“Speaking about the Sundanese in general terms, we may make two statements which are both equally true. A Sundanese is not at all a [Muslim], and yet he is a convinced [Muslim] devoted to Islam. The explanation of this contradictory statement is to be found in one thing. All things considered, the Sundanese people have almost completely assimilated Islam, fitting it into their own ancient conception of the world and of life. Seen from this angle, the Sundanese have preserved their identity of pre-Islamic times. Yet, precisely because they have assimilated Islam to such an extent within their own ancient way of life, Islam has grown into their life and is really accorded its actual place of authority in the people’s soul. Can missions, can Christianity effect the same thing? No! Why not?

Because missions must formulate the problem on the basis of the Gospel in the following way: Christianity must be rooted in the soul of the Sundanese, it must learn to express itself in Sundanese terms and forms, but it must aso conquer the ancient view of the world and of life and transform it into spiritual life of an essentially different, Christian nature, instead of being submerged by or amalgamated with the old notions, as has been the case with Islam. This is the gigantic task of missions, calling upon people to repent and turn about, yet without ‘quenching the smoking flax.'”

~ Hendrik Kraemer, From Missionfield to Independent Church, p. 129

We talked about this in class the other day. I think there is a lot here for us doing mission in a postmodern context. Do we simply want people in our culture to assimilate Christianity into their lives or do we desire, and believe, that our faith necessitates a fundamental change in persons? Contextual – Yes! Transformative – Yes!


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