light upon the Christian life.

Dr. John M. Swomley zeroes in on “liberation ethics.” Today virtually all segments of the culture are affected in some way by the demands (and rights) of various minority groups. Swomley claims that all men are involved in evil, if evil is defined as anything that keeps men from becoming genuinely free. This may include personal authority over others, a social structure, or some personal addictive habit. Avoiding the Marxist error, Swomley believes that liberation ethics is not a cure-all that will produce a problem-free humanity. No social system can do that because of the single personal and corporate problem that looms on the horizon: sin. Yet he consistently maintains that oppression results not from men but from the social systems.

Simply put, the goal of liberation ethics is, says the author, the “unity of persons around the idea that each is important enough to be respected and loved by all.” But this simple and noble objective is exceedingly difficult to attain because of entrenched racism and imperialism and the like.

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Swomley primarily advances strategies that the oppressed can use without being destroyed in the process. Once a community of oppressed is conscious of its plight, there must be public exposure of the situation. Such a move means that the oppressive power system can no longer continue to function simply on the basis of implied goodness or usefulness. The author discusses other strategies ranging from civil disobedience to disruption. He feels, however, that violence is but a subtle myth coaxing the oppressed into further oppression.

Professor Harvey Seifert opens up the question of resources for political and economic decisions. He has done an admirable job of involving the layman in the ethical arena. His sensitivity to the complexity of the present-day situation is apparent throughout the book.

Although he starts with the social processes, Seifert turns to the relevancy of belief in God. But he warns that many people who pose as reformers operate in ways that demand no fundamental change:

Deeply motivated religious persons will work not only at basic and throughgoing change but also at rapid transformation. A holy impatience results from realization of how diabolical existing evil is and how much every man now living deserves access to God-given resources he does not now have [p. 120].

While not bowling the reader over with excessive pessimism, Seifert clearly sounds a note of urgency.

Chapter five is particularly stimulating; it suggests some ways in which meaningful social strategies can be made a part of contemporary life-styles. “Goals without methods for reaching them are as helpless as a Scrabble player holding a Q without a U,” Seifert remarks.

He rejects the violent politics of the radical left or right because such tactics usually support, multiply, and solidify opposition. What radicals overlook is that when the chips are down, American power being distributed as it is, their cause cannot win. The author does, however, concede that from an ethical point of view there can be a legitimate use of violence—a just revolution. But the risks are high.

The twentieth-century Christian who wants to focus upon the standards for social involvement set forth by Jesus will do well to give serious attention to Professor Minear’s book. He starts where much of contemporary, skeptical biblical scholarship leaves off—with the authenticity of Jesus’ commands. Minear is not ignorant of the niceties of biblical scholarship, to be sure, and he uses redaction and form criticism throughout his study.

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He selects a dozen representative commands of Jesus (the twelve that are most specific) and examines each as it developed and was applied to successive situations. He is intrigued especially with the command to “repent,” which is historically, logically and psychologically first since it forms the basis for the other commands. It is the boundary between the enemies and the disciples of Jesus. The author believes that the implications of repentance are spelled out in the other commands.

Dr. Hessel’s book is a how-to-do-it manual for those who seek involvement in social action. The need for such a book became clear to him as he taught a graduate course in “Strategies and Styles of Social Action.” Most books in the area are geared toward a description of the problem rather than particular action plans, he says. Like Seifert, Hessel puts his suggestions into language that is succinct and non-technical, and the average citizen who wants to combat the rigidities of society and its institutions will do well to read this little book. The volume could well be used as a guide for a social-action program in the local church. Pastors will find chapter seven, “And the Church?,” very helpful but perhaps not very comforting.

Hessel does an admirable job of prodding readers to adopt realistic techniques that employ just means within existing situations. He seems to suggest that a concrete good is better than an abstract best. A helpful appendix annotates styles of social involvement found in local churches.


