Cultural sensitivity in Christian mission to resistant people: an historical perspective: the link between mission praxis and theological presupposition
A thesis of approximately 73,000 words that deals with subject of historical approaches to the mission of the church. The title is indicative of the often-sensitive nature of theological discussions concerning culture in missions. It is also indicative of the fact that missionaries throughout the history of Christian mission have each had to decide how to be sensitive to the culture of the evangelized. The main thesis of this research is that in the history of Christian mission to resistant people theology predisposes to a particular set of mission principles and methodologies. Stated otherwise, there is a link between what one believes about the Bible and other Christian doctrines and how one goes about the task of doing mission. I argue that history bears out this assertion and that the link is more than as casual one. In this study, I take a descriptive look at the factors leading up to, facilitating, and hampering a variety of mission movements in Christian history. The progress of the study follows, in a general way, the timeline of church history. The goal is to find possible trends and links between the three Mission Praxis Paradigms (MPP) and theology. For that reason, a selection of prominent mission movements in the history of the church is employed for study. I hypothesize that there are a variety of theological variables that underpin mission methodology. These are weighed for each mission movement in light of the MPP adopted by the missionaries. Questions about how much one should include pagan or non-Christian elements in mission, what one believes about eschatology, soteriology and the Bible are all examined. This study demonstrates that the responses to these questions have manifested themselves in three broad-based approaches which I call mission praxis paradigms (MPP). These MPP’s are practical approaches to cross-cultural mission that encompass almost all mission endeavors (with a few exceptions) since the beginning of the Christian Church. These three approaches; the authoritative MPP, the inclusivist MPP, and the Neo-inclusivist MPP hold many ideologies in common while concurrently holding many conflicting theological positions. This study demonstrates that mission approach or methodology in its broadest sense throughout history has been a function of theological orientation. It is not a critique of any one approach but rather demonstrative of the tendencies to one’s approach or particular theological leanings Among other things, the study reveals several trends in several keys areas of belief that may useful indicators of one’s likely mission methodology. It ends with recommendations for more detailed study of the finding that views of inspiration and place of the Bible in Christian mission is the factor most likely to determine mission methodology.