Faculty-edited text tackles tough issues facing missionaries

Julie Owens


Keith Eitel and prominent missiologist David Hesselgrave met in the early 1980s when they worked together in the Evangelical Missiological Society. Both men were devoted to the organization, which upholds missions and evangelism in a secularizing world. 

Eitel, now dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Seminary, was a charter member of the EVM, which Hesselgrave co-founded. Later, Hesselgrave was the director for Eitel’s doctoral program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill.

More than three decades later, their collaboration has produced the second edition of Paradigms in Conflict, Hesselgrave’s classic mission text, revised while Hesselgrave was on his deathbed. The expanded edition was published last month.

“I had been mulling over a revision of Paradigms for a year or so prior to our start on this work and proposed it to him,” says Eitel, who shared Hesselgrave’s passion for mission work. “He was happy for it to be done. He edited and revised the main original text, and then I picked the four other contributors, and we each did an update to two of his original 10 paradigms that conflicted in missiology.”

“My thoughts on the subject of world Christianity was a new chapter,” Eitel adds. “Additionally, maintaining an exclusive view of salvation in Christ alone in a pluralistic world was a contribution I made specifically. Finally, I edited all the other contributors.”

Hesselgrave, a scholar known for making missions cross-cultural and changing how people think of contextualizing the Gospel, died in May at age 94. A pastor turned missionary to Japan for 12 years, he was once deemed “the dean of evangelical missiology.” 

Hesselgrave was among just a few academics in the 1970s who recognized the importance of culture as a factor in how people interpret theology. He also authored the acclaimed textbook Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally.

Drawing from Scripture, social sciences and history, this revised edition of Paradigms in Conflict tackles some of the most pressing issues facing missionaries and students of missions based on solid evangelical interpretation. Hesselgrave proposes that much of traditional theology remains valid for the future of Christian missions, and he and his contributors illustrate how theological issues have real impact on missions while offering their own perspectives. 

Current and prospective missionaries, pastors, seminary students, missions committee members and laypeople interested in world Christianity will all benefit from the discussions covered in this book.This new edition includes five more questions along with new reflections on the 10 questions examined in the first edition, including the question of whether sovereignty and free will are an impossible mix, and how to approach adherents of other faiths.

Paradigms in Conflict: 15 Key Questions in Christian Missions Today was published by Kregel Publications and is available now here.