Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Essential Thinking about Mission

Few books can be considered truly seminal works in their field. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission by David J. Bosch is one of them. Although Bosch, head of the department of missiology at the University of South Africa, died in an automobile accident in 1992, his work stands as a classic in its field. In a recent issue of Christianity Century, one theologian selected it as one the five books of the last 25 years that he describes as “essential.”

As we worked through part of Bosch’s book in our Christian Witness class this past Saturday, I was once again impressed by the scope of his work. Professor Bosch drew on history, theology, sociology, and economics to paint a picture of a gospel that has been continually in dialogue with the culture in which it finds itself. He saw the gospel as dynamic rather than static in relation to its culture.

The thesis of Bosch in this book is that “what has unfolded in theological and missionary circles during the last decades is the result of a fundamental paradigm shift, not only in mission or theology, but in the experience and thinking of the whole world.” He notes, of course, that this is not the first such shift that the world or the church have experienced, but we have the opportunity to be conscious of this change and take advantage of the opportunities it offers.

Bosch is not light reading. Students often note (if not outright complain) about his tendency to examine every implication of an event or movement ad infinitum. With a longer view of things that he was not permitted to have, we can see some false conclusions, such as the waning influence of fundamentalism in religion. This does not detract from his innate ability to observe, analyze, and suggest the implications of major movements in the Christian faith.

Anyone who wishes to understand how we arrived at our present situation in regard to Christian mission will find Bosch invaluable.

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