Anti-Missions Theology Article

I took my latest book on Mission Theology (Go to the Welcome for this website to access the “Beta” Version of the book) and I turned one of the chapters into an article to share on Academia.edu.

If you are interested in reading this topic of Anti-missions theology in Protestant Church History, but don’t want to look at the whole book, you can go to…

https://www.academia.edu/45640342/Theological_Objections_to_Christian_Missions_in_Protestant_Church_History?source=swp_share

The Potato Blight and Pastoral Theology

My wife is a certified pastoral counselor, so I sometimes get pulled in on CPE (Clinical Pastoral Training/Education) groups to lead a small training session. This weekend, I led one in Pastoral Theology. I utilize the definition for Pastoral Theology used by Margaret Whipp, in her book “SCM Guidebook: Pastoral Theology,”

PASTORAL THEOLOGY IS THE STUDY OF HOW AND WHY CHRISTIANS CARE.

Several times (too many times?) I made the statement that good pastoral care depends on good pastoral theology. I also made the statement that how we carry out pastoral care points to our pastoral theology. Thus, if we don’t have a reflected on pastoral theology, we will simply have a tacit (and typically bad) pastoral theology.

This seems a bit ridiculous, especially considering how busy people seem to be in Christian ministry who appear to have no time to worry about such unnecessary things as theology or theological reflection.

But I found a nice little example of tacit pastoral theology in a Youtube Video I watched from a strange source. The channel is “Tasting History” and the particular video is “Irish Stew from 1900 & the Irish Potato Famine.”

It is not a religious or theological channel. But it is quite relevant.

Starting around 1845, Potato Blight hit Ireland hard. People were starving and different people responded differently.

Charles Trevelyan. This man was placed in charge of the relief work by the British government for those starving in Ireland. In the youtube video (link above) it quotes Trevelyan as saying,

“The judgment of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated… The real evil which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse, and turbulent character of the people.” (Charles Trevelyan)

Admittedly, Trevelyan’s views reflected the views of many in power in England. Those in power commonly do see those without power as unworthy in some way… presumably because that implies that they with power have somehow earned their position. However, Trevelyan’s perspective does have an underlying theological perspective. Bad things are happening to the Irish because God wants bad things to happen to them. They have earned what they are getting. And to help people under the judgment of God is to work against God. This is a bit akin to what happened in the 1980s and 1990s when many saw the AIDs epidemic as a judgment of God against homosexuals (particularly). The thought of some was that to work on a cure was to undermine God’s good work.

So what was Trevelyan’s pastoral theology? It is hard to say, but by appearance it seems to be that Christians should care for those who appear to be cared for by God. In other words, we should provide care only for people who don’t require care. This may not be true. Perhaps he was simply an ethnic or religious bigot, and simply justified his prejudices with theological language. In the end, however, it doesn’t matter. In practice this was his theology within this specific context. Pastoral theology is highly contexstual.

Bible Societies. Tasting History noted that many Bible Societies (essentially parachurch mission organizations) provided food for the Irish who were starving…. BUT ONLY IF THEY CONVERT TO THE SOCIETY’S DENOMINATION. Since the vast majority of the Irish were staunchly (religiously and culturally) Roman Catholic, care was only given if people left the Roman Catholic Church.

So what is the pastoral theology here? Since conversion (at least change of denominational affiliation) was a prerequisite for receiving care, they were in essence saying, “Christians care for people only if they are like us Christians. If they are different, they can starve.” This sort of thing has happened a lot in Christian (and non-Christian) societies. There has been many times where the “Cross or the Sword” form of evangelism has been active going back to at least Charlemagne. Again, other groups have their own versions, such as the “Shahada or the Scimitar.” Essentially, the idea is that converting to our faith (or in some cases converting to our denominational perspective) is such an inherent eternal good, that pretty much any means to make that happen is a good thing.

