Christianity Encountering World Religions: The Practice of Mission in the Twenty-first Century

by Terry Muck and Frances S. Adeney

Terry Muck and Frances Adeney have written a rich and stimulating work which proposes a new way of thinking about and practicing Christian mission among adherents of other religions.

Baker Academic, 6030 E. Fulton, Ada, MI 49301, 448 pages, 2009, $26.99.

Reviewed by Harold Netland, a former missionary to Japan and professor of philosophy of religion and intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.

Many evangelicals are convinced that although the message of the gospel cannot change, we need some fresh models for Christian mission that are appropriate to a volatile world characterized by deep religious tensions. Terry Muck (Asbury Theological Seminary) and Frances Adeney (Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) have written a rich and stimulating work which proposes a new way of thinking about and practicing Christian mission among adherents of other religions. The heart of their model is the idea of “giftive mission” as a corrective to an excessive emphasis upon warfare and marketplace images of mission.

The idea presented in this book is a simple one: Mission to peoples of historically resistant religions could be made easier and more productive with the addition of a biblical metaphor for mission, the metaphor of free gift. Giftive mission, as we choose to call it, means that we are more than conquerors of other peoples, more than harvesters of souls, more than winners of metaphysical arguments: we are bearers of gifts. We bring to the world the greatest of all gifts, the story of what God has done for the world through Jesus Christ (p. 10).

Part One sets the stage with a perceptive discussion of the context for interreligious encounter today, some biblical themes which should inform our thinking about religious others, and hermeneutical issues which shape how we understand both the scriptures and the world. Part Two introduces eleven historical examples of individuals who reached beyond cultural and religious barriers with the gift of the gospel. Some theoretical and practical issues involved in crossing cultural and religious boundaries are explored in Part Three. Part Four develops further the idea of giftive mission.

It is important to acknowledge what the book does not set out to do. Muck and Adeney do not provide a general introduction to the world religions, nor do they provide a comprehensive Christian theology of religions. Indeed, much of the book deals with issues that might be labeled cultural rather than strictly religious. While some might see this as a weakness of the book, I see it as a strength. The boundary between “the cultural” and “the religious” is often fluid and not clear-cut, and Muck and Adeney remind us that in interacting with religious others, we must deal with cultural issues as well. As such, the book is relevant not simply for those interested in a relational model for engaging people of other faiths, but more broadly for anyone interested in crossing cultural boundaries with the gospel. This is a thoughtful and penetrating discussion which deserves a wide reading among mission theorists and practitioners.

Check these titles:
Glaser, Ida. 2005. The Bible and Other Faiths: Christian Responsibility in a World of Religions. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

McDermott, Gerald R. 2000. Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions? Jesus, Revelation and Religious Traditions. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

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EMQ, Vol. 46, No. 2, pp. 241-242. Copyright  © 2010 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS. 

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