Valuing One’s Faith

How does one value one’s Faith. In this case, I am using “faith” to mean the religious belief system one adheres to in some way. I saw something interesting in the book THE SKILLED HELPER, by Gerald Egan (I am quoting from the 1975 version).

“A value, according to Raths and Simon (1966) is something that a particular person prizes and cherishes, even in public when appropriate — something that someone chooses freely from alternatives, after considering the consequences of these alternatives, and that causes a person to act (or to refrain from acting) in a repeated, consistent way. As such, values differ from opinions, interests, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes especially in that these, unlike always find their way into action. Values, then, are related to lifestyle. Another way of putting it is that my values constitute the ways in which I commit myself to myself, to others, and to the world about me. My values are extremely important, for my commitments constitute a significant part of my identity — the person I see myself to be. ” (pages 219-220)

So, what are the qualities of a value?

  • It is prized and cherished (including in public when appropriate)
  • Freely chosen despite the availability of other alternatives
  • Leads to action (or refraining from actions) in a repeated, consistent way. It is tied to lifestyle
  • Leads to my internal and external commitments
  • Effects my self identity

One’s faith can be

  • The religious system that one has expressed adherence too due to socialization or lack of alternatives.
  • A set of beliefs that have no relevance to one’s actions or identity.

The question is where such a faith is a Biblical faith. Many people throw around “Easy Believism” the tendency to identify faith in Christ in terms of a mental assent and a prayer. This sort of faith comes out of two things:

  1. A desire to quantify results. An evangelizer cannot identify whether another truly has been regenerated in their interaction, and cannot see the future to see whether the individual makes a real change of direction, so faith is minimized to a tiny action and a cognitive assent. (I remember the “Hand illustration” for evangelism where the final ‘finger’ is the little finger representing the prayer of salvation. It is the little finger because “it is such a little thing.” Of course, committing oneself fully to another is NEVER tiny.
  2. Tendency of having this view born and developed in regions of cultural Christianity, where there is little pressure to adjust one’s lifestyle, and there are few alternative belief systems that appear to be valid for consideration.

However, I think we must consider whether that is what faith in the Bible actually is. Is that faith?

Faith is not just a belief, it is a value.

Staying Behind: Theology of “Anti-Missions” (Chapter 9)

I recently completed the “Beta” version (or semi-rough first draft) of my book, “Walking With” as a Metaphor for Missions Theology. If you are interested in it, please CLICK HERE to see how you can download it (for free). The following is Chapter 9 on the Theology of Anti-Missions. This heavily drew from a post I wrote a few years ago. The book cleans it up, expands it a bit, and establishes the footnotes.

Chapter 9

Staying Behind”

Theology of Anti-Missions

In the previous chapter, we saw some churches struggling to embrace missions. In some cases there were impediments that held them back. In some cases, there were theological barriers that were set up to undermine the basis or practice of missions. Missions, at least in a general sense, has been around from the earliest days of the church. It, along with worship, discipling, and fellowship were part of the practice of the church long before there was formal theologizing. There is nothing wrong with this in itself. Theology often develops from reflection on practice. Missions has rarely had much theological consideration, either as a foundation of practice, or as reflection.

Christopher Wright quotes Spindler:

If ‘mission’ is understood as the sum total of all actual missionary activities in the modern period or as everything undertaken under the banner of ‘missions,’ then an honest biblical scholar can only conclude that such a concept of mission does not occur in the Bible.”1

Wright strongly supports missions. But he notes that a lot of what we do in the name of Christian missions is done without a log of reflection, either biblically or theologically. Because of this, it is hardly surprising that Missions has sputtered a lot in history. Missions as an activity not directly overseen by local churches faded in the 2nd century and was almost unknown in the 3rd.

There are a number of reasons for this, but theology does have a role. It should be added up front that it is not always clear whether people’s theology drive them away from missions, or whether they have a disinclination toward missions, and then use theology to support that view. In the end, it doesn’t really matter, because it is hard to separate theology from application of theology.

