IBMR Online

APRIL 2016

The Gospel and Art

Darrell Whiteman, Interim Editor

As a universal faith, Christianity is not threatened by diversity. In fact, it welcomes and celebrates diversity, as we can see in John’s vision on Patmos: “After this I looked, and there was an enormous crowd—no one could count all the people! They were from every race, tribe, nation, and language” (Rev. 7:9 GNB). Given this ethnic and linguistic diversity, we can easily see how the Christian faith is capable of holding in creative tension a variety of biblical interpretations, worship patterns, institutional structures, and cognitive, affective, and aesthetic expressions of our faith.

With the advent of the printing press and the Gutenberg revolution in the West, written forms of biblical themes and Christian theology tended to become predominant over the more aesthetic expressions in music, dance, and art. Artistic expressions, however, tap into a different and sometimes deeper dimension of who we are as human beings, expressing sentiments and perspectives that words alone cannot capture. The slogan “a picture is worth a thousand words” thus rings true. For example, the familiar story of Jesus and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), captured in the children’s song “Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man,” has been the object of many artistic renderings. In this abstract painting (colorful if viewed online) by Japanese artist Soichi Watanabe we are given an artistic cross-cultural expression that can enrich our experience of the story beyond what the words or any music can convey. Such a contribution of art is typical, carrying us into another dimension of the human spirit.

In this issue we focus on Christian art in Asia. Volker Küster introduces us to five contemporary Christian artists from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, the artistic center of Java. In this nation of high culture and religious pluralism, these artists are contributing significantly to contextual theology.

Jeremy Clarke discusses two case studies of Chinese Catholic Church art—in Shanghai and in Shijiazhuang. Beginning in 1978, with more freedom of expression allowed during the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping, new forms of religious art began to emerge. Yet, interest in traditional Western European Christian art has continued, coexisting with newer, more indigenous Chinese expressions. Together, they are rooted in theological principles that shape the production of new religious art today.

In the third article on art, Gudrun Löwner discusses ancient India before the arrival of the Portuguese up to present-day Indian artists who depict an Indian Christ using a variety of styles. Löwner notes that Indian Christian artists have mostly painted devotional pictures, but many artists from other faiths have also painted Christian themes, each from his or her own perspective. In addition, she discusses Christian protest art produced by marginalized groups, including women, tribal people, feminists, and Dalits (the former “untouchables”).

“Jesus and Zacchaeus”
by Soichi Watanabe

The lead article in this issue turns our attention to anthropology and mission. Today there are many “schools of world mission” in various North American seminaries, where anthropologists and other social scientists teach a wide variety of courses under the rubric “intercultural studies.” There is a growing appreciation for the value of anthropology and ethnographic skills for cross-cultural ministry and the importance of missionary training to develop a cross-cultural perspective for living among and serving others who are culturally, religiously, linguistically, and economically different from ourselves. Benjamin Hartley highlights the anthropological contributions of Agnes Donohugh, a little-known pioneering anthropologist who taught at Hartford Seminary’s Kennedy School of Missions, the first seminary to establish a missionary training school in North America. He argues that, more than any other person, Donohugh influenced the development of missiological anthropology between the world wars.

Finally, Angelyn Dries profiles the monumental 1925 Vatican Mission Exposition, which demonstrated the interest of Catholic missions in documenting the various cultures and religions it had encountered. The conceptual architect of the exposition was Wilhelm Schmidt, who greatly influenced the Society of the Divine Word’s emphasis on the inductive study and collection of ethnographic material. Dries highlights the contribution of four Catholic anthropologists: two European (Wilhelm Schmidt and Alexandre Le Roy) and two North American (Joseph J. Williams and John Montgomery Cooper), noting how their anthropological approach and perspective were reflected in this exposition. Dries notes how this groundwork of anthropological research developed the foundation for later thinking about the relationship of the gospel to culture, as expressed in the concepts of accommodation, contextualization, and inculturation.

We trust this issue will encourage greater appreciation of the diversity of artistic expression in mission and in the church worldwide. And may the inductive anthropological approach to cross-cultural ministry flourish, enhancing our ability to engage the vast diversity of humanity, as we join in God’s mission in the world.

