Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Bosch, David Jacobus (B)

Dutch Reformed Church
South Africa

David Jacobus Bosch was born into an Afrikaner home on December 13, 1929, near the town of Kuruman in the Cape Province of South Africa.[1] His parents were poor but proud farmers, “simple rural folk,” and loyal members of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC). From his earliest childhood, he received a “Christian Nationalist” education. Bosch stated how

at a very early stage already our minds were influenced by teachers and other cultural and political leaders to see the English as perpetrators of all kinds of evil and as oppressors of the Afrikaner. We read poems of Totius and Jan Celliers, we read Een eeuw van onrecht–a century of injustice–and we were convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that no people were a patch on the English when it comes to arrogance, self-righteousness and brutal oppression of others. After all, my own mother could tell stories about the concentration camp to which she was taken at the age of eight.[2]

If the English were the enemy to the young Bosch, blacks were essentially nonpersons. Blacks were hewers of wood and drawers of water, “a part of the scenery but hardly a part of the human community…. They belonged to the category of ‘farm implements’ rather than to the category ‘fellow-human beings.’“[3]

In 1948, the same year that Bosch entered the University of Pretoria’s Teacher’s College, the pro-apartheid National Party was swept into power. For Afrikaners like Bosch, “it was to us like a dream come true when the Nationalist Party won that victory. We had no reservations whatsoever.” At the university, Bosch became involved with the Student Christian Association (SCA]. While participating in an SCA-sponsored evangelistic outreach at a lakeside camp, he became convinced that God was calling him into the Christian ministry.

Upon returning to his parents’ farm that summer, Bosch organized a Sunday service for the black laborers. A large crowd of black workers gathered. What happened there can only be described as a conversion of sorts.

As I arrived, trembling, at the place of meeting, everybody came forward to shake hands with me! It was one of the most difficult moments in my life. When they saw my hesitation, they assured me that it was quite alright, that, in fact, it was normal for Christians to shake hands with one another! Only then did I discover that many of them were Christians: Methodists, Anglicans, members of the African Independent Churches, and so on. Previously I only thought of them as pagans and, at best, semisavages.

Looking back now to that day, thirty years ago, I guess I can say that that was the beginning of a turning point in my life. Not that, from then on, I accepted Blacks fully as human beings. Far from it. But something began to stir in me that day, and all I can say is that, by the grace of God, it has been growing ever since. Gradually, year by year, my horizons widened and I began to see people who were different from me with new eyes, always more and more clearly. I began to discover the simple, self-evident fact, that the things we have in common are more than the things which divide us.[4]

Returning to the university, Bosch changed to the predivinity course and received two degrees: the M.A. in languages (Afrikaans, Dutch, German) and the B.D. in theological studies. During that time Bosch sensed a further calling to be a missionary and began to have doubts about the adequacy of the apartheid system. “In the early fifties, there were already signs that upset some of us, particularly, the removal of the Coloureds from the common voters roll. It was one of the first shocks; the honeymoon was over with the new National Party government.” By his final year in the B.D. program, when Bosch was chair of the SCA branch at Pretoria, he was asked to go to the University of Witwatersrand to discuss the moral legitimacy of apartheid. When pressed, Bosch realized he could no longer defend apartheid.

At Pretoria, Bosch was particularly affected by E. P. Groenewald, the professor of New Testament.[5] Groenewald introduced Bosch to the writings of Oscar Cullmann, whose work would have profound influence on Bosch’s theological perspective. Upon graduation, Bosch undertook doctoral studies at the University of Basel under Cullmann. His thesis, “Die Heidenmission in der Zukunftsschau Jesu,” probed the link between mission and eschatology in the ministry of Jesus. Bosch also came under the influence of Karl Barth, whose impact would emerge only later, in Bosch’s systematic attempts at a theological foundation for mission.

While at Basel, Bosch distanced himself further from apartheid, although as yet he had no alternative paradigm to substitute in its place. He began to feel isolated from the Afrikaner mainstream.

By the time I arrived [in Switzerland], I had little doubt about the fact that apartheid was immoral and unacceptable. If I say I had by that time broken with the paradigm, one must take that with a grain of salt, because I had not replaced it with another paradigm. It was still very haltingly true of myself. In my early days as a student, my viewpoint was inarticulate, but it was a shift out of the laager.

In 1957 Bosch returned to South Africa to begin work as a DRC missionary among the Xhosa people in the Transkei. For nine years Bosch labored as a missionary pastor in Madwaleni. His work consisted of village evangelism and church planting in a large, remote area. The country was rugged and accessible only by horse. Although those years had their disappointments, Bosch recalled that “these were our best years, absolutely wonderful.”