Answers to Questions, by F. F. Bruce (Zondervan, 264 pp., $6.95). Large selection of questions and answers from F. F. Bruce’s long-time popular column in the British magazine The Harvester. First part covers questions on the biblical text, the second questions on Christian doctrine and biblical subjects. Profound, but also clearly expressed and easy to read.
Synopsis of the Four Gospels, edited by Kurt Aland (American Bible Society, 361 pp., $13.50). Each pair of facing, large-size pages contains, on the left page, the Greek text of the Gospels, and on the right, the English translation (RSV), in matching parallel columns. A very helpful tool for those with even an elementary knowledge of Greek.
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Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, edited by Constant Jacquet, Jr. (Abingdon, 278 pp., $8.95). Recently released is the 41st edition of a standard directory, with the title enlarged to reflect increased coverage of the continent. The data for ecumenical-movement participants (denominations and councils) and for Catholics is very useful. But some large and many small evangelical and other groups are omitted or inconsistently treated, doubtless through their own indifference. Since at least half of the Canadian denominations have their headquarters in the United States and many of the rest have sister bodies south of the border, it is good to have a single yearbook serving both countries. Perhaps the next edition can put the denominations in one alphabet instead of two.
Mark: Evangelist and Theologian by Ralph P. Martin (Zondervan, 240 pp., $3.95 pb). A creatively original survey of contemporary scholarship and a suggestion of a new purpose and life-setting for the second Gospel. The concluding chapter is on “Mark’s Gospel in Today’s World.”
Contemporary World Theology: A Layman’s Guidebook, by Harvie M. Conn (Presbyterian and Reformed, 155 pp., $2.95 pb). The most helpful, comprehensive, and balanced short treatment available, embracing not only traditional subjects, such as Barthian neo-orthodoxy and Bultmann’s existentialist interpretation, but also among others the theologies of hope and history. Discusses Teilhard’s “theology of evolution,” dispensationalism, and evangelicalism. In the tradition of Cornelius Van Til, Conn repudiates all theologies that fail to acknowledge biblical inerrancy, and criticizes many of the conservative movements that do. Gives much attention to theology in Asia.
Rock Opera, by Ellis Nassour (Hawthorne, 248 pp., $8.95). How Jesus Christ Superstar went from disc to stage to film—making money all the way. “The greatest story ever sold.” Depressing.
Wisdom in Israel, by Gerhard Von Rad (Abingdon, 330 pp., $12.95). A very important book, the last work by one of the most influential Old Testament scholars of our century. He studies the movement that found literary expression in the Bible in several books, such as Job and Proverbs. Loaded with dubious presuppositions.
The Message of the New Testament, by F. F. Bruce (Eerdmans, 120 pp., $1.95 pb). A layman’s introduction to New Testament theology by the dean of evangelical biblical scholars; simply and interestingly written.
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The Fall Into Consciousness, by J. Stanley Barlow (Fortress, 148 pp., $3.75 pb). Discusses freedom and responsibility, guilt, shame, and anxiety in depth psychology from Freud to the present. Attempts to provide an alternative to despair. Little religious content, and what there is is borrowed only from existential theologians.
The Secret Gospel, by Morton Smith (Harper & Row, 148 pp., $5.95). Yet another scholarly attempt (Smith teaches history at Columbia) to discover a “true” Jesus different from the one portrayed in the New Testament. Such “quests” have a curious way of reflecting the times in which they are written. So, not surprisingly, Smith says the best way to classify Jesus is as a “miracle-working magician.” From the beginning heretics have taught, as Smith does, two kinds of Christianity, one for insiders, another for the masses. The true Gospel will survive this latest attempt to undermine it.
Help For the Handicapped Child, by Florence Weiner (McGraw-Hill, 221 pp., $7.95). Describes most of the significant handicaps and diseases along with the major helping agencies. Should be quite useful for pastors, especially as a starter for establishing local contacts.
