Samuel Escobar is a well-known theologian within the Latin American community and viewed as one of the main participants in the International Congress on World Evangelism at Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974 over the years. He is also the president of the United Bible societies and of the International Fellowship of Evangelic Students and contributed immensely to the subject of global mission both in theory and practically. The contemporary Christian missions are compelled to comply with the global trends and the forces of globalization in order to remain relevant as opposed to the trends that were predominant in the third millennium of the Christian era. Escobar makes significant contribution and consequently influence on the aspect of contemporary global mission by exploring the new realities and forces of a globalized world as well as critically assessing the context of a vastly dynamic mission which hold to the earlier pedagogical teachings and beliefs as well as shifting to the highly secular content. Escobar also presents a significantly Bible based theology on the context of global mission particularly on how Christians are to undertake global mission (Taylor, 2000). This research will hence delve into theses by Escobar on global mission, then compares and contrasts his theological contributions against other theologians such as Tillich, Rahner among others while exploring the basis upon which his theses are founded and critique the idea that Christian theology is contextual by engaging with other theological schools from an American and/or global setting.
Analysis of Escobar's thesis and how he elaborates it in his book
In his book, The New Global Mission, Escobar provides a history of missions within the context of globalization, post-Christian as well as post-modern. He opines that "the heart of mission" is the drive to share the good news with all, to cross every boarder with the gospel (Escober, p.13)." Escobar discusses how God is using Latin America, Africa and part of Asia to propel and perpetuate the noble practice of global mission and also brings forth how the Christian mission has become the responsibility of the global church rather than just a responsibility of churches in a given region.
Escobar further indicates that there is a "new balance of numerical and spiritual strength in the Christian world" (Escobar, 2003-page 15) hence the regional churches that traditionally participated in mission ventures have seen the scales tilt and now more churches from unlikely regions or not-traditional regions join in the mission work. This approach of diverse churches from different regions participating actively in the contemporary mission helps to fortify the arguments by Escobar that Christianity is a truly global phenomenon. The practice of Christianity in these cases expresses the protestant conviction of the decisive importance of Scripture as the source of the Christian faith and presents mission as the means through which God uses to extend his church (pg. 131).
Escobar's opinion on cross-cultural missionary strategies is that good mission has to follow or be based on the example put forth by Jesus Christ because it is Jesus Christ who transcended the cultural boundaries and ventured into the culture of other people with the gospel mission at hand. Escobar further indicates that "If Christ is at the center of the gospel and of missionary activity, his way of being God's missionary also becomes a pattern for life and mission" (Pp 106).
Escobar also tries social activity which is the same to evangelism. His opinion cannot be separated. He says "I also believe that providing relief and service cannot be divorced from evangelism, because the world needs both their presence and their proclamation" (Escobar 2003, pg. 151). Escobar's standpoint is reflected in the statement f the U.S. Congress on Evangelism that emphasized the centrality of faithfulness to the standards of the Bible in carrying out evangelism and mission without which these two noble courses would not be possible (pg. 145). Escobar's notion is elaborated on how he illustrates his understanding of mission philosophies as well as, methodologies. While presenting an idea about the missionary movements' structure, he stresses that Christian institutions are viable to implementing Christian mission (pg.19)
Escobar's contextual approach to theological theme (God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Bible, Salvation and the Church).
On the political and social realities of the time, Escobar constructs a theological approach that embraces and takes care of the realities presented by these two factors hitherto mentioned. Aspresented by Escobar, there are four lines of thought in Jurgen Moltmann's systematic theology that is deemed important to the concept of missiology and in particular his eschatology. The notion of eschatology opens up the future, points to the Trinitarian nature and working of God, discusses the Christian theology of history and indicates the scope of salvation. According to Moltmann, there is need to have an open approach to the future of history since this is what will give the requisite room for the mysterious and unpredictable works of God, doing otherwise would dim the perspective of the peoples' hope for the future (Greenman, 2012). This assertion is central to missiology bearing that it attempts to explain the plans of God and His identity as he enacts those plans.
In his book, Escobar stresses how the social and political realities have impacted the Latin theology of mission as well as the fact that any good theological approach in the current times must as of necessity account for such realities within the society as well. However, Moltmann's eschatology is understood to serve as a starting point for carrying out missiology. Systematic theology is the foundation for missiology and therefore Escobar's and Moltmanns' views on theology fully support the approach and the notion of systematic theology.
In his book, Escobar also shares theological themes which include the importance of remembering that God uses the weak people to confound the strong. Unlike other theologians such as Karl Rahner who argue that Catholic theology before the Second Vatican Council had a kind of defensive mentality against the world, he affirms that many religions proclaimed God's truth through the Bible, however, Escobar proposes that the Bible which is seen as the biblical Christology is the foundation of the missions carried out globally and therefore, human beings cannot in any way afford to embrace missiology that is in counter approach to the social and political realities.
Escobar's overall theological contribution
The contributions made by Escobar challenges the theological perspectives of Moltmann and Karl Rahner in that; Escobar constructs a theology mission which takes into account the dynamic nature of social and political realities, however, Rahner and Moltmann's theological perspective are merely relevant to missiology. According to Escobar, the contribution of evangelical theology to his change for many years has been as a result of search for a new model for mission and Christological paradigm for social ethics (Greenman, 2012). He adds by saying that, since the introduction of Global missions, there has been a significant change in the way Latin American Christians perceive the person of Jesus Christ. Escobar's contribution to Global Mission is clear indicators or rapid growth and expansion of the church. To him, globalization of missionary work and expansion is aided by adequate communication systems as well as massive immigration across the world. He asserts; "It is the transcultural witnessing for Christ that takes place as people move around as migrants or refuges, just as in the New Testament days" (pg.17).
Cultural diversity and influence on ministry
Ideas have consequences and therefore the way people think about God may affect the way they respond to him. Many people think that theology is irrelevant, just because they think God is dull and irrelevant. In a culturally diverse ministry, the above discussed perspectives would influence ministry by encouraging dynamism, pluralism and total tolerance between the missionaries and the recipients of the missionary work. For instance, the Bible is written…