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David J. Hesselgrave: Paradigms in Conflict

Hesselgrave points to William Carey as the “father of modern missions” and emphasizes two important words in the title of Carey’s book, An Inquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen. Those words are means and conversion. The means God uses are people – missionary societies; and their task was and still is to “convert the heathen.”

All religions other than Christianity, Hesselgrave argues, are “systems that Satan, disguised as an ‘angel of light,’ employs to predispose adherents to disbelieve in the Christ of the biblical gospel” (p. 90).

Only a few mistakes were encountered. In commenting on the Greek word kosmos (world), Hesselgrave says, “In that chapter alone [John 16] it appears some forty times” (p. 190). I could only find seven uses of kosmos there. Wilbur Pickering is misspelled as Wilber on p. 265; for Adolph Saphir he has Sapir (p. 336), and Dan Reid is renamed Donald on p. 340. These errors make it into the index as well. Ironically, William Dyrness is morphed into William Dryness, but only once (p. 333). An extraneous “rest” occurs on the second to last line of p. 335, and there is a noticeably inconsistent use of the apostrophe to show possession with words ending in “s” (pp. 338-340–Jesus’, versus Edwards’s, p. 349, and most elsewhere). Hesselgrave rather generously states that Paul “provided approximately half of the entire New Testament record” (p. 155). It might be more accurate to say approximately one third, whether considered chapter wise (87 of 260), by total verses, or even pages written. I also thought Hesselgrave was a little too hard on Barnabas after his disagreement with Paul–amassing five not so logical arguments against Barnabas and in favor of Paul (p. 219).

Despite those minor issues, Hesselgrave is delightful to read. I was informed and challenged in my thinking on every page and consider this to be the most enlightening book I have read in some time. I would recommend that anyone interested in missions at any level give it a thorough reading.

Reviewed by James A. Borland

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Spring 2007

About the Author: James A. Borland, Th.D. (Grace Theological Seminary), is past president of the Evangelical Theological Society, and Secretary-Treasurer since 1992. He is Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Theology at the Rawlings School of Divinity at Liberty University (Lynchburg, Virginia) having taught there since 1977. He served on the N.T. Executive Translation Committee for the NKJV, penned Christ in the Old Testament, A General Introduction to the New Testament, and six biblical commentaries. He is a founding member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

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