According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, June 9, 2011

“Missio Dei” in historical perspectives, part 3

Perriman's "Missio Dei" articles (Parts 1, 2, 3) seem to me a good example of what a "whole bible meta-narrative" might look like as we enter into this postmodern age of "grand storytelling" (not in the mythic sense, but in a true historic sense). It proposes what seems legitimate origins, plots, storylines, conflicts, resolutions, and conclusions to the purposes of God in this world utilizing biblical covenants, themes, salvific events and progress, personal/tribal/national narratives, redemptive histories, eschatological hope, apocalytic progress, and secular human history as supports for its arguments. Old and New Testament Introductions and thematic Biblical-Theological Studies have said as much and I would expect yet more contextualized "Grand Narratives" to come forward as theologians revisit church and world movements post-Messiah (or pre-Parousia!).

To this I question Barth's claimed influence, Constantinople's "Christianized" empire, or Europe's "Christianizing" cultures beyond anything more than gross acclamations among other critiques. But Perriman's overall theme and concluding thoughts show themselves to be a good working propostion, in that the world has now heard the gospel of Jesus and that the church is in the early postmodernistic stages of expanding the Creator God's rule and reign over all aspects of human culture and civilization. It is then, a narrative theology that restuctures the church's mission, and one that could align itself with the propositions and practices of the newly arising "emergent church culture."

Overall, we should not be suprised that popular church movements bear some relationship to the worldly culture that we know and to grand propagandized themes (in a positive sense) "reforming" its at-large enterprise or activities. For Christian movements are just that, and hopefully, if they are reflective of the "better themes of the bible" (like grace, forgiveness, peace, harmony) we can find personal identification with them and with past historical truths that previous church ages have uncovered, testified of, and submitted to. This then keeps such a movement from being overtly "sectarian" or altogether "cultic" and misleading.

R.E. Slater
June 9, 2011
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“Missio Dei” in historical perspectives, part 3

Andrew Perriman

The Christendom narrative


Historically speaking, the victory of Israel’s God over the pagan world through the faithfulness of Jesus and of those in him was the conversion of the empire under Constantine and Theodosius. This, I think, brings the driving narrative of scripture to an end. There remains a sketchy outer narrative about the continuing witness of the descendants of Abraham to the renewal of creation as the basis for the blessing of the nations. But the core narrative of how this people came to inherit the world (cf. Rom. 4:13), with all its crises of judgment and salvation, has been told (keeping in mind that a significant part of it has been told prophetically).

So what happened to the missio Dei under Christendom? I would suggest that in effect it took the form of the creation of a European Christian society, a politically underpinned assertion of the lordship or “kingdom” established at the end of the biblical narrative, with a coherent, rational and universalized Christian worldview, that would eventually be exported to the rest of the world, held accountable internally (as ancient Israel had been) by movements of dissent and renewal.

That may not be how we would now choose to characterize the mission of God during that period; and I would not want to suggest that the New Testament foresaw how the success of the witness of the early church would turn out. But I think it represents roughly how the European church from Constantine onwards would have formulated its understanding of the missio Dei.

Missio Dei after Christendom

Here is what we have so far. As a biblical people we must frame everything with a story of the God who created and who will re-create. Within that frame we have the response of YHWH to the rebellion of humanity in the form of the calling of Abraham to be the progenitor of a new humanity through which the original blessing of creation would be recovered. But that calling already has the seeds of the central biblical story about the defeat of the gods of “Babylon” in the end through the experience of redemptive suffering.

This dominant biblical narrative is then followed by the story of the development, expansion, and eventual decline of the European church—the troubled and glorious story of western Christendom. It is not a finished story, and there may be some pages, perhaps even chapters, still to be written. But I think that just as Rome put an end to second temple Judaism, so modern secular rationalism has put an end to the Christendom paradigm, and the people of God finds itself again in a wilderness of transition.

So how do we reformulate the missio Dei? How do we now speak about the engagement of the one good creator God with his creation through the family of Abraham, which is called always to be a new creation, renewed through the Spirit and under Christ as Lord? It seems to me that we have to take these three factors into consideration:
  • The fundamental responsibility to acknowledge and worship the one good creator God and to affirm the created nature of all things;
  • The seminal vocation of the family of Abraham to recover the original blessing of creation and be the means by which the nations are blessed;
  • The large-scale historical narratives that have brought us to the present situation of the church: the biblical narrative of the victory of the marginal God of Abraham over pagan empire; and the post-biblical narrative of the rise and fall of western Christendom.
The good news that we have in this time of eschatological transition is that in different ways the creator God, who made all things through and for Jesus, is still active in the world—that there are abundant signs of reformation and transformation, that the churches are beginning to rediscover the scope of their new creational mandate, that a vision is emerging of a concrete alternative existence, in dynamic relation to the creator, which will function credibly as a prophetic counterpoint to the weighty distortions and injustices of contemporary global society. A new story is beginning to be told.


The advantage of relativizing the missio Dei in this way is that it forces the church to think much more deeply and contextually about its present condition and the opportunities and challenges that this presents. For the most part we have no wish to reinstate the imperializing “mission” of the Christendom era—that is now history, and we may be happy to see the back of it. But by the same token, we are not now engaged in the drawn out and painful contest between the seemingly inconsequential God of Israel and the powerful gods of the Greek-Roman oikoumenē.

I suggest that the missio Dei for the church in the age to come will have to be increasingly defined in creational terms as a response to the globalization of the challenges confronting humanity: damage to the environment, food and energy shortages, population growth, the struggle of incompatible cultures to co-exist in shrinking and depleted social spaces, and so on. It is now the creator God and the Son who is firstborn of all creation, through whom and for whom all things were made, and the re-creative, inventive Spirit who send the church into the world to embody—both actually and prophetically—the possibility of renewed humanity in the midst of the peoples of the earth.

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