Mission and politics

With two European governments falling in one week, in the light of the St. Paul’s Cathedral protests and the subsequent confusion among St. Paul’s hierarchy as to how to respond, with the G20 meetings which failed to resolve anything, the Theology of Mission class came together to discuss the role of the Church in politics. What role does political engagement have in mission? Do we keep away from politics as a contaminated and contaminating area of human life? Do we speak into political discourse with an even handed prophetic voice? Or do we throw ourselves into political life choosing to support one political viewpoint?

We wanted to maintain a Christian perspective on this so I insisted that any theological articulation of political involvement must have something to do with Jesus Christ and his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension and imminent return not just be a reflection of Old Testament law and prophets–although these are absolutely essential as well.

We did not come to many concrete conclusions–not something I seek for at this level of study–but we did discover that “Jesus is Lord” means more than just being Lord of our souls and of the Church. Jesus’ lordship is one that covers geopolitical, social and environmental life as well. This means that the Church has a responsibility to point out when leaders–local, national or global–introduce policies which contravene that Lordship then the Church has a responsibility to speak out and cannot keep silent.

We also recognised that being a disciple of Jesus and therefore seeking to obey everything that he commanded us does include a radically different way of life and one that challenges political social norms to such and extent that it demands political change.

Does anybody else want to join in the debate?

Paul Davies

Mission and non-Christian religions

We have been looking at the issues of exclusivism,inclusivism and pluralism this week in Theology of Mission. This is such a hot subject both in theology and in the wider world. We live in a socially plural society which we rejoice in of course. The colour and energy that the multiplicity of nationalities and cultures brings is a blessing. We should know because, here at allnations we are within 20 minutes of the most cosmopolitan city on the planet. The question is not to do with social plurality but rather religious pluralism. Is there only one way to God? How do we do mission in a culturally sensitive way whilst maintaining the uniqueness of Jesus Christ?

Our specific debate was “if people never hear the Gospel can they be saved?” What does that mean for our missionary engagement?

What do you think?

What is a quiet day?

“Quiet day” is one of the idiosyncrasies of allnations that, although not unique, is an important, even essential part of our life here. Once a term, we have a full day–running from Tuesday evening until a Wednesday evening–where we stop. There are no classes, no chores, maintenance. In fact, the only people working are somebody covering reception and the nursery staff.

This is a day for reflection and prayer, reading and meditation. We have found that God speaks to us on these special days.

I Kings 19 tells of Elijah’s experience of the LORD. The LORD was not in the earthquake, storm or fire: He was in a small, barely audible whisper. It is only when the noise of life stops can we hear this voice. It is only when we stop to listen carefully will we hear that voice.

What will God be saying to us on this quiet day? Are you willing to stop to listen to Him?

Contextualisation

Last week in Theology of Mission we dealt with the issue of contextualisation. The gospel is always lived out and communicated in culture. In fact, I would go as far as to say that there is not gospel that is “uncontextual”.

The Bible itself contextualises its message. God, in his name, in the covenant, in the Wisdom literature is contextualising. Ultimately, the great contextualisation is in Jesus Christ. God became human in order to be as well as tell humanity his message.

We have a responsibility to also be contextual as well as to contextualise the message.

What do you think?

missio Dei

The concept of mission being God’s mission, of course has been around for centuries. We use the latin missio Dei for short. Of course, it is in the Bible. John 20:21 says, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you”. Jesus was sent by the Father and the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit into the world and Triune God sends the church into the world. Jesus is also saying that his mission is the model for our own mission as a church.

Christopher J.H. Wright, a former principal of allnations says in his book the that the mission of God is the key to unlocking the whole of the biblical narrative. In other words, reading the Bible with God purpose to save the nations in mind will be an interpretive key to understanding the message of the Bible.

This belief however has serious consequences for our own understanding of the church’s mission. We discussed this in Theology of Mission. How does the church’s mission relate to God’s mission? How do we evaluate whether the church’s mission an adequate reflection of God’s mission? How does this concept affect the way we engage in mission today?

Jose Miguez Bonino sees that God is not only the model for our mission but also our being.

What we are shown here is the nature of ultimate reality: The life of God is communion; identity is not affirmed by closing in on oneself but by opening up to the other; unity is not singularity but rather full communication. It is in that image we are created, it is in participation in that constant divine “conversation” that we find the meaning of our existence, life abundant; it is on this model we should structure our human relations. Neither the all-embracing authority of one over another, nor an undifferentiated mass uniformity, nor the self-sufficiency of the “self-made man,” but the perichoresis of love is our beginning and destiny—‘as persons, as church, as society.

(Faces of Latin American Protestantism, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997, p. 116).

So, the question I want to leave is this: is the activism of the mission Dei concept enough, can we go deeper into the true being of God?

Paul Davies

An excellent book to accompany this discussion is Lesslie Newbigin’s The Open Secret (London: SPCK, 1978) or for a more detailed and scholarly contribution the is John G. Flett, The Witness of God: The Trinity, Missio Dei, Karl Barth and the Nature of Christian Community. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010)

Introduction to the blog

Welcome to the allnations blog!

We are piloting how we use the blog by taking a module that is being taught here at allnations and every week write a something about the theme of that week and invite the students to bring their own reflections on the subject.

Watch this space!