Empires and Missions (19th & early 20th century missions) (expanded on July 30)

A very interesting lesson from church history, by Robert Godfrey of Ligonier Ministries.


Here are some notes I made:  (with expansion on July 30)

Empires and Missions

Robert Godfrey

Late 19th and Early 20th century.

As Empires spread, so did missions.

Lawrence James – “Churchill and Empire: A Portrait of an Imperialist”

“Historical Scholars agree that Empires (European colonialism) both profoundly helped the cause of missions and profoundly hurt the cause of missions”

A hurtful thing:  Many of the people that they were trying to reach, saw the missionaries as agents of the Empires.  They could not separate the imperialists / traders / politicians, military personnel, businesses, etc. from the missionaries, since the missionaries came from the same culture and ships that brought them to the new country.

The European Empires had churches and societies that had enough money to send missionaries.

“In 1900, 85 % of the world’s surface at that time was ruled by Empires.”   (from Lawrence James book on Churchill.  James includes the Japanese Empire, but leaves out China and Ottoman Empire.

Also, China and the Ottoman Empire – brings it close to 100%.

British Empire

German Empire

Russian Empire






USA  (not really an Empire, but Cuba and Philippines were under USA influence.)

All but Japan were European / Western.

This competition set up the background for what set up World War 1.

Darwin’s theory of Evolution and “the survival of the fittest”, – Social Darwinism influenced the Empire building and colonialism.  Rush for land; survival of the fittest.  Darwin’s ideas of “superior races and ethnicities” = sinful pride and arrogance.  This is one of the great proofs that Darwinian Evolution is wrong and cruel.  Hitler and Stalin and Mow and Pol Pot – all of their atrocities and murders and actions had basis in the idea (false ideas) of the “survival of the “superior” races, which Darwin taught; especially ideas in his book: The Descent of Man; and notice the title of his most famous book, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”.  The phrase “favored races” and the ideas related to that, fed into the sinful heart of mankind and the power of politics and military might to do many evil things. 

Praise God that the Bible teaches that we are all ONE race, the human race – all humans come from one pair – Adam and Eve.  Acts 17:26; Genesis chapters 1-2; 10-11; and God is redeeming people from all nations/peoples/ethnicities – Colossians 3:9-10; Galatians 3:28; Revelation 5:9; 7:9.

Missionary Zeal and love:  Dr. Godfrey mentions 3 missionaries who stood out to him of that era:

David Brainard – (1718-1747)  Jonathan Edwards was so impressed by his zeal and love for the people, that he wrote a biography of Brainard. Missionary to American Indians, 5 years; died when 29 years old.  Had passion and zeal. His journal inspired William Carey and Henry Martyn.

William Carey – India, 1793

Mary Slessor – (1848 – 1915) Africa – Calabar, now part of Nigeria.  Single woman. Scottish Presbyterian.  She had a great love for the Africans there; and identified with them by living at their economic level.  She was not afraid; and once some believers were established and could be gathered into a church, she always turned the work over to men as the elders/pastors/leaders of a new church group.  She obeyed 1 Timothy 2:11-12.  Women cannot be elders/teachers/pastors/leaders of churches.

William Carey – “was a better Calvinist than others, who are usually called “hyper-Calvinists”.  “I hate the term hyper-Calvinist”; The term “hyper-Calvinist” should not be allowed to be called to them – they are not Calvinists at all. “  Robert Godfrey.

Carey was a better Calvinist because he believed in both God’s Sovereignty and that we should obey the Great Commission by going to unreached areas and preach the gospel and make disciples and start churches.  (language and culture learning is part of the going and being there)

Dr. Godfrey pointed out that most missionaries went with good motives and had love for the people they were trying to reach.  India eventually appreciated William Carey greatly; for Carey worked to abolish the cruel Hindu practice of “Sati” – burning an alive widow with her husband’s body in a religious ceremony.  India even commemorated William Carey by issuing a postage stamp in his honor.  Read more about him and other Reformed / Calvinistic missionaries who served the Lord Jesus with honor, even during the colonial era.

See more here about William Carey and Calvinism and Missions, at an article I wrote several years ago at Beggar’s All. 

About Ken Temple

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner who has been saved by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16), in Christ alone (John 14:6). But a true faith does not stay alone, it should result in change, fruit, good works, and deeper levels of repentance and hatred of my own sins of selfishness and pride. I am not better than you! I still make mistakes and sin, but the Lord is working on me, conforming me to His character. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18) When I do sin, I hate the sin as it is an affront to God, and seek His forgiveness in repentance. (Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7-10; Colossians 3:5-16 ) Praise God for His love for sinners (Romans 5:8), shown by the voluntary coming of Christ and His freely laying down His life for us (John 10:18), becoming flesh/human (John 1:1-5; 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8), dying for sins of people from all nations, tribes, and cultures (Revelation 5:9), on the cross, in history, rising from the dead (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians chapter 15). His resurrection from the dead proved that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, the word of God from eternity past; and that He was all the gospels say He was and that He is truth and the life and the way to salvation. (John 14:6)
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2 Responses to Empires and Missions (19th & early 20th century missions) (expanded on July 30)

  1. Shaad says:

    You missed a word, “The European Empires had churches and societies that *HAD enough money to send missionaries.”

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