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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences

 

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Religion

 

Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences

 

Doing Theology And Philosophy In The African Context/Faire la Theologie et la Philosophie en Contexte Africain by Luke G. Mlilo, Nathanael Y. Soede (Denktraditionen Im Dialog: Studien Zur Befreiung Und Interkilturalitat: Iko) English/French  essays on doing theology in Africa. More

The Word Made Flesh: towards an Incarnational Missiology by Ross Langmead (University Press of America) (Paperback) is thorough, well researched and readable. Langmead has provided a critical sweep of historical research engaging with writers from Catholic, Anabaptist, Liberal and Evangelical traditions. The book also looks forward with prophetic challenge and points to the contours Christians must follow in order to flesh out and continue the radical example of Jesus.

Though incarnational mission, or "embodying the message," is a popular idea among Christians, it often comes under theological fire. Is it simply trying to follow the example of Jesus in our own strength? Is it arrogant for Christians to compare their mission with the incarnating mission of Jesus Christ? Is the idea of God-becoming-flesh sustainable today as a basis for Christian mission?

This study is the first to define the meanings attached to incarnational mission across a variety of Christian traditions. It proposes a balanced attitude toward the incarnational approach to mission J involving the three dimensions of following Jesus in costly discipleship, conforming to the risen Christ, and cooperating in the universal dynamic of God's self-embodiment.

 

Ross Langmead is Professor of Missiology and Director of the School of World Mission at Whitley College, Australia. He holds a Ph.D. in Theology from the Melbourne College of Divinity, Australia.

Incarnational approaches to mission are supported across a variety of Christian traditions. Few take exception to incarnational mission in its most general meaning—somehow embodying the message Christians want to sharel just as Jesus embodied the Good News. Brief appeals to an incarnational approach to mission pepper the literature of mission.

Incarnational missiology, however, varies dramatically in shape be­tween Christian traditions. It also comes under theological fire. Is it a form of exemplarism, simply trying to follow Jesus in our own strength? Is it arrogant for Christians to compare their mission with the incarnating mission of Jesus Christ? Going further back, is the doctrine of the incarnation still sustainable as a basis for mission today?

So common and yet so seldom examined in any depth, this approach to mission calls for analysis. This study is the first attempt, to my knowledge, to tease out the meanings attached to incarnational mission and to propose a theological framework that overcomes the potential weaknesses of an incarnational approach to mission.

The first part (chapters 2 and 3) prepares the ground by making proposals concerning the use of terms, incarnational christology, and a framework for classifying the variety of uses of "incarnational mission."

A distinction is made between "incarnation" as a process and "the incarnation" as an event, but both are considered important in incarnational mission.

Most missiologists assume the truth and coherence of the doctrine of the incarnation. Here we go back a step and attempt to show that missiology, in drawing on the incarnation, is on solid ground in making that assumption, despite recent christological controversies. We argue that an incarnational christology is still viable. We defend a view of Jesus Christ as the Word of God incarnate, without, however, using the terms of the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451. We suggest seven requirements for a contemporary incarnational christology, that is, a way of understanding Jesus Christ as God-become-human.

In preparation for the survey of various uses of incarnational mission, we suggest three groups of meanings. Incarnational mission can be seen as (1) following Jesus as the pattern for mission, (2) participating in Christ's risen presence as the power for mission, and (3) joining God's cosmic mission of enfleshment in which God's self-embodying dynamic is evident from the beginning of creation.

A Critical Survey of Incarnational Missiologies

The second part (chapters 4 to 9) is a critical survey of incarnational missiology as it occurs in the missiological literature of a wide variety of selected`Christian traditions. Not all traditions are represented, but a majority of them are. They are chosen because incarnational mission figures significantly in their literature. They are grouped very loosely according to the dimension they emphasize most strongly, while recogniz­ing that other dimensions are also represented in their thinking.

The Anabaptist tradition, including both its sixteenth century origins and contemporary Mennonite expression, is considered first (chapter 4). It is followed by radical evangelicalism (chapter 5), which is strongly influenced by the Anabaptist vision. Liberation theology, particularly in its Latin American guise, is examined next (chapter 6). The traditions inthese three chapters tend to emphasize Jesus as the pattern for mission, though other emphases are also found.

Jürgen Moltmann's missiology is considered next because his thought acts as a bridge between the first and third groups (chapter 7). His strong emphasis on participation in Christ best articulates the second group. His distinctive contribution is the reason he is included as an individual whereas the other chapters in the survey are given to Christian traditions.

We continue the survey with a third group, including Roman Catholi­cism and Anglo-Catholicism (chapter 8), the ecumenical movement and Eastern Orthodoxy (chapter 9). In the case of Anglo-Catholicism we look back a hundred years in history because of the significance of the book Lux Mundi. This group tends (roughly speaking) to emphasize the third dimension of incarnational mission, the incarnating dynamic of God.

