Bases Bíblicas de la Misión: Perspectivas Latinoamericanas – Book Review (English)

Bases Bíblicas de la Misión: Perspectivas Latinoamericanas (English)
Editor:  C. René Padilla
Publisher:  Nueva Creación & Eerdmans, 1998
ISBN:  0802809529

Book Review by Julio, a third-year student at Redcliffe College.

“There has been very little reflection on the subject of missiology in Latin America” says Rene Padilla, the renowned Latin American theologian and editor of this book.  “And in regard to the study of the biblical basis of mission” he continues, “there is a great gap”.

This book – whose title could be translated as “The Biblical basis of Mission: Latin American Perspectives” – is thus one of the first of its kind in Latin American evangelical literature.  It is written by theologians with extensive ministries in the continent.

Two distinctive characteristics can be found throughout the whole book: the authoritative role that the authors give to the Scriptures, and their emphasis on making the biblical message relevant to the Latin American context of poverty and oppression.  The book will undoubtedly be of extreme value to anyone who is ministering among the poor and the marginalised and also anyone interested in exploring the role of the Church as agents of God’s kingdom in a world that is in great need of love and justice.

The book is divided into four sections: the first section is an article written by Sidney Rooy that recounts the Church’s search for the biblical basis of its mission throughout its history.  The second section is a series of five articles that looks at the biblical basis of Mission in the Old Testament.  These are described in more detailed below.  The essays of the third section cover apocalyptic and other New Testament literature.  In the final section specific themes such as mission in a context of corruption and suffering are developed.

Given the overall theme of this issue’s Encounters, I will focus on the articles relating to the Old Testament, rather than looking at the whole book.

The Biblical Basis of Mission in the Old Testament

The Mission of Israel to the Nations by Edesio Sanchez.

This article covers the books of the Pentateuch and the Minor Prophets and explores the nature of Israel’s mission in the world of the Old Testament: Israel as a “Testimony to the Nations” in contrast to the traditional view of mission as “witnesses to the world”.  Sanchez develops several missionary principles when looking at the initial history of Israel:

* The Universal Project of God: to make of each individual a human-being.
* The uniqueness and singularity of God’s character.
* Israel as pilgrim nation: the human need to leave their comfort zone and enjoy God’s liberation.
* God’s kingdom is the kingdom of the vulnerable and the marginalised.
* Israel’s missionary call: to be a blessing to all nations.
* The family as the first fundamental missionary unit.

Sanchez concludes that two things are vital to our missionary call: the need to be truly faithful to God and his word and the need to open spaces of hope to all human beings, especially the poor, the marginalised and the vulnerable.  Complete faithfulness to God is the only context in which a genuine practice of social justice is found.

Mission in the book of Psalms by Esteban Voth.

Voth finds a missiological proposal among the lyrics of this poetic book: a constant relation between the people of God and all the nations, this is expressed in the reality of the psalmist and the reality of the nations.  The songs in the book of Psalms are themselves theological alternatives to the psalmists’ particular situations.  The universal sovereignty of God, the prophetic role of God’s people, the relationship between God’s love and justice for the poor and our mission today; these are some of the missiological principles that can be derived from the book of Psalms.

Although we cannot base our missiology on the writings of the Hebrew poets, concludes Voth, their analysis of the human condition, suffering and human pain provide us with elements that will help us to have a more holistic and relevant understanding of mission.  In today’s Latin America, where mission is reflected in terms of statistical converts, we are required to propose a concept of mission in which each individual is of a particular and singular value to God, a radical concept of mission that defines the historical process in terms of justice and life.

The Prophetic Vocation: A Missiological Approach by Mariano Avila.

According to Avila, with the passing of the years Israel over-emphasised its election to the point of forgetting the nature of its call.  God however kept alive his word and his intention to include all the nations in his shalom.

The author explores the three characteristics of the vocation of the prophets: their interpretation of the past, their criticism of the present, and their announcement of future blessing or judgement.  The kingdom in the time of Solomon provides us today with a relevant example in which the abundance of material wealth is only enjoyed by the few whereas misery and oppression are suffered by the many.  The law became impotent to hold back the advancement of the social bankruptcy of the kingdom.  In that scenario, God raised up his prophets who violently warned of the imminence of God’s judgement which would bring catastrophic consequences to Israel.

Many elements of the prophetic vocation of the Old Testament, claims Avila, can determine our mission today: the need to acquire a memory that looks at the past from a biblical perspective, the need to promote a biblical worldview, the need to dream of a more hopeful future, the need to articulate a realistic (and not escapist) eschatology, and lastly the need to value international relations from a biblical perspective.

Mission in Isaiah by Mervin Breneman.

According to Mervin Breneman Isaiah – more than any other book of the Old Testament – presents clearly the redemption message: the atonement of the Messiah, the human need for repentance and God’s invitation to come closer to him.  However, Isaiah also presents us, says Breneman, with a holistic view of mission that involves all aspects of human existence.  Several themes are developed here: the oracles to the nations and God’s interest for the world, the message of repentance for Israel, and God’s messages of blessing and peace among the messages of judgement.  In Isaiah, concludes the author, the Servant is a missionary that is sent to the people of God and to the nations, but whose mission is fulfilled with suffering for the redemption of our sins. We are equally commanded to go and to make disciples.

Mission in Jeremiah by Norberto Saracco.

‘Mission and the missionary’ as well as ‘the missionary and his message’ are the first two relationships that Saracco explores in his study of Jeremiah.  God in his sovereignty intervenes in the life of a man to make him his messenger and put his word in his mouth.  The other two themes explored are ‘Jeremiah’s mission in contrast to the false hopes of the time’ and ‘true hope as a missionary attitude’.  In today’s Latin America, mission involves both bringing hope to the millions of people who do not know Jesus yet and to the church that constantly wrestles with the tension of being seduced by God and being seduced by an easy and false religiosity.

This book is just one example of the many important Latin American titles published under the auspices of the “Fundación Kairos” and the “Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana”.  They are committed to engaging holistically both with the biblical texts and the real issues of today’s world, particularly in a Latin American context.  Bases Bíblicas de la Misión undoutedly deserves a wide readership.

Back to Issue 17

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