Bosch’s cross-cultural ministry experience was deeply significant in two ways. First, while acknowledging that he continued to hold deeply paternalistic attitudes toward black people, he believed that his missionary years taught him to trust people, particularly his African Christian coworkers. The appraisal by Frans Verstraelen is helpful here. He comments that

the missionary experience of David Bosch among and with the Xhosa in Transkei gave him precious insight into mission as service and partnership, as well as attitudes of empathy, humility, and modesty vis-a-vis people of cultural and religious backgrounds different from his own…. [W]hat is convincingly shown is his integrity as a human being and as a Christian, as a missionary, and as a missiologist.[6]

Second, Bosch’s missionary service helped him integrate theory and practice. By day he would be out among the people, visiting with them. By night he studied, trying to integrate his experience in the Transkei with the scholarly insights of various anthropologists, theologians, and missiologists. Through that study, his early theological convictions began to change considerably. Bosch identified this period of missionary activity as the decisive decade in his theological development. “I started with a very conservative theological framework and only moved to a wider approach towards the end of the 1960s.”[7]

Although Bosch did not feel his missionary work at Madwaleni was finished, a back injury rendered him incapable of continuing with the rugged lifestyle that the job required. In 1967 he was asked to serve as senior lecturer in church history and missiology at the DRC’s Theological School in Decoligny, Transkei, training black pastors and evangelists. Bosch enjoyed teaching, but the limited scope of the work (four teachers, twenty students) impelled Bosch to seek other avenues of ministry beyond the little theological college.

First, he helped form the Transkei Council of Churches, serving as its first president. This council provided contact with a variety of church traditions, particularly Roman Catholics and Anglicans. Bosch’s growing ecumenical openness stood in sharp contrast to the ethos of the DRC, which was marked by a strict separation from other Christian bodies. As Bosch himself noted: “In the sixties, the Transkei was the only place in the Dutch Reformed Church setup where there were practical, structural, working relationships with people from other denominations. There was no other place where you had any practical expression of ecumenical contact.”

A second avenue for self-expression that Bosch developed during his Decoligny years was writing. During that period Bosch published his doctoral thesis and wrote three short books and numerous articles. He also edited five books for the fledgling South African Missiological Society. Bosch’s written work from the period, nearly all in Afrikaans, reflects two dominant themes: the missionary practice of the DRC and the biblical theology of mission.

Of special note was his Jesus, Die lydende Messias, en ons sendingmotief (Jesus, the suffering Messiah, and our missionary motive), in which Bosch applied his doctoral studies to the South African situation, arguing that the mission of Jesus can be understood only in terms of the suffering servant of the Lord, who, like a grain of wheat, must die in order to bear fruit. Jesus’ encounters with the Gentiles exemplified this ethos of servanthood, as did the experiences of the early church. It is with the same mind-set of costly servanthood that the modern church must understand its motive for mission as well.[8]

The significance of his argument becomes apparent only when we consider the historical context in which it was written. The booklet appeared at a crossroads in DRC missions policy. The 1955 Tomlinson Commission report had uncovered statistical evidence of a large number of unevangelized blacks within South Africa. That news prompted DRC mission enthusiasts to promote an expanded evangelistic outreach among them. Bosch, however, discerned non-theological factors at work among some of the proponents. Numerous DRC missiologists and politicians linked the evangelization of blacks to the unfolding government policies of separate development and Afrikaner solidarity. Missionary work was therefore coupled to the defense of the volk and the preservation of a white-dominated South Africa. Bosch warned against such mixed motives in strong terms.

What is the end goal of mission with such a motivation? Is it to maintain the white people in South Africa–or is it the foundation of the church of Christ…? Is it to serve South Africa–or to serve God? Is it to hear together the sentimental voice of our own blood–or to hear together the last command of Christ? Have we, by this missionary motive, created a sheep in wolf’s clothes–or is it perhaps a wolf in sheep’s clothes?[9]

Any missionary enthusiasm must be tempered with the realization that mission in Christ’s way is the way of the cross, the way of costly servanthood toward others. Anything less was simply religious propaganda and prone to ideological manipulation.

With writings like these, Bosch gave evidence of a departure from traditional Afrikaner sociopolitical perspectives and the DRC’s support of apartheid. Inevitably, these departures from Afrikaner “orthodoxy” began to isolate Bosch from the mainstream of the DRC.[10] No longer a ware Afrikaner (true Afrikaner), Bosch was denied a position on the DRC theological faculty in Pretoria. Instead, in 1972 Bosch accepted the invitation to become professor of missiology at the University of South Africa (UNISA) in Pretoria. Bosch and his wife, Annemie, did so, however, with some trepidation. As he described it, “We moved back to Pretoria, very afraid of Afrikaners. Very afraid of white people. We were returning home, in a sense, but returning very different from what we were when we had left in the early 1950s.”

UNISA was unique among academic institutions in apartheid South Africa. It was an interracial university with staff and students from all ethnic groups within southern Africa. This was made possible because coursework at UNISA is done primarily by extension. UNISA was also unique because of its theology faculty, described as a “faculty-in-exile for anti-apartheid, anti-Broederbond DRC theologians.”[11] Bosch’s move to UNISA placed him, officially at least, on the periphery of the DRC. Bosch served there as professor of mission and chair of the Department of Missiology from 1972 until his untimely death in an automobile accident in 1992. He supervised students at all academic levels from South Africa and beyond.

