Inauguration Of The Asia Missions Association, Seoul, Korea, 1975
We have met together for five days, from August 28 to September 1, 1975, in Seoul, Korea, a city where East and West, North and South meet. We met to advocate anew the urgency of the Christian mission.
The historic gathering, the inaugural convention of the Asia Missions Association, is the outgrowth of the First all Asia Mission Consultation held in Seoul from August 27 to September 1, 1973, which was itself a unique event in the history of Christianity in Asia.
We have gathered now from sixteen nations: the twelve Asian nations of Bangladesh, Brunei, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Thailand, and the four western nations of Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. We have paved a new, broad road linking the East and West, the North and South in Christian mission, unlike the old, restricted, one-way road of mission from the West (Isaiah 62:10).
As we stand poised ready to march forward along this newly built highway of world mission, and as we stand also on the threshold of a new era, we humbly recognize the need to examine ourselves in the light of the merits and failures of Protestant mission during the past 2000 years.
We also have experienced during the fifteen years since the dissolution of the International Missionary Council, 45 years after its formation, the total confusion and distortion of the concept of Christian mission as well as of the nature of The Christian Gospel, which its cries for “Renewal in Mission” brought to the Third World.
The experience compelled Christians around the world to reexamine that trend and the dangers inherent in it. Christian leaders of the West express their concern and their convictions in a series of declarations, such as the Wheaton Declaration (1966), the Frankfurt Declaration (1970), and the Berlin Declaration (1974). We Christian leaders of the East now join with them in reasserting the biblical concept of Christian mission.
We reject a hypocritical, judgmental attitude toward the history of mission; it is God who will judge. We do, however, need to analyze the past, determining what methods to accept and what to reject, in the light of biblical principles, and also in order to clarify our task and direction.
I. Examination and Repentance of the Past
The Protestant Christian mission, during the past two centuries since William Carey’s call to world mission in 1792, has spread Christianity, which had confined itself largely to Europe for over a thousand years, to almost every nation-around the world. We gratefully salute the numerous heroic pioneers of Christian mission who dedicated their lives not only for the sake of saving souls in many nations, but also for the sake of assisting the peoples of those nations in solving basic human problems inseparable from the right of existence. In such broad areas of enlightenment as education, medicine, and benevolent services, the pioneers carried the light of knowledge to people in darkness and ignorance, brought health to the sick, assisted the poor, and helped to plant and cultivate living, indigenous churches in Asia.
Nevertheless, we are compelled to point out honestly that the territorial expansion, commercialism, imperialism, and colonialism of Western nations often have been stumbling blocks in presenting the core of the Gospel to the oppressed peoples of the Third World, and unfortunately have led many people to regard the Christian mission a vehicle of Western imperialism.
It is true, as history indicates, that the Christian mission has, in fact, instilled patriotism and ideas of equality and freedom in the hearts of oppressed people, brought enlightenment to people awakening from the slumbers of feudalism, and inspired them to resistance against the imperialism of racial discrimination and paternal domination. But, it is also true that an anti-West sentiment had been planted in the hearts of church leaders of non-Western nations by such paternalistic attitudes as intervention and master-servant relationship. This should be cleared first of all through a normalization of the East-West relationship.
At the same time, we humbly recognize and repent of our own failures and mistakes: We Christians in the Third World often have been over-dependent upon the Western churches. We have been too slow to realize our responsibility to share the missionary vision. We have been even blaming the Western Church for our own deficiencies and failures. Forgetting the great sacrifices and investment which the Western Church has made on our behalf.
While it is painful for us to point out past failures, it is also gratifying that we can honestly examine ourselves and repent of our mistakes.
II. Criticism and Reflection upon the Present Reality
We give a serious warning concerning the man-centered mission of modern liberalism, which destroys the God-centered mission based on the biblical doctrine of incarnation. In order to return to biblical doctrine of incarnation, in order to return to biblical principles, and to regain the original task of mission, we need to reject counterfeit principles.
A. We recognize that we have to turn back from the socio-politically oriented “Missio Dei,” and return to the Missio Christi, the proclamation of His redemptive death and resurrection, as He enjoined His disciples (Matt. 28:18-20).
Christian mission should not aim at the expansion of ideologies or the gaining of power. The Missio Dei was originally a concept in Roman Catholic dogmatic theology that described divine activities within the Trinity. Modern liberals have adopted the term to justify their mission activities which have departed from the original scope of Christian mission, the proclamation of the redemptive Gospel through the death and resurrection of Christ. The modern liberal concept of Missio Dei has above all refused the biblical concept of sin as spiritual alienation from God and has instead provided us with a concept of sin as the “structural evil” of socio-politico-economic structures.
