Missions

Book Review: God’s Love for Muslims: Communicating Bible Grace and New Life

Ibrahim Ag Mohamed, God’s Love for Muslims: Communicating Bible Grace and New Life (London: Metropolitan Tabernacle, 2015), 95 pages.muslimscoverart For many in the West today, the very terms Islam and Muslims provoke fear, even hatred, and terrorist acts like the very recent Paris and Mali attacks only serve to reinforce these deep emotions. On the very day when news broke about the horrific attacks in Paris I received this new book by Ibrahim Ag Mohamed, the assistant pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in the heart of London. The author, whose roots are among the Tamasheq, the nomadic shepherds of the Sahara known to the outside world as the Tuareg, is deeply familiar with Islam—in fact, before his conversion, his devotion to Islam led him to burn the Scriptures. But, as he has said, the Scriptures “I had burned came and burned my heart.”

His profound familiarity with Islam, and also his extensive knowledge of the Scriptures, is evident throughout this handsomely-produced book in which he deals with Muslim beliefs and practice (9–42), their misunderstandings about the Christian Faith (43–83), and then how believers in the West especially can help Muslims come to true faith in the Lord Jesus (84–95). While much more could be said in each of these sections, what Mohamed includes is germane and very much to the point, and the result is an extremely helpful handbook for Christians to learn about Muslims, some of whom are now their neighbours. The final section, in which Mohamed provides details on how to develop true friendships with Muslims and share the gospel with them, is extremely helpful.

Noteworthy aspects of the book also include Mohamed’s excellent discussion of violence within the Qur’an and its advocacy by many Muslims (38–42), how the Qur’an views women (29–30), and his emphasis on the importance of faith in the Triunity of God: “without the doctrine of the Trinity, there would be no salvation, because only the God-man, Christ, could offer a sufficient sacrifice to atone for the sins of men and women” (51–54, quote from page 54). One small lacuna is that there is very little said about the history of Islam. A few pages could have easily been devoted to outlining this history. If a second edition is done, such could be easily added.

Given the global situation in which we find ourselves today, a work like this is gold! Highly recommended!

Michael A.G. Haykin Professor of Church History The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Book Announcement: Training Laborers for His Harvest: A Historical Study of William Milne's Mentorship of Liang Fa

songBaiyu Andrew Song has released a new book with Wipf and Stock titled Training Laborers for His Harvest: A Historical Study of William Milne's Mentorship of Liang Fa. Song (BTS, MTS, Toronto Baptist Seminary) is a Junior Fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. From the Publisher:

In this project, Baiyu Andrew Song explores the mentorship of China's first ordained indigenous evangelist, Liang Fa (1789-1855), by Scottish Presbyterian missionary William Milne (1785-1822) in the early nineteenth century. The biblically and contextually informed model of mentorship Milne employed is examined in detail, which is placed in the historical setting of Milne and Liang's time. This project is particularly important in that it pioneers historical study in the area of the early protestant church history in China, specifically in regard to William Milne.

Endorsements:

"As a missionary who has served in four Asian countries, I have seen the 'fruit' of current trends in missions. Many believe that the Great Commission can be done with great speed: little or no need to learn the language or culture, a commitment of a few months or less is sufficient. William Milne points us in a very different direction. Oh, how we need to re-examine contemporary mission strategy in light of the Bible and the great missionaries of the past!" --Phil Remmers, President, Robert Morrison Project

"Song has written a book marked by exact scholarship, keen theological insights, and evangelical warmth. This volume is filled with details and analysis of their significance, yet admirably succinct. Training Laborers for His Harvest presents a look at a critical moment in the history of Protestant missions to China. It possesses considerable value both for historians and for those who wish to advance the cause of the gospel among the Chinese. I highly recommend it." --G. Wright Doyle, Director, Global China Center

"An inspiring and profitable read. Baiyu has done a great job of introducing William Milne's gospel ministry among nineteenth century Chinese to Christians today. Readers are bound to be encouraged by the missionary zeal of Milne and exhorted to follow in his footsteps of being theocentric in theology and practice." --Jeremy Lee, Pastor, Christ Community Church, Louisville, KY

"More than just an historical recounting of their lives and ministries, Baiyu reminds us of the importance of mentorship when it comes to preparing Christians for service. As a Chinese Christian himself, Baiyu Song's work is another illustration of the fact that although the kingdom of God may start small, in the end it reaches to the ends of the earth." --Kirk Wellum, Pastor and Professor of Systematic Theology, Toronto Baptist Seminary

To order from the publisher, see here.

