Missiology is a multidisciplinary branch of theology which studies the mission of the Church in all its aspects. Although Fathers of the Church, such as augustine of hippo and gregory the great, wrote about mission and the obligations and methods of missionary evangelization, and although later ecclesiastical writers, such as the Dominican raymond of penyafort and the Franciscan tertiary raymond lull, produced specialized treatises on mission, the present-day discipline of missiology emerged in the early 19th century with the Protestant Gustav Warneck (1834–1910), who is considered the father of modern missiology, with Alexander Duff, who held the first chair of missiology at Edinburgh University in 1867 and with the Catholic missiologists Robert streit and Joseph schmidlin at the University of Münster in the first half of the 20th century. Even as late as 1962, the year of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, there was still a discussion in Catholic circles as to whether the discipline should not be called "missionology," rather than missiology.
The Institute of Missiology at Münster began its publications before World War I and made a new start after World War II with the appointment of Thomas Ohm OSB. Meanwhile, at the Catholic University of Louvain, from 1922–1954 Pierre charles sj began a series of courses in missiology and launched the celebrated Louvain Missiological Weeks. Between the World Wars chairs and faculties of missiology were founded at the Gregorian and Urbanian Universities in Rome.
Two names are important for the impact they made on the English-speaking world in the second half of the 20th century. Lesslie Newbigin (1909–1995) was a Presbyterian who became Secretary of the World Council of Churches' International Missionary Council, a Bishop in the Church of South India and a minister of the United Reformed Church in England. The main thrust of his writing was the mission to the secularized western world. David J. Bosch was a South African, of the Dutch Reformed Church and missiologist in the University of South Africa, Pretoria. He died in a tragic accident in 1992, a year after the publication of his magisterial compendium Transforming Mission—Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission.
Paradigms of Mission. A missionary reading of the New Testament enables us to discern several mission theologies. The Gospel of Matthew reaches its climax with the "great commission" to make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:18–20). Proclamation and disciple-making have been a traditional emphasis in missionary evangelization. The Johannine stress on the "great commandment" of universal love is, however, more fundamental, and coincides with a modern emphasis on dialogue and the missio Dei, God's initiative of love. In Luke-Acts evangelization is centered on forgiveness and solidarity—the preaching of the Good News to the poor, another contemporary concern, while the Pauline writings envisage the eschatalogical community as the goal of mission.
Following the ideas of Thomas Kuhn and Hans Küng, David Bosch described six paradigms in the history of missiology. After the eschatalogical interest of primitive Christianity came the Hellenistic-Patristic emphasis on metaphysics and liturgy. The medieval paradigm was Church-centered and monastic, and even countenanced missionary wars and forms of missionary colonialism. After the Reformation, Protestants were slow to embark on missionary activity, but eventually the Anabaptists and Pietists took up the challenge of the "Great Commission." The missionary paradigm of the Age of Enlightenment emphasized the promotion of Christian "knowledge." The emerging contemporary paradigm, according to Bosch, is one in which Catholics and Protestants share a number of basic ideas: the Church as sacrament and sign of the Kingdom, the Missio Dei, the preferential option for the poor, inculturation, liberation, and common witness.
For Bosch, these paradigms are not necessarily consecutive and several are said to be contemporaneous. Historians are cautious when confronted by such imposed structures. In any case, it is probably easier to observe a paradigm shift—the crisis or breakdown of a reigning paradigm—than to identify in detail the emergence of a new one.
Missiology in the 20th Century. The International Missionary Conference at Edinburgh in 1910 and the other conferences that led up to it, took place in the wake of missionary expansion in Asia and the Americas. Christianity was also on the threshold of a major expansion in Africa. The Edinburgh Conference, therefore, viewed mission as a process of geographical extension. While it advocated a sympathy towards non-Christian faiths, it was in no doubt about the uniqueness and finality of the Christian message. The lasting importance of the Edinburgh Conference was that it laid the foundations for the Ecumenical Movement and for the idea of mission as common witness.
Another approach in the first decade after Edinburgh was an emphasis on community and communal relationships in mission. It was associated with the names of the Protestant missionaries Bruno Gutmann and Christian Keysser, but has survived in the ideas of a Catholic Missionary, Vincent Donovan. Max Warren, who became general secretary of the Anglican Church Missionary Society in 1942, popularized the "Christian Presence" theology of religions in which missionaries were encouraged to engage sympathetically with other faiths in the belief that Christ was already actively present in them.
