“Few modern New Testament scholars find it credible that the historical Jesus could have uttered this Trinitarian formula.” I tried reading some of the works of these scholars but succumbed to an acute case of intellectual vertigo. I hope Professor Berger will from time to time give some guidance in the study of Jesus’ life and teachings and the milieu of early Christianity.
You mention proselytizing by evangelicals but lets not forget the missionary activities of the LDS church members who can be found almost everywhere throughout the “global south.”
The other thing that’s interesting is how missionaries in the past almost always came from the West and travelled to the Third World. Now, increasingly, its the other way around; missionaries from the global south are doing their proselytizing in Western nations.
I just do not recognise this statement that most Churches including the Protestant mainline give lip service to the Great Commission, etc.
As to the numbers of Evangelicals, it could be a case of your not living in that world and being unaware but the numbers of Evangelicals are enormous. Just take a look at the article in the Guardian here in the UK recently about the number in China, on Monday, 30 August 2010 China: the future of Christianity? at
Also it is worth reflecting on the wholesale conversion of large swathes of the population of South Korea to Christianity, let alone in Africa and South America. See Peter Berger’s “Secularization personified”.
As to the so-called mainline Churches to which I assume you refer I am afraid they are increasingly in the minority.
As to your comment about your disliking the Great Commission, then that is hardly surprising. It balks not doubt as it does for those Christians who are told that the “secular” way of life is the way the truth and the life and then we reflect on how many people were butchered in the last century as a result of that philosophy bearing down it’s full import.
As Paul Johnston has said at page 783 of the book ” Modern Times.The world from the twenties to the nineties” .
“The state had proved itself an insatiable spender, an unrivalled waster. It had also proved itself the greatest killer of all time. By the 1990s, state action had been responsible for the violent or unnatural deaths of some 125 million people during the century, more perhaps than it had succeeded in destroying during the whole of human history up to 1900. Its inhuman malevolence had more than kept pace with its growing size and expanding means.”
If one accepts the gospel, the good news that salvation is made possible by faith in Christ’s intercession and propitiation for the sinner, how can one in good conscience not proselytize? Swimming lessons are promoted more universally for lesser risks. It is difficult to reconcile even the word gospel with a selfish faith unwilling to proclaim such good news.
I have a relative who went overseas to an Islamic country with an evangelical aid group. Although she was ostensibly not there to evangelize — and had she won any converts, they could have been subject to execution under the country’s laws — that was exactly what she did. After lying to the country’s government and other aid agencies about why she’d come.
I believe that Jesus calls his followers to honesty — look at his response when Peter denied him to the Roman government — so I can’t see how this kind of “evangelism,” founded on denying that one is spreading the word of Christ, is in keeping with Christian teaching. And if you believe evangelicals when they say they’re not proselytizing in Islamic countries, well, you’re more credulous than I am able to be any more.
You see the nobility of being willing to die for a faith — and that’s cute and all, but in practice what these people are doing is putting everyone who they meet in the countries where they’re working in real physical danger. It’s romantic to take that risk for yourself, maybe, but putting someone who just wants medical care or food or other essentials at risk because you imagine you’re a modern-day saint? I don’t think that’s particularly Christian at all.