To order from Amazon, see here.

Book Review: Churches, Revolutions, and Empires: 1789–1914 by Ian Shaw

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Ian J. Shaw, Churches, Revolutions, and Empires: 1789–1914 (Christian Focus, 2012), xii+561 pages.

CHURCHES_AND_REVOLUTIONS_EMPIRESPeople tend to view the period between the close of the Napoleonic Wars and the outbreak of the First World War as a fairly sedentary period. Contrary to popular thought, however, this era, the so-called “long” nineteenth century, 1789–1914, was a time of massive political, intellectual and cultural ferment. And this was not without significant impact on the church in the West. Ian Shaw, the Director of the Langham Scholarship Programme in the UK when he wrote this book, capably and confidently charts the course of the western Church through this era of upheaval and change. Shaw’s grasp of primary and secondary sources is impressive as is his ability to synthesize.

Shaw’s chapter on the birth of the modern missionary movement (p.95–130), for example, is typical of the quality of the book. He refuses to locate its origins in the mind and heart of William Carey, as is so often done, but shows with reference to the scholarship of men like W.R. Ward, A.F. Walls, and Brian Stanley that “the cradle of the movement was more truly Halle [with August Francke and the Pietists], or Herrnhut [with the Moravians], than the parlour of the Baptist manse in Kettering [the traditional place where Carey and friends decided to form the Baptist Missionary Society]” (p.128). He also probes the factors that led to the rise of the missionary movement, from the Enlightenment to theology, and concludes that “undoubtedly…the reasons for the expansion of Protestant mission [sic] are complex” (p. 128). Shaw rightly recognizes that this does not take away from Carey’s achievements, which were truly radical in their day (p.129)—as the critic of evangelical missions, Sydney Smith quipped, “if a tinker is a devout man, he infallibly sets off for the East” (cited p.106). But what Shaw is doing in this chapter is setting Carey in the rich context in which his life must be seen if it is truly to be understood.

Each of the chapters that explore topics like the French Revolution and its legacy, the ending of the slave trade and slavery, industrialization, the revolution of Darwinian science does something comparable. This is history on the big scale and an excellent example of such. Shaw’s conclusion is sobering: he concludes that the First World War essentially buried Europe’s Christendom and that the real hope for the historical future of the Church lies in the churches of the Global South, where Carey interestingly enough had been active.

Michael A.G. Haykin Professor of Church History The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

“Accustomed to the Safety of a Free Government”

By Evan D. Burns

In 1819, English and American missionaries in Burma faced the reality of inevitable opposition and persecution by the Burmese government. Consequently, many missionaries were compelled to pull out and commence work in a more tolerant, peaceful environment. Enduring the scrutiny of such a repressive government, Adoniram Judson’s (1788-1850) devotion to his call remained firm. Judson determined to wait until the government actually forced him to forego his work for the Lord through imprisonment or deportation. His words are timely for Christians who, though once graced with religious freedom, are facing the loss of such liberties. In a letter, he wrote thus:

One malicious intimation to the king would occasion our banishment; and banishment, as the Burmans tell us, is no small thing, being attended with confiscation of all property, and such various abuses as would make us deem ourselves happy to escape with our lives. Such a situation may appear somewhat alarming to a person accustomed to the liberty and safety of a free government. But let us remember that it has been the lot of the greater part of mankind to live under a despotic government, devoid of all security for life or property a single moment. Let us remember that the Son of God chose to become incarnate under the most unprincipled and cruel despot that ever reigned.  And shall any disciple of Christ refuse to do a little service for his Saviour, under a government where his Saviour would not have refused to live and die for his soul? God forbid. Yet faith is sometimes weak—flesh and blood sometimes repine. O for grace to strengthen faith, to animate hope, to elevate affection, to embolden the soul, to enable us to look danger and death in the face; still more, to behold, without repining, those most dear to us suffering fears and pains, which we would gladly have redoubled on ourselves, if it would exonerate them. We feel encouraged by the thought that many of the dear children of God remember us at the mercy seat. To your prayers I desire once more to commend myself—the weakest, the most unqualified, the most unworthy, and the most unsuccessful of all missionaries.[1]

