by Bernard Ott
Ott provides an introduction to European mission training schools and a look at the challenges that face evangelical theological educators.
The Oxford Center for Mission Studies, P.O. Box 70, Oxford, OX2 6HB England, 382 pages, £24.99.
—Reviewed by Robert W. Ferris, academic dean, associate dean for doctoral programs, Columbia Biblical Seminary, Columbia, South Carolina.
Ott provides an introduction to European mission training schools and a look at the challenges that face evangelical theological educators. Chris Sugden describes Beyond Fragmentation as “a cold bath of realism.” A cold bath it is; EMQ readers may find it a bath of radicalism, however, rather than realism.
The Konferenz Bibeltreuer Ausbildungsstätten (KBA), made up of thirty-six evangelical Bible schools in Germany and Switzerland, is the focus of Ott’s study. His objective is “to synthesise the global and ecumenical paradigm shifts in mission theology [and]…theological education” (7).
To set the context, Ott provides a helpful history of the development of evangelical Bible schools in German-speaking Europe. Since formal theological education in Germany and Switzerland is controlled by predominantly liberal university faculties, the KBA schools have sprung from “those strands of Christianity in which the Bible, personal spirituality and missionary zeal were kept alive” (291). In recent decades, the schools have also been shaped by contact with North American missionaries, international congresses on the church and mission and response to developments within the World Council of Churches.
Ott’s review of paradigm shifts in mission theology and theological education relies heavily on David Bosch and Edward Farley. He concludes that faculties of the schools, “do not really accept two basic realities of our time: (a) the reality that the traditional Western concept of truth has collapsed; and (b) the reality of the diversity of the church in its ecumenical and global scope living in various cultural contexts” (292).
Ott is right to be concerned that curricula of Bible and missionary training lack integration and wholeness. He is justified in calling for adoption of instructional methods that reflect a fresh understanding of adult learning. And his call to move missiology from the periphery to the center of the training curriculum will resonate well with EMQ readers.
Readers may respond differently, however, to Ott’s theological perspective. He calls KBA schools to abandon their resistance to “a hermeneutical and epistemological shift” from “truth as a given set of propositional doctrinal statements” to “truth as something which has to be discovered in a particular context” (274). Transcending this barrier provides openness to “contextual theologizing,” to reassessing the role of proclamation and faith in salvation, and to acknowledging divine revelatory presence in non-Christian religions (310).
There is a lot at stake here! Ott serves as academic dean of Theologisches Seminar Bienenberg, a KBA school. Is this book a harbinger of coming shifts within German evangelical missions training? Perhaps not. It does merit the attention of all missiologists, however, and summons biblical response from European evangelical missions educators.
Check these titles:
Banks, Robert. 1999. Reenvisioning Theological Education: Exploring a Missional Alternative to Current Models. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.
Elmer, Duane and Lois McKinney, eds. 1996. With an Eye on the Future: Development and Mission in the 21st Century. Monrovia, Calif.: MARC.
Harley, C. David. 2000. Training: The History of All Nations Christian College. Zoetermeer, Netherlands: Boekencentrum.
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