SOUTHEASTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY WAKE FOREST, NORTH CAROLINA A BOOK REVIEW OF

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1 SOUTHEASTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY WAKE FOREST, NORTH CAROLINA A BOOK REVIEW OF DAVID J. BOSCH, TRANSFORMING MISSION: PARADIGM SHIFTS IN THEOLOGY OF MISSION SUBMITTED TO J. D. GREEAR AND ALVIN REID IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE9940 SEMINAR ON THE MISSION AND MINISTRIES OF THE CHURCH BY JEREMY P. ROBERTS JANUARY 17, 2011

2 Bosch, David J., Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991), 587 pages. Reviewed by Jeremy P. Roberts. An analysis of missiological texts reveals much is written on the subject, but nothing with such thoroughness, clarity, and excellence may compare with David J. Bosch s work. Bosch ( ), served as Professor of Missiology and Dean at University of South Africa in Pretoria from where he edited their journal Theologia Evangelica. His scholarly publications demonstrate wide research in the fields of theology and missiology. It is with this background that the author presents a unique and fresh approach to his missiological work. Bosch begins with his thesis that Christianity is intrinsically missionary by explaining how Christ s first followers had no choice but to exercise theology because they were missionaries (20 24). The significant presupposition to the book is that mission is more than an activity of a Christian, a mere chapter in one s theology, but it is the mother of theology (15 16). It is from this presupposition that Bosch launches his missiological examination. Overview Bosch embraces Thomas Kuhn s term, paradigm shift, to refer to a change in theoretical structure for understanding (184). Bosch acknowledges the significant difference that paradigm shift represents between theology and missiology in comparison with natural sciences, but despite this difference, he perceives the analogy is necessary and useful ( ). 1

3 Bosch structures his book by utilizing Hans Küng s six subdivisions, (also referred to as epochs ) of the missionary idea (188). Bosch takes Küng s subdivisions and uses them to mold his (Bosch s) philosophy of six Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission listed below: [1] The apocalyptic paradigm of primitive Christianity (15) [2] The Hellenistic paradigm of the patristic period (190) [3] The medieval Roman Catholic paradigm (214) [4] The Reformation paradigm (239) [5] The modern Enlightenment paradigm (262) [6] The emerging ecumenical paradigm (368) Through each of these six paradigm shifts in the theology of mission, Bosch argues of the major changes the church experiences in both its understanding and practice as time passes. It is unquestionable to note the fundamentally different ways people understood the church 100 years before or after Constantine. Bosch notes the differences in presuppositions between the paradigm of the philosophers in the Byzantine Empire and the Reformers paradigm (194, 243). The missiological and theological differences in each paradigm are extrapolated by Bosch with great detail. Bosch traces his theology of mission from the times of the New Testament to the late twentieth century. In the first section of the book, The New Testament Models of Mission, Bosch begins by giving an Old Testament missiological survey (16 20). He follows this brief survey by focusing particularly on Matthew, Luke-Acts, and the letters of Paul to explain New Testament models of mission. Bosch utilizes Matthew 28:18 20 to represent the whole of what Matthew is seeking to communicate missiologically (56 83). Making disciples is the action of mission within Matthew s Gospel. Bosch explains this by stating, Today scholars agree that the entire gospel points to these final verses: all the threads woven into the fabric of 2

4 Matthew, from chapter 1 onward, draw together here (57). Matthew supports the belief that making disciples is missional fulfillment. The mission theme of Luke-Acts, as explained by Bosch, may be summarized by Luke 4:18 19 (100 1). Bosch represents Luke s missional model to be more organic than that of Matthew:... in a sense, they are not really called to accomplish anything, only to point to what God has done and is doing... (116). Forgiving one another, serving the poor, and serving as a witness all comprise Luke s model of mission. Next, Bosch turns to the mission theme in Paul s letters (123 78). Bosch s hermeneutic leads him to believe that Paul s missional theme involves God s invitation to join the eschatological community (172). After becoming a part of the eschatological community, one would naturally fulfill God s mission (172 78). In the second section of the book, Bosch explains the next four paradigm shifts within their respective time periods. By providing both contextual and historical analyses, the author is effective in expressing the evolution of theological perspectives within the church and how these changes have resulted in changing pragmatic and philosophical aspects of mission. The third section of Bosch s work transitions to contemporary missiological issues covering the sixth and final paradigm referred to in various ways: ecumenical, relevant, or postmodern ( ). Bosch diagnoses thirteen components in an emerging ecumenical missionary paradigm and includes an essay to cover each component (368). These components include Mission as the quest for justice, Mission as contextualization, and Mission as inculturation (400, 420, 447). 3

5 Bosch teaches of the sixth paradigm with great emphasis upon it being ecumenical. He argues that scholars in all disciplines are preoccupied... not with the study of their disciplines themselves, but with the metaquestions concerning these disciplines (363). The author s explanation of such metaquestions in the emerging ecumenical paradigm leaves one wanting for a new paradigm where Christ followers would transition from overzealously meandering through the milieu of nonessential questions to embracing the big picture of what God desires for his followers. At the end of the book, Bosch provides an expansive bibliography with over seven hundred titles and a large set of indices pointing the reader to biblical references, subjects, and names used throughout his work. These thorough inclusions at the of Bosch s work provide opportunities for additional study of changing missiological trends throughout history and into the postmodern era. Strengths and Weakness Strengths A strength of Bosch s work is his persistence in pursuing the epistemological changes in postmodern studies of God. With a unique approach, he eloquently expresses how symbols and rituals are making a return in the modern-day paradigm particularly in third-world countries while not having to understand every detail about a belief system with Christ (353). Another strength of Bosch s text is his grasp of theology, history, ecclesiology, and missiology. By grasping these major fields of Christian study, Bosch professes that 4

6 the New Testament must be read as a missiological map (16). It is with this perspective of the New Testament that missional strategists will be developed for God s glory. Weakness The clearest weakness of Bosch s text is found in a foundational term used throughout the book paradigm. Bosch acknowledges the many meanings the word can have by paradigmatic experts. He quotes people such as T. F. Torrance, Hiebert, and Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn defines paradigm as, the entire constellation of beliefs, values, techniques, and so on shared by the members of a given community (185). Bosch acknowledges his usage of paradigm... does not come without its problems. It is a slippery concept (185). Despite Bosch s frustration with scholars seeking to box their beliefs into understanding every detail about a belief system a sort of over-indulgence of organization he does the same thing by organizing his perspective of the epochs of mission shifts throughout history. This sort of ironic contradiction stems from his usage of the slippery term paradigm. Conclusion This text serves as David J. Bosch s magnus opus and is one of the key missiological texts in the history of Christendom. For any person interested in a thorough study of missiology, or the troubles of mission in the postmodern era, Transforming Mission is a necessity to read. Scholars and students alike will benefit for years to come by reading this well-articulated work. 5

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