Sometimes, it can go the opposite way a bit. As noted, my wife is a pastoral counselor. Usually, she counsels Christians. Sometimes, however, she counsels non-Christians. Some pastoral counselors say that one can only counsel Christians— for all others, the only thing one can do is Evangelize. That is quite a statement if one thinks about it. Probably, they don’t mean this. Probably what they mean is that Conversion to Christ is such a totally important and good thing, that any other good thing we might be able to do with and for this person pales in comparison. That seems a bit dubious. After all, if someone is suicidal and a Christian counselor talks that person out of committing suicide, that hardly pales in comparison to salvation. In fact, not being dead is an essential prerequisite to conversion. Regardless, it is likely that the refusal to help (except evangelize) a non-Christian is likely to be interpreted as “You have NOTHING to offer me that I presently see as valuable.”

This view tends to lend itself to the perspective of the “Ulterior Motive.” We don’t provide care because we love all people. We don’t do it because Jesus commanded us, and modeled it for us. Rather we do it, to get because we expected a quid pro quo. Quid pro quo can be initiated by either side. When a typhoon hit our area, a mission care provider came to the Philippines to provide resources for those hurt by the landslides. The local missionary he was working with began to plan out all of the places they would visit to help. However, the mission care provider had no interest in that list. He only wanted to go to places where there were churches tied to their denomination to provide care. If one of their churches wasn’t there, that was someone else’s problem. While I understand the logic of it, I still must say that it is a sub-Biblical perspective.

Society of Friends. The video noted that one group that did things differently was the Society of Friends (Quakers). There may have been others, but this is one that was singled out by the video. They gave based on the need of the people… regardless of anything else. This has a very different underlying pastoral theology— of how and why Christians provide care to others. In my mind, this is the one

Doubting Doubting Thomas

I was teaching a class– “Research in the History of Missions.” I noticed something strange. One of the missionaries I asked a student to research, and all to respond to, was St. Thomas. That is, the first St. Thomas— “Doubting Thomas.” I was so surprised at how uncomfortable my students were with researching Thomas. The discomfort is that so much of what we know about Thomas is speculative or apocryphal. One way around this is by studying Thomas as a character, rather than a historical living human being. Of course, I teach at an Evangelical School… where that may strike people unpleasantly close to the arguments about studying the “Jesus of Faith” versus the “Historical Jesus.”

The problem to me however, is different. Pretty much every mission figure I asked them to research had an issue of a gap between the “missionary as portrayed” versus the “missionary who is.” In the case of St. Thomas, the uncertainty was seemingly greater because some of the sources have a certain ramifications. To accept the Gospel of Thomas as actually written by Thomas means giving a certain amount of authority to a work that is commonly viewed as “Gnostic.” are problems with accepting the other works ascribed to Thomas as actually his work as well.

But such discomfort should not cause discomfort, but reflection. After all, the fact that these works were in Syraic, may be suggestive that Thomas ministered in Syria. No guarantee of course. The Spanish stories of Saint Iago doesn’t mean that St. James had come anywhere near the place. However, numerous works ascribed to Thomas from one place does seem suggestive. The early tradition of Thomas (probably not Bartholomew) founding the church of Southern India doesn’t necessarily mean he founded it, but it probably at least suggests its founding by his disciples. The fact that the last Gospel written (John) was the only one that singled out the actions of Thomas suggest, perhaps, that he was more important apostle in his later years than in his early years. Such evidences don’t tell us much with certainty, but do point to impact. It seems probable that Thomas was an important missionary/apostle in Syria, and considering how Edessa, for example, was an early center of Christianity, suggests that he has had considerable impact. Research like this does not lead to certainty, but does lead to new questions, and tentative thoughts.

This is pretty common in history in general. We never get full unambiguous answers. From the Evangelical perspective, the Bible is fully reliable, including in its historical record. However, even from that perspective, it must be remembered that the historical record in the Bible is very incomplete, and our ability to fill in those blanks is highly doubtful. Also, our ability to accurately analyze and interpret what is explicitly stated is also doubtful.

