He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:32

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Thursday, July 14, 2011 

History: The World Missions Made

Mead highlights the role of American missionaries not only in hte formation of a moral Wilsonian foreign policy, but in the creation of “global civil society.” He goes so far as to suggest that the “very concept of a global civil society comes to us out of the missionary movement.”

He adds, “Certainly before the missionaries no large group of people set out to build just such a world. The concept that ‘backward’ countries could and should develop into Western-style industrial democracies grew up among missionaries, and missionary relief and development organizations like World Vision and Catholic Relief Services remain at the forefront of development efforts. The idea that the governments of the Western world had a positive duty to support the development of poor countries through financial aid and other forms of assistance similarly comes out of the missionary world. Most contemporary international organizations that provide relief from natural disasters, shelter refugees, train medical practitioners for poor countries, or perform other important services on an international basis can trace their origin either to missionary organizations or to the missionary milieu.”

In this context, literal interpretations of Genesis proved politically and socially progressive: “At a time when advanced opinion in the western world was increasingly susceptible to theories of eugenics, ‘scientific racism’ and social Darwinism, missionaries, sometimes acting on the basis of a literal reading of Genesis, stoutly maintained that human beings of all races and nations were descended from common ancestors, shared a common and universal heritage, and were all possessed of equal and inalienable rights.”

- Peter Leithart

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