Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 32 - Colonial America as a Mission Field (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-032 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. ***** >> PAUL: Surely as the New World grew, well-established churches on the European continent must've looked at America and seen an opportunity. Was colonial America viewed as a mission field and for which churches? Were there some that were notably effective? >> SPEAKER: Well, Paul, how I answer your would depend on how we define mission field. European churches certainly thought of the New World as offering new opportunities, but exactly how they find those opportunities demands a little bit closer inspection. For some, the creation of European settlements was itself a kind of mission work. It was, after all, more and more of this new and wild and untamed land was coming under the control and cultivation of Christians. And very few Europeans in the 1500's or 1600's or 1700's ever doubted that that was a good idea or a good thing, often viewed as a valuable in that in itself. Was this mission work? Well, probably not in the sense that we usually use the term. Was it a vision for the spread and expansion of Christianity? Yes, because European Christians were expanding and colonizing a new country. And that was viewed as, in and of itself, a good and God-pleasing process. As the number of European settlers and colonists increased and the settlements spread in geographical area, there was also the increased need to provide for their spiritual care. So there were growing spiritual needs in this New World, in these New World colonies. In the earliest times, this meant that pastors for the colonists had to be brought from Europe. In the English colonies, this meant bringing pastors from England which was a rather unsatisfactory and inconvenient way of proceeding, both because it was expensive and difficult and because the men that could be recruited for such a task were often not the most suited to it. The very earliest educational endeavors in the colonies really were aimed at meeting that need of spiritual leadership and spiritual care for the colonists. Most of the early institutions of higher education had as their goal part of the purpose of forming them, the education of clergy and the improvement of the spiritual and moral conditions in the colonies. So you could view these early educational institutions as part of the overall mission of the colonies in a Christian sense. Let me just mention a few that you certainly would have heard of from the earliest educational institutions in the New World. Harvard College was founded in 1636, the first college in the New World. Although it was certainly a place of serious learning, that was not its only purpose. Students were, as a matter of course, expected to learn Latin and Greek not to graduate from Harvard, but to be admitted to Harvard. So they had rather high educational standards. But they also had as one of their rules that every student, and this is a quote from their rules, �Every student shall consider the main end of his life and studies to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life.� So the spiritual development and the spiritual life of the students was central to the purpose of Harvard when it was established in the 1630's. Now remember, 1636 is just six years after the Massachusetts Bay Colony had been established. This is very early in the life of these Puritan colonies of New England. Virginia also a college from the early date. The College of William and Mary was established in 1693 in Williamsburg. And it had as its purpose that the youth of the colony were to be piously educated in good letters and manners, that the Anglican Church was to be provided with a seminary of ministers of the gospel. Now that was not quite as effective as it might have been because even though the students were educated at the college, they could only be ordained by sending them back to England to be ordained by an Anglican bishop. And also the college had as its goal that the Christian religion may be propagated among the western Indians to the glory of Almighty God. Very interesting to think about this colonial outpost of higher learning setting as one of its primary goals the propagation of the gospel among the Indians and the spiritual well-being of the colonists and the general pious education of the youth. Yale College was established in 1701. In founding it, the original board of trustees noted that they had too long neglected the great errand to propagate in this wilderness the blessed Reformed Protestant religion in the purity of its worship and order. This great errand to propagate in this wilderness the blessed Reformed Protestant religion. So Yale also had as its founding purpose the propagation of Christianity, and not just any kind of Christianity, but this Reformed Protestant version of Christianity which was the ideal of the colony. Now, when you think of places like Harvard and Yale today, you might not think of them as mission outposts. They're not noted for their piety, but that certainly is an important ingredient in their original history and how they were founded. I'll just mention one more that takes us into the middle of the 1700's. A graduate of Yale College by the name of Eleazar Wheelock, he was Yale class of 1733, was deeply involved in the piety and excitement of the Great Awakening, the spiritual energy that was part of that movement. He determined to move into New Hampshire and establish a school which would be open to both whites and, this was quite significant, to Indians. And he founded in 1769, Dartmouth College open to both Indian and non-Indian, although his emphasis was to provide education, a Christian education, to Indians. His purpose being, and I quote, "To save the swarms of Indian natives in this land from final and eternal ruin which must unavoidably be the issue of those poor miserable creatures unless God shall mercifully interpose with his blessings upon endeavors to prevent it." So the salvation of the Indians was the central purpose of the founding of Dartmouth College as well. Harvard, the College of William and Mary, Yale, Dartmouth, these early institutions of higher education were really part of an overall mission ideal not always reaching the non-Christians but equally facilitating the spread of Christianity in the colonies. So to answer your question, it depends a little bit how you think about mission, whether or not bringing Christianity to the New World was seen as working in a mission field. ***** 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. *****