When my students researched Herman of Alaska, Francis Xavier, Betsy Stockton, and others, they should have gone in with the same reflective uncertainty. Some like a certain scientific certainty… but no such thing exists. Science can’t accurately analyze anything in history since it is unrepeatable phenomenon.

We need the illiative sense (converging probabilities)— the skills of the historian and lawyer, not the astronomer or physicist.

Missionaries as Colonizers

The following is an extended quote from the new book by Adesegun Hammed Olayiwola, “PERSPECTIVES OF THE AFRICAN CHURCH ON AFRICAN MISSIONS: The Past, Present & Future Challenges to Missions In Africa.”  Missionaries during the colonial era struggled with their role of utilizing the advantages of having colonial powers in charge in their mission field without becoming pawns of the colonizers. Some missionaries, however, did not struggle with this as they embraced both roles. There is a lot of disagreement in this area. However, Olayiwola expresses a common African perspective– and perspective is important.

According to Lamin Sanneh, “At its most self-conscious stage, mission coincided with western colonialism, and with that juncture students of the subject have gone on to make all kinds of judgments about the intrinsic bond between the two forces.”i He claimed further that, “In the nineteenth century this idea persisted under the slogan of “Christianity and 6percent,” by which it was understood that mundane interests prospered under a religious guise. Thus mission came to acquire the unsavory odor of collusion with the colonial power.”ii Michael Crowder believed that, “the functional relationship and unity, which existed between missionaries, traders and administrators in colonial Africa, was not accidental. Early missionaries in West Africa had a dual purpose to promote legitimate trade between African and Europeans and to convert Africans to their own religion.”iii

Since missionaries, the traders and even the colonial governors and administrators knew they were British, Spanish, and Portuguese residents in various part of Africa with a common interest to protect. Okon claimed that, “they cooperated and united as vital element in the attainment of their set goals. Missionaries in critical times of need, depended on traders for funds, and relied completely on administrators for physical security and protection.”iv Mbiti even claimed that, “A Gikuyu proverb says that, there is no Roman priest and a European- both are the same!”v Although, there is a no scholarly consensus on the role of the missionaries in the colonization of Africa, Okon insisted that, “the argument seems to favor the view that some missionaries cooperated essentially with colonial authorities in the exploitation and cultural subjugation of Africa.”vi

Walter Rodney in his How Europe Underdeveloped Africa contended that missionaries were agents of imperialism. He claimed that, “The Christian missionaries were as much part of the colonizing forces as were the explorers, traders and soldiers… missionaries were agents of colonialism in the practical sense, whether or not they saw themselves in that light.”vii Okon claimed that, “Rodney accused missionaries of preaching humility and submission in the face of gross injustice, inhumanity and dehumanization. While British traders were exploiting their African customers, the missionaries preached peace, forgiveness and good neighborliness, which actually prevented genuine rebellion, self-preservation and determination. Missionaries worked towards the preservation of the status quo and upholding of the master-servant relationship between Africans and Europeans.”viii

Rodney lamented that, “The church’s role was primarily to preserve the social relations of colonialism… the Christian church stressed humility, docility and acceptance. Ever since the days of slavery in the West Indies, the church had been brought in on condition that it should not excite the African slaves with doctrine of equality before God.”ix Okon claimed that, “If it is correct that missionary sermons suppressed genuine rebellion that could have ushered in freedom for the oppressed, and then the linkage of the missionaries with all the visible evils of colonialism may be justifiable.”x

i Lamin Sanneh, Translating The Message: The Missionary Impact On Culture. (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1989), 88. In Okon, 198.

ii Sanneh, (1989), 88. In Okon, 198.

iii Michael Crowder, The Story Of Nigeria. (London: Faber and Faber, 1962), 111. In Okon, 198-199.

iv Okon, 199.

v Mbiti, 231. In Okon, 199.

vi Okon, 199.

vii Rodney, 277. In Okon, 199.

viii Okon, 199.

ix Rodney, 278. In Okon, 199.

x Okon, 200.

… Not Inspire Them with a Passion for Political Change.

