Introduction to Christianity Connected

Date added: 16/07/2020



1.1.   Purpose of the Study


The purpose of this study is to answer the question: can this private correspondence offer significant insights and stimulation for mission theology at the beginning of the twenty-first century, particularly concerning the relationships of Christians to people of other faiths?

            The study introduces into the public domain a unique, private, family correspondence and reflects on the issues raised in it. Max Warren was both one of the most influential missiologists of the twentieth century and also one of the strategic evangelical leaders of the Anglican Communion. As General Secretary of the largest anglican mission agency, the Church Missionary Society[1], for twenty one years he prepared the Society for the imminent demise of the British Empire and assisted Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, in devolving power to the new autonomous Provinces of the Communion.[2] Roger Hooker, Warren’s son-in-law, had an extraordinary gift of friendship across cultures and faiths which integrated engagingly with his probing theological mind. Exciting explorations in the faiths occurred while serving at a theological college in North India and studying Sanskrit at the Sanskrit University at Benares.[3] Warren died in 1977 and Hooker in 1999.

            A study of their detailed, informal, regular, familial correspondence, in which they narrated events and exchanged ideas with great candour while Warren was at Westminster Abbey and in retirement and Hooker was a CMS missionary in India, may have much to offer the renewal of the missionary movement throughout the world.

            One of the central themes of their correspondence concerns the relationships of Christians to people of other faiths. Much is being published that suggests that this is a completely new issue, whereas it is, in fact, as old as Abraham and Melchizedek. Little is being written that combines grass roots experience of inter-faith friendships with acute theological acumen: this is exactly what is to be found in this correspondence. This study aims (1) to provide an annotated, selected edition of their letters, (2) to interpret the explorations of Warren and Hooker, and (3) to engage with some of the issues thus raised.


1.2.    Structure of the Study


The six chapters attempt to introduce, interpret and comment on the letters of Warren and Hooker. Then, after a short discussion on how their theology of mission emerges, there follows the texts of their letters. It was decided to use this order (i.e. introduction in advance rather than comment afterwards) so that contextual orientation would be effective and ‘tools of discovery’ for reading the texts carefully could be suggested.

Warren is the major figure in this study. His seniority in this partnership, his initiative in setting up the correspondence, his stature as a leader of the evangelical movement in Anglicanism, his extraordinarily varied publications and international influence combine to suggest that this should be the case. Therefore more space has been devoted to him than to Hooker both in the structure of the extended essay and in the selected letters. Hooker, however, was not just a mirror, or sounding board, for Warren but, as will become manifest, a significant theologian in his own right.

In chapters two and three there are particular sections on Warren first and then on Hooker, with comparisons in the conclusion. In chapters four and five this shape is adjusted to be more integrative, for their theology of mission and theology of religion showed remarkable agreement. Warren and Hooker are therefore both considered, often in dialogue, within sections. This structure means that the presentation of their interactions does not have to be postponed to the concluding sections of those chapters. Rather than specifically comparing their thought all the time within chapters four and five, most of the comparisons are reserved for the concluding chapter, six.

Chapter Two provides the biographical contextof Warren and Hooker, since the ‘personal’ has priority in their theological reflection: they considered relations of ‘friendship’ (rather than abstract theory) as the key to mission and its understanding. It considers the lives of these extraordinary people, their characters and significance, the backgrounds which shaped their responses and how they related to each other.

Chapter Three treats the question of how theology may be mediated through  other forms of understanding. For Warren this was especially through history, which he studied at Cambridge as an undergraduate, having enjoyed it so much at school. It discusses the people who influenced him then and in later life, how he understood God to relate to universal and particular histories, and what his historiographical position was. For Hooker this mediation was especially through literature: for him the question was how God speaks through contemporary Hindi novels.

Chapter Four explores how such mediated theology develops into a ‘corresponding theology of mission.’ After the discussion of who influenced Warren’s theology and missiology, there are three main sections. Firstly the foundations, which considers how Scripture is to be interpreted as the Word of God without lapsing into fundamentalism and in what way Jesus Christ is the Truth of God. Secondly the frontiers, which asks how evangelism can be authentic and effective by combining emphases on being, listening and story telling and how politics and racism relate to mission. Thirdly the structures, which explores how the Church should relate to mission agencies as a church which is genuinely missionary and faces outward towards the world rather than inwards towards itself, and how the study of mission can influence the study of theology in colleges and universities.

