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

Friday, June 10, 2011

“Missio Dei” in historical perspectives, part 1

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 1

Andrew Perriman
Monday 10 January 2011

The idea that the mission of the church is in the first place the mission of God or missio Dei has its origins in the thought of Karl Barth. A good summary of its development can be found in David Bosch’s Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (389-93).1

Barth’s argument that mission must be understood as an activity or attribute of God himself was first proposed in a paper given at the Brandenburg Missionary Conference in 1932. The full concept was articulated in 1952 at the Willingen Conference of the International Missionary Council. Mission was understood to derive from the Trinitarian nature of God: the Father sends the Son; the Father and the Son send the Spirit; and the Trinitarian God sends the church into the world as a dynamic embodiment of divine love towards creation. Bosch encapsulates the paradigm shift involved:
Mission is thereby seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission…. There is church because there is mission, not vice versa…. To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love. (390)
Mission, therefore, can no longer be seen merely as the practical extension of the church: it has to be understood fundamentally as a representation of God:
The primary purpose of the missiones ecclesiae can therefore not simply be the planting of churches or the saving of souls; rather, it has to be service to the missio Dei, representing God in and over against the world, pointing to God, holding up the God-child before the eyes of the world in a ceaseless celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany. In its mission, the church witnesses to the fullness of the promise of God’s reign and participates in the ongoing struggle between that reign and the powers of darkness and evil…. (391) 

Keep to the right…


This shift of focus away from the activity of the church towards the activity of God, however, exposed a critical bifurcation in the argument, a fork in the road—and many theologians took the concept of missio Dei in a direction altogether unintended by Barth and the German missiologists. Bosch traces the development back to Vatican II (391-392). If the church participates in the mission of God, the possibility arises that the mission of God in the world may be thought to happen more or less independently of the church. In effect, the connection established at Willingen between the mission of God and the sending of the church could be undone and the missio Dei restated in rather different terms.

The outcome is that “the church encounters a humanity and a world in which God’s salvation has already been operative secretly, through the Spirit”. The mission of God comes to be understood as the Spirit-driven betterment of humanity, and the church may—or may not—choose to align itself with this historical process. Bosch quotes P.G. Aring: “We have no business in ‘articulating’ God. In the final analysis, ‘missio Dei’ means that God articulates himself, without any need of assisting him through our missionary efforts in this respect” (392).
This development led many to question the usefulness of the missio Dei concept. Bosch argues, however, that it still serves to safeguard the critical theological insight that mission is “primarily and ultimately, the work of the Triune God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, for the sake of the world, a ministry in which the church is privileged to participate” (392).

The missional incarnational development


These tensions remain in evidence—many would complain, for example, that Brian McLaren took the wrong turning in Everything Must Change, with its apparent eclipse of the church and reinterpretation of the kingdom of God as a process of global social transformation. But the current popularity of the missio Dei concept amongst progressive and emerging churches probably has more to do with the theological support it lends to the argument about incarnational mission. If the church participates in the sending of the Son, then mission should have the same same basic incarnational structure. This accounts for the emphasis on following or imitating Jesus, and is readily translated into a broad range of centrifugal missional practices. So, for example, the Missio Dei community in Minneapolis describes itself as “following Jesus’ way of hospitality, simplicity, prayer, peacemaking, and resistance”.

This is what the whole thing looks like in colour:


All this has been by way of introduction. The question I will consider in the next part has to do with the relation of the concept to scripture. How does the Bible define the mission of God? And in particular, should we be thinking in terms of a single overarching definition or does the missional activity of God need to be contextualized historically? My guess is the latter….

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1. See also C.J.H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (IVP Academic, 2006), 62-65.


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