The Becomers, by Keith Miller (Word, 185 pp., $5.95). Those who appreciated The Taste of New Wine and A Second Touch will not be disappointed by this refreshing discussion of “What happens to a person after becoming a Christian?”
Religion in Sociological Perspective: Essays in the Empirical Study of Religion, edited by Charles Y. Gock (Wadsworth Publishing Co. [Belmont, Calif. 94002] 315 pp., n.p., pb). From the Survey Research Center, University of California at Berkeley, twenty-one rather technical essays in five groups: being and becoming religious; the effects of religion; conformity and rebellion among religious professionals; the origin and evolution of religious groups; and the future of religion.
Is This Really the End? A Reformed Analysis of “The Late Great Planet Earth,” by George C. Miladin (Puritan-Reformed [706a Greenbank Rd., Wilmington, Del. 19808], 55 pp., $1.25 pb). Is there a rapture? Or a seven-year tribulation? A critique of Hal Lindsey’s best-seller, for which the author faults inconsistent use of biblical literalism and neglect of biblical themes. Outlines Reformed thought on the end-times.
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Did You Receive the Spirit?, by Simon Tugwell (Paulist, 143 pp., $1.25 pb). A Catholic priest encourages group prayer and the use of spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues. He disagrees with the attempt to tie sanctification totally to speaking in tongues. Smooth writing, gracious spirit.
The Acts of the Apostles, by William Neil (Attic [Box 1156, Greenwood, S. C. 29646], 272 pp., $9). An excellent commentary for the layman has been added to the “New Century Bible” series. Neil gives good reasons for treating Acts “with the utmost respect as a basically accurate account of what happened, recorded by a man whose evidence we have good cause to trust.”
The Gospel: Live It and Love It, by Rudolph Norden (Concordia, 79 pp., $1.95 pb). A well-written, orderly discussion of the meaning of the Gospel, and its implication for our lives. Good for new adult Christians.
Nigerian Harvest, by Edgar H. Smith (Baker, 318 pp., $5). A history of early Christian Reformed missionaries in Nigeria and the vibrant, growing Nigerian church there now. Very detailed.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible, edited by Herbert May and Bruce Metzger (Oxford, 1,564 pp., $9.50). A slightly revised and enlarged edition of a decade-old study Bible. The RSV is the translation, with the new second edition for its New Testament portion. The notes and general articles seek to be positive but reflect a moderate acceptance of mainstream biblical criticism (JEDP built upon the “creative influence of Moses”; Paul wrote Ephesians but not, “in their present form,” the Pastorals). Users should compare it with the Harper Study Bible (Zondervan), Holman Study Bible, or Oxford’s own alternative, the New Scofield.
Adolescent Sexuality in Contemporary America: Personal Values and Sexual Behavior, Ages 13–19, by Robert Sorenson (World, 549 pp., $20). The results of an extensive and in-depth survey. May be a little misleading because the most conservative parents often refused questioning of their children. This picture of what is happening sexually should lead Christian parents to see the need of sensibly informing their children and helping them understand and conform to biblical sexual ethics.
Laymen Look at Preaching: Lay Expectation Factors in Relation to the Preaching of Helmut Thielicke, by Marvin J. Dirks (Christopher, 326 pp., $6.50). A detailed study of the technique and impact of one of the very few Continental preachers who consistently draw capacity crowds.
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Dynamic Discipleship, by Kenneth C. Kinghorn (Revell, 157 pp., $4.95). A readable guidebook for new Christians and those interested in becoming more effective disciples. Pinpoints problem attitudes and suggests constructive steps toward a dynamic walk in the Spirit.
The Methodist Revolution, by Bernard Semmel (Basic, 273 pp., $10.95). Social changes that reduced the need for social revolution in England (democratization, middle-class personal habits, obedience to the state) were the results of the aggressive evangelization and Arminian theology of Wesley and many early followers. Extensive footnoting and bibliography. Well written; valuable interpretation of an era.

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