Conquest as Christian Evangelization -- By: Alan Neely

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 10:2 (Spring 1993)
Article: Conquest as Christian Evangelization
Author: Alan Neely


Conquest as Christian Evangelization

Carver-Barnes Lectures
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
November 3-4, 1992

Alan Neely

Luce Professor of Ecumenics and Missions,
Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey

Lecture 1

The First Evangelization of Indo-latin America, 1492: Reflections

The subject of these two lectures was not decided easily, and I confess to having engaged in a prolonged debate with myself about the overall theme and the specific topics to be addressed. The difficulty stemmed from the fact that 1992 is an unusual, even extraordinary year, first because it is the quincentenary of the first voyage of Christopher Columbus and the discovery by Europeans of a new continent or, as some have called it, a new world. Nineteen ninety-two is significant also because it is the tricentenary of the witch trials in Salem in the colony of Massachusetts. And finally, this year is notable because it is the bicentennial of William Carey’s famous sermon—based on Isaiah 54:2–3—to the Northampton Baptist Association, his influential and remarkable treatise, An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen, and the subsequent organization of the “Particular Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen” which together signaled a new era in Christian missions. This is a monumental year that calls not for one or two lectures, but for multiple addresses, seminars, conferences, and commemorations.

Though tempted to deal with the tragic events in the colony of Salem as well as the import of William Carey’s life, I have chosen to concentrate on Columbus and those who followed in the wake of his famous voyage. More precisely, I want to examine the first Christian evangelization of Indo-Latin America. Then in order not to dwell simply on the past, I propose to look also to the future, to what the Roman Catholic Church is now proposing for the Ibero-American continent, that is, what Pope John Paul II is calling the “new evangelization of Latin America.” As much as I am capable, I will refrain from a revisionist approach to this history which unfairly, I believe, subjects the people and the events to analyses based on twentieth-century standards or principles. What I will say is not to imply that Columbus and his followers should have done differently. In fact, given their historical context, I doubt seriously that they could have acted a great deal differently. Still, we should

not pretend as if we were devoid of any knowledge of the last five hundred years. What I want to do...

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