In Proverbs 29:18 we are told that "where there is no vision, the people perish." This text may, no doubt, be interpreted in various ways. I believe, however, that it is particularly true with regard to the foreign mission vision of the church. Without question, if our people lose their vision of their foreign mission responsibilities, they will perish and the church cannot survive. The fulfillment of the command of Jesus Christ, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," is the only basis for the existence of the church. If the people, for any reason, lose sight of that fundamental reason for the existence of the denomination, then surely "the people perish."
Although some of our missionaries, owing to the exigencies of war, have had to leave their fields and return to the homeland, at this very time the General Conference is making definite plans for reconstructing and extending our great world-wide missions enterprise. Our leaders, our workers, and our people in general have a heavy responsibility in planning for a sustained mission advance until the work is finished. We expect that our people will continue earnestly to pray for, and loyally to support by their means, this work which must be accomplished in all the lands of the earth. Students in our institutions and younger workers should be diligently preparing themselves so that when they are needed, there will be available an army of prospective missionaries ready to say, "Here am I; send me."
Upon the leaders devolves the responsibility of kindling and fostering this missions spirit among our people and workers. I am not suggesting that this is not being done. But the time left is short, and the unaccomplished task is so immense that it seems to me much more needs to be done than has yet been attempted. In normal times our workers and people receive, as it were, a bird's-eye view of our great missions enterprise by reading the Review and Herald and the Sabbath school missions readings. But during this war emergency no reports are forthcoming from many overseas fields. It would seem wise, therefore, for our workers to do some special reading, to secure for themselves information which they can use to maintain and develop the spirit of missions in our people.
One of the greatest foreign mission problems confronting this denomination is the work for Moslem people. There are not far short of three hundred million people who believe that Mohammed is God's chosen successor to Christ and superior to Him. For this vast multitude of non-Christians, we have scarcely begun to labor. In the Near East alone there are approximately sixty million Moslems for whom we have as yet done comparatively nothing. The General Conference Committee is placing ten missionary families under appointment immediately for work in those Moslem lands of the Near East just as soon as it is possible for them to go forward. They are already studying the Arabic language and other related subjects at our own Theological Seminary while they wait for God to clear the way for them to go to their fields.
Urgency of Work for Moslems
This forward-looking plan should have the enthusiastic and intelligent support of all our people and workers. Unfortunately, in general, our people know nothing, or at best very little, regarding the needs and the urgency of this work for Moslems. When our ministers preach to them about the approaching end, and the unfinished task which prevents our Lord from returning, how many of them stress the fact that there are almost three hundred million Moslems yet to be reached with the message of a crucified and soon-coming Saviour ?
In this issue of the Ministry, two books are reviewed, one "The Christian Approach to the Moslem" and the other "Man's Quest for Salvation." The first will contribute very materially in helping our workers intelligently and forcefully to impress our people with the tremendous Moslem challenge confronting us as a denomination. The second will help to make our workers and people acquainted with the beliefs of the followers of other religions, and their pathetic need for a saving knowledge of Christ, the Saviour of the world.
May we urge that our workers purchase these two books and read them as electives in connection with the Ministerial Reading Course. A careful study of these books will repay the workers themselves for the investment, and there should also be a rich dividend of a more intelligent and enthusiastic interest in our unfinished task on the part of our people. May God grant that our workers especially shall possess a proper, undimmed vision of our foreign missions responsibilities, so that our people shall not perish for want of that spiritual life and inspiration which comes from carrying out the great commission given us by our Lord.
The Christian Approach to the Moslem, James Thayer Addison, Columbia University Press, New York City, 1942, 365 pp., $3.75.
The following book review by K. H. Latourette, appearing in the July,1942,Moslem World, deserves a careful reading by our workers, so that they may have an intelligent comprehension of one of the greatest problems we face in the finishing of God's work in the earth.
"There is no occasion for dismay or despair as the church faces the Moslem world. Many friends of missions have acted as though there were. They have often had a feeling of frustration. In the course of its history the Crescent has won far more ground from the Cross than the Cross has regained from the Crescent. When, in the face of the great Christian missionary movement of the past century and a half, the Crescent and the Cross have competed for the allegiance of animists, the former has often advanced more rapidly than the latter. No well-informed observer can honestly gainsay these sobering facts. Yet the Christian need not admit defeat. A comprehensive survey of the record of Protestant missions to Moslems in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries shows encouraging, even though numerically slight, gains. In the past twenty-five years these gains have been gathering momentum.
"This is the impression made by a reading of Dr. James Thayer Addison's latest book, 'The Christian Approach to the Moslem.' Dr. Addison has long commanded the respect of students of Christian missions by his sound scholarship, his gracious charm, and his clear Christian faith.
"The first section of the book, which includes seven chapters and about a fourth of the pages, is a rapid, comprehensive survey of the pre-nineteenth century relations of Christianity and Islam. It has to do chiefly with Roman Catholic efforts to win the Moslems. It narrates in excellent fashion the story which, well known to the experts, is all too little familiar to the average missionary and pastor. The remainder of the volume, about three fourths of the whole, covers, country by country, Protestant missions to Moslems. In connection with each land there is given something of the political, social, and religious setting in the midst of which missions have operated. Not all the Protestant agencies are catalogued. To have done so would have increased the usefulness of the book as a work of reference but would have greatly extended its length and perhaps have detracted from its readability.
"In the concluding chapters, generalizations are ventured on the methods employed for the care of the convert and on some of the main features of missions to Moslems. Doctor Addison has been careful to bring the story down to date. His interest is not so much in the history for its own sake, as in making the history contribute to the continuing and growing efforts to bring the gospel to the Moslems.
"The total impression which the book makes is one of hope. When the entire Moslem field is surveyed, it is clear that a considerable amount of effort has been expended by Protestants in their endeavor to reach the Moslems. On the whole, this effort has been growing. Lessons in methods of approach have been learned. Improved training for missionaries has been devised and applied. Advance has been registered in the preparation, printing, and distribution of literature. Moreover, in the past quarter of a century, increasing numbers of Moslems have been won to Christ and have affiliated themselves with the church.
"The movement has been particularly marked in Iran, India, and the Dutch East Indies. It would be distorting the facts to claim that any mass movement is in progress. Conversions are as yet a mere trickle. But here and there the trickle is becoming a rivulet, even though still a small one. Protestants have not yet directed nearly so much attention to the Moslem world as to some of the other non-Christian sections of the globe. Yet advance can be recorded. It is to be hoped that this book will contribute to the advance. That clearly is the wish of the author. He has not written for the expert, but for the thoughtful Christian and the rank and file of those who are committed to missions."
While other Christian organizations have made some progress in this most difficult of all mission tasks, Seventh-day Adventists can scarcely be said to have made a beginning. But we now recognize our responsibility, and the denomination is planning to concentrate on this important phase of our foreign mission work.
T. J. MICHAEL.