Consider, for example, the theology of John Calvin.

“Gustav Warneck (1834–1910), the father of missiology as a theological discipline, was one of the first Protestant scholars to point out that Calvin and the Reformers had no missionary concern. A.M. Hunter even went so far as to state in his book on Calvin’s teaching: ‘Certainly he [Calvin] displayed no trace of missionary enthusiasm’. Others held an entirely different view and noted ‘an intensified zeal for evangelism’ in Calvin.”2

It is difficult to see how such divergent views can exist. Fans and detractors can often interpret the same data far differently. But some work of Calvin points to a more mediated view. Consider the following quote of Calvin:

Since we do not know who belongs to the number of the predestined and who does not, it befits us so to feel as to wish that all be saved. So it will come about that, whoever we come across, we shall study to make him a sharer of peace even severe rebuke will be administered like medicine, lest they should perish or cause others to perish. But it will be for God to make it effective in those whom he foreknew and predestined.“3

Certainly here, evangelism and the missionary activity is supported directly. On the other hand, it is hard to see an “essential missionary theology” or an “intensified zeal for evangelism.” The passage seems to say that one’s motivation to share the gospel should come from the fitting desire to believe (the seeming fiction?) that God wants everyone to be saved. It then goes on to say that if one shares the Gospel with one who is predestined as elect, God can use that to make their election effective. It is still a bit unclear, however, whether such missionary action would give eternal results that are different from inaction. In the end, the Theology of the Reformers may, or may not, be anti-missiological, but they are certainly less than enthusiastic; and this shows itself in the activity of the early Protestant churches. It could however, be said that theology does not have a strong role in missions. The Crusades were driven in part by a missionary fervor, yet got derailed, in part, by religious and racial hatreds. Such hatred was guided more by sociological and historical components, I might argue, than by theology, even if theology may have been used to justify such attitudes. In the early Protestant movement, survival, the lack of mission-sending structures, and the historical reliance on State churches, among others, certainly worked against missional activity. More on this in the previous chapter, but that is not all of it. Theology had a role. Consider the case of missions among Baptists in the 18th and 19th centuries.

William Carey, referred to by some as the Father of Protestant Missions, wrote his great booklet, “An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.”4 in the late 18th century. Carey came from a religious group, the Particular Baptists. As “dissenters” of the state church, they could, potentially, have a greater desire to share the gospel beyond national boundaries (those boundaries often seen as defining the area of concern for the State Church). However, this potential was crushed by a form of Reformed theology that saw the work of salvation as God’s alone. If, then, salvation was only a work of God, then it seemed quite logical that evangelism, both locally and cross-culturally, was irrelevant or even impertinent.

Carey chose not to directly challenge the theology of his church. Rather, he chose to challenge its implications. Preachers of his denomination commonly deduced from their theology that the Great Commission, in its Matthew 28 form, was simply Jesus addressing his eleven present disciples. As such it lacks relevance today. Carey made three arguments against this thinking:

  • If “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel” is not for us today, then neither is “baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” What is our justification for baptizing, as Baptists, if Jesus only commanded the original disciples to baptize, and not us?
  • If the commissioning in Matthew was only for the original 11, presumably then every preacher who has shared the Gospel to unreached peoples over close to two millennia, including those who shared their faith to ancestors of the majority of readers of Carey’s booklet, did so without God’s authority/blessing.
  • If the commissioning was only to the disciples who were present with Him, why did Jesus end the commissioning with “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the world.” Such a statement would be appropriate if Jesus was talking to people throughout future history. If Jesus was only talking to the Eleven, He might be more likely to say something like, “Lo, I am with you always, as long as you live.”

I have never thought the second point very strong, but presumably it struck a chord with the readers. With this, Protestant missions gradually grew from a trickle into a stream and then into a mighty river.