There has been an enduring belief that Christian missionaries, during the colonial era, often served as de facto operatives of the colonial powers. It is understandable why this belief would exist and persist. British missionaries, for example, would commonly serve in lands that were under the British flag. Commonly, but not always, being a British citizen in British colonial lands would be easier than being a British missionary serving in Spanish colonies, or regions that were not colonized. As such, missionaries may be rather pleased if their nation expands its colonial holdings since it provides potential new places to work.

But that is not the whole story. Often missionaries were seen as being a bit treasonous. That is, they were seen as undermining their home country. Again, this view is understandable. Missionaries were doing things for the benefit of the local people that, to the eyes of colonial powers could undermine their control over the people. Colonial nations and companies wanted the colonized to be compliant. That meant they sought to avoid education, or sociological stressors that could lead to angering traditionalists, or development revolutionaries.

Max Warren, in his book “Social History and Christian Mission” (SCM Press, 1967) speaks of some of this. He uses the example of the Serampore Trio (Careys, Wards, and Marshmans) in the Bengal region of India. For those familiar with the story. William Carey, a British citizen, was harassed by the East India Company during the early years of his stay. His desire to convert the natives to Christianity was seen as bad for business, and therefore bad for England. For a time he ministered in the Danish colony of Serampore to avoid arrest and deportation by his own country.  Years later there was a change of heart and he was seen as an asset to British colonial leadership. Generally, however, this was a change in colonial leadership rather than change in Carey.

It wasn’t, however, just the colonial leaders who were concerned. Warren uses the case of Sydney Smith, the Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Smith who wrote considerably to the Edinburgh Review, an influential journal, in the early 19th century. The following is quotes from Warren’s book (Chapter 3, excerpts  from pages 60-63), who in turn quotes several times Smith’s writings:

After a number of caustic references, he (Smith) dismissed as folly the idea of sending missions to India because of

‘the danger of insurrection from the prosection of the scheme, the utter unfitness of the persons employed in it, and the complete hopelessness of the attempt while pursued under such circumstances as now exist.’

It is interesting to note his concern with the ‘danger of insurrection.’ This concern, widely shared as we shall see throughout the century, needs for its full  understanding an awareness of the almost romantic attachment of the nineteenth century Englishman to the idea of ‘our Indian Empire.’     ….   The passionate anger engendered by the Indian Mutiny showed our jealous fear of losing that empire. The ethical idealism of the Indian Civil Service showed our responsibility at its best. At all times India was felt to be vital to British interests.   ….  Sydney Smith, in this respect at any rate, gave expression to a suspicion which led countless political officers in Asia and Africa to view the missionary with a slightly jaundiced eye, and when (as most frequently happened) the missionary had got there first, to view him as a potential security risk. …

At least we may be very certain that down until 1947 and the subsequent celebrations of Independence, virtually every such political officer would fervently have endorsed Sydney Smith’s statement that

If we wish to teach the natives a better religion, we must take care to do it in a manner which will not inspire them with a passion for political change.

But he dropped to a rather lower level when he went on to say that missionaries

would deliberately, piously, and conscientiously expose our whole Eastern empire to destruction for the sake of converting half-a-dozen Brahmins, who after stuffing themselves with rum and rice, and borrowing money from the missionaries would run away and cover the Gospel and its professors with every species of impious ridicule and abuse.’

We see there a continuing preoccupation with the empire. …

There we may leave Sydney Smith simply observing that in two respects he did, albeit with some unnecessary malice, help to form an image of the missionary as being, somewhat paradoxically, a stupid and presumptuous person, and at the same time a threat to the security of the Empire. These elements in the stereotype endured. In passing it may be noticed how very closely they coincide with the portrait of Christians painted by Celsus and other antagonists in the early centuries.

Again, this is simply a case study of a broader view that missionaries undermined the colonial power’s hold on colonial lands.