[1]This letter was to William Staughton (1770-1829). Staughton was a friend of Samuel Pearce (1766-1799) and William Carey (1761-1834). See Francis Wayland, A Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Rev. Adoniram Judson, D.D., vol. 1 (Boston: Phillips, Samson and Company, 1853), 197-98.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

An Unsung, but Influential Sermon in the Rise of the Modern Missionary Movement

By Steve Weaver

On April 27, 1791, Andrew Fuller preached a message at a Minister's Meeting at Clipstone. The title of the message was "Instances, Evil, and Tendency of Delay, in the Concerns of Religion." The text was Haggai 1:2, "Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built." In the sermon, Fuller pleaded with his fellow ministers not to delay in regard to the work of missions and to use means for the spread of the gospel among the nations. It was a bold sermon. Not only was William Carey in attendance, but so too were many of those, as Andrew Gunton Fuller tells us, "who had refused — some of them not in the kindest manner — to listen to his proposal." [1] Fuller said in part,

Instead of waiting for the removal of difficulties, we ought, in many cases, to consider them as purposely laid in our way, in order to try the sincerity of our religion. He who had all power in heaven and earth could not only have sent forth his apostles into all the world, but have so ordered it that all the world should treat them with kindness, and aid them in their mission; but, instead of that, he told them to lay their accounts with persecution and the loss of all things. This was no doubt to try their sincerity; and the difficulties laid in our way are equally designed to try ours.

Let it be considered whether it is not owing to this principle that so few and so feeble efforts have been made for the propagation of the gospel in the world. When the Lord Jesus commissioned his apostles, he commanded them to go and teach “all nations,” to preach the gospel to “every creature;” and that notwithstanding the difficulties and oppositions that would lie in the way. The apostles executed their commission with assiduity and fidelity; but, since their days, we seem to sit down half contented that the greater part of the world should still remain in ignorance and idolatry. Some noble efforts have indeed been made; but they are small in number, when compared with the magnitude of the object. And why is it so? Are the souls of men of less value than heretofore? No. Is Christianity less true or less important than in former ages? This will not be pretended. Are there no opportunities for societies, or individuals, in Christian nations, to convey the gospel to the heathen? This cannot be pleaded so long as opportunities are found to trade with them, yea, and (what is a disgrace to the name of Christians) to buy them, and sell them, and treat them with worse than savage barbarity? We have opportunities in abundance the improvement of navigation, and the maritime and commercial turn of this country, furnish us with these; and it deserves to be considered whether this is not a circumstance that renders it a duty peculiarly binding on us.

The truth is, if I am not mistaken, we wait for we know not what; we seem to think “the time is not come, the time for the Spirit to be poured down from on high.” We pray for the conversion and salvation of the world, and yet neglect the ordinary means by which those ends have been used to be accomplished. It pleased God, heretofore, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believed; and there is reason to think it will still please God to work by that distinguished means. Ought we not then at least to try by some means to convey more of the good news of salvation to the world around us than has hitherto been conveyed? The encouragement to the heathen is still in force, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved: but how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent?” [2]

Fuller's son records that the "impression produced by the sermon was most deep; it is said that the ministers were scarcely able to speak to each other at its close, and they so far committed themselves as to request Mr. Carey to publish his "thoughts." [3] The next spring, Carey preached his famous sermon at Nottingham based on Isaiah 54:2-3 calling on ministers to "expect great things from God" and "attempt great things for God." In 1792, he also published his "thoughts"—An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (PDF). On October 2, 1792, in the home of Mrs. Beeby Wallis, the Particular Baptist Society for Propogating the Gospel Among the Heathen was launched.

