by Wagner Kuhn
Succinctly yet comprehensively, Wagner Kuhn explores relief and development from biblical, historical and contemporary Christian perspectives.
UNASPRESS: Adventist University Press, São Paulo Adventist University College, Engenheiro Coleho, São Paulo, Brazil, 2005, 163 pages, [no price].
—Reviewed by Evvy Hay Campbell, associate professor of intercultural studies, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.
Succinctly yet comprehensively, Wagner Kuhn explores relief and development from biblical, historical and contemporary Christian perspectives. He argues that enterprises undertaken in the context of humanitarian and relief work distort a biblically holistic approach. He advocates, in contrast, for a theology of holistic mission and ministry grounded in scripture.
Kuhn opens with a discussion of Old Testament social welfare relief and development, drawing on God’s care for the children of Israel and his special concern for the poor, widows and strangers. In the New Testament, Kuhn sees Jesus as the model of holistic ministry. Particularly engaging is his discussion of charity relief in the patristic period and later through the Catholic Church Orders. His perspective on the failure of the medieval poor relief system, which contributed to the Reformation and subsequent reconfiguration of the social welfare system, is also enlightening. Kuhn traces new understandings of charity and community development that resulted from the renewal movements of Puritanism, Pietism, Moravianism and Wesleyan Methodism.
An analysis of evangelical reengagement in holistic development after World War II follows Kuhn’s discussion of the “Great Reversal,” in which conservative Christians disengaged from social concerns in conjunction with their rejection of the social gospel and liberals. Kuhn adds the haunting insight that the impact of the reversal cannot be assessed “because the good deeds that evangelical Christians did not do during the twentieth century cannot be counted.” Kuhn also describes the movement in the 1970s and 1980s from charity and relief to development activities, including agriculture programs and economic development. He highlights the statements of the evangelical conferences and international congresses (The Chicago Declaration, 1973; The International Congress on World Evangelization, Lausanne, 1974; and the Wheaton ’83 Statement, World Evangelical Fellowship) that marked the theological shift toward reengagement.
Transformational development, in which humankind and societies are able “to realize the full potential of human life in a context of social justice” is what Kuhn advocates for in contemporary society, in place of the unbridled capitalism of “modern colonialism.” Such development, he concludes, “comes from God, through the Son, and by the Spirit.”
A relief and development professional with ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency), Kuhn brings depth rooted in field experience to Christian Relief and Development. His text provides both a helpful introduction to those new in the field and a well researched reminder of the underpinnings of holistic development for veteran professionals. I recommend it as a good read.
Check these titles:
Cope, Landa. 2004. The Old Testament Template: Rediscovering How to Disciple Nations God’s Way. www.ottemplate.org.
Mangalwadi, Vishal and Ruth. 1999. The Legacy of William Carey: A Model for the Transformation of a Culture. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.
Wright, Christopher J. H. 2004. Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
Yamamori, Tetsunao and René C. Padilla, eds. 2004. The Local Church, Agent of Transformation: An Ecclesiology for Integral Mission. Buenos Aires: Kairos Ediciones.
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