… And in some ways they may have been correct. The Serampore Trio did, arguably, have a role in the Bengal Renaissance of the 19th century. They did take seriously the education of the Bengali, both men and women, and the case could be made that this work did breed new ideas that ultimately led to revolution.

So suppose Sydney Smith and others were correct and that Christian missionaries did promote attitudes and beliefs that would lead to insurrection, does that mean they were doing wrong? I believe not. Their call is to serve God, not empire. As British citizens, in the case of the Serampore Trio, it would be quite inappropriate, legally speaking, to lead a revolution against the British Empire. It would, however, be equally inappropriate to instill a passive acquiescence to the status quo (much like some of the Christian education of slaves in the US in the early 19th century that sought to ensure and justifyu the maintaining of the economic system of Black slavery. Christianity was expressed in terms of maintaining the status quo.

This is the challenge. A Christian is a citizen of heaven and of one’s nation. A Christian missionary has those citizenships, but also is a guest of a different government.

It is very tempting to confuse roles. And the confusion is often in the extremes. A missionary may try to avoid all politics and focus on the word of God. But doing so, can in fact be teaching people to disconnect from the world they are in. It is not surprising that many missionary receiving countries have Evangelical populations that have little involvement with social ills and provide no common voice against corruption. On the other hand, it is also not the calling of a missionary to be a revolutionary leader seeking to overthrow. It is further not the role of missionary to push his or her own political agenda on the people he serves. (This last point I see a fair bit as the weird and curious politics of popular American Evangelicalism often gets brought with the missionary to the mission field where it doesn’t really belong. Of course, the answer is not necessarily to be politically neutral either.)

I would still say that if one has to be unfaithful, be unfaithful to one’s country. One’s country is one’s place of birth, but God’s work is one’s calling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Missions in Samaria” Published

I decided to publish my short book “Missions in Samaria.” It

Samaria Front Cover
seeks to address a simple question. Why does Jesus specifically mention Samaria in the Acts 1:8 version of the Great Commandment. The book looks at Samaria as both a historical place and a metaphor for places we may face today. At this time, I have only made available a Kindle version online. If you want to check that out, you can click here: Kindle Version. This book is about 10 pages longer, and modestly edited from an original version that I put online. That version is free on this website. You can click on the following post to access that free PDF: Post for Free PDF.

Backpedalling in Samaria

One of the chapters in my book, “Missions in Samaria.”

Samaritans gather atop Mount Gerizim in Israel to hold end of ...

In the first century, Samaria was a region with a sizable populace, over a million residents, with a vibrant (Samaritan) faith. Not so today. Why is this? One might wonder what happened to the Samaritan faith. Did it lose the war in the battle of ideas/ideologies? Or perhaps they were lost to assimilation in conversion to Christianity since the Book of Acts describes such a mass conversion. And yes, over 2000 years there were many Samaritans who converted, often willingly and sometimes unwillingly, to Christianity or Islam.

The truth is that the Samaritan faith did not simply die so much as it was murdered. Samaritism did not just fall, it was pushed. This part is a bit sad, but we learn from both the good and the bad.

During the time of the Byzantine Empire, Samaria was a turbulent place. Christian writers often used Samaritans or Samaritanism in negative analogies. The government was oppressive, both to non-Christians and to Christians who were not of the same form of Christianity as the emperor. This was so true that Coptic Christians in Egypt welcomed Islamic invaders in the 7th century to free themselves from the tyranny of the Christian rulers of Byzantium. The oppression often showed itself in violence. Samaritans experienced this oppression in terms of taxes, laws, and violence.

Despite the centrality of Christianity to Byzantium, there seems always to have been a certain savagery in the empire. The belief of the early church that Christianity and killing were fundamentally incompatible had long since been abandoned in Byzantium past as it had in Western Europe. The conversion of Rome to Christianity in the fourth century had led to a rapid reinterpretation of warfare as potentially undertaken in service to God; the Christian soldier could fight for his emperor safe in the belief that the emperor’s cause was that of God. <Endnote 7>

During the reign of Emperor Zeno (474-491AD) tensions grew. According to one account, the emperor had required Samaritans to convert to Christianity. When they refused, they revolted and this led to a violent response killing tens of thousands of Samaritans. Some argue that the story is backward and that the revolts preceded the demand to convert. Either way, conversion was less connected with embracing the good news of Christ voluntarily, and more connected to risk of the sword and death.