Chapter Five discusses these issues in the meeting of faiths. It does so by looking at who influenced Warren’s and Hooker’s theology of religion, what the meanings of key words such as ‘presence’ and ‘attention’ are, in what way Jesus Christ is unique or distinctive and how God’s gift of salvation reaches people of other faiths.

Chapter Sixforms the conclusionof the study. It considers what is distinctive about the content of the correspondence and provides preliminary explorations of issues for further study. It asks how the thought of Warren and Hooker developed and how they were different from each other in their theology, whether we should still be using the term ‘uniqueness’ concerning Jesus Christ, how universalism, recapitulation in Christ and judgement relate and what matrix may be developed for approaching the question of eternal salvation and people of other faiths.

Hereafter follows the longest part of the study, which is made up of an introduction, concerning how theology emerged from these letters, and then of selected, editedand annotated extracts. The introduction considers how they viewed and valued their correspondence, how this particular literary genre of letters aids theological exploration and which personal, ecclesiastical, national and international events affected their writing. The selections are set out in three periods and are in chronological order: they are fully footnoted, each with a short headline and some with a note giving the context of the letter. Hooker’s replies are interwoven with Warren’s letters.

An appendixprovides a family tree of the Warren family.


1.3.    Methods of the Study


The underlying methods used in this study combine those of critical historical research, systematic theological reflection and informed editorial provision. Discovering the unpublished documents, researching their contextual background, elucidating obscure references and relating their content to other works published by Warren and Hooker have been rewarding aspects of this historical research. Shaping their free flowing thought concerning particular subjects, providing the wider comparative setting of contemporary theologians and missiologists and attempting to respond to the crucial questions raised have been stimulating parts of theological reflection. Accurate typing onto the computer of difficult handwriting and of carbon copies of typescript,[4] selecting extracts which would be the most significant to include,[5] and supplying notes which would clarify rather than obfuscate have all been part of the challenges of editorial provision.

An important concern of the historical method is to raise the issue of what has been termed ‘critical distance’. In this case it has to do with two particular relationships: firstly between Warren and Hooker and secondly between the author of this study and them both. Their close and deep relationship does indeed pose questions concerning their interaction as to whether they are too close effectively to be critical of each other’s positions. Since the beginnings and endings of these letters, which often referred to family news and details, have not been included in the selections, it is important to remember that these are selections from family letters between a father-in-law and a son-in-law (as well as between two mission theologians). This intimacy is often seen even in the high level discussions of history and theology and it did provide a safe context for explorations. They were respectful of each other, but were certainly not uncritical and often pushed each other to see the logical direction of their thought. So although these letters may be informal and personal, Warren and Hooker do in fact engage critically with each other and are not afraid to challenge each other’s thinking.[6]

Secondly it is important that the author of this study, who has known Hooker personally (but not Warren), also recognises the need for ‘critical distance’ in his own consideration of their work. So in the following chapters responses will be found to be respectful but not uncritical.


1.4.    Sources of the Study


      1. Primary Sources


        Warren wrote a total of 617 letters over about thirteen years, from February 1965 to August 1977, addressed alternately to Roger and Pat Hooker. Most of the Hooker letters from their first tour as CMS missionaries (1965-70) are no longer extant: only 28 survive and these are from the later years. For their second and third tours (1971-1974) and (1974-1978) Roger Hooker wrote a total of 312 letters. Warren dated and numbered his letters meticulously: Hooker only dated his letters for the first tour and dated and numbered them for the second and third tours. There are no extant letters written when the Hookers were on leave in Britain.

