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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Away With Western Influences
If you are prepared to lay aside your view that God is an Englishman and that Jesus was a blue-eyed arian, you will be blown away by this book.

Vincent J. Donovan, was a Catholic Missionary in Kenya among the Masai people during the late 60's, and he realised that although they had been there about hundred years and done lots of 'good work', there were...
Published on 29 April 2006 by David Peddie

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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Christianity rediscovered?
Vincent J. Donovan, a Catholic Missionary in Tanzania among the Masai people during the late 60's, realised that although the mission to East Africa had been there for nearly two hundred years and done some 'good work', there were virtually no conversions. (p13.) He realises that all the mission has done is import western Christianity, and he comes to believe that every...
Published on 31 Oct 2011 by Ottmar B.


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5.0 out of 5 stars Creative contextualisation at its best, 30 Mar 2013
This review is from: Christianity Rediscovered (SCM Classics) (Paperback)
Vincent Donovan writes with passion and life-experience of what it means to introduce Christ to a people in a way they can understand. His exploration of what contextualisation means in practice is gripping and informative. It is particularly insightful as he is speaking from the Roman Catholic tradition, yet seeks a way to not impose Roman tradition on African Christians. His candid exploration of themes such as marriage and the priesthood or the sacraments is fascinating. A must-read for anyone involved in cross-cultural Christian ministry.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Christianity rediscovered?, 31 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Christianity Rediscovered (SCM Classics) (Paperback)
Vincent J. Donovan, a Catholic Missionary in Tanzania among the Masai people during the late 60's, realised that although the mission to East Africa had been there for nearly two hundred years and done some 'good work', there were virtually no conversions. (p13.) He realises that all the mission has done is import western Christianity, and he comes to believe that every culture created by God has within its own culture all it needs to believe in Jesus.
Donovan critiques the modern missionary approach and translates the Christian message into the cultural context. With permission of his bishop he started an outreach program into the communities of the Masai with a target of reaching all tribes within a five year period and telling them bout Jesus and salvation in their own culture. Meeting the groups on a weekly basis for a year Donovan gives them the option of either to either choose or reject the message.
Donovan is of the opinion that Christianity has the inner strength necessary to match the primeval force of racism and tribalism (p.43) but shows in a number of passages that he himself is not much above the same. His derogatory comments about the Masai make it difficult to take him serious. Saying that they (the Masai) can reach adulthood without thinking at all (p.42), stereotyping the population as handsome (p.91) and claiming that as pagans they would not be able to forgive those who have offended (p.110) shows that he is imposing western thoughts and ideals onto the culture. While segregation in the US and Apartheid in South Africa were present at the time the book was written and stances like those mentioned above might have been acceptable at that time, surely they are not longer in the 21st century.
With some of his arguments he doesn't seem to be aware that he is already contradicting himself. He is claiming that for Pagans it would be unthinkable to forgive (p.110), however, he shows clear rituals of asking and accepting forgiveness within the culture. The "spittle of forgiveness" (p.48), endaa sinyati or holy food (p.49) or the symbol of grass for peace show clear signs and rituals of reconciliation and forgiveness.
Donovan preached forgiveness to the people, but not before he had preached the Cross. When they heard the message of the crucifixion they first laughed in disbelief `as pagans do'. (p.65) `Then they were scandalised by it as religious people must'. If the people have no need for thinking in terms of the future, or at all, they had no hope of resurrection. The hope of resurrection, the message of Jesus rising again, had to be at the basis for teaching.
Donovan, quoting 1 Cor 1:17, "For Christ did not send me to baptise but to proclaim the gospel", acknowledges the importance of the good news in mission however makes a point of preparing the Masai for baptism as a sacrament necessary for salvation. While he tries to leave his western oriented theology behind he quite clearly is influenced by his catholic traditions. He considers himself to be in a position where he can, and does, refuse baptism if he thinks people are not ready for it. When Donovan thought some of the listeners were not yet ready personally for baptism he thought he should exclude them from it. The community however would not accept this. The community had decided they would after look after the weak ones within a communal faith. Communal faith was a concept Donovan had not met and struggled to accept. When a group did not want to be baptised (p.86) he sees it as them refusing Christ and the Christian message. Again Donovan shows an attitude towards the people where he considers himself of a higher authority. Over a period of years he accepted that Christianity can be either accepted or rejected but at the point of rejection by the group his missionary obligation to them was, for him, finished.
Christianity Rediscovered shows a different approach to mission independent of social provisions like hospitals and schools. Donovan tries to bring the Gospel to the people using images from their own cultural background. By his own admission his plan to evangelize the twenty-six sections of the district has not been accomplished. In addition to that he misses to state what has happened to the people who accepted the Gospel. With more than 25 years after the book was written it would have been opportune to reflect on the results of the mission. Have any of the people started spreading the news themselves, has a mission from within the tribe been developed?
While many reviews of the book are highly supportive, I would suggest it needs to be read within a historical context and not without criticism.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, but not what you might expect, 26 Dec 2012
This review is from: Christianity Rediscovered (SCM Classics) (Paperback)
In spite of the impression one might get from the title, the book is more about catholicism than christianity. His catholic bias is evident with references to Vatican II, the Council of Trent and of the sacraments as being functional rather than symbolic. However, he has a few comments which one would not expect from the typical papist.