During the time of Emperor Justinian during the next century an edict was established that virtually made being a Samaritan by faith, illegal. There were a series of revolts by the Samaritans that led to violent reprisals by the government. This resulted in the Samaritan population reducing from the hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands. <Endnote 8>

The Islamic invasion gave some reprieve, but special taxes and periodic forced conversions and killings, especially during the Abbasid Caliphate and Ottoman Empire, took their toll. By the end of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, Samaritanism reached its lowest point with just over 100 adherents. Since then, under the British mandate, the Israeli government, and the Palestinian Authority, Samaritanism has grown such that it has in 2020 over 800 adherents.

Today, the people who identify themselves as Samaritans are located in two small communities, both of approximately equal size. One of these is on Mount Gerizim, while the other is in a suburb of Tel Aviv. There seems more of a tendency today to see Samaritanism as a unique sect of Judaism, as opposed to a distinct competitor to that faith. In fact, their similarities to Judaism greatly outweigh their differences. In some ways, the remaining Samaritans are a testimony to the tenacity of faith in the God of Abraham.

Sadly, they are also a testimony to the tendency of Christians not to take the message of Christ seriously. Jesus sought to undermine the prejudices of the Jews regarding Samaritans, and specially commanded His apostles to reach out to Samaritans with the Good News. Yet as Christianity grew in power these prejudices grew in strength and violence, in opposition to Christ’s message.

This should serve as a warning to us. There is often a tendency in religion to focus on power. When the Samaritans appeared to have power, in the 4th to 2nd centuries BC and the 5th and 6th centuries AD, this was when they were attacked most viciously, by the Jews in the first case and by Christians in the second case. Their perseverance was not only a testament to the strength of their faith but also their relative weakness around larger and more aggressive faith groups. Their weakness made them less threatening to those around them.

Christians were called to love friend and enemy, not fear and attack. Why would Christians often choose violence over love? There are obvious answers— sin, selfishness, and tribalism. But these terms are abstract. Sometimes we must personalize it, and try seeing a situation from an uncomfortable position.

Consider some situations from Biblical lands. It is easy to cheer with the Israelites as they marched around the walls of Jericho as the walls begin to give way. It, however, takes a special effort to picture oneself as a father (or mother) in Jericho standing on the walls of the city looking out, fearful for himself and his family and friends, as his world (literally) crumbles around him. The same can be said today as many Christians seem to find it easy to side with the Israelis in the West Bank, while being shockingly unsympathetic of the plight of Muslim and Christian (and Samaritan) Palestinians.

The answer, is not to pick a side. When Joshua was alone (in Joshua chapter 5. read it now if you don’t remember), he saw a soldier dressed for battle. Joshua asked if this soldier was on his side or the enemy. The answer was neither. He was of the army of God. Joshua immediately responded bowing down and taking direction. The question is not whether God was on the side of Israel or the side of the Canaanites. Neither was it whether God was on the side of the Jews or the Samaritans, nor the Israelis or the Palestinians, nor the Christians or the Muslims. The question is are we on God’s side— or not. Jesus has told us that if we truly love Him, we keep His commandments. If we don’t keep His commandments, we are not on His side. Pretty simple, but it is hard to let go of the temptation to try to bargain with God to follow us rather than we follow Him.

This chapter is a bit sad because it looks like what Jesus and the early church did was destroyed. There is some truth to that, but not entirely. Many Samaritans chose to follow Jesus. Gradually they assimilated into the broader Body of Christ, losing their cultural identity. (This is not the book to decide if this lose of cultural distinctives is a good thing or not.) Additionally, there are examples that we can look back on for positive inspiration.

