Book Review on Transforming Mission

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(Paradigm Shifts in the Theology of Mission)
(Author: David J. Bosch)

This paper intends to analyze the writings of David J. Bosch in his book entitled “TRANSFORMING MISSION Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission:” This book review shall be presented in four (4) parts. First, is an introduction and a statement of the author’s intention for writing the book; secondly, a summary shall be presented about the major insights presented in this book. Thirdly, I shall present some comments and reactions that I had about the author and his writings. Last is the concluding part where I shall present my evaluation about the book in review, as well as my own opinion and understanding of “mission” as influenced by my readings in this book.

The first and foremost thing that is important to our analysis of this book is our understanding of why the book is entitled as such. What message does the book title “Transforming Mission” want to imply? As suggested by the author in its foreword, the title of his book is ambiguous. At one instance, “transforming” can be used as an adjective describing “mission.” In this case, mission is understood as an enterprise that transforms reality. On the other hand, “transforming” can, however, also be a present participle, the activity of transforming; of which “mission” is the object. Here, mission is not the enterprise that transforms reality, but something that is itself being transformed.

The author relates that he at first had misgivings about using this title for his book. However, after thorough evaluation and discussion with his colleagues, he finally decided to use this as his book title. I may say that it is aptly titled, because the ambiguity in the book title in fact, reflects the subject matter of the book very accurately. Using the idea of “paradigm shifts,” Bosch attempts to demonstrate the extent to which the understanding and practice of mission have changed during the almost twenty centuries of Christian missionary history.

The author’s main thesis is that, this process of “transformation” has not yet come to an end, and will, in fact, never come to an end. The author further suggests that we are at a time and place of one of the most important shifts in the understanding and practice of Christian missions. It is the author’s intention to convey the message that “mission remains as an indispensable dimension of the Christian faith and that, at its most profound level, its purpose is to transform the reality around it.”


To set the background for the major theme that is being discussed in the book, David Bosch introduced the book with an "interim" definition of mission. There are thirteen elements in his definition:

1.The Christian faith is intrinsically missionary, by its very nature, or it denies its very raison d’etre. 2.Missiology is not neutral or disinterested enterprise, but views the world from the standpoint of Christian theology. 3.Ulltimately, mission remains undefinable. It must be continually reassessed, and the most that can be done is to formulate some approximations of what missions is all about. 4.A necessary foundation for mission lies in God's self- communication in Christ. 5.The Bible does not give a set of unchangeable laws of mission. Mission is an ambivalent enterprise which remains an act of faith. 6.The entire Christian existence is a missionary existence. 7.Theologically speaking, “foreign missions” is not a separate entity to home missions. Both are grounded in the gospel. 8.Mission (singular) must be distinguished from missions (plural). Mission is God's mission (mission Dei). Missions are particular forms of participation in God's mission (missions ecclesiae). 9.The missionary task is coherent, broad and deep; it includes the whole set of needs and aspects of human life. 10....
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