Missiology: An Ecumenical Introduction, Texts and Contexts of Global Christianity

Article excerpt

Edited by F. J. Verstraelen (gen. ed.),A. Camps, L. A. Hoedemaker, and Marc R. Spindler. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1995. Pp. vii, 498. Paperback $24.99.

The Dutch have always had a particular genius for missiology. This ecumenical introduction, an updated and revised English translation of the 1988 Dutch original, demonstrates our continuing indebtedness to ground-breaking contributions by Dutch missiologists. An integrated missiological handbook could probably have been produced only in the Netherlands, where Reformed and Catholic missiologists have closely collaborated for decades. The result is a systematic work of Continental scholarship-comprehensive, balanced, and analytic-which offers correctives to the more pragmatic and results-oriented efforts of North American missiologists.

An opening query about the meaning of missiology first evokes an unqualified negative answer-it is not the study of Christian expansion from the Westthen a more tentative reply. It is a discipline "searching for a new working selfdefinition" (p. 2). Missiology examines the multiplicity of processes in which Christianity is involved globally, both planned and unplanned. It studies the "movement of Christianity," using insights from church history, cultural anthropology, religious studies, or sociology, but always from a "faith perspective."

"Mission is . . . the dynamic relationship between God and the world" (p. 4). Both the mission of God and the sentness of the church must be examined in close relation to biblical and systematic theology. An "ecumenical" approach recognizes the plurality of faith perspectives held by missiologists as well as the diversity of geographic, cultural, religious, and other missionary contexts. We cannot yet speak of an "ecumenical missiology" (p. 437), but the authors hope for a "shared conversion to the essentials" of a common missiology.

The survey opens with sketches of the "experience of Christianity" in several geographic regions: the Middle East, Netherlands, China, Ghana, Indonesia, and Brazil. …