Contours of an Incarnational Missiology

The third part of the study (chapters 10 and 11) draws together conclusions from the survey and develops the three-dimensional framework for classifying incarnational mission, arguing that none of the dimensions should be neglected and that they are mutually interpretive. The central argument of the study is that God's embodiment in creation, pre-eminently in Jesus Christ, is the ultimate framework of Christian mission and also the central shaping and empowering factor. Christianity is "incarnational" ; this adjective refers both to the reality of God's saving action and its manner. Christian mission, similarly, is incarnational in both senses: bodily experiencing a new reality in Christ and sharing it through embodiment as Jesus did.

This approach leads to emphases such as "self-emptying," integration of words and deeds, the "practice of Christ" ("christopraxis" ), Good News to the poor, a theology of the cross, the church as the body of Christ, the presence of Christ, the affirmation of creation, and the importance of the gospel assuming different cultural expressions.

The study concludes by commenting on the particular appropriateness of incarnational mission in Australia, which is a skeptical, post-Christian and postmodern society (chapter 11).

David Barrett and Todd Johnson at the World Evangelization Research Center in Richmond, Virginia have just completed the 2nd edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia. This 2,400 page, 2-volume reference set tells the status of Christianity and of evangelization in great detail for every country, people, language, city, and province in the world -- together with a trove of other information, statistics, and resources for the decision-makers in the world of missions. A companion CD, the World Christian Database, is planned to follow. This particular work, when complete, will help facilitate the analysis now missing from this monumental enterprise work a truly impressive monument religious, especially Christian demographics.

World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World, Second Edition; Volume One: The World by Countries, Religionists, Churches, Ministries; Volume Two: The World by Segments, Religions, Peoples, Languages, Cities, Topics edited by David B. Barrett, George Thomas Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson (Oxford). This two-volume reference, an extensively expanded and updated new edition of the one-volume 1982 work, presents a comprehensive overview of contemporary Christianity in all its many versions and in both its religious and secular contexts. Describing and analyzing a wealth of information about the extent, status, and characteristics of twentieth-century Christianity worldwide, the work takes full note of Christianity's ecclesiastical branches, subdivisions, and denominations, and treats Christianity in relation to other faiths and the secular realm. It offers an unparalleled comparative study of churches and religions throughout the modern world.

Vast amounts of previously unpublished data on the current global situation of Christianity, on religion in general, and on the world’s countries and peoples have been incorporated. Expanded extensively into three volumes, this new edition is enlarged in comparative scope as well, giving greater attention both to other world religions and to the secular realm, and describing more fully the range of Christian attempts to relate to both areas. It summarizes the religious and secular makeup of all 251 countries of the modern world and includes political, economic, demographic, linguistic, ethnic, and cultural data in narrative text as well as in tabular and graphic forms. In addition, it offers an expanded`discussion of the past history and current disposition of Christianity and addresses its future prospects well into the twenty-first century.

Taken as a whole, the work provides a thorough, objective, and timely survey of the Christian world as well as of the world in general. Helpful apparatus, including a bibliography, glossary, directory of names and addresses, and sidebars, photographs, maps, and diagrams enliven the text and enhance its accessibility for specialists and nonspecialists. It will be of great value to academics of many disciplines, clergy, administrators, and those who work in Christian and other religious organizations around the world, as well as to anyone interested in current affairs.

Contents:

Volume One: The World by Countries, Religionists, Churches, Ministries
Preliminaries:
Contents
Preface
Nations and countries Authors, editors, and consultants
Collaborators and contributors
Part
OVERVIEW
1. WORLD SUMMARY: The status of Christianity and religions in the modern world
REFERENCE
2. GLOSSARY: Definitions of key variables and technical terms
3. CODEBOOK: Quick‑reference codebook for all statistical tables
SURVEY
4. COUNTRIES: A countryby‑country survey of life, liberty, religions, Christianity, churches, prospects
5. COUNTRYSCAN: Comprehensive summary table of 167 indicators for all 238 countries
6. ATLAS: A mini‑atlas of human environment, Christianity, and ministries in the global context

Volume Two: The World by Segments, Religions, Peoples, Languages, Cities, Topics

Preliminaries:
Contents
Summary of the world's 238 countries and their codes
Part
SEGMENTS
7. RELIGIOMETRICS: Profiles of the 270 largest of the 10,000 distinct religions worldwide
8. ETHNOSPHERE: Cultures of the world, with 12,600 people profiles
9. LINGUAMETRICS: Demographics, ministries, and scriptures via 13,500 language profiles
10. METROSCAN: Metropolises of the world: 7,000 city profiles
11. PROVINCESCAN: Major civil divisions (MCDs) in 238 countries: 3,030 profiles
TOPICS
12. DICTIONARY: A survey dictionary of Christianity in the global context
13. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A world bibliography of Christianity and religions
14. DIRECTORY: Topical directory of Christianity, religions, and worldwide ministries
15. INDEXES: Topics, abbreviations, acronyms, initials, and photographs

Excerpt:

This encyclopedia describes empirical Christianity‑those facts about the world Christian movement that are measurable. It does this by setting out summaries of the survey data produced every year by a vast decentralized investigation quietly undertaken by churches and religious workers across the world.