Bosch the Scholar of Mission

One dimension of Bosch’s legacy is his contribution to the academic study of Christian mission. Bosch was a theologian trained in the classic, European tradition. His facility in languages (he was conversant in Afrikaans, English, German, Dutch, French, and Xhosa) enabled him to act as a bridge builder between various theological and cultural constituencies.

As a “systematic missiologist,” Bosch was a prodigious writer. Over the course of thirty-two years, Bosch wrote six books, four book-length UNISA study guides, seven major pamphlets, and over 160 journal articles and contributions to books covering almost every aspect of mission theory and practice. He also edited seven books in English and Afrikaans.[12]

His most significant contribution was his massive 1992 work Transforming Mission. Bosch adopted the use of “paradigm theory” (as developed in science by Thomas Kuhn and in theology by Hans Kung) in an attempt “to demonstrate the extent to which the understanding and practice of mission have changed during almost twenty centuries of Christian missionary history.”[13] Transforming Mission is a storehouse of historical and theological knowledge, described by Lesslie Newbigin as “a kind of Summa Missiologica” that “will surely be the indispensable foundation for the teaching of missiology for many years to come.”[14] Notwithstanding the valid criticisms that Bosch failed to give adequate attention to the emerging theologians and perspectives of the church in the Two-Thirds World,[15] Transforming Mission will surely remain his chief theological legacy.

Bosch was also active as an administrator and editor. He helped found the Southern African Missiological Society (SAMS), a multiracial and ecumenical fraternity of mission scholars, and he served as its general secretary from its formation in 1968 until his death. A major aspect of the work of the SAMS is the production of Missionalia, the society’s journal. From its inception in 1973 until 1992, Bosch served as its editor and contributed scores of editorials and book reviews. During his service as dean of the Faculty of Theology at UNISA, Bosch served as editor of its journal Theologia Evangelica.

Three other theological contributions deserve special mention. First, Bosch labored extensively for a deeper biblical foundation for mission.[16] He lamented that the missionary movement had yet to develop a common understanding of how the Bible functions as the authority, basis, and frame of reference for the church’s missionary thought and practice. Bosch was critical of traditional approaches that sought to justify certain preconceived understandings of mission by “mining” for textual “nuggets,” proof texts, in the raw data of Scripture. Instead, Bosch advocated a rediscovery of the intrinsically missionary nature of the church, based on the witness of the Bible. The issue is not so much whether an adequate justification for mission can be found in the Bible but how the Bible can assist the church in living out its essentially missionary calling in the world.[17] The Bible functions as a foundational source and standard by which the church understands its identity in Christ, as well as a source of paradigms and models for current missionary engagement with the world.

Second, Bosch sought to bring greater theological clarity to the meaning and relationship of mission and evangelism. Throughout the 1980s, Bosch’s involvement with conciliar and evangelical missionary conferences and consultations pushed him to deeper reflection.[18] Any genuinely Christian understanding of mission must reflect the wholeness of the Gospel of Christ and the breadth of the biblical witness. “Mission,” Bosch wrote, is “more than and different from recruitment to our brand of religion; it is alerting people to the universal reign of God.”[19]

Mission takes place where the church, in its total involvement with the world, bears its testimony in the form of a servant, with reference to unbelief, exploitation, discrimination and violence, but also with reference to salvation, healing, liberation, reconciliation and righteousness.[20]

Evangelism, Bosch held, is one essential dimension of that broad mission. Evangelism is the narrower concern to cross the frontier of unbelief with the announcement of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

How, then, do the two concepts relate? Although evangelism and mission are distinct entities, they are inseparably linked in creative tension; together they embody the church’s life in relation to the world. What is needed, Bosch urged, are “pan-Christians” who can

embrace both the depth and breadth of the Church’s mission and mandate, people who know that there is, by definition, no clash between our calling people to personal faith and commitment to Christ in the fellowship of the Church (evangelism) and our calling those thus committed to cross all kinds of frontiers in communicating salvation to the world (mission).[21]

Finally (and less well-known), Bosch sought to reflect on the meaning and communication of the Gospel in Africa.[22] As early as 1972 Bosch showed an awareness and critical appreciation of the black theology movement, interacting with such leaders as Steve Biko, Manas Buthelezi, and James Cone. Through such publications as Het Evangelie in Afrikaans gewaad (The Gospel in African robes),[23] “Missionary Theology in Africa,”[24] and “The Problem of Evil in Africa: A Survey of African Views of Witchcraft and the Response of the Christian Church,”[25] Bosch revealed a surprisingly comprehensive familiarity with African theologians and movements.

