‘Soul by Soul’ Review: Men and Women on a Mission

Published May 2, 2024

Wall Street Journal

Few callings have undergone such a fall from grace in the West as that of the Christian missionary. In the 19th century missionaries were seen as bringers of civilization to parts of the world that lay in spiritual and moral darkness. Today they are more likely to be described as instruments of colonial oppression. Even Christians would seem to be revising their opinions of the missionary impulse. The Church of England is currently considering a report that calls upon it to apologize for the way earlier generations of missionaries sought to “destroy diverse African traditional religious belief systems.” Postcolonialism has become the dominant ideology of the West’s cultural officer class, and missionaries have accordingly moved from being heroes to dupes at best, or villains at worst.

Adriana Carranca’s “Soul by Soul: The Evangelical Mission to Spread the Gospel to Muslims” is an instructive counternarrative to all this. Beginning with a helpful chapter on the broader historical and political contexts of modern evangelical missions, Ms. Carranca explains how the fall of the Soviet Union led evangelical believers to make Islam, not communism, their primary focus. Then, with 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans found it increasingly difficult to operate as missionaries in the Middle East. In contrast to the 19th century, in the early 21st it was precisely the perceived connection with an apparent colonialist project that undermined missionary endeavors.

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Carl R. Trueman is a fellow in EPPC’s Evangelicals in Civic Life Program, where his work focuses on helping civic leaders and policy makers better understand the deep roots of our current cultural malaise. In addition to his scholarship on the intellectual foundations of expressive individualism and the sexual revolution, Trueman is also interested in the origins, rise, and current use of critical theory by progressives. He serves as a professor at Grove City College.

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