In fact, for over 150 years now, most of the Christian world's denominations and agencies have been conducting an annual census that is probably the world's largest single detailed enumeration. In it some 10 million church leaders, clergy, and other Christian workers of every description are invited or instructed by their agencies to compile an annual report and to fill out sizable statistical questions. Soon after, these 10 million completed questionnaires are received in home offices and headquarters. After limited circulation to senior staff, most are then placed in archives. Only occasionally are scholars or researchers invited to analyze this enormous gold mine of new data and information. Meanwhile, year by year the data continue to pour in, accumulating at ever-increasing rates, justifying the whole endeavor being described as a megacensus.

The present encyclopedia has had access to much of this documentation, leading to this attempt to set out the survey data country by country in the global context.

Over the years the churches have built up a vast inventory of different numerical measurements of their activities, numbering at least 1,020 different significant measures often referred to as 'instruments'. A scientific approach to these phenomena not only records these raw survey data but also remembers that the Latin word for "measurement" was and is dimensio. This ancient word is translated today as "dimension" in English, French, and Spanish (and as Dimension in German and dimensao in Portuguese). Often 2 measurements open up a new dimension. Thus 'The dimension for speed is length divided by time' (Webster's). Providing one sticks close to actual measurements, the reader can begin to discern dimensions emerging and thus can make sense of this vast sea of new information year by year. In Ecclesiastical Latin, dimensio had the additional meaning of 'reasoning' or 'judgment'‑accentuating the relationship between measurement and knowledge.

This annual megacensus costs the Christian world a little over US $1.1 billion, which is 0.4% of organized global Christianity's total annual income. It is not however a single coordinated endeavor. It consists in fact of many thousands of separate, decentralized, uncoordinated censuses. Many, paradoxically, are global censuses portraying their own denomination as either the main one in the world, or the most significant one, or even in several cases the only one.

Nor is this encyclopedia the megacensus' authorized report. Compiling the encyclopedia has been possible because the megacensus is backed up by scores of other major sources‑not least the massive volume of 4.5 million separate and distinct book titles on Christianity and religion available to the reader on the shelves of the world's 50,000 largest libraries.

The subject matter of the census is the previous year's activities, its events, its demographics, its achievements, its failures, its numbers, and its statistics. It covers a vast range of contexts‑from the local, national, continental, global, ethnic, ethnocultural, linguistic, and urban‑rural, to the specifically religious and Christian contexts.

As an example one may take the questionnaire in Latin and its translation into a score of other lingua francas sent out by the Vatican's Central Statistics Office of the Church, Secretariat of State, to 3,500 bishops early in each year. In Latin it is entitled 'Universalis Ecclesiae Annuus Census’; its English version reads 'Annual General Statistical Questionnaire'. With 11 separate pages and 21 sheets (including carbons) it asks 20 descriptive questions and no less than 141 distinct statistical questions. Return rate is 95% within 2 months.

Parallel endeavors are undertaken by most of the world's 34,000 other Christian denominations and 50,000 large agencies. Questions are asked about the whole range of numerical variables such as 'How many hours a month have you been spending on (a) preaching, (b) Scripture exposition, (c) personal evangelism, and (d) preparation of catechumens for baptism?'

After being completed and mailed back, these questionnaires remain year by year at headquarters throughout the world, at various stages toward becoming treated as closed archival data. There is however no insurmountable difficulty in gaining access to study these materials if one is a serious researcher, journalist, doctoral candidate, or other investigator.

Volume 1: Summary data at country and world levels

In this present encyclopedia, Part 1 "World summary" sets out an overview of the data at various levels: global, continental, national, confessional. It presents the world picture in very abbreviated form describing a large number of these measurements or dimensions.

Part 2 "Glossary" then describes the technical terms and neologisms employed. Part 3 "Codebook" permits presenting the data in condensed form by giving the codes later used for shorthand purposes. Thus in several tables countries are listed by means of the first four letters of their anglicized names to enable the reader to rapidly identify countries on any list.