Yet his contextual orientation remained firmly Western, and northern European in particular. Frans Verstraelen has noted that Bosch had difficulty in giving “context” a central place in his theologizing because he remained in the category of “idealist” theologians who theologize from above rather than from below.[26]

Bosch the Ecumenical Personality

It would be inadequate, however, to understand Bosch only in terms of his academic accomplishments.[27] He was a person of the church. The church was central to his thought. A genuine concern for its unity and witness, as well as a frank acknowledgment of its vulnerability and failures, was never far from Bosch’s mind.

At the international level, this churchly concern led Bosch to devote considerable energy to overcoming the so-called evangelical-ecumenical debate in mission. His 1980 book Witness to the World was, in large part, an attempt to describe this debilitating fracture in modern Protestantism and its missionary outreach and to propose a way forward.[28]

Bosch was an active participant in both the ecumenical and evangelical communities and attended most of their international gatherings–from evangelical conferences in Lausanne and Pattaya to WCC-related gatherings in Melbourne and San Antonio (where he served as a section leader). Bosch was a main speaker at the 1982 Grand Rapids Consultation on the Relationship Between Evangelism and Social Responsibility, cosponsored by the Lausanne Committee and the World Evangelical Fellowship.[29] He helped draft the influential “Transformation” statement at the WEF-sponsored Wheaton conference in 1983 on the nature and mission of the church.[30] He participated in the WCC’s 1987 Consultation on Evangelism in Stuttgart, where he substantially wrote the consultation’s statement on evangelism.[31]

Both in print and in practice, Bosch labored to clarify the fundamental issues of theological conflict between the evangelical and the ecumenical streams of the world missionary movement. He deeply believed that both sides had been impoverished by ignoring the concerns of the other. As a result, both had failed to develop a genuinely integral theology of mission for our era. Although the evangelical-ecumenical tension is not the only lens by which to analyze the dynamics of mission today, and although Bosch was increasingly conscious of the missiological contribution of non-Western theologians, it remains true that the evangelical-ecumenical tension insidiously hinders the life and health of the church–in both the First and the Two-Thirds Worlds!–and he sought to address this conflict.

Bosch the South African

Bosch’s concern for the reign of God and the credibility of the church was lived out most fully, however, in his own homeland of South Africa. He agonized over the South African situation and the challenge the apartheid system represented to the integrity of the Gospel and the mission of the church. Telling evidence of Bosch’s concern was his refusal to leave. Bosch was twice offered the prestigious chair of mission and ecumenics at Princeton Theological Seminary, and twice he made the difficult decision to refuse the offer, believing that he could not leave South Africa during such a dangerous and historic time in its history.[32] He also remained a faithful member of the DRC, despite his own marginalization within that community for many years.

Over the years Bosch’s criticism of apartheid and his own church’s justification of it became more strident. His critique tried to expose the ideological nature of apartheid and the Afrikaner civil religion in which it was embedded.[33] The heart of the matter, according to Bosch, was that the Afrikaner people were prisoners of their own history, afraid of the future. The ideological nature of apartheid seemingly blinded most Afrikaners to any future besides the one held out by the National Party. Yet in this desperate situation, Christians must remain hopeful, for it is not fate that controls the destiny of South Africa but the Lord of history.[34]

In his critique of apartheid, Bosch also emphasized the cruciality of ecclesiology. Drawing from Reformed and Anabaptist sources, he urged the church in South Africa to become an “alternative community.”[35] The church is set apart from the world and called to be a church without privileges, a servant community that must embody the radical lifestyle of Christ’s new community. Yet the Christian community’s called-out existence is for the sake of the world. As Bosch put it: “The church has tremendous significance for society precisely because it [exists] as a uniquely separate community…. We have to work consistently for the renewal of the church–the alternative community–and precisely in that way at the renewal of society.”[36] Only when they worked for the renewal and unity of the church, and lived out the implications of their faith in the world, Bosch maintained, could South African Christians effectively challenge the values and standards of the apartheid society around them. The church must furnish an alternative vision of reality, of life in the kingdom of God.

The concept of the church as alternative community (AC) is grounded in the reconciling work of Christ. On the cross, Jesus reconciled the world to God, breaking down all barriers that divide humankind. Thus all differences among persons (racial, economic, linguistic, cultural, religious), while still real, have been relativized in Christ. It is thus wrong, even heretical, to divide the one church of Jesus Christ by ascribing “an unduly high value to racial and cultural distinctiveness,”[37] for this would raise the value of one’s national identity above one’s identity in Christ. Yet this is exactly what the white Reformed churches of South Africa had done and, as such, were perpetrating “nothing but a heresy.”[38] Instead of polarizing society by highlighting its racial, ethnic, social, or economic distinctions, the mission of the church is to be an agent of reconciliation and a witness to the unity won for the world in Christ.

