Friday 1 April 2011

International Journal of Frontier Missiology 27:4 (2010)

The main articles in International Journal of Frontier Missiology 27:4 (2010) are devoted to ‘The Globalization of the Frontiers’.

In the lead essay – ‘Globalization, Christian Identity, and Frontier Missions’ – Todd M. Johnson draws attention to two trends in the demography of Christianity and frontier missions: ‘1) Numerically, Christianity has shifted to the Global South. 2) Amidst all the global migrations and increasing proximity of once distant peoples, Christians have maintained limited contact with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists’ (165).

These two trends, he suggests, can be examined from the perspective of globalisation and Christian identity. In his ensuing discussion, he draws attention to Andrew Walls’ distinction between an indigenizing principle and a pilgrim principle:

‘He [Walls] acknowledges that Christianity can and should go deep within each culture of the world but at the same time is never fully at home in any particular culture. It’s in this dynamic between the particular (indigenous) and the universal (pilgrim) that we can better understand global Christian identity’ (167).

According to Johnson, the emphasis in the study of world Christianity has been almost exclusively on the indigenizing principle, or the ‘particular’, and it is critical, he says, ‘to emphasize also the pilgrim principle, or universal side, of world Christianity’ (168).

He draws a nice analogy from a study of world music by Philip Bohlman:

‘Philip Bohlman examines the inherent tension between what world music tells us about human diversity and what it tells us about human similarities. Neither tells the whole story. Bohlman tries to strike a balance in his description of world music by emphasizing difference as one feature and similarity as another... He also recognizes the way in which world music is, at the same time, both local and universal’ (168).

Frontier mission, Johnson hopes, will ‘bridge the possibility of a fully indigenous form of Christianity and one that is tied into the whole of Christianity around the world and throughout human history’ (169).

And a concluding reflection:

‘With the recent expansion of Christianity around the world and the anticipated spread of the gospel into all peoples, we can hope to realize the beauty of both the particular and the universal in a truly global Christianity’ (169).

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