Darrell Whiteman


“Apostle of Ethnology”: Agnes C. L. Donohugh’s Missiological Anthropology
Between the World Wars

Benjamin L. Hartley

Agnes C. L. Donohugh (1876–1966) taught at Hartford Theological Seminary’s Kennedy School of Missions between 1918 and 1944, the leading graduate program in mission studies in North America prior to World War II. The first missionary student of Franz Boas at Columbia University, Donohugh influenced the shape of graduate anthropological education for missionaries in America more than anyone else in the interwar period. Donohugh’s story provides a window into understanding how anthropology was first used in mission education in America.


Wilhelm Schmidt, SVD

The 1925 Vatican Mission Exposition and the Interface Between Catholic Mission Theory and World Religions

Angelyn Dries

In 2014, Latin America passed Europe as the continent with the most Christians. In 1900, Europe had six times as many Christians as Latin America. Looking ahead to 2025, however, Latin America is likely to be surpassed by Africa with 628 million in the former and more than 700 million in the latter. We also project that by 2050, Asia will surpass Europe in the number of Christians. Each of the three continents in the Global South could outnumber Europe, together representing nearly 80% of all
Christians (from just over 20% in 1900).




Nativity by Wisnu Sasongko

The Christian Art Scene in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Volker Küster

The Christian artists introduced here from Yogyakarta, Indonesia; all have at least some academic background, and most are converted Muslims. In different degrees, their work attempts to contextualize Christian faith in the cultural-religious pluralism of present-day Indonesia. In doing so, they contribute to the development of Indonesian theology.



Christian Art in China during the Period of Economic Reform

Jeremy Clarke

The Chinese Catholic Church has a rich tradition of producing art that depicts its faith. During its more than 400 years of continuous history, not counting earlier incarnations, these works have also incorporated inculturated motifs, such as figures drawn from Buddhist iconography and the use of fauna and flora. Since the period of economic reform in China began, the Catholic communities have had greater freedom than in earlier decades, which had led to the production of many new images. The inculturated forms, however, have not always been so well received. Works from two famous Catholic locations (Shijiazhuang and Shanghai) are explored in the article.


Refugees by Solomon Raj


Christian Art in India: Early Christianity from the Arrival of the Portuguese Until Today

Gudrun Löwner

From the seventh century to the present, Christian art has existed in India. Astonishing is the fact that some of the best artistic pieces were done not by Christians, but by Hindus, Muslims, etc. This is especially visible in the Mogul miniatures of the Mogul court of Akbar to the Bengali art of the 20th century, where artists identified in Jesus the suffering Indian humanity. Today a lot of Christian art is engaging with the struggles of the people at the margins. Besides this social critical art, modern art forms are emerging which shed their Indian identity and could be done anywhere in the world.


Missions from Korea 2016: Sustainability and Revitalization

Steve Sang-Cheol Moon

According the most recent survey directed by the author, there are 20,672 Korean missionaries working through 159 mission agencies in 171 countries. The number of missionaries grew by 205 persons in 2015 marking an annual growth rate of 1.01 percent. The annual growth rate dropped phenomenally from 2.19 percent in 2012, to 1.90 percent in 2014, and further down to 1.01 percent in 2015. The Korean missionary
movement is entering an unfamiliar phase of development characterized by losing momentum for further growth. Most of the Korean missionaries are well aware of the current situation and share certain realistic views and outlooks.


Fifteen Outstanding Books of 2015 for Mission Studies


Understanding Insider Movements


Understanding Insider Movements: Disciples of Jesus within Diverse Religious Communities (Book Review)

Amos Yong


Jesus and Buddha: Friends in Conversation (Book Review)

Terry C. Muck


The Spirit of Praise: Music and Worship in Global Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity (Book Review)

Allan H. Anderson


Christians in South Indian Villages, 1959–2009: Decline and Revival in
Telangana (Book Review)

Chandra Mallampalli


New Centers of Global Evangelicalism in Latin America and Africa (Book Review)

J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu



Noteworthy | READ ONLINE

Appointed. Paul Bendor-Samuel as executive director of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS)

Fourteenth assembly of the International Association for Mission Studies, August 11–17, 2016

Died. David L. Rambo, 81, president, professor, and evangelical statesman

Died. Virgilio Elizondo, 80, pioneer Latino/a theologian

Died. Richard J. Wood, 78, divinity school dean, philosophy professor, and Japanese religion specialist

For more IBMR News, go to


Book Notes: April 2016 | READ MORE


Previous Issues

April 2015

Hostility against Mission

July 2015

Mission in History

October 2015

Engaging Mission

January 2016


Some Changes but the Same missio Dei