Bosch helped create numerous forums to live out this vision. The 1979 South African Christian Leadership Assembly (SACLA), gathering together over 5,000 Christians from every ecclesiastical and political perspective, provided a concrete embodiment of the AC concept. Bosch was a major impetus behind the event, serving as chair of the executive committee and delivering four plenary addresses.[39] He was a leading proponent of the 1982 Ope brief (Open letter) to the Dutch Reformed Church, signed by 123 DRC pastors and theologians, which publicly condemned apartheid and urged the DRC to pursue visible unity across the racial divide with its black sister churches.[40] In 1985, following the declaration of the state of emergency by the South African government, Bosch became involved in the National Initiative for Reconciliation, a movement begun by Michael Cassidy of Africa Enterprise to continue the SACLA spirit in the midst of rising tension and bloodshed. For a time Bosch served as its national chairman.

For Bosch the AC concept served as a distinctly Christian socioethical response to the struggle for social justice in South Africa. The concrete political implications of the church as alternative community remained vague, however–a point on which Bosch has been criticized most notably by Anthony Balcomb and Christopher Sugden.[41] Likewise, Bosch was criticized for remaining a part of the DRC and for emphasizing reconciliation instead of liberation in the struggle for justice in South Africa. Although not aimed at Bosch in particular, the famous Kairos Document of 1985 criticized “Church Theology” because of its superficial talk about reconciliation and nonviolence. In the interests of social liberation, Kairos rejected the call for the church to be a reconciling “alternative community.”[42]

With the privilege of hindsight, however, one could argue that the relatively nonviolent transformation we have witnessed in South Africa during the last decade has come precisely because of people like David Bosch. He remained within the DRC out of a prophetic desire to speak the truth of the Gospel to the Afrikaner people from a position of solidarity with them even in their sin!

Fellow South African theologian John de Gruchy has affirmed that in the service of social transformation, the symbols of “reconciliation” and “liberation” did not necessarily have to collide. They had the power to be complementary helpmates in the quest for justice in South Africa. After comparing and contrasting the Kairos Declaration and the National Initiative for Reconciliation Statement, de Gruchy summarized his conclusions as follows:

  1. In the struggle for a just society, the church cannot be neutral, but there are different, complementary strategies.

  2. The church must be the church, but this does not mean that it has its own political program alongside that of the struggle for liberation. It must participate in critical solidarity.

  3. The gospel of reconciliation and liberation, as well as the political strategies of negotiation and confrontation, are not antithetical but two sides of the same coin.

  4. The suffering witness of the cross, and therefore non-violent redemptive action, remains the paradigm for the Christian, even though there is an honored Christian tradition which supports the idea of a just revolution.[43]

From this perspective, Bosch’s approach–focusing as he did on the church as the alternative community, costly reconciliation, and the role of suffering witness in Christian discipleship–can be affirmed as an essential contribution to South Africa as it struggles to be a society of justice and peace. In life and in death, David Bosch provided an authentic martyria–a witness to the world that was profoundly evangelistic.

J. Kevin Livingston


  1. The biographical data that follows, including unattributed quotations, is taken from a personal interview of Bosch by the author on September 8, 1986.

  2. David Bosch, “Prisoners of History or Prisoners of Hope?” The Hiltonian, no. 114 (March 1979): 14-15.

  3. Ibid., p. 15.

  4. Ibid.

  5. In 1947 Groenewald became the first person to work out a “scriptural foundation” for apartheid. He was also a champion of the ecumenical movement and a staunch defender of DRC participation in the fledgling World Council of Churches.

  6. Frans Verstraelen, “Africa in David Bosch’s Missiology: Survey and Appraisal,” in Mission in Bold Humility, ed. W. Saayman and K. Kritzinger (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1996), pp. 9-10.

  7. Personal letter to the author, December 12,1985. Cf. his “Mission and the Alternative Community: How My Mind Has Changed,” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 41 (December 1982): 6.

  8. Bosch, Jesus, Die lydende Messias, en ons sendingmotief (Bloemfontein: N.G. Sendingpers, 1961), pp. 34-35.

  9. Ibid., pp. 36-37 (my translation).

  10. See Joha Louw-Potgeiter, “The Social Identity of Dissident Afrikaners” (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Bristol, 1986).

  11. J. H. P. Serfontein, Apartheid, Change, and the NG Kerk (Emmarentia: Taurus, 1982), p. 193.

  12. For a complete bibliography of Bosch’s published and unpublished work, see my A Missiology of the Road: The Theology of Mission and Evangelism in the Writings of David J. Bosch (Lanham, Md.: Univ. Press of America, forthcoming).

  13. Ibid., cf. pp. 181-89. For an excellent critique of Bosch’s use of paradigm theory, see Gerald Pillay, “Text, Paradigms, and Context: An Examination of David Bosch’s Use of Paradigms in the Reading of Christian History,” in Mission in Creative Tension, ed. J. N. J. Kritzinger and W. A. Saayman (Pretoria: Southern African Missiological Society, 1990), pp. 109-23.

  14. This endorsement is found on the back cover of the paperback version of Transforming Mission.

  15. See the essays by Christopher Sugden and Frans Verstraelen in Mission in Bold Humility, and the foreword to Norman Thomas, Classic Texts in Mission and World Christianity: A Reader’s Companion to David Bosch’s Transforming Mission (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1995).