For starters he states,

"...every theology or theory must be based on previous missionary experience, and that any theory or theology which is not based on previous experience is empty words, of use to no one."

If taken seriously, it would imply that unless you have spent time as a missionary (which would probably exclude most christians) then any amount of bible study, wider academic theology or experience learned through everyday life is useless. One might wonder if Donovan was familiar with any theologians, though he does quote Augustine, Tillich and Aquinas, none of whom were particularly noted for being missionaries.

He also says,

"I would like to invite the reader to go on that journey with me. But before commencing it, one would want to have the same open-mindedness toward it, with no convictions beyond the one that Christianity is something of value; no preconceived notions about God, salvation, Christ, the meaning of being a Christian, the church...or anything traditionally associated with Christianity."

This is a particularly bizarre statement, as it would require that the reader hold a belief in the value of something completely unknown to them. However, the reasons do become clear, as I shall expand upon below.

Those criticisms aside, I want to move to the main substance of the book. It's the story of different cultures and how the gospel is above being defined within a culture, but also how it percolates through cultures. The reader cannot but help be drawn in by Donovan's writing, asking yourself the same questions that he asked. I could not say that I wholly agreed with his answers, though it would be even more wrong to say I rejected them.

Christianity Rediscovered was first published in 1978 and there are references to political situations which existed at the time which are no longer relevant; in particular, to the Cold War and to Apartheid. The portrait of missions that is presented is one that is completely alien to me. He talks of mission "compounds" where education and healthcare was provided first, before starting to introduce the gospel.

Of all the missions I have ever supported, this sounds like none of them. Instead, they are much more along the lines of the conclusions that Donovan eventually reaches. Whether this is because of any impact the book may have had is hard to say; I think it is more likely because the whole idea of missions that Donovan begins with is a very narrowly-focused, catholic idea.

With that in mind, the book is very much a diary of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, he is discovering christianity for the first time, learning the principles that are well known to those who think in line with apostolic/reformed viewpoints. On the other hand, he's trying to reconcile this to his catholicism and the unhelpful baggage that comes with that. He's conscious that trying to teach a particular way of doing christianity is not the best method of being evangelical, but rather that communicating the gospel, so that it is understood, is then available to be either accepted or rejected.

In some ways it is quite a sad read, as Donovan gets close to some great ideas, yet refrains from these due to his catholic background. Nowhere is this more evident in discussing the nature of priesthood yet he fails to draw the logical conclusion and instead falls back on traditionalism.

At a little over 150 pages, it's a short read, written in a simple, readable manner. It wouldn't take long to get through if you just wanted to sit down on a wet afternoon and read a little about life in sunny east Africa, but I wouldn't recommend it be read that way. Often without asking them explicitly, Donovan asks us questions about our churches (although I think his intention was more about American catholicism), how we approach mission and also fundamental questions about we understand the gospel. Questions we would do well to think long and hard about.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 27 Oct 2014
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Harro (Yorkshire, U.K.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Christianity Rediscovered (SCM Classics) (Paperback)
An oldie but a real "goldie"
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My eyes are opened!, 12 May 2014
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I read this book at the start of a term studying mission and ministry. I could not have picked a better book to open my eyes to the real reason for mission. Vincent Donovan 's journey, both physical and spiritual is eloquently written and his conclusions are as relevant to our society today, wherever we live, as they are for the Masai. Highly recommended.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Christianity Rediscovered, 23 July 2012
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This review is from: Christianity Rediscovered (SCM Classics) (Paperback)
A book for every Christian looking to see how the rest of the world operates. Gives us a view we all too often disregard. A book for anyone interested in World Mission.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars mission for our generation?, 17 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Christianity Rediscovered (SCM Classics) (Paperback)
For a theology book this makes easy reading. If you want to know where modern mission is going wrong then this book will provide some of the answers.
This is a real insight into the problems one missionary faced when trying to mission a people from a culture who lived for the present but had no word for the future.
Four this speak to us who are trying to mission the present generation of un-churched?
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1 of 45 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars STOP BRAINWASHING PEOPLE..., 4 Oct 2008
This review is from: Christianity Rediscovered (SCM Classics) (Paperback)
This is just another book on trying to brainwash people. I suggest you watch a Bruce Parry DVD and learn from him; visit and learn from other cultures but RESPECT their tradition/culture/religion DO NOT TRY TO CHANGE THEM. The world is sadly becoming a homogenous society!!
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Christianity Rediscovered (SCM Classics) by Vincent J. Donovan (Paperback - 1 Oct 2001)
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