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Reformers and missions

The 16th-century Reformers had a poorly-developed missiology and overseas mission was an area to which they gave little thought.

Rear View Mirror Professor Michael Haykin
Figure Image
The Neptune, replica of a 17th-century Spanish galleon moored in Genoa, Italy| photo: iStock

That is what is said. ‘Yes’, this argument runs, ‘they rediscovered the apostolic gospel, but they had no vision to spread it to the uttermost parts of the earth.’ Possibly the first author to raise the question about this failure of early Protestantism was the Roman Catholic theologian and controversialist, Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621). He argued that one of the marks of a true church was its continuity with the missionary passion of the apostles. In his mind, Roman Catholicism’s missionary activity was indisputable and this supplied a strong support for its claim to stand in solidarity with the apostles.