Missiologist Brings Adventist Perspective
to New Book on Christian Mission
Publication is an outgrowth of 2010 Edinburgh World Missionary Conference
BY ELIZABETH LECHLEITNER, Adventist News Network
Christ is the mobilizing force for witness, and the Bible offers a comprehensive diagnosis and cure to the world’s problems, a top Seventh-day Adventist missiologist says in a recently published book.
Ganoune Diop brings the Adventist Church’s perspective to Witnessing to Christ in a Pluralistic Age: Christian Mission Among Other Faiths (Regnum Books). The book, a product of last year’s Edinburgh World Missionary Conference, also includes perspectives on mission from Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Pentecostal church representatives.
The first Edinburgh World Missionary Conference, held in Scotland more than a century ago, is still considered a watershed in the collaborative shaping of mission ideology and methods. Diop, an academic and theologian who currently serves as the church’s representative to the United Nations, spoke at last year’s conference as cochair of the Foundation of Mission session.
In his essay, “An Adventist Perspective: Mission to World Religions and Contemporary World Views,” Diop calls Christ the “ultimate criterion” for assessing a religion’s need for mission.
The idea that Christ motivates Christian witness lies at the core of Scripture, Diop says. The Bible is abundantly clear that “fellowship with God” is restored only through acceptance of God’s love and Jesus’ incarnation, life and teachings, sacrifice, victory over death, and priestly ministry, he says.
“Nowhere but in the Bible do we find this whole chain of truth. What we find is Jesus—who He actually is, His divinity,” Diop says. “The Bible provides a comprehensive diagnosis of human problems and a comprehensive solution. Ultimately, that solution is Jesus, who came to cancel all the negatives. He defeated evil and death, and He is coming again to restore peace, justice, and righteousness. That we don’t find anywhere else.”
The distinctiveness of the Adventist faith stands out as some Christians may be tempted to dilute what sets Christ apart to better fit a culture of tolerance, Diop says.
But today’s notion of tolerance is a misnomer, he says.
“There’s a naive assumption that tolerance means endorsement. No. People have the right to life, the right to freedom, the right to expression, the right to their own choices, but that does not make those choices compelling to everyone,” Diop says.
“Respecting their rights? We must, unquestionably. We owe every human being respect, dignity, courtesy, and decency, but that does not mean accepting, endorsing, or embracing their values,” he says.
Diop says while mission begins with “common ground,” it must go beyond that. Muslims and Christians can find commonalities between the Koran and the Bible, but ultimately the words they use are caught in what Diop calls “webs of meaning,” or context. “The Jesus of the Koran is different from the Jesus in the Bible. He didn’t die on the cross; he’s not God. Muslims and Christians say they are both ‘people of the Book,’ but strictly speaking, Christians are not people of the Book. They are people of a person, Jesus Christ,” Diop says.
If religions don’t acknowledge that there are often more differences than commonalities, “we really deceive ourselves and others,” he says.
“Because ethically you find people who are decent, generous, kind, and so forth, but we should not confuse individual ethical choices and lifestyles with the validity or endorsement of a given world religion. These are two different things,” Diop says.
Witnessing to Christ in a Pluralistic Age is expected to serve as a textbook for students of missiology worldwide.
As the church’s United Nations liaison, Diop represents the church’s values and concerns to world leaders and other people of influence in New York and Geneva. He previously oversaw the church’s five Global Mission study centers.