1260) Protestant Missionaries To Middle East: Ambassadors Of Christ Or Culture?, Pieter Pikkert

Key Terms

American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, Arab World, “Clash of Civilizations”, Contextualization, Islam, Levant, Middle East, Mission, Ottoman Empire, Turkey


The thesis looks at Protestant missions to the Ottoman Empire and the countries which emerged from it through Bosch’s “Enlightenment missionary” (2003) and Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” (1996) paradigms. It argues that Muslim resistance to Christianity is rooted in innate Muslim intransigence and in specific historical events in which missionaries played important roles. The work utilizes a simple formula: it contrasts the socio-political and cultural framework missionaries imbibed at home with that of their host environment, outlines the goals and strategies they formulated and implemented, looks at the results, and notes the missiological implications. . .

The formula is applied to four successive periods.

We begin with the pre-World War I missionaries of the late Ottoman Empire. We look at their faith in reason, their conviction in the cultural superiority of Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, their attitude towards Islam, their idea of reaching the Muslim majority by reviving the Orthodox churches, and the evolution of their theology and missiology.

World War I changed the landscape. The Empire’s demise led to a struggle for Turkish and Arab national self-determination leading to the establishment of the Turkish Republic and various Arab entities, notably French and British mandates. Protestant missions almost disappeared in Turkey, while a small number of “veterans” kept the enterprise alive in the Arab world. While the Arabs struggled to liberate themselves from the Mandatory Powers, these veterans analyzed past failures, recognized the importance of reaching Muslims directly and began experimenting with more contextualized approaches.

The post-World War II era saw the retreat of colonialism, the creation of Israel, a succession of wars with that country, and the formation of a Palestinian identity. Oil enabled the Arabian Peninsula to emerge as a major economic and political force. The missionary enterprise, on the other hand, virtually collapsed. Unlike their veteran predecessors, the pre-Boomer generation, with a few notable exceptions, was bereft of fresh ideas.

During the 1970s the evangelical Baby Boomers launched a new enterprise. They tended not to perceive themselves as heirs of a heritage going back to the 1800s—though the people they “targeted” did. Their successors, the GenXers, products of post-modernism and inheritors of Boomer structures, face a region experiencing both increased political frustration and the reemergence of Islam as a socio-political power. In closing we look at Church-centered New Testament spirituality as a foundational paradigm for further missions to the region.

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Protestant Missionaries To Middle East Ambassadors Of Christ Or Culture.pdf



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