A Review of Alexander Robb’s ‘The Heathen World and the Duty of the Church’

The Heathen World and the Duty of the Church

by Alexander Robb

Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot 1863

Alexander Robb, a missionary in Nigeria, presents his church of the time with a forceful and passionate argument for mobilizing missionaries and supporting the work. He The The Rev. Alexander Robb deals with the normal questions that missionaries today still face: why support mission work when there are few converts? (God is sovereign, we don’t see fruit sometimes because we’ll get proud, etc.) What is the relation between commerce and mission in the (then) age of empire? (Let them each go their own way.) Is there possibility for salvation for the heathen without the Gospel? (Even if there is, we should act as if there is not.)

It is a short little volume, and on the whole he does a good job of providing answers that even today seem, well, let’s say less stale than other missionary texts of the mid-19th C. On the negative side, he starts the book with a catalogue of the inhumane vices of the heathen. It all seems a little overblown, but later on he strikes a balance by insisting that these are indeed human beings made in the image of God. One wishes for a little more sympathy and willingness to find positive aspects of the heathens’ cultures, but Robb doesn’t see much there.

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Author: duanemiller

I was born in Montana and grew up in Colorado and Puebla (in Mexico). I completed a BA in philosophy at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and then an MA in theology at St Mary's University (also in San Antonio). Later life took me to Jordan where my wife and I studied Arabic, to Israel where I helped found a seminary, and to Scotland for doctoral work, among other places. I'm highly interested in the interactions of Islam, Christianity and secularism in modern contexts. My main areas of research for my PhD in divinity were religious conversion from Islam to Christianity, contextual theology, and the shari'a's treatment of apostates. I've also published research on global Anglicanism and the history of Anglican mission in the Ottoman Empire. I've had the pleasure of teaching in many places over the years: from Costa Rica to Turkey, and Kenya to Tunisia. Presently, I live in San Antonio where I am lecturer and researcher in Muslim-Christian relations at The Christian Institute of Islamic Studies (ticks.org), and sometime adjunct professor of theology at St Mary's University. Visit my blog (duanemiller.wordpress.com) or academia.edu page for more information or to have me speak at your church, university or seminary.

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