Samuel Escobar is a leading Latin American theologian, who was one of the key participants in the International Congress on World Evangelism at Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974. Escobar is also the president of the United Bible societies and of the International Fellowship of Evangelic Students. Today, the Christian missions are no longer a matter of missionaries across the world and in the third millennium of the Christian era; Christian mission has become truly global from all places going to all people. Escobar presents this issue by exploring the new realities of a globalized world as well as, assessing the context of a changing mission field which is syncretistic and simultaneously secular. He also sets a thoroughly biblical theology of missions around the world, with the implications for how Christians are to go about the task of global mission (Taylor, 2000). In summary, this essay will analyze Escobar’s thesis and compares and contrasts his theological contribution with other theologians such as Rahner, Tillich and many others while exploring the various components through which he builds his thesis, and critique the idea that Christian theology is contextual by engaging with other theological schools from an American and/or global setting.
Analysis of Escobar’s thesis and how he elaborates it in his book
In his book, The New Global Mission, Escobar provides a history of missions and describes the context of mission that is globalization, post-Christian as well as post-modern. He says that “the heart of “mission” is the drive to share the good news with all, to cross every boarder with the gospel (Escober, p.13)”. Through his book, we understand how God is using Latin America, Africa and part of Asia to move His mission across the world. Escobar demonstrates ways in which the Christian mission has become the responsibility of the global church. He says” a systematic observation of the reality of the global church has also made us aware of the new balance of numerical and spiritual strength in the Christian world” (Escobar, 2003 pg. 15). And from this, it is noted that the Gospel from everyone across the world makes Escobar’s argument that Christianity is a truly global phenomenon. The practice of Christianity in these cases expresses the protestant conviction of the decisive importance of Scripture as the source of the Christian faith; the means God uses to extend his church (pg. 131).
Escobar’s opinion on cross-cultural missionary strategies is that, he believes that good mission has to follow an example of Jesus, since He is the one who got to the culture of the people. He says “If Christ is at the center of the gospel and of missionary activity, his way of being God‟s missionary also becomes a pattern for life and mission” (106). This case has strengthened Escobar’s notion given that he incorporated this important component of missionary expansion into the lives of many people, of which the gospel is ministered.
Escobar also tries social activity which is the same to evangelism. His opinion cannot be separated. He says “I also believe that providing relief and service cannot be divorced from evangelism, because the world needs both their presence and their proclamation” (Escobar 2003, pg. 151). Basically, his own believes are conveyed through a statement of the US Congress on Evangelism that, “evangelism and mission could not be carried on in faithfulness to biblical standards unless this holistic dimension was taken into account” (pg. 145). Escobar’s notion is elaborated on how he illustrates his understanding on mission philosophies as well as, methodologies. While presenting an idea about the missionary movements’ structure, he stresses that Christian institutions are viable to implementing Christian mission (pg.19)
A discussion where Escobar’s contextual approach is compared/contrasted specifically in relation to one theological theme (God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Bible, Salvation or the Church) with two other contemporary theologians
While Escobar constructs a theology of mission that takes into account various social and political realities, it is evident that there are four lines of thought in Jurgen Moltmann’s systematic theology that are relevant to missiology especially his eschatology. These include; the notion of an eschatological opens future, the Trinitarian sending God, the Christian theology of history and the scope of salvation. According to Moltmann, he believed that the “future of history must be kept open as the field of God’s mysterious and unpredictable works” given that a closed history robs peoples’ hope for the future (Greenman, 2012). This claim is significant to missiology given that it attempts to explain the plans of God and His identity as he enacts those plans. In his book, Escobar stresses how the social and political realities have impacted the Latin theology of mission as well as, how good theology of mission must account for realities as well. However, Moltmann’s eschatology is understood to serve as a starting for doing missiology. Personally, I believe that systematic theology is the foundation for missiology and therefore, Escobar’s and Moltmanns’ views on theology fully support their notion.
In his book, Escobar also shares theological themes, which includes the importance of remembering that God uses the weak people to confound the strong. Unlike other theologians such as Karl Rahner who argues that catholic theology before the Second Vatican Council had a kind of defensive mentality against the world, he affirms that many religions proclaimed the God’s truth through Bible, however, Escobar proposes that the Bible which is seen as the biblical Christology is the foundation of mission and therefore, human beings can no longer afford missiology which refuses to take seriously social and political realities.
A summary of how Escobar’s overall theological contribution either expands or challenges the theological perspectives of the two theologians chosen
Escobar’s overall theological contribution challenges the theological perspectives of Moltmann and Karl Rahner in that; Escobar constructs a theology mission which takes into account social and political realities, however, Rahner and Moltmann’s theological perspective are merely relevant to missiology. According to Escobar, the contribution of evangelical theology to his change for many years has been as a result of search for a new model for mission and Christological paradigm for social ethics (Greenman, 2012). He adds by saying that, since the introduction of Global missions, there has been a significant change in the way Latin American Christians perceive the person of Jesus Christ. Escobar’s contribution to Global Mission is clear indicators or rapid growth and expansion to the church. To him, globalization of missionary work and expansion is aided by adequate communications systems as well as massive immigrations across the world. He asserts; “It is the transcultural witnessing for Christ that takes place as people move around as migrants or refuges, just as in the New Testament days” (pg.17).
If you were in a culturally diverse ministry setting, how would these perspectives influence your ministry?
Ideas have consequences, and therefore, the way people think about God may affect the way they respond to him. Many people think that theology is irrelevant, just because they think God is dull and irrelevant. If I would be in a culturally diverse ministry, these perspectives would influence my ministry in that it will encourage opposition, pluralism and total separation among people around the world. For instance, the Bible is written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, this will mean that there has to be some kind of cultural linguistic adaptations so as to communicate them to other culture (Greenman, 2012). This is one example that shows how a culturally diverse ministry affects the way theology is formulated. However, it is evident that shift in modern thinking to the use of cultural relativity has implications for contemporary theology; by making people aware of the fact that theology is a product in cultural setting. Conversely, culture relatively influences theology and so people should clearly differentiate between gospel and cultural media in which it is expressed. And so, if this is not done, then many people will be tempted to equate the gospel with their own cultural values and philosophies.
Distinctiveness of diversity are numerous and are not limited to age; cognitive style; culture; any form of disability either mental, learning, or physical; economic background; education; ethnicity; gender identity; geographic background; language(s) spoken; marital/partnered status; physical appearance; political affiliation; race; religious beliefs; sexual orientation or veteran’s status (Greenman, 2012).
In furthering theology therefore cultural diversity, or multiculturalism, is ideally important and cultural identities should not be discarded or ignored, but rather maintained and valued as a balance is stricken not to compromise the Christian values. The foundation of this belief is that every culture and race has made a substantial contribution to history of religion. For example, each culture has a reference to a deity, a belief which though their history has acted as a source of peace and togetherness, which they have often, revered and offered sacrifices to. As a theology minister, you must try to understand and demystify why they so believe and persuade them otherwise if one got a feeling and need for conversion to the new ministry.
Escobar, S. (2003). The new global mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Escobar, S. E. (2003). A time for mission: the challenge for global Christianity. London: Inter-Varsity Press.
Greenman, J. P. (2012). Global theology in evangelical perspective: exploring the contextual nature of theology and mission. London: IVP Academic.
Taylor, W. D. (2000). Global missiology for the 21st century: the Iguassu dialogue. London: Baker Academic.
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