Saturday, January 03, 2009

Missionaries are OK

I read this fascinating article in the Times called I believe Africa needs God by Matthew Parris. It is radical not least because Parris is a vocal atheist who are not generally found affirming the work of missionaries.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
(Read the full article via the link)

There are lots of potential reflections but one is that the atheist, like the Christian, can take many different forms and Parris is an example of one form that I find thoughtful, generous and appealing. Perhaps he might have something to teach us all.

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