  16. Besides Bosch’s doctoral thesis and the major sections on Scripture in Witness to the World and Transforming Mission, see also “The Why and How of a True Biblical Foundation for Mission,” in Zending op weg naar de toekomst: Feestbundel aangeboden aan Prof. Dr. Johannes Verkuyl, ed. T. J. Baarda (Kampen: Kok, 1978), pp. 33-45; “The Structure of Mission: An Exposition of Matthew 28:16-20,” in Exploring Church Growth, ed. W. R. Shenk (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1983), pp. 218-48; “Mission in Biblical Perspective,” International Review of Mission 74, no. 296 (October 1985): 531-38; “Towards a Hermeneutic for ‘Biblical Studies and Mission,’” Mission Studies 3, no. 2 (October 1986): 65-79; and “Reflections on Biblical Models of Mission,” in Toward the Twenty-First Century in Christian Mission, ed. James Phillips and Robert Coote (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), pp. 175-92.

  17. “Vision for Mission,” International Review of Mission 76, no. 301 (January 1987): 9-10. Cf. his “Reflections on Biblical Models of Mission,” pp. 177ff.

  18. See his “In Search of Mission: Reflections on ‘Melbourne’ and ‘Pattaya,’” Missionalia 9, no. 1 (April 1981): 3-18; “Evangelism: An Holistic Approach,” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 36 (September 1981): 43-63; “Evangelism,” Mission Focus 9, no. 4 (December 1981): 65-74; “The Scope of Mission,” International Review of Mission 73, no. 289 (January 1984): 17-32; “Mission and Evangelism: Clarifying the Concepts,” Zeitschrift fur Missionswissenschaft und Religionswissenschaft 68, no. 3 (July 1984): 161-91; “Evangelisation, Evangelisierung,” in Lexikon Missions-Theologischer Grundbegriffe, ed. Karl Muller and Theo Sundermeir (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1987) pp. 102-5; and “Evangelism: Theological Currents and Cross-currents Today,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 11, no. 3 (July 1987): 98-103.

  19. Believing in the Future (Valley Forge, Pa.: Trinity Press, 1995), p. 33.

  20. “Mission–an Attempt at a Definition,” Church Scene, April 25, 1986, p. ll.

  21. “Mission and Evangelism,” p. 187. Bosch is citing Willem Visser ‘t Hooft’s “Pan-Christians Yesterday and Today,” Ecumenical Review 32, no. 4 (October 1980): 387-95.

  22. For an excellent summary and critique of Bosch’s missiological involvement with Africa, see Verstraelen, “Africa in David Bosch’s Missiology,” pp. 8-39.

  23. The chapters in Het Evangelie in Afrikaans gewaad (Kampen: Kok, 1974) were “Op weg naar een theologia Africana” (Towards an African theology); “God in Afrika: Gevolgtrekkingen voor de verkondiging” (God in Africa: Implications for the kerygma), later published in English in Missionalia 1, no. 1 (January 1973): 3-21; “Een missionair dilemma in Afrika: Het probleem van het kwaad” (A missionary problem in Africa: The problem of evil), published in Afrikaans in Theologia Evangelica 6, no. 3 (September 1973): 173-98; and “Stromingen in de Zuidafrikaanse zwarte theologie” (Currents and crosscurrents in South African black theology), later published in English in Journal of Religion in Africa 6, no. 1 (1974): 1-22.

  24. In Indian Missiological Review 6, no. 2 (April 1984): 161-91; and reprinted in Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 49 (December 1984): 14-37.

  25. Published in Like a Roaring Lion: Essays on the Bible, the Church, and Demonic Powers, ed. Pieter G. R. de Villiers (Pretoria: UNISA, 1987), pp. 38-62.

  26. Verstraelen, “Africa in David Bosch’s Missiology,” p. 14. For similar criticisms from two of Bosch’s UNISA colleagues, see Takatso Mofokeng, “Mission Theology from an African Perspective: A Dialogue with David Bosch,” in Mission in Creative Tension, pp. 16880; and Willem Saayman, “A South African Perspective on Transforming Mission,” in Mission in Bold Humility, pp. 40-52.

  27. Emilio Castro highlights Bosch as an “ecumenical personality” in his essay in Mission in Bold Humility, pp. 162-66.

  28. Bosch has commented: “In 1978, when I was writing Witness to the World, the evangelical-ecumenical issue was uppermost in my mind. …In my case, it was existential. I had this struggle going on in my own theological mind and my own existential heart. It wasn’t simply an attempt to balance the two. I was looking for a way forward, beyond both of them.”

  29. Bosch delivered the paper “Perspectives on Evangelism and Social Responsibility,” which was later published as “In Search of a New Evangelical Understanding,” in In Word and Deed: Evangelism and Social Responsibility, ed. Bruce Nicholls (Exeter: Paternoster, 1985), pp. 63-83. See also his and Chris Sugden’s article “From Partnership to Marriage,” Themelios 8, no. 2 (January 1983): 26-27.