For example, the Byzantine emperor Theodosius forbade special taxes upon the impoverished Samaritans; the Christian Germanus helped the Samaritans continue their rite of circumcision after the authorities had forbidden it; the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem declared to the Ottoman Turks that the Samaritans, like Jews and Christians, were people of the Book and ought not be persecuted; and the American E.K. Warren built medical and educational facilities for the fragile community at the beginning of the twentieth century. <Endnote 9>

These first chapters described a complex history with a wide range of relations between Jew and Samaritan, and between Christian and Samaritan. But what does this mean to us today? Even though Samaritanism has grown almost 700% in the last 100 years, it is still unlikely that many of us will interact with a Samaritan in our lifetime. But since few of us are likely to live in a completely monocultural society, we have the blessing of the story of the many groups, including the Samaritans, that shared Palestine over the centuries. For the Samaritans, there were have painful times (2nd century BC and 5th and 6th centuries AD to name just a couple), there has been (relatively few) highpoints such as the 1st century. We can learn from the 1st century church. Still, our role is not to recreate the 1st century church, but create, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the 21st century church. So the following chapters will suggest some patterns and lessons.

This chapter is more historical. However, the book looks at Samaria as both a historical location where missions was effectively and ineffectively done, and a metaphor for a certain type of missions that we are able to do well or poorly every day.

I have not published the book yet… and maybe never will (we shall see). But if you want to read it, you can access it rhrough my previous post.   https://munsonmissions.org/2020/04/04/missions-in-samaria-book/

“Missions in Samaria” Book

One positive side of enhanced quarantine is the opportunity to make progress on something that one had definitely had on the ‘back burner.’ I decided to try to finish my book “Missions in Samaria” a few months early. When I say it is done, I mean that the first draft is done. It is only about 70 pages, but I am happy where it is— at least for now. My next book will be a collaboration with my wife on a pastoral counseling case workbook. It should be valuable, especially in the Asian context.

If you want to read the first draft of my book, “Missions in Samaria,” click on the link below.

Missions in Samaria rev 0

Of course, if you are bored, you can also look at other books that I wrote or my wife and I wrote, they are listed in:   My Books

Backpedalling in Samaria

I am working on a book, “Missions in Samaria.” It is based on an article I wrote before. It started with the birth of the Samaritan identity up through the book of Acts. Then I jumped to how one can think about Missions in terms of OUR Samarias today. In other words, what places are we called to share the gospel that may be close to us but we have the tendency to ignore ministering to, or even sabotage doing ministry?

But then I did some more research and found that an important chapter was lost in looking at Samaria. In the first century, Samaria was a region with a sizable populace and a vibrant faith. Not so today. Why is this? One might suspect that they lost the war in battle of ideas/ideologies. Or perhaps there was a mass conversion to Christianity since the Book of Acts describes such a mass conversion.

The truth is that the Samaritan faith did not die so much as was murdered. Samaritism did not just fall, it was pushed.

During the time of the Byzantine Empire, Samaria was a turbulent place. Christan writers often used Samaritans or Samaritanism in negative analogies. The government was oppressive, and under Emperor Justinian, the faith was essentially made illegal. There were several uprisings that were crushed violently, killing hundreds of thousands of Samaritans. With the Islamic invasion, there was a bit of a temporary reprieve. However, that reprieve was far from complete with periodic forced conversions to Islam by the more “evangelistic” caliphs.

Today, the people who identify themselves as Samaritans are located in two small communities and number in the hundreds. There seems more of a tendency today to see it as a unique sect of Judaism, as opposed to a distinct competitor of that faith. In some ways, the remaining Samaritans are a testimony to the tenacity of faith.

Sadly, they are also a testimony to the tendency of Christians not to take the message of Christ seriously. Jesus sought to undermine the prejudices of the Jews regarding Samaritans, and specially commanded His apostles to reach out to them with the Good News. Yet as Christianity grew in power these prejudices grew in strength and violence, in opposition to Christ’s message.

This should serve as a warning to us.