On the heels of the last post about the SBC, I want to quickly add my own conviction why that denomination has been blessed as it has despite the internal-battles of the last 50 years. Frankly, it is what keeps me identified with this wing of the Church.

It is simply that it has been able to keep the world mission as the unifying task of what the Convention is about year after year. By the way, SBC stands for Southern Baptist Convention, a fellowship of autonomous local churches.

To give you a taste of how important this is to me and I believe to the cause of Jesus Christ on earth, I want to quote from an outstanding missionary to Islam in another denomination-the oldest continous protestant  denomination in the USA-the Reformed Church in America:

Over the entrance of one of the university buildings in Upsala (Switzerland) is the inscription- ‘Free thought is great but true thought is better’. There is great freedom of thought on missions today. The globe-trotter, the newspaper reporter, and the man on the street do not hesitate to express their opinions on missions and missionaries. The youth of today, untrammeled by the older traditions or conventions, is free to express its conclusions. A leader among the present generation of students, when cautioned regarding the humanistic trend and syncretistic philosophy in missions wrote: “I am personally not the least interested in modernist propaganda. The battle has passed wholly beyond that front for me. Modern life and my own life crack the universe clear open to its very core and make me face issues a thousand fathoms beneath those of the modernist and fundamentalist controversy. . .as a teacher I am not at all concerned with what any man thinks but only that he thinks.”

This is a familiar attitude and there is considerable truth in the contention. But if “the universe is cracked clear open to its very core” and we are to think at all correctly, conclusively, and creatively regarding it and the Kingdom of God, we need first of all to gird the loins of our mind with truth. In the battle against error there is no weapon so powerful as the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. – Samuel Zwemer, Thinking Missions with Christ (1934)

My personal message to fellow members of the SBC would be along the above lines-in the 21st century, the only safe way forward is to think missions exactly as Zwemer is advocating here, as the unifying purpose of our continuing partnership.

Read an excerpt from an earlier book (1911), The Glory of the Impossible

Zwemer biography at HISTORY of MISSIOLOGY, Boston University

THE RETHINKING EMERGING AMONG SOME CHRISTIAN  PEACEMAKERS                                                

Mission Frontiers, is the Bulletin published by the                                                   U.S.CENTER for WORLD MISSION . In the recent July-August issue focused on this subject, there is exciting evidence of a fresh wind blowing for those that work for world peace.

First of all for Christ followers everywhere, there is much that we do not know about the Muslim Peoples; much mis-information and misunderstanding. This issue alone gives us all much to seriously think about for some time, especially if what is presented by many different authors has any validity at all. I invite my Muslim friends will read this issue carefully and let me know if it represents honestly the reality among their Muslim cultures.

From the Bulletin:

A Few Interesting Questions:

  1. Why did Muhammad reject the concept of the Trinity held by Christians he knew?
  2. Why did he come up with the idea that Jesus did not die on the cross?
  3. What person in the Qur’an has attributes of Divinity?
  4. Why do 30 million Christians in the world today pray to “Allah” and read that same word God in their Bibles?

Some Biblical Themes that appeal to Muslims

  1. God’s goodness, love, reliability, and care for his servants.
  2. God’s guidance of history towards good ends as he works through events to oppose evil, to train his servants in righteousness and truth, and to fulfill his good purposes for his people.
  3. The portrait of Jesus himself: his kindness, devotion, wisdom, power, self-sacrifice and ongoing reign as Savior-King.

If this is not enough to motivate you to take the time to read some of these articles, then consider what is actually taking place: Muslims who believe in the Jesus Christ of the Bible who remain in their heritage as Muslims. Before you say catagorically that that isn’t possible, there are those “on the ground” in these cultures that assure us that it is happening among “open-minded Muslims” that are coming to know the Christ of the gospels. As you can imagine, this is not without controversy among the traditional Christian  Communities in some of the same places. This only confirms some of the issues I have raised on my blog and if nothing else, I hope your curiosity will lead you to want to read more.

J.H.Bavinck was a renowned Dutch Missiologist. His book, An Introduction to the Science of Missions, (1954) was translated from the Dutch and published in Philadelphia in 1960. It has been used as a textbook in many schools ever since and it is still in print.  The following article is his perspective of those universal questions that all of us in one way or another seek to find answers for in our search for a meaningful life. We don’t have to agree with his categories to benefit from an understanding of just how similiar we are in some very basic instincts of life. The comments are from another book, The Church Between Temple and Mosque.

The Five Magnetic Points- J. H. Bavinck

Man by virtue of his place in the world, must always and everywhere give answers to the same questions. He has to struggle with the basic problems which his existence itself entails. He is afflicted by grief and misfortune; he meets both adverse and prosperous conditions; deep in his heart he has a vague feeling of responsibility; he has to adapt himself to the course of nature; he is aware he is only a small being in the immeasurable greatness of the universe; and he knows very well that sooner or later death will knock at his door. Wherever he goes, he is surrounded by a multitude of questions, and although he has the power to escape from them for a certain time, he cannot help being overwhelmed by them at times. His being on earth is itself such an immense riddle that it threatens to crush him. The answers to all the questions with which he has to struggle may be different, but the problems themselves are always the same. And he has to respond to them, not only in his thinking and feeling but also in his whole attitude to life, in his acts and rites, in his existence itself; his whole way of life is a response. Therefore it stands to reason that this universal religious consciousness, with all its antagonisms and tensions, is something real and is to be found wherever men live and toil.

We have a lot to talk with people of other Faiths about. Somehow I have to believe that there must be a “civilized” way we can be who we are and let others know by our lives “whose disciples we are”. May the beauty of the Lord our God be seen in those who claim to know Him.

Read the article Religious consciousness by J.H. Bavinck