Thursday, November 22, 2012

Comprehending mission – history (chapter 3)

Chapter one is here. Chapter two surveys recent trends in missiology with a particular focus on the Bible and mission.

Chapter three looks at history, all the way back to Luke. It argues for an evolution. Different approaches to the history of mission have been used in history. It analyses where each approach has drawn source material from.

  • Luke – is a narrative of beginnings. It attempts to make sense of how identity was formed and faith grew. In doing so, it becomes idealised. (Compare Luke’s account in Acts of the Corinthian church with some of the issues Paul actually works with in his letters)
  • Church – Eusebius and Bede are shaped by their institutions. More importantly, they are often shaped by particular groupings within their institutions
  • Hagiography – the lives of saints. While these neglect the “warts and all” they do ensure we today are aware of of individuals in mission and the shape of everyday life in history
  • Ethnography – an increasing awareness of culture and geography is evident, as the Catholic church expands into the Americas. “In part, these data are exotica, a surefire way to excite and sustain enthusiasm for the Jesuit’s work in North America within the mission’s support base … More fundamentally, one can see in this reporting an acknowledgement that mission history can no longer be written without attending to its cultural and physical context.” (55)
  • Rational history – a belief that theology and history can be separated is mixed with a desire for grand, overarching, global narratives
  • Critical ethnography – a focus on intensive research on a small scale, an interest in the margins, a passion for observable behaviours. Often reading occurs “against the grain”, looking for hidden themes. “Critical ethnography tends to disparage the missionary enterprise as a self-interested Western intrusion into the lives of others.” (62)

Stanley Skreslet’s Comprehending Mission: The Questions, Methods, Themes, Problems, and Prospects of Missiology.

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