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Spring 1991 · Vol. 20 No. 1 · pp. 118–19 

Book Review

Gustav Warneck's missiologisches Erbe

Hans Kasdorf. Giessen and Basel; Pasadena, CA: Brunnen; School of World Mission, 1990. xviii + 488 pages.

Reviewed by Gerhard Ratzlaff

Gustav Warneck (1834-1910) has been characterized as the “founder not only of the German missiology but also of that of the Protestants,” and as the “educator of the church for mission.” In his time he was praised for his “encyclopedic knowledge of missions.” He became the “leader of the German’s mission life” and the “herald of a united, biblical mission.”

Warneck’s impressive amount of writing and theories have largely been forgotten due in part to the changed world situation caused by two world wars. Even so his principles have continued to be practiced. It is to the credit of Dr. Hans Kasdorf, Professor of World Mission at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, to have rediscovered the biblical-practical mission principles of Warneck and to have shown their relevance in today’s world mission context.

The subtitle of the book reads, “A Biographical-Historical Investigation” and was originally written as a doctoral dissertation in 1976. In this book Kasdorf goes beyond an historical investigation. He practically unravels the whole spectrum of missiological-theological thinking of the world in the time of Warneck. He presents a short overview of selected writings by Warneck (hundreds of books, booklets and articles), then surveys the thinking of Warneck’s predecessors and also his contemporaries even beyond the European continent into the Anglo-Saxon world and finally also the thinking of Warneck’s closest co-workers (six of them, one his own son).

Warneck’s missiology, according to Kasdorf, is based on a sound interpretation of the Bible-both Old and New Testament-with an emphasis on the church’s need for mission. The character of God is mission and the church is God’s instrument for his mission in this world: “The missions of the church come only out of the mission of God” (p. 211).

Since Warneck was Lutheran, he belonged to a state church, but he was raised in the spirit of pietism. However, in {119} Kasdorf’s interpretation, as I read him, Warneck comes very close to the biblical Anabaptist view and practice of mission. “His strong emphasis, that mission is the work of the believers’ church and not that of a ‘state church as the sending agency’ is reminiscent of the mission and church concept of the Anabaptists in the 16th century” (p.226). Could it be that the author put his own deep Anabaptist-Mennonite convictions into the writings and thoughts of Warneck?

Kasdorf cites the following basic concepts of Warneck’s missiology: Christ is the only salvation for all humanity; salvation is only through the grace of God on the one hand and the faith of the individual on the other; God’s command to the church (of believers) is to evangelize (missionize) the whole world; the Great Command in Matthew 28 is basic for the church; and mission churches must be trained to become independent as soon as possible and then carry on mission work themselves.

In the last chapter Kasdorf compares the mission principles of Warneck to those of the School of World Mission (SWM) and Institute of Church Growth at Fuller. He finds them amazingly similar. He concludes that “one gets the impression that much of that which today is formulated as ‘new’ by the SWM was preconceived by Warneck a hundred years ago” (p. 280).

Kasdorf writes in a very clear and readable style. For all those interested in missiology and its history and particularly for missionaries and students this is a book worth while reading.

Gerhard Ratzlaff
Mennonite Theological Seminary
Asunción, Paraguay

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