The 1960s were a time of upheaval and discontinuity. The experience of decolonization, the growth of ecumenism and, above all, the renewal set in motion by the Second Vatican Council, brought new emphases in missiology: liberation and a tension between proclamation and dialogue. A return to proclamation coincided with the rising tide of conservative evangelicalism in the last decades of the twentieth century, and this was also the major thrust of the papal encyclical Redemptoris missio of 1990. Such an emphasis, especially on the part of Protestant fundamentalism, went hand in hand with a renewed commitment to church planting and church growth. Some of the proponents of dialogue however, such as the Protestant J. C. Hoekendijk and Catholics like Paul Knitter and, more recently, the Jesuit Jacques Dupuis, in their efforts to retreat from a church-centered missiology, adopted a pluralistic theology of religions.
A notable feature of Catholic missiology in the last quarter of the 20th century has been the development of a biblical theology of mission. This and other aspects of modern missiology have been promoted by influential missionary publishing houses.
Missiology and the Second Vatican Council. At Vatican II no satisfactory draft of a decree on missionary activity was at first forthcoming. The attempt to reduce it to 13 propositions prompted Bishop Donal Lamont's celebrated "Dry Bones" speech. As a result, a new committee produced Ad gentes divinitus in time for the final session. It is a practical document arising from the desire of missionary bishops for a statement about the evangelization of the non-western world ("young churches" and those in a state of "decline or weakness") and the obligation of dioceses in Europe and North America to support it with finance and personnel. As such, it is a conservative document that conceives specialized missionary activity in terms of proclamation and church implantation, although—in line with a christocentric and kerygmatic concept of mission—it proclaims the whole Church to be missionary.
Ad gentes divinitus accepts the fact of religious and cultural pluralism and expresses belief in God's active presence in non-Christian traditions. It also accepts the ecclesiological revolution of Lumen gentium and Gaudium et spes, with their emphasis on the particular church as the basis for ecclesial diversity in unity and devotes an entire chapter to the concept. The high point of the chapter, and indeed of the whole decree, is reached in the final paragraph (22) with the idea of a local incarnation of Christianity representing a profound adaptation in every sphere of Christian life. Although it does not use the term, it already foreshadows the development of the theological concept of "inculturation." It is this passage that has best stood the test of time. Although it is a positive document, Ad gentes divinitus contains internal contradictions that are more clearly seen in the changed circumstances of today. Incarnation, rather than the Paschal Mystery, is emphasized as the source and model of missionary activity. There is an unsatisfactory distiction between missionary and pastoral work. No reference is made to integral development. The encouragement given to Fidei donum priests contradicts the emphasis on the need for specialized missionary training.
The foundation of the secretariat for non christians, renamed the pontifical council for in terreligious dialogue in 1988, took place before the end of Vatican II, and the conciliar declaration on the Church's relation to Non-Christian religions, Nostra aetate, became its major guiding document. This declaration praised the spiritual and moral truths found among Non-Christians, and the secretariat set out to document, inform, and analyze the problems of interreligious dialogue, as well as to make contact with religious leaders. In 1984 the secretariat produced an important document clarifying the relationship of dialogue to mission, and this theme was taken up again in Dialogue and Proclamation in 1991.
Missiology after Vatican II. In the wake of Vatican II, the role of dialogue took on greater importance. Lumen gentium (n. 16) opened the way for discussion by declaring that salvation was possible for those ignorant of Christ and even for those lacking an explicit knowledge of God; while Gaudium et spes (n. 22) affirmed that such people have the possibility of being made partners in the Paschal Mystery, in a way known to God. Theologians have developed the concept of the fundamental option as an implicit act of faith and love. Some have looked for positive values in non-Christian religions that may play a role in the salvation of their adherents, while others have considered the role of such religious traditions in God's salvific design for humanity.