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[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, Andrew Fuller. Men Worth Remembering (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882), 103. [2] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 1 (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 147–148. [3] Fuller, Andrew Fuller, 104.

*This post originally appeared on the author's personal blog on March 1, 2015.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 4 and 15. You can read more from Steve at his personal website: Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.

A Circle of Friends: Reflections on a Letter from Fuller to Carey

By Steve Weaver

I love a letter from Andrew Fuller to William Carey contained in Andrew Gunton Fuller's 1882 biography of his father.[1] It illustrates beautifully the love and collegiality of the circle of friends among whom the modern missionary movement was birthed. In the letter, Fuller indicates that he had been visiting with John Sutcliff, Baptist pastor in Olney, "on missionary concerns" when a letter from Carey (dated October 10, 1798) had arrived, or as he put it, "while I was there, in bolted Carey!" Fuller’s response to the missionary includes updates on all the major characters associated with the early days of the Baptist Missionary Society. Carey, the Society's first missionary, was the recipient of the letter and Fuller, the secretary of the Society from its beginning until his death in 1815, was the author. Fuller knew that Carey would want to know about the welfare of their mutual friends—John Ryland, Jr. (1753–1825), John Sutcliff (1752–1814), and Samuel Pearce (1766–1799).

The fruits of Brother Ryland's labours at Bristol appear to good purpose, not only in a number of spiritual young men in the Academy, but in so charming a group of missionaries as are now going. Brother Sutcliffe has baptized nine lately. He is appointed to supply you with books, and I doubt not but he will magnify his office. Pearce is a wonderful Christian; he preached here last autumn like an apostle, from Psalm xc. 16, 17. Hall, who preached after him, was dismayed at the thought of following him; not so much at an idea of inequality of talents, but of spirit and unction. But whether we shall ever hear him again, God only knows.

There is also a reference to Robert Hall, the younger (1764-1831), the esteemed preacher and son of Robert Hall, the elder (1728–1791). The reference to Hall, who was well-known as a great orator, is striking. When scheduled to preach after Pearce, who Fuller calls simply "a wonderful Christian," Hall feared to follow Pearce due to the latter's "spirit and unction." This letter was likely written in late 1798 or early 1799. Pearce would die within the year on October 10, 1799. His obvious declining health was the reason Fuller added, "But whether we shall ever hear him again, God only knows."

[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, Andrew Fuller. Men Worth Remembering (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882), 150-151.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 4 and 15. You can read more from Steve at his personal website: Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.

“The Sovereign Command of Heaven”

By Evan D. Burns

In 1799, Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), the Particular Baptist pastor in Kettering, wrote, “The Importance of a Lively Faith, Especially in Missionary Undertakings.”  He illustrated the dangers of disobeying the Great Commission because of distrusting God’s promises to deliver the church through difficulty in obedience to the Great Commission.  Fuller challenged missionaries to have a “lively faith” in order to go to the nations, just like Joshua and Caleb, trusting in God’s promises in spite of adversity and opposition.  Though the Israelites were to bear the sword in judgment upon the nations, Fuller said that missionaries ought to bear the sword of the Spirit in mercy upon the nations.  Here is a great excerpt from Fuller:

 When Israel went out of Egypt, they greatly rejoiced on the shores of the Red Sea; but the greater part of them entered not into the Promised Land, and that on account of their unbelief.  The resemblance between their case and ours has struck my mind with considerable force.  The grand object of their undertaking was to root out idolatry, and to establish the knowledge and worship of the one living and true God; and such also is ours. The authority on which they acted was the sovereign command of Heaven; and ours is the same.  “Go preach the gospel to every creature.”  The ground on which they were to rest their hope of success was the Divine promise.  It was by relying on this alone that they were enabled to surmount difficulties, and to encounter their gigantic enemies.  Those among them who believed, like Joshua and Caleb, felt themselves well able to go up; but they that distrusted the promise turned their backs in the hour of danger.  Such also is the ground of our hope.  He who hath commissioned us to “teach all nations” hath added, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”  The heathen nations are given to our Redeemer for an inheritance, as much as Canaan was given to the seed of Abraham; and it is our business, as it was theirs, to go up and possess the land.  We should lay our account with difficulties as well as they; but, according to our faith in the Divine promises, we may expect these mountains to become a plain.  If the Lord delight in us, he will bring us into the land; but if, like the unbelieving Israelites, we make light of the promised good, or magnify the difficulties in the way of obtaining it, and so relax our efforts, we may expect to die as it were in the wilderness.[1]


