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SOUTHEASTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

WAKE FOREST, NORTH CAROLINA

A BOOK REVIEW OF
DAVID J. BOSCH,
TRANSFORMING MISSION: PARADIGM SHIFTS IN THEOLOGY OF MISSION

SUBMITTED TO J. D. GREEAR AND ALVIN REID


IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF
THE9940 SEMINAR ON THE MISSION AND MINISTRIES OF THE CHURCH

BY
JEREMY P. ROBERTS
JANUARY 17, 2011

Bosch, David J., Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission


(Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991), 587 pages. Reviewed by Jeremy P. Roberts.

An analysis of missiological texts reveals much is written on the subject, but nothing with
such thoroughness, clarity, and excellence may compare with David J. Boschs work.
Bosch (19291992), served as Professor of Missiology and Dean at University of South
Africa in Pretoria from 19711992 where he edited their journalTheologia Evangelica.
His scholarly publications demonstrate wide research in the fields of theology and
missiology. It is with this background that the author presents a unique and fresh
approach to his missiological work.
Bosch begins with his thesis that Christianity is intrinsically missionary by
explaining how Christs first followers had no choice but to exercise theology because
they were missionaries (2024). The significant presupposition to the book is that
mission is more than an activity of a Christian, a mere chapter in ones theology, but it is
the mother of theology (1516). It is from this presupposition that Bosch launches his
missiological examination.

Overview
Bosch embraces Thomas Kuhns term, paradigm shift, to refer to a change in
theoretical structure for understanding (184). Bosch acknowledges the significant
difference that paradigm shift represents between theology and missiology in
comparison with natural sciences, but despite this difference, he perceives the analogy is
necessary and useful (181185).

Bosch structures his book by utilizing Hans Kngs six subdivisions, (also
referred to as epochs) of the missionary idea (188). Bosch takes Kngs subdivisions
and uses them to mold his (Boschs) philosophy of six Paradigm Shifts in Theology of
Mission listed below:
[1] The apocalyptic paradigm of primitive Christianity (15)
[2] The Hellenistic paradigm of the patristic period (190)
[3] The medieval Roman Catholic paradigm (214)
[4] The Reformation paradigm (239)
[5] The modern Enlightenment paradigm (262)
[6] The emerging ecumenical paradigm (368)
Through each of these six paradigm shifts in the theology of mission, Bosch
argues of the major changes the church experiences in both its understanding and practice
as time passes. It is unquestionable to note the fundamentally different ways people
understood the church 100 years before or after Constantine. Bosch notes the differences
in presuppositions between the paradigm of the philosophers in the Byzantine Empire and
the Reformers paradigm (194, 243). The missiological and theological differences in
each paradigm are extrapolated by Bosch with great detail.
Bosch traces his theology of mission from the times of the New Testament to the
late twentieth century. In the first section of the book, The New Testament Models of
Mission, Bosch begins by giving an Old Testament missiological survey (1620). He
follows this brief survey by focusing particularly on Matthew, Luke-Acts, and the letters
of Paul to explain New Testament models of mission.
Bosch utilizes Matthew 28:1820 to represent the whole of what Matthew is
seeking to communicate missiologically (5683). Making disciples is the action of
mission within Matthews Gospel. Bosch explains this by stating, Today scholars agree
that the entire gospel points to these final verses: all the threads woven into the fabric of

Matthew, from chapter 1 onward, draw together here (57). Matthew supports the belief
that making disciples is missional fulfillment.
The mission theme of Luke-Acts, as explained by Bosch, may be summarized by
Luke 4:1819 (1001). Bosch represents Lukes missional model to be more organic than
that of Matthew: . . . in a sense, they are not really called to accomplish anything, only
to point to what God has done and is doing . . . (116). Forgiving one another, serving the
poor, and serving as a witness all comprise Lukes model of mission.
Next, Bosch turns to the mission theme in Pauls letters (12378). Boschs
hermeneutic leads him to believe that Pauls missional theme involves Gods invitation to
join the eschatological community (172). After becoming a part of the eschatological
community, one would naturally fulfill Gods mission (17278).
In the second section of the book, Bosch explains the next four paradigm shifts
within their respective time periods. By providing both contextual and historical analyses,
the author is effective in expressing the evolution of theological perspectives within the
church and how these changes have resulted in changing pragmatic and philosophical
aspects of mission.
The third section of Boschs work transitions to contemporary missiological
issuescovering the sixth and final paradigm referred to in various ways: ecumenical,
relevant, or postmodern (368519). Bosch diagnoses thirteen components in an
emerging ecumenical missionary paradigm and includes an essay to cover each
component (368). These components include Mission as the quest for justice, Mission
as contextualization, and Mission as inculturation (400, 420, 447).

Bosch teaches of the sixth paradigm with great emphasis upon it being
ecumenical. He argues that scholars in all disciplines are preoccupied . . . not with the
study of their disciplines themselves, but with the metaquestions concerning these
disciplines (363). The authors explanation of such metaquestions in the emerging
ecumenical paradigm leaves one wanting for a new paradigm where Christ followers
would transition from overzealously meandering through the milieu of nonessential
questions to embracing the big picture of what God desires for his followers.
At the end of the book, Bosch provides an expansive bibliography with over
seven hundred titles and a large set of indices pointing the reader to biblical references,
subjects, and names used throughout his work. These thorough inclusions at the of
Boschs work provide opportunities for additional study of changing missiological trends
throughout history and into the postmodern era.

Strengths and Weakness

Strengths
A strength of Boschs work is his persistence in pursuing the epistemological changes in
postmodern studies of God. With a unique approach, he eloquently expresses how
symbols and rituals are making a return in the modern-day paradigmparticularly in
third-world countrieswhile not having to understand every detail about a belief system
with Christ (353).
Another strength of Boschs text is his grasp of theology, history, ecclesiology,
and missiology. By grasping these major fields of Christian study, Bosch professes that

the New Testament must be read as a missiological map (16). It is with this perspective
of the New Testament that missional strategists will be developed for Gods glory.

Weakness
The clearest weakness of Boschs text is found in a foundational term used
throughout the bookparadigm. Bosch acknowledges the many meanings the word can
have by paradigmatic experts. He quotes people such as T. F. Torrance, Hiebert, and
Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn defines paradigm as, the entire constellation of beliefs, values,
techniques, and so on shared by the members of a given community (185). Bosch
acknowledges his usage of paradigm . . . does not come without its problems. It is a
slippery concept (185).
Despite Boschs frustration with scholars seeking to box their beliefs into
understanding every detail about a belief systema sort of over-indulgence of
organizationhe does the same thing by organizing his perspective of the epochs of
mission shifts throughout history. This sort of ironic contradiction stems from his usage
of the slippery term paradigm.

Conclusion
This text serves as David J. Boschs magnus opus and is one of the key missiological
texts in the history of Christendom. For any person interested in a thorough study of
missiology, or the troubles of mission in the postmodern era, Transforming Mission is a
necessity to read. Scholars and students alike will benefit for years to come by reading
this well-articulated work.