Christian Missions and the Enlightenment

Article excerpt

Christian Missions and the Enlightenment.

Edited by Brian Stanley. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. Pp. xi, 246. $45.

In an excellent chapter introducing the eight essays of this volume-all originally delivered at conferences sponsored by the North Atlantic Missiology Project-Brian Stanley argues that missionaries of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries stand in a more complicated relationship to the Enlightenment than is often alleged. If the modern missionary movement was a child of the Enlightenment, it was sometimes a rebellious one, and the strength of this volume is that its authors resist the prevailing tendency to "explain" the missionary movement as a simple byproduct of the era's intellectual ferment.

For example, Andrew F. Walls maintains that missions theory in the period derived less from Enlightenment thinking than from a Christendom mindset that antedated it. Chapters by Jane Samson and Brian Stanley suggest that a belief in the equal depravity of all peoples sometimes tempered the cultural pretentiousness missionaries inherited from their time.

The great importance of the Scottish Enlightenment, which domesticated the Aufklarung's anti-Christian elements, figures prominently in several essays. …

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