Review Article Conn On Functionalism And Presupposition In Missionary Anthropology -- By: James O. Buswell, III

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 07:2 (Fall 1986)
Article: Review Article Conn On Functionalism And Presupposition In Missionary Anthropology
Author: James O. Buswell, III


Review Article
Conn On Functionalism And Presupposition
In Missionary Anthropology1

James O. Buswell, III.

William Carey International University

Eternal Word and Changing WorMs: Theology, Anthropology and Mission in Trialogue, by Harvie M. Conn. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.372 pp. $10.95.

I. Introductory Overview

Harvie Conn’s burden is one to be shared by all Christian scholars: the burden for the translation of scholarship into education, and education into action:

How will we preserve the cross-cultural, border-crossing nature of the gospel in our educational settings where only three percent of all undergraduate college students are enrolled in any studies dealing with international affairs or foreign peoples and cultures? How can our theological education models function in a country where, according to a UNESCO study of 30,000 children in nine countries, American students ranked next to last in their comprehension of foreign cultures?

… And will the 2.8 billion people in the world who do not know Christ continue to die with their noses pressed against the windows of our study? (p. 307)

Out of Alvin Toffler’s “waves of change…”2 Conn looks back at the history of the dialogue between anthropology and theology as it relates to missions, and sees two great waves which preceed a new “third wave of exchange” which may be “radically different from the past” (p. 13). But the first two waves

have not disappeared with time. They are still with us. They are more than eras or periods. They represent the heart-worldview of reality, warehouses of images through which we perceive God, the world, and humanity (ibid).

These “waves” or “worldviews” suggest “images of man,” or “paradigms shaped by the way we see things. They give out information signals, messages coded to conform to our system-analysis of reality” (p. 14). Thus

he calls the two waves Consciousness One and Consciousness Two. “Out of that history I make my predictions for the future and suggest the flow of situations that may be shaping the new wave, Consciousness Three” (ibid.).

Conn’s trialogue begins only after a review of the 18th century ferment, and the periods of the Enlightenment and the rationalists, with primary attention given to the approach to religion. This sets the stage for a description of Consciousness One, the principal attributes of which are: (1) depersonalization; (2) dichotomizing — the person as a r...

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