Contextual Theologies of Mission: Samuel Escobar and Jeremy Wynne Compared (Pt. 1)

When studying theology from around the world we come to see how much a theologian’s context affects his or her theology. This is partly due to the fact that different situations beg different questions and demand appropriate answers to those questions, but it is also partly due to the theological tradition in which that theologian finds themselves in. In comparing the theology of the Peruvian Samuel Escobar and the Scottish Jeremy Wynne we see how theological traditions affect the theologian’s way of thinking. Over the next few days in this blog I will be comparing Samuel Escobar’s approach to the theology of mission as seen in his article “Beyond Liberation Theology: Evangelical Missiology in Latin America” to Jeremy Wynne’s study of Jurgen Moltmann’s theology of mission in “Serving the Coming God: The Insight’s of Jurgen Moltmann’s Eschatology for Contemporary Theology of Mission.”

Samuel Escobar

Escobar’s article attempts to ask the question: what is a Latin theology of mission going to look like? He begins to answer this question by examining the history of Christianity in Latin America. Here he recalls the struggle between the religious hierarchy and the Indians. Yet despite the history of conflict in Latin America he notices what he calls a historical fact: “the liberating power of the gospel in the lives of Latin Americans”[1] Having explained the political, cultural, economic, and religious conflicts in Latin America he goes on to explain that Christianity in Latin America has been influenced by three major kinds of thought: 1-16th Century Catholic Christianity, 2-19th and 20th Century Evangelical Christianity, and 3-Marxism. These three have shaped and molded not only Christianity in Latin America but the entire culture of the Americas. One specific way in which these three strands of thought have affected Latin American thinking is through Liberation Theology. Liberation theology which was mostly a Catholic creation reacts to an Empire building type of Christianity, takes in to account the evangelical gospel which is “a liberating force”, and Marxist ways of thinking. Escobar says that Liberation Mission Theologians apply two principles: “1- an analysis of the social, economic, and political aspects of the missionary enterprise itself and 2- an understanding of the missionary enterprise within a global view of human history.”[2] Missiology which takes this approach attempts to take into account the social and political realities of Latin America. Escobar believes that “we can no longer afford a missiology that refuses to take seriously the social and political realities”[3] yet he believes that Liberation Theology uses incorrect principles for creating a theology of mission. He believes that the basis for a proper theology of mission is the social sciences and Biblical Revelation.[4] Unlike liberation theology which first believes that we must “first perceive God in history… only then do you go to Scripture or to Christian truth in order to read,”[5] Escobar proposes that the Bible, especially biblical Christology, is the foundation for theology of mission. Escobar concludes by saying that Evangelical missiology will be formed with and by the people yet its basis is not in the people themselves but by evangelical commitments.[6]

[1] Samuel Escobar, “Beyond Liberation Theology: Evangelical Missiology in Latin America,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 6, no. 3 (July 1982): 108.

[2] Escobar, “Beyond Liberation Theology: Evangelical Missiology in Latin America,” 110.

[3] Escobar, “Beyond Liberation Theology: Evangelical Missiology in Latin America,” 111.

[4] Escobar, “Beyond Liberation Theology: Evangelical Missiology in Latin America,” 112.

[5] Escobar, “Beyond Liberation Theology: Evangelical Missiology in Latin America,” 112.

[6] Escobar, “Beyond Liberation Theology: Evangelical Missiology in Latin America,” 113.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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