Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 15 - Protestant Missions (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-015 PROFESSOR LAWRENCE REST PROFESSOR WILL SCHUMACHER Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***** >> JOSHUA: I know that Catholics could not have been the only part of the Christian church interested in spreading the gospel. May I ask for some information about the Protestants? How did churches of the Reformation become involved in world mission efforts? >> SPEAKER: Thank you, Joshua. That's a great question. And of course, the Roman Catholics were not the only ones involved in world mission efforts and outreach. But the fact of the matter is that churches of the Reformation, both Lutheran and Reformed, came into this business of what we today call world missions rather later than Roman Catholics. That's certainly true as a historical fact. There are several reasons for that that will help us understand. First of all, the Roman Catholics had actually begun their world mission efforts in spreading Christianity around the world before the Reformation really took root. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Mexico City where we actually visited a parish and saw a church building that had been built the year before the Augsburg Confession was presented in 1530. So this church building in Mexico was built in 1529. In many ways, the Christianity that got planted in Mexico was prereformation Christianity, not the Roman Catholicism that we think of today, but really, prereformation Roman Catholicism. And that's true in other parts of the world as well. The Jesuits had a church on the coast of India, and the explorer Vasco da Gama died in India and was buried in the Jesuit Church in India. He was there for about 14 years before his remains were removed and carried back to Portugal. So the spread of Christianity predates the Reformation. And Roman Catholic Christianity had begun to spread before the Reformation really took hold. Once the Reformation did begin to gain influence and take hold in Europe, the lands of the Reformation were not the same countries that were seafaring, trading nations that were building worldwide empires. Electoral Saxony didn't commission Christopher Columbus to sail the Atlantic. And the Danish king wasn�t establishing colonies in Latin America or in Indonesia. The Reformation countries came into the worldwide business of commerce and empire later than the Roman Catholic countries of Spain and Portugal for instance. That meant that Reformation countries, countries in northern Europe, Germany and Scandinavia, did not have the same opportunities and also didn't identify the same needs to be directly involved in world mission. It's also true that there was a theological debate within the churches of the Reformation about whether or not the churches needed to be involved in world mission. There were some who argued that what we call the great commission, Matthew 28, was, in fact, fulfilled during the time of the apostles, at least in a representative way so that all nations already had the opportunity to hear the gospel and become disciples. And not all nations had accepted Christ, of course, but at least the opportunity had been offered. That was the reasoning of these theologians that argued that the great commission had been fulfilled. In fact, in the year 1652, perhaps the most important theological authority in Lutheranism, that is the theological faculty at the University of Wittenberg, issued an official opinion about this. And they concluded precisely what I�ve just described to you that the church did not have the current mandate to be involved in mission because the great commission, Matthew 28, Christ's command to the church to go and make disciples of all nations, had been fulfilled, at least in a representative way during the age of the apostles. Therefore, the church had the responsibility to take care of the people within its reach, but it had no obligation or mandate to go around the world and try to make other people Christians. A very strange opinion in retrospect, but some were convinced by it. Not all, obviously, but some churches of the Reformation were convinced by this reasoning. It could be they were arguing against members of the Anabaptist movement who had emphasized not only the importance of personal conversion and so forth, but also the obligation of all Christians today to go and fulfill this command of Christ. In that case, it would be a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water in your effort to refute any Anabaptist tendencies, you argue against anything that they were for. There's always some of that and theological argument, I think. There were obviously exceptions, and people who objected to such reasoning and were unconvinced by this notion that all nations have had an opportunity to hear the gospel. As Europeans, and especially we�re talking about Europeans in countries of the Reformation, heard about the new discoveries and new peoples that they've never heard of before scattered around the world, they realize that they, too, needed to hear the message of the gospel. These peoples in Africa and America and Asia needed an opportunity to hear the message about Christ and were unwilling to be satisfied with some kind of theological rationalization for not doing this. One early figure that argued in favor of Lutheran involvement in really a worldwide mission effort was a nobleman named Justinian Von Weltz. Von Weltz lived in the 1600's. He was born about 1621, and as a young nobleman in a country that was influenced by the Reformation, Von Weltz became convinced that this gospel that had come to his people also needed to be shared around the world. And he even organized a little group to support his efforts and volunteered as the first messenger, the first missionary, we would call him, to go and do that, even though he was ordained. He was a layman. Went as a volunteer and was sent by this small group of supporters to South America. In 1666, he landed on the coast of Suriname in South America where he rapidly disappears from history and presumably died the same year without making any visible impact. Again, the importance of this figure, Justinian Von Weltz, in mission history is not that he was very successful in his work, but that his idea about mission was right and his opponents were wrong. Eventually, churches of the Reformation also became convinced that the church has a global responsibility for sharing the gospel. When talking about churches of the Reformation, especially in the earliest years of the Reformation, it is important to remember that these churches were busy with a different kind of mission: namely, teaching and Christianizing their own people, reorganizing and restructuring, reforming the church where it had fallen into theological and spiritual disrepair. That mission to their own people of rechristianizing people in their own lands was not a trivial task. And the needs of those reforming churches really left very little energy for a deliberate outward focus. It wasn't until the Reformation was firmly established that those churches had the resources to look out for themselves and begin to take the rest of the world seriously. So there are reasons why the churches of the Reformation came into the business of world mission later than Roman Catholics. But they did eventually enter into the whole global scope of sharing the gospel and planting the church. One of the earliest efforts came under the Lutheran king of Denmark, Frederick IV, who did actually have a small colonial state in far away India and became concerned with the spiritual well-being of the people in his Indian colony and began looking for missionaries to send there at the beginning of the 18th century. That's, in fact, how the first Lutheran missionaries were sent to an overseas location. ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *****