Tuesday, September 15

Theology from the balcony or theology on the road? John A. Mackay

John Mackay may not be a common name for the English world today and he is a theologian almost unknown and forgotten in this side of the Occidental world.

Indeed, he is not an intelectual who is studied side to side to Karl Barth, Paul Tillich or Abraham Kuyper. Yet his thoughts have shaped a generation and his influence and thinking are still revolutioning churchs theologies.

Contemporary Emerging Churches use Mission Integral theology as one of its references. Mission Integral is a theology developed by third world evangelical theologians who search to understand better the message of Jesus while struggling with political and criminal violence and poverty.

Mission Integral Theology is not an emerging church product; it had and it has been influencing it.

The Paradox is that Mission Integral has its origin in the old Calvinist reformed theology, and in a humble calvinst unknow theologian. Mission integral as we know it today was developed by a Presbyterian minister who lived in the first half of 2Oth Century . “Mr John A Mackay”. He believed that announcing the kingdom coming had strong implications on our daily social interaction. And it was not reduced to some moral values (not do this, not to do that, not to be like this, not to be like that).

Samuel Escobar, Rene Padilla, and other young folks of the following Latin American generation had all of them something in common. They all were deeply influenced by this sympathetic and brilliant Scottish fellow who arrived to Latin America (First to Peru) in the late 30's Mr John A. Mackay. He was almost Thirty years old when he arrived to Peru.

He graduated from the University of Aberdeen with First Class Honors in Philosophy and later he ventured across the ocean to Princeton Theological Seminary.

Returning to Europe the First War caught him and he went to Spain before the Spanish revolution. He was very intrigued by the Spanish culture and in particularly of a Spanish Poet Miguel de Unamuno, the Spanish existentialist who, before many others, had discovered and written about Kierkegaard. It was the beginning of a love affair with the Hispanic culture to which he would be devoted throughout his whole life.

In Peru he and his wife founded a Protestant school, now known as the “Colegio San Andres”.

His thoughts, his influence over Political leaders, his philosophy challenged traditional catholique elitist Latin America Spanish structures. John Mackay was quickly indentified as a voice that would challenge establishment from a protestant christian point of view.

John Mackay was invited to occupy the chair of Philosophy in the National University of San Marcos. The Oldest University in South America, founded in 1551 by the Spanish and symbol old Intellectual Elites

So he was the first Protestant to be appointed to such an academic position, and probably the only one until today. In this reknowned university, later he was honored by an award of the "Palmas Magisteriales" by the Peruvian government for John Mackay's contribution to education.

Under special assignment with the South American Federation of the YMCA, he began to lecture and write first in Uruguay and then in Mexico. He was appointed a member of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church with general oversight of Latin America and Africa.

John Mackay was called in 1936 to the presidency of Princeton Seminary, where he served for twenty-three years not only as President, but as Professor of Ecumenics, the first such designated chair in an American seminary. It was a time of theological crises, Division between liberals, traditionalist, reformed, evangelical etc etc

John Mackay managed the situation with passion for the gospel, deep belief on the mission and deep understanding and respect for each reality he established an environment of orthodox openness and dialogue

His long and distinguished career was still long and distinguished by:

Head of the Commission on the Universal Church and the World of Nations at the Oxford Conference in 1937,

· Member of the Central, Committee of the World Council of Churches (1948-1954)

· President of the American Association of Theological Schools (1945-1950)

· Chairman of the International Missionary Council (1947-1958),

· President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (1954-1959).

· Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the USA in 1953.

After his retirement from Princeton, he taught at the American University in Washington as Adjunct Professor of Hispanic Thought.

Latin America and Hispanic culture were his passions All his assignment on the international

scene were remarkably well accomplished. He lived through the second war and the cold war Time.

A Young Latin American generation growed up reading his books, listening his lectures. He challenged these young Intellectual Christian to make Theology on the road on their own and not repeat old ways from the balcony.

He would encourage them on a very Kierkegaarian way to embrace the paradox. To understand their cultural past, to live their present to project themselves to the future Kingdom coming " "The End and the Beginning," "The Way to Tomorrow Leads Through Yesterday."To fight with the idealism of Don Quixote but not being as naive as him and to rebuilt its own reality like Robinson Crusoe, with out remaining a Robinson Cruseoe ", "to take the lead, " not to conform themselves to the present time, but to seek the Kingdom of God.

He published thirteen books, three of which he wrote in Spanish. In 1944, he founded and edited several reviews and wrote letter accusing social issue like markarturisme (see d "A Letter to Presbyterians,)" calling for reasonable reflection.

In the same vein, he repeatedly advocated open dialogue and summit meetings of political leaders for China, Russia, and the troubled areas of Latin America. For him there was no conflict between proclaiming the kingdom coming and looking for peace among men. For him to search peace on earth was a prophetic announcement of the Kingdom Coming. If Americans are still discussing the good or the evil of social gospel, and some of them are discovering for good or bad emerging churches, Latin Americans Chrstians learned long time ago from John Mackay that the Mission was integral, teh Gospel was globale, to preach the gospel was to announce now the Kingdom coming and that was more than words but concrete actions too.

Coming out of a small and very conservative Scottish Presbyterian church, John Mackay became a world-recognized spiritual ambassador. And the father of Latin American Mission Integral protestant thought.

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