by Stan Nussbaum
Back in the early 1990s when I read through David Bosch’s
Transforming Mission—not at one sitting, the book is too large for that—my overwhelming impression was of the work’s encyclopedic character.
American Society of Missiology Series, No. 37. Orbis Books, P.O. Box 302, Maryknoll, NY 10545, 2005, xviii + 174 pages, $18.00.
—Reviewed by Dwight P. Baker, associate director of Overseas Ministries Study Center, New Haven, Connecticut.
Back in the early 1990s when I read through David Bosch’s Transforming Mission—not at one sitting, the book is too large for that—my overwhelming impression was of the work’s encyclopedic character. For one thing, there was the volume’s sheer massiveness, both in the number of pages and in the number of details attended to and tucked into place. Another prominent feature was Bosch’s ardor to express a comprehensive vision of Christian mission encompassing biblical, historical, practical and theological concerns. Readers found Transforming Mission invigorating; some also found it daunting.
Lately I have been looking into Transforming Mission for its compact yet masterful review of relevant literature on particular topics such as colonialism and mission. Again the adjective “encyclopedic” springs to mind. Bosch’s treatment gives the feel of much information judiciously sifted and succinctly presented. But he also does much more. As Stan Nussbaum observes in A Reader’s Guide to Transforming Mission, Bosch had the capacity to keep multiple strands and levels of a topic in view and to present them systematically in relation to an overarching, forward-looking perspective on mission.
Close reading of such an author is instructive. Even when there is room to disagree with particular interpretations or are reasons to go beyond the conclusions he has reached, Bosch enlarges the circle of understanding. If the first requirement of a “reader’s guide” be that it conduct readers through a work that will reward attentive study, Nussbaum serves his readers well.
Having done doctoral study under Bosch, Nussbaum seeks neither to rebut nor to go beyond Transforming Mission, but in solid, unpretentious prose to set forth the main strands of Bosch’s thought and to identify the major stepping stones along the way. Intentionally placing himself in Bosch’s service, Nussbaum is self-effacing, scrupulously noting where he has recast elements of Bosch’s material for the sake of clarity. He withholds expressing points on which he differs with Bosch until the concluding section.
Nussbaum is attentive and respectful, but not slavish. A Reader’s Guide is not a replacement for Transforming Mission and is not intended to be. But individuals, students and study groups—seeking to orient themselves to the terrain through which Bosch is leading them—will turn to it gladly for a glimpse of the path ahead.
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