Monday 30 March 2015

Learning to do mission like a Calvinist

A few years ago the journal Themelios was being added to a database which allows people to search across lots of different journals and read abstracts of articles. Because 30 or so of its articles didn’t have abstracts I was asked to read and summarise them. One of my favourites was Calvinism and Missions: The Contested Relationship Revisited by Kenneth J. Stewart.

He is defending Calvinism from the perennial accusation that it doesn’t naturally produce mission-minded people. One of his key points is that we wrongly define mission only as over-the-seas-and-far-away, whereas the Reformers saw Europe itself as a mission field since it was “imperfectly Christianised.” That puts it mildly, then as now.

Here’s the abstract I wrote. I hope it’s accurate. You can check for yourself and be blessed by a great article here

The accusation that Calvinist theology cuts the nerve of missionary endeavour is a change as old as Calvinism itself. There are a number of factors, which either mitigate the charge or show it to be unjustified. First, the assumed standard is transoceanic mission which demanded access to the oceans and financial resources which Protestants lacked, since they had neither royal nor commercial backing.  This definition of mission also overlooks the commitment, clear in Reformed cities throughout Europe, to evangelising the regions and countries around them, a commitment in part driven by the view that Europe was imperfectly Christianised. Finally, there are also early Calvinist missions to Brazil, New England and Southeast Asia. These set a precedent for the later work of the wider missionary expansion of the eighteenth century, driven by the same evangelical zeal and Calvinist theology.