But there was still a problem. The theology of many of the Particular Baptists said, “God has determined salvation from the past, and His work is completely unaffected by our activity today, so there is no need or value in evangelizing.” Carey added an important, but dissonant, statement. “Jesus has commanded us to evangelize, so you should do so– regardless of whether you believe it is effective.” One might even hear a bit of resonance with the quote from Calvin above that could be read as “share the gospel as if doing so has efficacy.”

People can often live their entire lives with opposing beliefs… but this conflict can spring to the forefront when such a conflict is articulated effectively. It could be argued that the Baptists in London were already struggling between the belief that salvation is the work of God alone, and the Biblical record of God working through people to carry out His mission. The words of William Carey in his Enquiry, led to a great change of direction. But eloquence pointed in the opposite direction can result in a very different result.

In 1826, a Baptist in America, Daniel Parker, published “Views on the Two Seeds.” The two seeds he was referring to were those mentioned in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you,” the serpent, “and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

Parker expressed the belief, in pages 4 and 5 of his work, that the seed of the woman was “Christ and the elect,” while the seed of the serpent is “the Non-elect.”

“Eve’s sin allowed Satan ‘to beget the wicked, sinful principle and nature in her,’ thus allowing both the seed of Satan and the seed of Christ to enter the human bloodstream. Satan’s seed is represented in the covenant of works, Christ’s in the covenant of grace. The elect seed can be redeemed, but the nonelect cannot.”5

The theology of this work resonated with Baptists, especially in the Western (what we would now call Mid-Western) regions of the United States and their view of determinism regarding salvation. McBeth, lists three line items from the “Apple Creek Association” from that period showing Anti-Missions sentiments:

“19 We as an association do not hesitate to declare an unfellowship with foreign and domestic missionary and bible societies, Sunday Schools and tract societies, and all other missionary institutions.

21. No missionary preacher is to have the privilege of preaching at our association.

We advise the churches to protest against masonic and missionary institutions, and not to contribute to any such beggarly institutions.”6

Of course, the anti-Missions movement was driven by other factors than theological. There were regional disagreements or rivalries. Most Baptists in the Eastern United States were “Regular” or supporting Missions, while those in the West tended to be anti-Mission. Cost had a factor, and poor churches in the frontier regions were more likely to see mission organizations as parasitic to the church. The 2nd century work, the Didache, had similar concerns and gave local churches strict guidance to identify true versus false apostles. A chief criteria was on how much time and support they sought from local churches rather than getting about their business of mission work.7 Additionally, the Western Baptist churches were suspicious of theological education, and seminaries were often lumped together with mission organizations in their opposition.

However, another major theological view that greatly strengthened the Anti-missions movement was ‘Biblicism.’ This is the belief or theological stance that only institutions that are expressly noted in the Bible are legitimate. This was very strong in the early 1800s. In 1827, the Kehuckee Association published “A Declaration Against the Modern Missionary Movement and Other Institutions of Men.”8 Those who agreed with such declarations, often called themselves “Old School Baptists” referring, presumably, to the pre-Carey Particular Baptist tradition, or even further back, perhaps, based on the “Trail of Blood” belief that Baptist churches go back to Jesus and John the Baptist. The Campbellite Baptists, led by Alexander Campbell saw themselves as Reformers of the Baptist tradition. Until they broke free from the Baptist fold to form the Campbellite or Church of Christ, movement, they opposed Missions as well. Both of these have an underlying premise of Biblicism. For the Kehuckee Association, the Modern Missionary Movement is an “Institution of Men” rather than of God. For Campbell, “Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent,” led to ‘where the Bible is not explicitly affirming, we oppose.” The Anti-Missions Baptists and the Campbellites saw themselves as seeking a “primitive” New Testament church and more recently, a “pre-Carey” Baptist church.