        The University of Birmingham Library houses the CMS archives from 1799 to 1959. CMS operate a 40 year closure period, so the archives from 1960 to the present day are housed in London under the controlled access of CMS. These include the original letters between Warren and Hooker, deposited there by Hooker. Of the two sets of copies which were made, Pat Hooker has one and the author of this study has  given his set to the Henry Martyn Centre at Westminster College, Cambridge. Pat Hooker holds the Roger Hooker archives, which also contain some material relating to Warren.[7] Access to the letters requires the written permission of Pat Hooker. Both Roger and Pat Hooker have kindly given this permission and much encouragement for the letters to be published in this study.

        There are two complete sets of Warren’s travel diaries, with detailed indexes,[8] written between 1943 and 1970: one set is in Birmingham and the other in London.

        The Hookers also kindly gave to the Henry Martyn Centre books from Warren’s personal library. Many of these have fascinating comments in the margins and notes on the end pages and some have accompanying letters from the authors to Warren or copies of book reviews that Warren wrote.[9] This study focuses on the period of the correspondence and so books by Warren and Hooker which were written during the period 1965-1977 are considered whilst earlier ones (and later ones by Hooker) are referred to for context and development.

        The original spellings, punctuation and grammar of the text of the letters have been kept rather than corrected. This means that ‘&’ is used regularly and also that some sentences are in note form and do not always have verbs. The acronym for the Church Missionary Society (and other agencies) is usually spelt with full stops i.e. C.M.S. rather than the more modern version of ‘CMS’, which is used in the other chapters. 


        1.4.2.   Secondary Sources


        Three theses have been written on Warren by Pieter Meiring (Dutch Reformed, from South Africa), Francis Furey (Roman Catholic from Ireland), and Ossi Haaramäki (Lutheran from Finland).[10] Only Haaramäki’s has been published. These all provide fine surveys of his work and in particular, Warren praised Furey’s thesis in letter 464.[11] None of these, however, has considered the work of Roger Hooker nor studied this unique correspondence, since it was not available to them. These two aspects provide the special contribution of the present study.


        1.4.3.  General Literature


General literature concerning theology of mission, theology of religions and other historical and theological issues raised in the correspondence has also been studied.



































[1] Hereafter the Church Missionary Society is usually designated as ‘CMS’. In the past this acronym has been written as ‘C.M.S.’ and has often been prefaced with the definite article ‘the’. In 1995 the word ‘Missionary’ was changed to ‘Mission’ and it became the Church Mission Society. For a critical  assessment of CMS see Kevin Ward and Brian Stanley (eds), The Church Mission Society and World Christianity, 1799-1999 (London: Curzon Press and Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000).

[2] See Edward Carpenter, Archbishop Fisher: His Life and Times (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 1991) and Letter 353,  July 22 1972.

[3] ‘Benares’ is the usual spelling: it may also be spelt ‘Banaras’ or ‘Benaras’.

[4] Warren wrote his letters by hand and Hooker typed his.

[5] See section 1.4. in the introduction to the Selected Letters for the criteria for selection.

[6] See Letter 9 for Warren’s challenge to Hooker to read books on Paul as well as on John and Hooker’s letter of 9 October 1971 which criticised Warren on universalism.

[7] See chapter 3, notes 81 and 98.

[8] See F. W. Dillistone, Into All The World: A Biography of Max Warren (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), Appendix 1 pp. 237-238. The Travel Diaries referred to particularly in this study are ‘South Africa, Kenya, Uganda 1965’, ‘India 1967’ and ‘Holland 1969’, (CMS/Unofficial/Warren).

[9] Some of these marginal notes are used below in chapter 3.

[10] Pieter G. C. Meiring ‘Max Warren as Sendingwetenskapliche’, D.D thesis (Pretoria, 1968). Ossi Haaramäki, The Missionary Ecclesiology of Max Warren: A Systematic Research on the Warren Production of 1942-1963 (Helsinki: The Finnish Society for Missiology and Ecumenics, 1982). I am very grateful to Meiring and Haaramäki for gifts of their theses and for discussions of them in South Africa in 1995 and at the IAMS conference in 1996. Francis Furey ‘The Theology of Mission in the Writings of Max Warren’, L.S.T thesis (Louvain, 1974). I have studied Warren’s copy of this, which is now in the Henry Martyn Centre.

[11] Letter 464, 6 December 1974.