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The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey.

Edited by Terry G. Carter. Macon: Smith and Helwys Publishing, Inc., 2000. xv + 304 pages.

The English Baptist William Carey (1761-1834) is one of the most important figures in missionary history, a trailblazer whose approach to missions established the model we use today. His forty-year career has received deserved attention, with three biographies already, the newest less than a decade old.

The question naturally arises: why does Carter presume to bring forth this volume when the biographies are so much more readable and readily available? Carter's answer is that the letters and journal are a useful supplement, a tool to be read simultaneously with a biography. This is a legitimate approach, but Carter is more on the mark when he points out that the journal and letters need no interpreter. The object of this book is to give the reader insights unfiltered by the biographer.

Carter takes a minimalist approach to editing the journal, which Carey kept for his first few years in India. Rather than strewing footnotes freely in the reader's path, he mostly allows Carey's words alone to unfold the new, challenging, and sometimes intimidating venture into a land whose customs, beliefs, mores, and values often affronted, sometimes appalled, but never deterred, this man with a mission.

The journal reveals that even a person of strong faith can suffer moments of doubt about calling or adequacy to serve. It also shows that an early Victorian can overcome the culture shock of British, India, and that it is possible to adjust to local religious and cultural practices and government obstacles without accepting them. The great flaw of the journal is that it ends prematurely.

Fortunately, the letters continue for the next thirty years. Carter has selected with care, sorted into topics such as reaction to the environment, dealings with the government and indigenous people and religious rivals both native and foreign, and approach to missions. Carey consistently called for missionaries to go to the hinterland and build an indigenous Christianity with vernacular Bibles and other writings and native-led churches. He saw value in education, medicine, and other works. For his mission to succeed, it had to fit both the day-to-day and eternal needs of the people while retaining its core. Carey's philosophy and practical application of his ideas are the most important and largest section of the letters. Carter's chronological arrangement within each heading reveals the maturation of Carey's mission over its life.

This volume is well put together, readable, and a definite contribution to the literature.--Reviewed by John H. Barnhill, Analyst and Historian, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Barnhill, John H.
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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