The Conference on World Mission and Evangelism at Bangkok 1973 has accordingly placed the liberation of people from structural evils as the main task of Christian mission, and has even adopted violence as a justifiable means to accomplish the reform of socio-political structures.
We hereby remind ourselves that unless we turn back from the apostate activities against the Cross of Christ committed in the gracious name of Missio Dei, we will be involved in graver evils than those committee during the past two centuries of Christian mission. We are therefore obligated to declare that the essential and fundamental task of the Christian mission is to proclaim the redemptive power of
the Gospel of Jesus Christ which transforms even the structures of society.
B. We recognize that we have to turn back from the sociological dimension of “Salvation Today,” and return to the original dimension of “Salvation from Sin.”
“Salvation Today” has limited the Christian concept of salvation to the dimension of social justice. It has, first of all, sought salvation in the realization of economic justice in situation in which people have been exploited by others. Secondly, it has taught that movements for civil rights in the face of political oppression would bring salvation. Thirdly, it has taken the struggle for human solidarity as opposed to alienation to be the work of salvation. Fourthly, it has identified the struggle of hope against despair in personal life with Christian salvation. “Salvation Today” has, ultimately, departed
from the spiritual dimension of Christian redemption and has advocated social revolution.
The mottoes of “Salvation Today” are mottoes of social ad political revolution: “No economic justice without political freedom without economic justice;” “No social justice without human solidarity, no human solidarity without social justice;” “No justice, no human rights, no human solidarity without hope; no hope without justice, human rights, or human solidarity.” These mottoes have seriously perverted the biblical teaching of salvation.
Yet, we affirm that we are deeply concerned about social justice and political freedom for those who are exploited and oppressed.
C. We recognize that we have to turn back from “Mission through people’s organizations,” or liberation movements and return to “Mission through Church’s ministry.” Realizing that the churches as confessional communities were insufficient and an undesirable means for accomplishing the social revolution of “Salvation Today,” the modern liberal sought a more adequate vehicle in the people’s organization movement, and have adopted violent means of social struggle and power confrontation to accomplish their aims. Such a mission does not trust the transforming power of the Gospel, but rather relies on the violent powers of the people.
The purpose, function, and training method of the people movements have encouraged the unveiling of social injustice and weakness in underdeveloped nations, and have regarded the overthrow of authority to be its main mission.
Such a politically oriented mission has brought unnecessary tension between the churches and governments in Europe, Africa, and especially in Asia and Latin America. Moreover, the ideological deviation of modern ecumenical mission will inevitably bring the total destruction of the historic Christian message and a return to abysmal darkness.
We declare that the Christian mission must be carried out through the means of grace as instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ and committed to His Church. This can only be done by His servants who have repented of their sins and confessed their faith in Jesus Christ.
D. We recognize that we have to turn back from the mere dialogue with adherents of other religions and ideologies and return to mission as proclamation of the biblical Gospel to the lost.
We agree that dialogue might be useful for an understanding and sympathetic approach to people of other faiths and also a means to lead unbelievers to the Gospel. But we reject the contemporary idea of many ecumenicals which regards the pan-religious dialogue to be the integral force in realizing the World Community, a kind of God’s Kingdom on earth. Realizing that the ecumenical type of dialogue necessarily will result in a complete syncretism, we declare that the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ is the only means of preparing the Kingdom of God.
E. We recognize and declare that we have to turn back from the modern liberal mission based upon “socio foundation,” and return to the Christian mission based on a “biblical foundation.”
The modern ecumenical mission has been influenced by political ideologies in so far as it stresses liberation instead of salvation, people’s community instead of the Kingdom of God, social justice instead of the redemption Gospel, and social revolution instead of personal regeneration.
The followers of this political theology, the “theology of liberation” and the “theology of revolutions,” under the influence of political ideologies, have refused to take the Scriptures to be the Word of God, but have accepted only certain statements from the Scriptures which by way of humanistic, sociological, or political reinterpretation could be used in their textbooks of social revolution.
The foundation of Christian mission is the confession and trust in the Scriptures as the Word of God and as the only norm for Christian faith and practice. The authority of the Scriptures is attested by the Scriptures themselves, and the belief in Scriptural inspiration and infallibility are the precious heritage of the Protestant faith. We cannot accept, as a part of the Christian mission, any activity which challenges biblical authority.
III. The Unfinished Task
Has the Western Christian missionary enterprise accomplished its goal and come to an end, as the advocates of a moratorium insist? We warn against such a hasty conclusion. How many centuries did it take for early Christianity to permeate the Roman Empire? How many centuries did it take for the Gospel to be rooted in the lives of European peoples?