Karl rahner made a major contribution to the discussion with his much criticized theory of "Anonymous Christianity." According to this theory, people who have no explicit consciousness of being Christians may nevertheless be recipients of a Christic revelation and salvation. Conservative evangelicals, with an exclusivist soteriology, have vehemently attacked the theory. Others have pointed out that anonymity and faith, ignorance and grace, are unconvincing allies. In the light of Rahner's response to such criticism, it would seem that Anonymous Christianity must comprise a disclosure of meaning within an unfolding historical praxis.
Another follow-up to Vatican II was the notion of integral development, the understanding of economic and social development as a form of Gospel praxis implicit in evangelization. The theology of development was helped both by paul vi's encyclical Populorum progressio (1967), and by liberation theology, with its accompanying experience of basic ecclesial communities, that led to the statements of the Latin American Bishops at Medellin (1968) and Puebla (1979). The 1971 Synod of Bishops on Justice and Peace made an explicit link between the promotion of social justice and missionary work.
Yet another missiological legacy of Vatican II was inculturation, the creative re-expression of the Gospel in forms proper to a culture, which results in the reinterpretation of both, without being unfaithful to either. Vatican II, following the lead given by john xxiii in Princeps pastorum (1959) accepted the fact of cultural pluralism and began to draw the conclusions for missionary evangelization. The discussion was carried forward by the Bishops' Synod on Evangelization (1974) and by Paul VI's post-synodal exhortation evangelii nuntiandi (1975). This remarkable document proclaimed the necessity of evangelizing cultures and envisaged a communion of particular churches enriching one another in the fields of theology, catechesis, ecclesial structures, and ministries. The term "inculturation" surfaced at the Bishops' Synod on Catechesis (1977) and was popularized by Pedro arrupe sj in his letter on the subject to the Society of Jesus (1978). Its first appearance in a papal document was in john paul ii's Catechesi tradendae (1979).
With the speeches, writings, and pastoral journeys of John Paul II, as well as the foundation of the pontifical council for culture in 1982, inculturation has become a theological commonplace, although Roman documents have tended to counsel caution and gradualism, and even to warn against doctrinal relativism and schism. By and large, Catholic theologians have preferred a discourse centered on "culture" and "inculturation," while theological circles connected with the world council of churches have been happier with "context" and "contextualization." "Context" is a vague term that nevertheless conveys a sense of comprehensiveness. "Culture" is more precise and serves the anthropological imperatives of evangelization.
John Paul II's Mission Encyclical. An important stage in missiological thinking was marked by John Paul II's encyclical redemptoris missio (1990). A quarter of a century after Vatican II there were obvious anomalies in the mission paradigm represented by Ad gentes divinitus. The mission-sending churches of Europe were themselves in a state of "weakness or decline" and the balance of Christian world population had shifted to countries of the south. The geography of missionary recruitment had also changed in favor of the south, and there was a growing presence of lay missionaries. There was also a notable missionary resurgence of other world religions. The encyclical attempted to instill a sense of urgency for primary evangelization. Although it situates the Church's mission firmly in the missio Dei, the love and mercy of God, it cannot be denied that a strong emphasis on proclamation renders difficult the integration of dialogue in the missionary task.
The attempted reconciliation of opposites in the encyclical is a pointer to the paradigm shift that is taking place. The uneasy distinction between mission work and pastoral work is a case in point. Many, if not most, missionaries are engaged in cross-cultural pastoral work, and the missionary parish remains the foremost context for pioneering tasks, including both primary evangelization and interreligious dialogue. Another conflict is contained in the question: what makes people specialized missionaries? Is it their vocation to cross-cultural evangelization or is it simply the "mission" situation in which they find themselves? Although the encyclical tilts towards the latter, it does not adhere to the old geographical definition of "mission lands." There are new parameters of mission, new social phenomena, such as urbanization, communications media, international relations, the scientific community and youth culture. There are also new "paths of mission," including basic ecclesial communities, inculturation, dialogue, and development.
Finally, there is the discussion about the priority and methods of evangelizing those who are no longer Christian, as opposed to those who are not yet Christian. It would seem that the evangelization of post-Christians is the more difficult task. Moreover, John Paul II's concept of "New Evangelization" presupposes a flaw in the first evangelization. This idea has been received very positively in Latin America, and to some extent in Africa, where first evangelization was associated to a greater or lesser degree with colonial conquest. Redemptoris missio thus poses many new questions of missionary interpretation and strategy.
