Jerry Rankin: Ideology of a Postmodern Paradigm -- By: Jon D. Sherrill

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 16:1 (Fall 1998)
Article: Jerry Rankin: Ideology of a Postmodern Paradigm
Author: Jon D. Sherrill


Jerry Rankin: Ideology of a Postmodern Paradigm

Jon D. Sherrill

Th.M. Student in Missions
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC 27587

Introduction

Recent years have produced various ideas and new ways of thinking within the field of missiology. According to David Bosch,1 these new ideologies are not happening by chance; nor are they irreversible. Rather, what has evolved in missionary theology during the last decades is the result of a paradigm shift. This is not only taking place in missions or theology but also in the experience and thinking of the whole world.2

In his book Transforming Mission,3 Bosch describes seven4 distinct paradigm shifts throughout the history of Christianity. Starting with New Testament times, with the aid of the idea of paradigm thinking, he attempts “to demonstrate the extent to which the understanding and practice of missions has changed during almost twenty centuries of Christian missionary history.”5 He then says, “This process of transformation has not yet come to an end (and will, in fact, never come to an end), and that we find ourselves, at the moment, in the midst of one of the most important shifts in the understanding and practice of the Christian mission.”6

Bosch labels the current shift as “postmodern.” He states clearly that the preposition “post” does not suggest a value judgment, nor does “postmodern” signify “antimodern.” Following the thinking of Hans Küng, he uses it as a search concept. In his thinking, “‘post’ looks backward and forward at the same time and ‘does not mean a simple return to precritical, premodern, preliberal discourse, but a ‘pro-volution’ toward an emerging new ... paradigm.”7 He eventually replaces this term with “ecumenical.”

Bosch concludes his book with a chapter called “Elements of an Emerging Ecumenical Missionary Paradigm.” In this chapter he defines distinct characteristics that are emerging within the current postmodern paradigm. The primary question of this paper is: Are some of these characteristics evident in the ideology of Jerry Rankin, President of the International Mission Board8 of the Southern Baptist Convention? And if so, how are they to be understood? The thesis of

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