Below is a brief refelction I wrote a few years ago of David Bosch’s outstanding Transforming Mission – paradigm shifts in theology of mission.
Bosch’s work has been given the highest praise, with such eloquent descriptions as immense, great, comprehensive, magnum opus, summa missiologica and magisterial, among others, for his book Transforming Mission. This is worthy praise for the work of a man held in such high regard for his loyalty and commitment to mission in the church and the mission of the church. It is very important to understand that these nouns and adjectives of praise for his book do not in any way suggest that all is well with the world of mission, or that Bosch has in fact covered every angle and said all that needs to be said about mission, and especially about what he calls “Elements of an Emerging Ecumenical Missionary Paradigm.” This sentiment was well expressed in an article by Bevans and Schroeder when they compared the theological genius of Aquinas with the outstanding missiological contribution of Bosch, suggesting that as theology ‘need always to be done after Aquinas,’ likewise, missiology need always ‘be done after Bosch’ (Bevans & Schroeder 2005:69-72).
Some of Bosch’s most insightful critics are among his closest friends and colleagues, and it is within these critiques that we discover areas that Bosch may have overlooked or been completely blind to in the first place. We will return to some of these voices in due course, but first a broad brush stroke is in order. Bosch’s insights, written in the late eighties and published in 1991 reflect a profound and well thought out view that many Christian authors and missiologists especially in the West are still struggling to define, namely post-modernism. For Bosch to elucidate this slippery concept at such an early stage in the way he does has really set the scene for much discourse on this subject. We observe this because it is inevitable that with any description of a culture in flux, which is essentially what a paradigm shift is, and attempts to fully explicate at such an early stage, at least earlier than many other cultural analysts were writing, would surely be frustrated, even assertions that it could be fully comprehended would surely be naïve. Bosch does not presume to have done this primarily because he knows he is referring to something that is happening now, it is in a sense live, and subject to unpredictable change. Since this is still the case in our day, how much more in his day?