Can we honestly say that the Protestant mission to the world has accomplished its task in just 200 years?
(1) Is it not true that 90% of the world population remains the object of our mission?
(2) The ratio of the present missionary force to the unevangelized world population is one to every 100,000 persons. Yet, certain mission societies are reducing missionary personnel and mission budgets. Should we not send more missionaries?
(3) There are still many of humanity, ethnic groups, and unreached peoples where even a single church does not exist. Are we praying enough for those nations in the world into which missionaries are not allowed to enter? Are we sensitive enough to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in recognizing ways to reach the unreached?
(4) There is a great shortage of training institutions. There are many nations in Asia and Africa where no adequate Christian training program exists. In order to have one evangelist for every 1,000 unbelievers, we will have to train 4,000,000 persons. Do we not need such training programs in many places around the world?
(5) 50% of the Asian population, 80% of the African population, and 60% of the Latin American population are illiterate. There are over 2,000 language groups which do not have their own alphabets and, also, do not possess the Scriptures translated into their own languages. Do not these people need trained missionaries?
(6) The publication rate of Scriptures and of Christian literature is woefully inadequate in comparison to the population size of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Do we not need to solve these problems? To advocate a moratorium of the Christian mission in the face of the desolate reality of the mission field is erroneous human judgment destitute of the power of the Holy Spirit. We have to train new mission forces to succeed to the Western mission before we talk of the termination of it.
IV. Development of the New Mission Force and the Cooperation of the East and West
The task that remains is far greater than that which has been accomplished. We realize our heavy responsibility for carrying out the unfinished task, a responsibility which is ours until Christ comes again.
There are significant potential mission forces emerging from various countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. We realize the urgency to mobilize and train these forces.
This is the purpose that has called into being the Asia Missions Association, and that has inspired the foundation of the East-West Center for Missions Research and Development.
To carry out the heavy task of recruiting and training new mission forces requires long-term efforts, a close cooperation between East and West, and a tremendous expenditure of funds.
What is the current world situation? We face perhaps greater tension and threat than in any previous period. The emergence of totalitarian forces, the confrontation between tribes, social confusion brought about by the uprising of peoples, the decline of morality, and spiritual despair are all characteristics of our world situation.
The world today is grouping through a dark maze for a new international order to replace the crumbled order of the past. The situation in Asia is rather serious. Our Christian brothers from Vietnam and the Khmer Republic who were here two years ago cannot participate in this historic gathering.
In the face of this serious situation, we recognize and declare that the Christian mission should no longer be carried out as a one-way and uncoordinated effort.
The Holy Spirit has brought us consciously to realize and experience our oneness in Christ. For the edifying of the body of Christ and for the expansion of the Kingdom of God, we are persuaded anew that in our mission we as members of one Body must continue to be “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies” (Eph. 4:16).
We do hereby appeal to all Western evangelical mission societies still active in Asia: Do not any longer go you own way. Do not any longer compete with each other and with us. Do cooperate with the growing evangelical leadership in Asia.
Let us establish a united front of East and West, North and South, to carry out the unfinished task of the Christian mission.
We do also appeal to emerging mission forced and their leadership in Asia:
(1) Let us not be discouraged because of our immaturity and weakness.
(2) Let us not be in low spirits because of indifference and contempt for the Christian mission on the part of those around us.
(3) Let us neither fear nor tremble at the tremendous distance that separates vision and reality.
(4) At the same time, let us not be over-confident because of some small and partial accomplishment.
(5) Let us learn humbly from the experiences of those who have preceded us in the field in the long history of Christian mission.
(6) Let us establish an open, common arena in which we can cooperate.
(7) Since we realize that the world is under Satanic influence until Christ comes again, we realize even more the need to establish a united front for effective mission strategy.
Every sign in the present world indicates that world history is approaching its eschatological consummation as prophesied in the Scriptures. We believe that there is little enough time left for the proclamation of the Gospel because the coming of Christ, as promised in the Scripture, is imminent.
We cannot, therefore, allow ourselves to be engaged in unnecessary controversies and competition but should allow ourselves to be united in fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord.
The secret by which we, a minority, will gain victory in evangelism lies solely in the power of the Holy Spirit that can unite our scattered forces into a common front.
V. Our Covenant
Whereas we are charged to preach the Word, as the Apostle Paul says in II Tim. 4:1, 2; “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine;”
And whereas we are commanded by our Living Lord to be His witnesses: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
We therefore declare that we are obliged to carry out that commission in the Pauline spirit, proclaiming nothing but the Gospel of the Cross, and trusting in the Word of our Lord who said, “and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).
In this spirit we pledge ourselves to march forward.