Landmark Essays in Mission and World Christianity

There is a major problem with a compilation of significant articles and chapters over a 50-year time span. You end up reading work that is often dated. This volume attempts to overcome this problem by selecting ‘landmark’ essays that helped to define the particular field in mission and world Christianity. And this it does well. Each chapter is significant and worthy of attention and particularly useful for those who may be studying in these areas.

But the problem of some work being dated still remains. For example, the first section on mission and biblical theology contains essays by David Bosch (20 years ago) and Karl Barth (50+ years ago). These are both excellent essays that made important contributions in the development of understanding of the Bible as a mission document. But the recent The Mission of God by Chris Wright has significantly advanced our understanding in this area to make any thinking relying on Bosch and Barth rather weak. Of course, not all that is recent or current is good and will last in the way that Bosch and Barth’s work does.

I may be criticising this book unfairly, as it does what it sets out to do in collecting significant mission and world Christianity writing of the past 50 years together. As such it works and is a valuable addition to a library. It is geared for an academic reader and works well for this, with full bibliography and references cited. It’s the sort of text that will be used by students on Cliff College’s MA in Mission programme but probably not quite so useful for someone primarily interested in the doing of mission and what world Christianity means today, apart from helping to show how we reached our current level of understanding. At its official price of £23.99, I don’t suggest this is one for your personal library, but it is a text that theological and Bible colleges will add to their libraries. There is more about mission than world Christianity here, but the title does indicate the increasing importance that world Christianity is meriting. Published by Orbis as part of the excellent American Society of Missiology series, this collection covers the range of scholarship in mainstream Protestantism and evangelicalism, but surprisingly little from Roman Catholicism. Of the 15 chapters, 5 are authored by people from the developing world and 2 by women, illustrating that the white, male Anglo-Saxon domination of mission scholarship is still there, but at least being challenged.

Overall, a fine text to consult but possibly not one to invest £23.99 of your hard earned money in.