Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Encountering New Religious Movements
In 1993 I had the privilege of working with Jim Stephens of The Sonrise Center for Buddhist Studies ona Buddhism theme issue of the International Journal of Frontier Missions Vol. 10, no. 3 (July 1993)< http://www.ijfm.org/archives.htm#Volume10>. Given my research and work in I was interested in seeing this and other missions journals devoted specifically to treatment on new religious movements. In 1998 I approached the editor of IJFM, Hans Weerstra, about the possibility of his journal addressing this issue. He agreed, and we produced Vol. 15, no. 3 (July-September 1998), where I served as a guest and theme editor <http://www.ijfm.org/archives.htm#Volume15>.
Several years later, given the depth and complexity of new religions, and the lack of treatment on these groups and movements from a missiological perspective among evangelicals, I thought about contacting Mr. Weerstra about the possibility of a follow up issue. But after contacting my friend and colleague Philip Johnson, we thought that a book format might be more appropriate. We compiled a "wish list" of contributors and topics, drafted a proposal, and sent it to Kregel Publications which was then developing a new line of Academic and Professional books. After some discussion Kregel agreed to publish the book and it came out in 2004 as Encountering New Religious Movements: A Holistic Evangelical Approach, with Irving Hexham, Stephen Rost and I serving as co-editors.
The book is divided into three sections: Biblical and Historical Perspectives, Methodological Issues, and Practical Application. The book is the result of a group of top-notch international contributors, and the volume puts forward the thesis that we have not gotten very far approaching new religions through the lens and paradigm of "cult busting" and heresy refutation. Instead, we suggest that given that the new religions in many cases represent the cutting edge of growth of the older world religions, new religions should be approached from the perspective of cross-cultural missions. (See the book at Amazon.com by clicking the following link:)
Kregel took something of a gamble on two unknown co-editors, and several unknown contributors (at least in the U.S.), but given that Irving Hexham was working as co-editor, and the book contained contributions by leading scholars that included not only Hexham and his wife Karla Poewe-Hexham, Terry Muck, and David Hesselgrave, they decided it was a "safe bet." It was one that paid off for them. The book has been well received and positively reviewed by missions journals in the U.S. and abroad. In addition, the book was positively reviewed by Christianity Today magazine <http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/007/30.67.html>, and earlier this year we won the 2005 Christianity Today Book of the Year Award in the category of missions/global affairs <http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/006/16.30.html>.
This award, from the flagship periodical of the American evangelical world, and the positive reviews of the book by missions periodicals, indicate that the thesis put forward in the book by its contributors is worthy of serious consideration. For those interested in a book-length treatment of issues discussed in this blog, our book should be considered "must read."