[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 826.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

“It Is All Right”

By Evan D. Burns

After the death of Ann Hasseltine Judson (1789-1826), Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) wrote to her mother to inform her of Ann’s death.  In his long letter, he weaves together his heavenly-minded piety with his providentialist piety in order to make sense of Ann’s protracted suffering and in order to comfort Ann’s grieving mother.  Here is a small portion of that letter:

Oh, with what meekness, and patience, and magnanimity, and Christian fortitude, she bore those sufferings!  And can I wish they had been less?  Can I sacrilegiously wish to rob her crown of a single gem?  Much she saw and suffered of this evil world; and eminently was she qualified to relish and enjoy the pure and holy rest into which she has entered.  True, she has been taken from a sphere, in which she was singularly qualified, by her natural disposition, her winning manners, her devoted zeal, and her perfect acquaintance with the language, to be extensively serviceable to the cause of Christ; true, she has been torn from her husband’s bleeding heart, and from her darling babe; but infinite wisdom and love have presided, as ever, in this most afflicting dispensation.  Faith decides, that it is all right, and the decision of faith, eternity will soon confirm.[1] 


 [1]Adoniram Judson, “Letter from Rev. Dr. Judson, to Mrs.Hasseltine of Bradford, (Mass.), Amherst, Feb. 4th, 1827,” in The Baptist Missionary Magazine, vol. 7, 89 vols. (Boston: Lincoln & Edmands, 1827), 261–62.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

“One Golden Lamp”: The Judson Bible

By Evan D. Burns

I just returned from Myanmar a few days ago where I was teaching an intensive class to MA students (who are mostly pastors).  Because I am researching the spirituality of Adoniram Judson, I took time to travel with a guide to most of the identified Judson sites.  Some are still there and others are covered with buildings.  But the most impressive aspect of the Judson legacy was not the historical/archaeological places to be seen, but it was the superlative place that the Judson Bible still held in the minds and hearts of the Burmese people.  In my quest to discover the heart of Judson’s piety, I have found that the Burmese Bible stands unrivaled as the gold standard for contextualized theological translation theory, and for evangelicals in Myanmar the Bible is their daily food.  They speak of it as though it were just handed to them hot off the printing press for the very first time in their language.  It's amazing how the Judson Bible translation is still revered today, and even among the Buddhists and secular scholars.  In some ways and to some extent, the Judson Bible has become for Burmese what Tyndale's Bible was to the English language and what Luther's Bible was to the German language.

I preached on July 13 in a Baptist church not too far from the jetty where the Judsons first landed 201 years earlier on July 13.  I spoke of the doctrine of justification by faith and the rediscovery of the Word of God during the Reformation.  Luther’s rediscovery of the centrality of the Scriptures became the ground in which the modern missionary movement grew and the ground upon which Judson and evangelical Bible translators have stood.  Judson himself said it well:

Modern missions have been distinguished from the Roman Catholic, and, indeed, from all former missions since apostolic times, by honoring and sounding out the Word of God; and I do believe that those missions which give the highest place to the Divine Word will be most owned of God, and blessed with the influence of the Holy Spirit.  There is only one book in the world which has descended from heaven; or, as I tell the Burmans, there is only one golden lamp which God has suspended from heaven to guide us thither.[1]


[1]Middleditch, Burmah’s Great, 318-319;  Wayland, Memoir, 2:126-127.  For a very similar statement, consider Judson’s address at the ninth annual meeting of the American and Foreign Bible Society, held May 15, 1846; see:  Middleditch, Burmah’s Great, 388-391; Wayland, Memoir, 2:235-238.  

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.