In the 20th century, other theological concerns have crept in. Perhaps most well known as the Liberal-Fundamentalist controversies in the 1920s. In broader Protestant circles, this can be seen in the controversy generated by “Rethinking Missions: A Layman’s Enquiry after One Hundred Years,” published in 1932 largely through the work of W. E. Hocking.9

The report distinguishes between temporary and permanent elements in the function of a missionary. The task of the missionary today, it was maintained, is to see the best in other religions, to help the adherents to discover, or to rediscover, all that is best in their own traditions, to co-operate with the most active and vigorous elements in the other traditions in social reform and in the purification of religious expression. The aim should not be conversion – the drawing of members of one religious faith over into another – or an attempt to establish a Christian monopoly. Co-operation is to replace aggression. The ultimate aim, in so far as any can be descried, is the emergence of the various religions out of their isolation into a fellowship in which each will find its appropriate place.”10

This report and the larger belief system it espouses, was a huge problem theologically. However, into 1960s, missions associated with the IMC and World Council of Churches still maintained goals that were generally consistent with the goals of missions for centuries– cross-cultural sharing the gospel of Christ and development of viable local churches.11

But this began to change. There was a growth in seeing Mission in terms of “Christian Presence” which called for behavior that appeared to be every bit as vague as the term sounds. With “The Church for Others” published for the WCC in 1967, things had radically changed. Missions did not really involve a call to repentance. Proselytism is seen as “the opposite” of missions. Conversion is not seen so much as individual and personal, but is seen as more corporate in form. That is not to say there were no good points in the work… but rather that mission theology had radically changed… and much of those changes undermined the historical purposes of doing mission work.

“Presence” became a word that was used as a substitute for “witness,” “mission,” and “evangelism.” Charles de Foucauld described a missionary as ‘a person who is in the place with a presence willed and determined as a witness to the love of God in Christ.’”12   This definition is not so much wrong or bad, but so vague that it could entail doing almost anything or nothing. Panikkar during this same period, saw missionaries not so much as bringing Christ to other cultures, but helping other cultures “discover Christ” in their culture through the missionaries’ services to the people.

Why would there be such a radical change during this time? I really don’t know. However, the IMC, International Missionary Council, formally joined the World Council of Churches in 1961. Perhaps the IMC, a thoroughly missions-oriented organization, provided a strong influence on the WCC gatherings in 1961 and 1963… but that influence declined later in the decade, and was driven more by churches that had a different perspective and agenda. It does seem, however, that the WCC has backed away from these extremes and has a view that is closer to the Evangelical view than in the 1960. It should be noted that Evangelicals also had issues in the 1960s in terms of missions where, seemingly, in reacting to broad liberal views of missions, Evangelicals began identifying missions only in terms of proselytizing and church-planting. This view also was modified in the 1970s and beyond.

Today, there are a number of theological positions that undermine the basic premises of Missions. One of these is Universalism– the idea that God’s benevolences or grace is so great that it ultimately overpowers His justice. Therefore, everyone will, eventually at least, be saved. This view does not directly attack missions, but does make the enterprise seem unnecessary. If everyone is saved anyway, why share the Gospel, unless it is to do nice things for people perhaps.

Somewhat related to this is Theological Pluralism that takes a relativistic view of religions. Some may say that there are many paths to God and salvation. Others may say that there is only one path (through Jesus– the way, the truth, and the life) but many may be saved by Jesus who do not personally know Jesus. So if a Hindu can be saved by God by being a Good Hindu, or a Muslim be saved by God in being a Good Muslim, missions, at least in terms of sharing the Gospel message, may be seen as unnecessary. At worst it can be disruptive… leading people to stray from a moral adherence to their non-Christian faith.

Summary

Theology matters in terms of missions. Bad theology can lead to bad missions. A theology that undermines the Biblical purposes of missions, or greatly narrows its role, may greatly hinder the missions efforts. Further, doing missions activities even though it may be disconnected to their theology, is likely, eventually, to cause problems.

Chapter Nine Endnotes

1 Christopher J.W. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006),36. The quote comes from Mark Spindler’s article, “The Biblical Grounding and Orientation of Mission.” in the book Missiology: An Ecumenical Introduction.