With Part 4 "Countries" the heart of this survey is reached. It contains a country‑by‑country description, in a standardized format, of the detailed data produced in the megacensus. This describes each country's life, liberty, religions, Christianity, churches, and their prospects. Part 4 thus contains the core of the Encyclopedia's research in the shape of a comparative listing, enumeration, and description of the globe's 34,000 Christian denominations. Each country's article follows a standard pattern and sequence to enable rapid comparisons from any countries to any others. Assisting this rapid comparison is a visual representation of the data in each country's standardized Great Commission Instrument Panel with its 6 instruments measuring 6 major features of each country's empirical situation.

Part 5 CountryScan" summarizes the 167 most useful numerical variables describing each of the world's 238 countries. Volume 1 then concludes with Part 6 "Atlas". This 24‑page atlas gives geographico‑political color maps of each country overlaid with a number of environmental factors including population density, land usage, location of minerals, megacities, airports and the like. A smaller section of 16 global maps illustrate specific religious findings from the annual census.

Volume 2: Survey data under nine segments or topics

This volume now goes into greater detail below the country level. For each country, data are given for 5 kinds of subdivision or segment‑its religions and religionists, its ethnocultural peoples, its languages, its cities, and its major civil divisions‑and for 4 additional approaches: dictionary topics, bibliography, directory, and indexes.

Part 7 "Religiometrics" begins by defining and setting out one‑line profiles of the 270 largest of the 10,000 distinct religions worldwide. A complete listing of these 10,000, each described under 20 measurements or dimensions, is forthcoming on the related electronic version to assist readers wanting to construct their own tables, graphics, diagrams, or to conduct their own analyses, explanations, or interpretations.

In similar vein, Part 8 "EthnoSphere" sets out over 12,600 profileseach given one line across 2 facing pages­describing the world's racial and ethnic cultures in each country. Part 9 "LinguaMetrics" does the same for languages, giving demographics of mother‑tongue speakers, church members religious adherents names for God, and Scriptures for 13,500 language profiles. Likewise with Part 10 "MetroScan" showing the world's metropolises by means of 7,000 city profiles, one line with 10 variables for each city.

The last of these country subdivisions listed here is surveyed in Part 11 "ProvinceScan". This sets out survey profiles of the world's 3,030 major civil divisions. This term, abbreviated as MCDs, is used and quantified by the United Nations to designate each country's provinces, states, or other civil subdivisions.

Part 12 "Dictionary" introduces current usage of topical survey terms for

Christianity and religions in their global context. Part 13 "Bibliography" offers a selective world catalogue of 1,330 major books describing Christianity and religions, in addition to the 6,000 items describing Christianity in a single country each, listed in Part 4.

Part 14 "Directory" then provides evidence of the geographical spread of religion by means of a directory of 82 topics anchoring Christianity and religion on the worldwide scene with names, addresses, phone and fax numbers, e‑mail addresses, for a representative selection of organizations. Lastly Part 15 "Indexes" locates topics, in particular abbreviations, initials and acronyms in daily use around the world.

Readers should not be put off by this survey's practice of giving many totals to the last digit. This is not a claim to any unrealistic or phony precision. The reason is that the survey is often totaling lists combining both rounded totals of large churches with unrounded totals to the last digit published by very small churches. Rather than lose these details, in most cases here the totals are left unrounded. The United Nations' extensive demographic databases, their disks and their printouts and their published versions, including projections to AD 2050 for every country, follow this same procedure. Readers can then round any figure they need to the nearest hundred, or thousand, or million, or billion as suits their immediate requirements.

In passing, the reader should be assured that the total number of Christians in the world at AD 2000's midyear, which this survey puts at 1,999,563,000‑‑or, when rounded, at 2,000 million‑is a coincidental total arising as the end product of complex computerized subtotaling and totaling. No manipulation of any kind produced this startling figure, which indeed was only noticed by the authors shortly before publication. Knowing the many margins of error involved, little or no significance should be seen in this strange coincidence.

Survey data in electronic form

To assist the reader wanting to have ready access to this mass of survey data in some easily useable form, a related electronic version is forthcoming under the title World Christian database. This permits rapid navigation across this sea of new data and allows readers to conduct their own investigations.

Information, not interpretation

Analysis and interpretation of this mass of grassroots data is undeniably a formidable task. This is therefore not being undertaken in the present encyclopedia but will be handled in a forthcoming separate work.

The authors apologize for the almost indigestible nature of this mass of new survey data but they invite readers to assist them in their purpose of doing justice to, and making sense of, the labors of the 10 million collaborators and their new data year by year.

World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World, Second Edition; Volume One: The World by Countries, Religionists, Churches, Ministries; Volume Two: The World by Segments, Religions, Peoples, Languages, Cities, Topics edited by David B. Barrett, George Thomas Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson (Oxford) represents the state of the art in reporting the global extent of Christianity.

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