Thursday, December 10, 2009

James De Jong's "As the Waters Cover the Sea"

One aspect of Algonkian church history that we've largely neglected so far is called missiology. Missiology is the study of church missions. I consider missiology to be a problematic area of study for two reasons: 1)things that were written about Christian missions in early America were almost always written by whites who had certain biases or prejudices and 2)on the other hand, the current conventional wisdom (not discouraged by academic historians) is to dismiss the early American missionaries as ethnocentric if not downright pernicious.

Unfortunately, there were pernicious missionaries, but let us not forget that many of the explorers, traders, and government officials were also pernicious. White culture as a whole, not the Christian church specifically, is what American Indian nations crumbled under. And if you've been reading this blog regularly, you're probably aware that missionaries did do things for Indians that benefited them in this world.

Fortunately I've been able to find an excellent book which addresses some aspects of early American missiology, As the Waters Cover the Sea: Millenial Expectations in the Rise of Anglo-American Missions, 1640-1810, by James De Jong. As the title suggests, the book is about how the world view of American whites motivated their mission work. In one of my earliest posts, I briefly discussed millenialism and its role in the first Algonkian missions. De Jong's book takes that into much greater depth and we'll consider it thoroughly in the coming posts.

Reformation Heritage Books has this to say about As the Waters Cover the Sea:

James De Jong’s dissertation sure-footedly guides us through the complex relation of millennial expectations and Anglo-American missiology from the Puritan age to the beginning of the nineteenth century. He shows how millennial hopes varied throughout this period from an Adventist type of premillennialism to a low-keyed postmillennialism. Nevertheless, De Jong concludes that these anticipations often balance themselves out somewhere between other-worldly and secularized hopes and between the temporal and eternal aspects of salvation. This balance enabled believers to engage in mission work confidently yet realistically, setting a viable pattern for us to follow today as we continue to look to Christ in hope, drawing our vision of humanity and missiology from His word.

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