A Review of Paradigm Wars: the Southern Baptist International Mission Board Faces the Third Millennium.
Keith Eitel's title, Paradigm Wars, may not be the best description for this helpful work. The book is actually about a brief, but influential, era of Southern Baptist missions history and current changes being initiated by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. Eitel makes an important contribution to contemporary missiology, and challenges Southern Baptist missionaries to study mission methods and philosophy more thoroughly.
Eitel has thoroughly researched the historical part of his book. His most significant missiological contribution is in correcting a commonly held misunderstanding about the Gospel Mission Movement in China (1892-1910) and the tenets of its founder, T. P. Crawford. He points out that Crawford's three core values were: an indigenous approach to church planting, incarnational approach by missionaries, and autonomy of the local church, especially the sending congregations. The Foreign Mission Board rejected Crawford's proposals because of their similarities with the Landmark movement and with "antimissionism." Eitel presents a convincing case that only one of Crawford's core values, church autonomy, was similar to the teachings of Landmarkers, and his emphasis was not the same as that movement. Perhaps the most important of Crawford's tenets was the indigenous principle that called local churches to be totally self-supporting. While the Foreign Mission Board sought to embrace this principle in theory during the Baker James Cauthen era, it has taken many years to implement, and vestiges of paternalism remain even today.
The last chapter attempts to show how the new paradigm shifts made by the IMB are related to Crawford's core values. The core values of Cooperative Services International, established under Keith Parks's leadership and later dissolved by Jerry Rankin, reflected only two of the Gospel Missions Movement core values (although Eitel says it reflected all three, p. 101). CSI's program said nothing about the relationship of missionaries to local churches (church autonomy). Eitel cites T. A. Patterson's call for volunteer involvement from local churches as addressing this issue in the formation of the new paradigm. However, "partnership missions" is nothing like Crawford's plan of having career missionaries responsible to local sending congregations. The ever-expanding role of the IMB continues to move toward "federalization" which Crawford feared. Eitel also argues that the present administration of the IMB is moving away from a strong indigenous approach, especially in many traditional fields where national Christians were not involved in the restructuring process (p. 103).
From my own study of and involvement in Southern Baptist missions, I was puzzled why the book did not include something about the influence of Cal Guy, missions professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for many years. Guy was a strong advocate of the indigenous missions approach. He not only molded the thinking of many of us who went as FMB missionaries in the '60s and '70s; he also played a major role in the implementation of indigenous principles in Indonesia. This event is significant because both Keith Parks and Jerry Rankin came out of the Indonesian mission to assume leadership of the IMB.
Eitel concludes his study with a question about whether the recent massive structural revision of the IMB will really be effective. Will the increased "top-down rule" from Richmond and the "one design--the CSI people group strategy--fits all" accomplish the intended purpose in all fields of the world, especially in the more traditional ones with strong national leadership?
Despite some apparent shortcomings, this book is a good addition to the field of missiology, especially for those interested in Southern Baptist missions history and current practice. The book is well documented and clearly written. It has copious endnotes and bibliography, with five appendices that will be helpful for those doing further research. It is attractively printed and has only minor typographical errors.--Reviewed by Dick Rader, Vice President for Religious Life and Dean of the Joe L. Ingrain School of Christian Service, Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.
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|Publication:||Baptist History and Heritage|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2001|
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