A River Flows Out Of Eden

Peter Leithart has a nice reflection in First Things on mission work where multiculturalism prevails. He offers a "third way" between cultural imperialism and soft-soap mushiness that seems to me to comport with what John Paul the Great & B16 have been saying for 30 years. I like his image:
The Bible provides a theology of missions that is neither accommodation to existing culture nor total war that leaves the existing culture in smoking ruins. Mission is more like cultivation, a process of nurturing the hidden but unforeseen potential within a culture. Mission, we might say, is like water. Tertullian said, Nunquam sine aqua Christus—Christ is never without water. Neither is the Church; neither is her mission.

“Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided into four rivers” (Genesis 2:10). It is the Bible’s first reference to rivers, and the first use of the number four, a number that eventually becomes associated with universality—the four corners (Isaiah 11:12), the four winds (Daniel 7:2), the four cornerstones of a house, the four horns of the altar. Genesis 2:10 is the first missionary text in Scripture, the first hint that Eden’s garden is not destination but source, the first faint suggestion that Adam is to move from the garden to bring its life to the ends of creation.

He concludes:

For the modern world as for the ancient, mission is like water. What grows when the gospel comes is native to the landscape, but what grows would never grow but for the river.