Missiology in the 21st Century. Mission is basically a question of faith and the practical shape taken by faith. It is fundamentally a spirituality or a religious conviction. As such, it is a "being" before becoming a "doing," but it is not a "being" without "doing." It is an active faith in the initiative taken by God, the missio Dei. Mission is born in the heart of God—God's loving dialogue with the world, through creation and redemption. God's project, God's "kingdom" or "reign," is the promotion of oneness between creatures and the Triune Godhead, and evangelization ("mission" in the generalized sense) is the implementation of this project. The Church is the seed, the sign, and the chosen instrument of God's project, visibly inaugurated by Jesus Christ. However, the Church itself is not the project. The Church in every age, like mission, is an "unfinished house."
Since mission flows from the heart of God, it is clear that dialogue is basic to evangelization. God's Spirit of Love precedes the evangelist and there is no limit to the Spirit's freedom and activity in the world. The Church's own vocation is consonant with the activity of the Spirit. Salvation is offered to all in their otherness—in their human and cultural difference. This is expressed by Jesus in the Great Commandment of universal love. The dialogue of love is basic to mission, because, as John Henry Newman never tired of stressing, love is the parent of faith.
God "wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tm. 2:4). The love of God therefore urges us to proclaim and to share our faith. This is the Great Commission to teach all nations and to make them disciples of Christ through Baptism. Proclamation of the Good News concerning Jesus Christ is an essential feature of evangelization. It is the naming of Jesus who is the mediator of salvation. It makes the truth known until it is fully known at the end of time. Proclamation is mainly verbal but it communicates Christian knowledge in non-verbal ways also, such as music, art, and dance.
Associated with proclamation is praxis or witness. This includes the mission to the poorest, development, liberation, social justice, and safeguarding the integrity of the environment. Prayer is the guarantee of proclamation, because mission is God's work in the communion of saints.
Types of evangelization are distinguished according to both personal/vocational and situational criteria. Since prayer is a basic component of evangelization, a religious in a contemplative community is also an evangelizer in a real sense. St. thÉrÈse of lisieux, a contemplative, is Patron of Missions. Evangelization takes place in ordinary pastoral situations, that is to say, within relatively homogeneous contexts, from a cultural or social point of view. The pastoral evangelist is at home in the local culture, although the work may include the Christian initiation of adults and approaches to lapsed or former Catholics, as well as dialogue with other churches and other religious faiths.
Missionary evangelization involves crossing a human (cultural) frontier or entering new post-modern parameters of human life. Geographical distance is not the issue. It is enough to enter a situation that is "other" and to accept its evangelization priorities. Typically, though not necessarily, these include primary evangelization, which is the charism of many missionary societies. However, as Redemptoris Missio shows, while primary evangelization is an urgent task, the context of such pioneering work today is not necessarily a geographically based "pagan tribe" but includes other parameters of human life, as yet untouched by the Gospel. The emphasis today is more and more on entering the world of the poor and marginalized.
Essentially, however, mission is part of God's loving dialogue with humanity. Very rarely is this a "conference dialogue" of theological discussion with representatives of other faiths. More often, it is the dialogue of joint action for social justice or a dialogue of faith in which there is a mutual experiencing of worship and spiritual life. In Islamic countries and communities there are still missionaries who carry out the dialogue of life through their simple presence and silent witness.
Bibliography: s. barrow and g. smith, eds., Christian Mission in Western Society (London 2001). l. boff, New Evangelization (New York 1990). d. j. bosch, Transforming Mission (New York 1991). v. j. donovan, Christianity Rediscovered (London 1978). d. dorr, Mission in Today's World (New York 2000). j. dupuis, Jesus Christ at the Encounter of World Religions (New York 1993). k. mÜller, et al., eds., Dictionary of Mission (New York 1997). h. rzepkowski, Dicionario de Misionologia (Navarre 1992). j. a. scherer, and s. b. bevans, eds., New Directions in Mission and Evangelization—Faith and Culture (New York 1999). a. shorter, Toward a Theology of Inculturation (New York 1999); Evangelization and Culture (London 1994). Urbaniana, Pontiificia Università, Dizionario di Missiologia (Bologna 1993). t. yates, Christian Mission in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, U.K.1994).