2 (Calvin and mission Jacobus P. Labuschagne HTS Theological Studies vol.65 n.1   Jan. 2009)

3 (Van Neste, 2009:2)Ray Van Neste, 2009, John Calvin on evangelism and mission, 1–6,

viewed n.d., from http://www.founders.org/journal/fj33/

article2.html.

4 William Carey, An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens

5 (H. Leon McBeth. “The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness,” 374.). Daniel Parker writings can be found in Elder Daniel Parker’s Writings, available at http://asweetsavor.info/pdf/Parker-2Seeds.pdf

6 McBeth, 372.

7 Didache on False Apostles

8 A Declaration Against the Modern Missionary Movement and Other Institutions of Men. 1827. The document is available at http://docplayer.net/78867650-The-kehukee-declaration.html. For much of the rest of the chapter, refer back to McBeth’s book.

9 Re-thinking missions ; a laymen’s inquiry after one hundred years, by the Commission of appraisal, William Ernest Hocking, chairman. 1932.

10 (Stephen Neill “A History of Christian Missions, (Penguin Publishing, 2nd edition), page 419).

11 Much of this section comes from Rodger C. Bassham Missions Theology.

12 (“Missions Theology” by Rodger C. Bassham, p. 73)

Cultural Anthropology– A Christian Perspective?

A book I like, and have used before in my classes on Cultural Anthropology is “Cultural Anthropology– A Christian Perspective” by Stephen A. Grunlan and Marvin K. Mayers (1988). You can find it by CLICKING HERE.

I decided to do something yesterday that I pretty much never do— read the reader comments (in this case on the Amazon page for this book).