  30. Bosch also delivered the paper “Evangelism and Social Transformation,” which was published in The Church in Response to Human Need, ed. Tom Sine (Monrovia: MARC, 1983), pp. 271-92, and reprinted in Theologia Evangelica 16, no. 2 (June 1983): 43-55. For the final text of the statement “Transformation: The Church in Response to Human Need,” see Transformation 1, no. 1 (January 1984): 23-28.

  31. See the “Statement of the Stuttgart Consultation on Evangelism,” in the WCC/CWME’s A Monthly Letter on Evangelism, no. 10-11 (October-November 1987).

  32. Personal correspondence with the author, February 24, 1986.

  33. See his “Prisoners of History or Prisoners of Hope?” pp. 14-18; “Racism and Revolution: Response of the Churches in South Africa,” Occasional Bulletin of Missionary Research 3, no. 1 (January 1979): 1320; “The Roots and Fruits of Afrikaner Civil Religion,” in New Faces of Africa, ed. J. W. Hofmeyr and W. S. Vorster (Pretoria: UNISA, 1984), pp. 14-35; “The Fragmentation of Afrikanerdom and the Afrikaner Churches,” in Resistance and Hope, ed. J. de Gruchy and C. Villa-Vicencio (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1985), pp. 61-73; and “The Afrikaner and South Africa,” Theology Today 43, no. 2 (July 1986): 203-16.

  34. “Afrikaner Civil Religion and the Current South African Crisis,” Transformation 3, no. 2 (April 1986): 29-30.

  35. See especially “The Church in South Africa–Tomorrow,” Pro Veritate 14, no. 4 (August 1975): 4-6; no. 5 (September 1975): 11-13; “The Church as the ‘Alternative Community,’” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 13 (December 1975): 3-11; “The Renewal of Christian Community in Africa,” in Facing the New Challenges: The Message of PACLA, ed. Michael Cassidy and Luc Verlinden (Kisumu, Kenya: Evangel Publishing House, 1978), pp. 92-102; The Church as the Alternative Community (Potchefstroom: Instituut vir Reformatoriese Studie, 1982); and “Mission and the Alternative Community.”

  36. “Mission and the Alternative Community,” pp. 8-9.

  37. Ibid., p. 9.

  38. “Nothing but a Heresy,” in Apartheid Is a Heresy, ed. John de Gruchy and Charles Villa-Vicencio (Cape Town: David Phillip; Guildford: Lutterworth, 1983), pp. 24-38. Bosch originally used these words to describe his own church, the DRC, at the 1982 Pretoria Theological Conference. Cf. Serfontein, Apartheid, Change, and the NG Kerk, pp. 176-81.

  39. See the moving portrayal of Bosch at SACLA in Willem Saayman’s “David Bosch, the South African,” in Mission in Bold Humility, pp. 1-2.

  40. See David Bosch, Adrio Konig, and Willem Nicol, Perspektief op die ope brief (Kaapstad: Human and Rousseau, 1982).

  41. See Anthony Balcomb’s unpublished Ph.D. thesis at the University of Natal, “Third Way Theology: A Critical Analysis of the South African Church’s Struggle for Significance During the Decade 1980-1990”; his “Third Way Theologies in the Contemporary South African Situation,” in “Wit Afrikane?” ‘n Gesprek met Nico Smith, ed. M. Hofmeyer, K. Kritzinger, and Willem Saayman (Johannesburg: Taurus, 1990); and Christopher Sugden, “Placing Critical Issues in Relief: A Response to David Bosch,” in Mission in Bold Humility, pp. 139-50.

  42. See John de Gruchy, “The Church and the Struggle for South Africa,” Theology Today 43, no. 2 (July 1986): 239. Cf. D. Smit, “The Symbol of Reconciliation and Ideological Conflict in South Africa,” in Reconciliation and Construction: Creative Options for a Rapidly Changing South Africa, ed. W. S. Vortser (Pretoria: Univ. of South Africa, 1986), pp. 79-112.

  43. De Gruchy, “The Church and the Struggle for South Africa,” pp. 240-43. De Gruchy’s approach is similar to that taken by Jan Milic Lochman in his Reconciliation and Liberation: Challenging a One-Dimensional View of Salvation (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980).


Selected Works by Bosch

1959 Die Heidenmission in der Zukunftsschau Jesu. Zürich: Zwingli Verlag.

1974 Het Evangelie in Afrikaans gewaad. Kampen: Kok.

1977 Theology of Religions. Missiology and Science of Religion MSR 303 Guide 1. Pretoria: Univ. of South Africa.

1979 A Spirituality of the Road. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press.

1980* Witness to the World: The Christian Mission in Theological Perspective.* Atlanta: John Knox Press; London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott.

1982 The Church as the Alternative Community. Potchefstroom: Instituut vir Reformatoriese Studie.

1985 The Lord’s Prayer: Paradigm for a Christian Lifestyle. Pretoria: Christian Medical Fellowship.

1991 Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books.

