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date: 23 January 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers the controversial relationship of Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Christian missions to colonialism during the long nineteenth century. Missionaries have been caricatured as cultural or political imperialists, or agents of a hegemonic globalizing capitalism. Many accounts have, however, neglected the intellectual and theological substructures of missionary endeavour. A closer look at Christian thought on mission and colonialism reveals a more complex picture. Missionary thought was shaped by Enlightenment and Romantic intellectual moods, and dominant scientific models of Newtonian physics, inductive method, and evolution. Nevertheless, several factors converged in missionary mentalités to subordinate and relativize other allegiances, whether national, colonial, or imperial: the Gospel’s universalizing logic, orthodox theological tempers, doctrines of providence, an increasingly ‘scientific’ (wissenschaftlich) theology of mission, and an internationalist character. Missionary intellectuals did not oppose colonial rule on principle, but they did seek to civilize it. And perhaps more fundamentally, they sought to convert it.

Keywords: colonialism, imperialism, Enlightenment, Romanticism, missions, missiology, theology, racism

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