Science, and Theology of Mission in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Part I
by Jan A B Jongeneel
Studies in the Intercultural History of Christianity, 92
New York: Peter Lang
1995, xxiii, 403pp, DM 89.00 US$52.95,
Reviewed by John Roxborogh
In this “encyclopedia or handbook” --and both are good descriptions, the one in scope, the other in size--Jongeneel seeks to be exhaustive in his listing and analysis of the shifting and multifaceted terminology of mission studies. It is an ambitious project. A second volume, still to be revised and translated from the Dutch, will complete the project with a greater focus on theology of mission. The boundaries of the overall work are limited, though wide. It draws on material in the international languages of the Western world. It is timely. It was appropriate that Jongeneel was asked to attend as a respondent for the 1995 annual meetings of the ASM and APM which had as a theme questions of definition and direction in mission studies.
While the scope and detail are awesome, this volume nevertheless has some of the weaknesses of its strengths. The detail is vast, but it is not always easy to see the wood for the trees. The issues involved in this are important. We need to know not only where the root concepts of mission have come from within the history of the church, but also their relationship to secular terminology, and the reasons for the myriad terms which have sprung up to explicate the responsibility of the church in the world. Lists and bibliographies of related terms and topics tell us something about how clusters of ideas have been discussed; yet the problems concerning what mission is about and what it is not, are not necessarily thereby dealt with. Considerable care is needed to sort out what writers in the past actually meant by the terminology they used. One sometimes has the feeling the explanations given here beg the very questions one wants explained.
Jongeneel’s approach also relates to the matter of defining the teacher not just the subject. It may be no accident that he teaches in a European university or that his approach is reminiscent of Bavinck and Verkuyl. His work follows the traditional canons of his setting, although many comments are expressed in personal terms and the tone is dogmatic. It is a large field about which to write with confidence. If American professors of mission sometimes needed to define themselves over against other disciplines in the seminary, Jongeneel appears concerned to establish theology of mission in terms of criteria set by other disciplines in the university in the modern age.
As a dictionary and bibliography, this is a useful reference tool for teachers, researchers and libraries. However mission and mission studies remain dynamic. We will need further help for the self-critical use and development of language as missiology seeks its place in the future academy, and in the church’s ministry in and to the post-modern world. Part II may bring us closer to that goal.