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William Carey is considered the “Father of Protestant missions,” his book, “An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens,” written in 1792, the beginning of the so-called ‘Great Century’ (1792-1914) between the French and the Russian Revolutions. For the centennial anniversary, none lesser than the mentor of German missiology, Gustav Warneck, wrote, “Thus, the year 1792 may be considered the true birthdate of modern missions.” Less that twenty days after the publication of the “Enquiry”, Carey held his sermon on Isaiah 54:2-3 and began to disseminate it with a clear appeal for missions to his fellow pastors, which soon led to the foundation of the mission society, “The Particular Baptist Mission”. The first mission society to do without state supervision, it was founded on different lines than the Anglo-Saxon honor societies.

Much has been written about Carey and his colleagues, their mission field in Serampore, and their achievements in printing, in Bible translation, in teaching and in many other areas.

Strangely enough, however, little attention has been paid in his numerous biographies to his theology, as expressed in his major work, even not in Bruce J. Nichols’ article “The Theology of William Carey”. (The only exception I know of is Iain Murray’s study, The Puritan Hope). This failure is probably due to the fact that Carey’s theology differs from that of the presently predominant, Post-Classical mission societies, which happily claim him as their father, although he was a Calvinist and a Postmillenialist. Even the two dissertations which discuss his achievements ignore large areas of his theology. Neither mention his eschatological views, which played a major role in his decisions. The best description – interestingly, actually a biography of his first wife — mentions his personal optimism in the chapter on “Attitudes Towards the Future,”but not his optimistic perspective on world missions, which he derived from his Postmillenial theology.

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  1. Baptist Missionaries, Carey and Adinirom Judson both possessed a hopeful eschatology along with many of the great missionaries from that period. Two major theologies that motivated these are abandoned by the Baptist churches today, Calvinism and Postimillennialism. Both ideas were instrumental influences on these pioneer missionaries of the 19th Century.

    I have even been told that missions and Calvinism don’t go together by many of my fellow Baptists, who don’t seem to embrace their Calvinistic heritage.

    Baptist Postimillennialists B.H. Carrol and John Broadus were founders of both Southwestern and Southern Seminaries (originally formed in upstate SC, now in Louisville) but little mention is made to their hopeful eschatology these days.

    Perhaps our mission activities would be more fruitful if we didn’t think that we are only tending a thorn filled garden until we are raptured away in defeat.

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