  1. The most thorough reviewer gave the book a 3 out of 5. It seems that the thing the reviewer was concerned about was that the authors may not be strong enough on “Biblical Absolutism.” The book deals considerably on the issue of Biblical Absolutism versus Cultural Relativism. I felt authors did an admirable job in this task. Perhaps there was a concern on the reviewers part not about Biblical Absolutism but rather Bibical Cultural Absolutism. A lot of Christian conservatives struggle with this. For example, if women are supposed to express a submissive attitude and demonstrate this, in part, by wearing a head covering in 1st century Hellenized churches, does that mean that all churches in all cultures at all points in history must do likewise? Anyway, the reviewer noted how difficult it is to have a good balance between these concepts, and that good people can disagree somewhat. Overall, I thought it a pretty good review.
  2. There are several that are of the sort, “I really liked the book, and you should buy it.” Nothing wrong with these, but they are not hugely informative.
  3. An interesting one is a 1 out of 5 score post that starts out “This book is a horrible, almost criminal, misuse of anthropology.” It ends with “This book disgusts me, like all missionization.” Of course, the last statement explains the first statement (except for the expression “almost criminal” which I suppose is used for rhetorical effect). In the middle, the writer condemns the authors (conflated into the singular), “If the author understood anything about the discipline, he would know that it is about relativism and respect for differences” I don’t really have a problem with review. It expresses his understanding of (presumably cultural) anthropology. I am a bit curious about the purpose of the review, however. If the reviewer really does embrace relativism and respect for differences, why does the review appear to be rather disrespectful of a difference of perspective, and quite non-relativistic. I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that it is of the sort, “I am tolerant of everyone except the intolerant.” The curious thing, however, is that the book is trying to right the wrongs of the past where missional zeal often mixed the sharing of the gospel with cultural imperialism. The books seeks to find ways to find a balance between sharing one’s faith with respecting culture. I think the idea that the book is utilizing the tools of anthropology to support “cultural genocide” is a bit extreme. The truth is that cultures are constantly interacting with other cultures and cultures are constantly changing. Cultural anthropology respects all cultures, but does not (should not at least) support an artificial static idea of culture. Rather than seeing interaction as bad, it should see how such interaction can be good. I am reminded of talking to Brazilian Christians who expressed unhappiness with the government for making it illegal to share the gospel with the isolated native groups that dot the Amazon basin. In the minds of the Brazilian Christians, these isolated groups are not generally isolated anyway. They do interact with illegal loggers, drug groups, land speculators and more. These groups will (and do) interact with outsiders— the question is whether they will be interacting with those that help or those that hurt.
  4. The last one I will note is another 1 out of 5 score. The person complains about the title of the book, nothing that there are 3 perspectives for cultural anthropology— “(1) cross-cultural, or looking at other cultures than our own, (2) holistic, or looking at all parts of culture in relation to each other, and (3) relativistic, or looking at each culture as its own standard of values and meaning. Notice there is no “Christian perspective.”” For some reason, I actually took the statement positively. Somehow I thought the writer was saying, “There is no one single ‘Christian perspective;’ but there are in fact many different Christian perspectives.” And that would be true. The perspective of the book is “Conservative, evangelical, mission-forward, Christian” perspective. There is no doubt, it is not the only perspective that could be called Christian. Of course, I should not have jumped into this benefit of the doubt, because there was really no doubt. The reviewer was saying that there are only 3 valid perspectives, and none of them is “Christian.” That, as you probably figured out for yourself, is non-sense. First of all, a study of culture through the lens of a different culture (perspective #1, cross-cultural) is common… perhaps the most common. And a lens of culture can be Christian just as much as it can be Buddhist, or Serbian, or Zulu, or anything else. However, this book is not about studying cultures through the cross-cultural lens of Christianity, technically speaking. Christian perspective is not so much about cultures abut about cultural anthropology. In line with that, the term has more to do with theories of cultural anthropology (of which there are MANY) as well as theories of applied anthropology. The reviewer suggested two titles as more appropriate— “Destroying Other Cultures with Your Culture” or “Destroying Anthropology by Misusing It.” Again, since the book was written to try to counteract unhealthy forms of cultural imperialism while still being true to the mandate to share God’s message to the world, I feel that the first title is off-base. As far as the second title, I feel nothing much one way or another about it. A tool can be used in many ways. I am not sure that using it in a way that one doesn’t like should automatically be considered “misuse.” I mean, the reviewer calls himself (presumably not herself), Franz Boas. Since Franz Boas, a great mind in cultural anthropology, has been dead since 1942, it could be argued that he is misusing that name. Or maybe not. Misuse is awfully subjective.

I would say, read it for yourself. It is now getting to be a bit ‘long in the tooth’ but I feel it has aged better than many from the same period.

Mission Theology Book in “Beta”

I have finished the first draft of my book “Walking With” as Metaphor for Missions Theology.

If you are interested in reading it as it is, you can click on the Download Button above.

Now you might be thinking, “Why, oh why, would you want to put it up unfinished?”

  1. It is basically finished. I have said everything I want to say. There is just clean up of grammar, finishing the sloppy endnotes, perhaps adding index and reference pages, and the final read-through. Informationally it is complete.
  2. This has been a SLOW book for me. I taught a course in Missions Theology back in 2016 and thought putting together a book on this topic would be helpful for my students (good textbooks are hard to find in the Philippines). So I started working on the book. But then, I was moved to teaching Interreligious Dialogue (IRD). So I put together a book for that class, and I cannibalized large chunks of my Missions Theology book for that purpose. I decided I would never complete the Missions Theology book. However, COVID time got me thinking. I have the time and I feel like I have something to say.
  3. My schedule gets rather cluttered in the next few weeks— perhaps next few months. I don’t want to sit on the project for a few months. I would rather put out what I have and then revise and complete when I have time.
  4. If people download it and read it, and then have constructive comments, that would be helpful.

I have decided not to sell this book (most likely) but I hope it puts some ideas out there in thoughtspace that will be of value to missions.

Again, click on the title of the book at the top to download a pdf version of this book.