1995 Believing in the Future: Toward a Missiology of Western Culture. Valley Forge, Pa.: Trinity Press International; Leominster: Gracewing.

20 “Classic” Bosch Essays

1973 “God in Africa: Implications for the Kerygma.” Missionalia 1, no. 1 (April): 3-21.

1976 “Crosscurrents in Modern Mission.” Missionalia 4, no. 2 (August): 54-84.

1977 “The Church and the Liberation of Peoples?” Missionalia 5, no. 2 (August): 8-47.

1978 “Renewal of Christian Community in Africa Today.” In Facing the New Challenges, ed. M. Cassidy and L. Verlinden, pp. 92102. Nairobi: Evangel Publishing House.

1978 “Towards True Mutuality: Exchanging the Same Commodities or Supplementing Each Others’ Needs?” Missiology 6, no. 3 (July): 284-96.

1979 “Racism and Revolution: Response of the Churches in South Africa.” Occasional Bulletin of Missionary Research 3, no. 1 (January): 13-20.

1979 “The Kingdom of God and the Kingdoms of This World.” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 29 (December): 3-13.

1981 “In Search of Mission: Reflections on ‘Melbourne’ and ‘Pattaya.’” *Missionalia *9, no. 1 (April): 3-18.

1981 “Evangelism: An Holistic Approach.” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 36 (September): 43-63.

1982 “Church Unity Amidst Cultural Diversity: A Protestant Problem.” Missionalia 10, no. 1 (April): 16-28.

1983 “Evangelism and Social Transformation.” In The Church in Response to Human Need, ed. Tom Sine, pp. 271-92. Monrovia: MARC.

1983 “Nothing but a Heresy.” In Apartheid Is a Heresy, ed. John de Gruchy and Charles Villa-Vicencio, pp. 24-38. Cape Town: David Philip; Guildford: Lutterworth; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

1983 “The Structure of Mission: An Exposition of Matthew 28:16 20.” In Exploring Church Growth, ed. W. R. Shenk, pp. 218-48. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

1984 “Mission and Evangelism: Clarifying the Concepts.” Zeitschrift fur Missionswissenschaft und Religionswissenschaft 68, no. 3 (July): 161-91.

1985 “The Fragmentation of Afrikanerdom and the Afrikaner Churches.” In Resistance and Hope: South African Essays in Honour of Beyers Naude, ed. Charles Villa-Vicencio and John W. de Gruchy, pp. 61-73. Cape Town: David Philip; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

1986 “Processes of Reconciliation and Demands of Obedience-Twelve Theses.” In Hammering Swords into Plowshares: Essays in Honour of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, ed. Itumeleng Mosala and Buti Tlhagale, pp. 159-71. Johannesburg: Skotaville Publishers; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans; and Basingstoke: Marshall Picketing, 1987.

1987 “Vision for Mission.” International Review of Mission 76, no. 301 (January): 8-15.

1987 “Evangelism: Theological Currents and Cross-currents Today.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 11, no. 3 (July): 98-103.

1990 “Mission in the 1990s.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 14 (October): 149-52.

1993 “God’s Reign and the Rulers of This World: Missiological Reflections on Church-State Relationships.” In The Good News of the Kingdom: Mission Theology for the Third Millennium, ed. Charles Van Engen, Dean Gilliland, and Paul Piersonn, pp. 8995. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books.

Selected Works on Bosch

König, Adrio. “David J. Bosch: Witness to the World.” Theologia Evangelica 13 (July-September 1980): 11-19.

Kritzinger, J. N. J., and W. A. Saayman, eds. Mission in Creative Tension: A Dialogue with David Bosch. Pretoria: South African Missiological Society, 1990. (Nineteen essays on all aspects of Bosch’s thought.)

Livingston, Kevin. “David Bosch: An Interpretation of Some Main Themes in His Missiological Thought.” Missionalia 18, no. 1 (1990): 3-19.

—–. A Missiology of the Road: The Theology of Mission and Evangelism in the Writings of David J. Bosch. Lanham, Md.: Univ. Press of America, forthcoming.

Louw-Potgeiter, Joha. “The Social Identity of Dissident Afrikaners.” Ph.D. thesis, Univ. of Bristol, 1986.

Saayman, Willem. “David J. Bosch: A Tribute to the Man.” Theologia Evangelica 13 (July-September 1980): 6-10.

Saayman, Willem, and Klippies Kritzinger, eds. Mission in Bold Humility: David Bosch’s Work Considered. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1996. (Thirteen essays; the contributions by Verstraelen and Sugden are especially noteworthy.)

Verkuyl, Johannes. “Ter gedachtenis aan prof. dr. David Bosch (1929-1992).” Wereld en Zending 21, no. 3 (1992): 3-6.

This article, is reproduced from the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Jan. 99, Vol. 23 Issue 1, p. 26-32, copyright© 1999, edited by G. H. Anderson, J. J. Bonk, and R. T. Coote. All rights reserved.