Missio Dei

The value of consciously functioning within a Christ centered trinitarian matrix is, in part, its utility for disrupting fossilized theological systems.  It stimulates a kind of healthy "strategic chaos,"  which encourages lateral thinking about what really matters in the Christian confession.  At the same time it can be fruitfully (and faithfully) creative within concrete historical and social contexts.  Exploring the features of this matrix is the task before us.

We have been saying much about the Trinity.  But it must be emphasized that we are advocating a Christ-centered trinitarian model.  This is critical.  A theology whose christology cuts loose from its trinitarian moorings quickly sails away from Orthodoxy.   But a trinitarian approach that is not sensitive to the primary historical, redemptive and revelatory function of the Son,  runs the risk of being an abstraction.  The faithful Christian confession must be both christocentric AND trinitarian. 

The christological focus keeps us close to the missio Dei, and thus to the heart of things.  Those theologians who are moving towards a "missional" theology, and the churchmen [/women] who follow in their trail, are to be celebrated.  Perhaps it is time to critically and prayerfully reread David J. Bosch's monumental work, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission.

In his closing section ("Whither Mission?"), Bosch writes, "The missio Dei purifies the church.  It sets it under the cross — the only place where it is ever safe.  The cross is the place of humiliation and judgment, but it is also the place of refreshment and new birth" (p. 519).  May the Lord purify the church today!


8 thoughts on “Missio Dei

  1. But a trinitarian approach that is not sensitive to the primary historical, redemptive and revelatory function of the Son, runs the risk of being an abstraction.

    …and one’s “small” view of the Gospel–barren of the overarching storyline of redemption history–risks one living a life of compartmentalization (secular/sacred divide), individualism (trading cosmos for one’s own name in John 3:16), and abstraction (a life with no concept of redemption history is contextless and aimless).

    I say from deep personal experience and existential wrestling (i.e. Is it really all that better to be a Christian?) that without the big picture of how God is changing the whole world through the Gospel of Christ, I can understand neither myself, nor the world, nor the Word, nor the Triune God . . . dare I say nor anything!

    Likewise, without the big picture the church loses her context, her Missio Dei, and finds herself in the same straits as individuals who have lost (or who never were discipled into) the Lord’s grand Missio.

  2. Bosch writes, “The missio Dei purifies the church. It sets it under the cross — the only place where it is ever safe. The cross is the place of humiliation and judgment, but it is also the place of refreshment and new birth” (p. 519).

    What could you say about this quote prior to pentecost? How do you think that Bosch sees the “missio Dei” pre-cross in the OT or Gospels?

  3. How Bosch sees the "missio Dei" pre-Christ is a bit easier to answer than the first question. Bosch insists that "the OT is fundamental to the understanding of mission in the New" (17). He lays out his thinking on p. 16-20, in a section entitled "Mission in the Old Testament" (it is worth a read).

    I think an advance on his thoughts is found in "Salvations to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission," by Andreas Kostenberger and Peter T. O’Brien. To over simplify it: the "missio Dei" is all of a piece, but the movement in the OT is "come and see" (what God is doing and about to do), while in the NT it is "go and tell" (what God has now done). This is wrapped up, of course with the most important "paradigm shift," which is the Christ-event itself.

    As for the first question, this is more difficult. Does it not lead us to the qualitative difference between "this age" (pre-Christ) and "the world to come," which has dawned with the fulness of time? Now, at last, the people of God by the power of the Spirit live in union with the incarnate, crucified, and living Christ. This could not happen experientially in the OT. With the Christ-event everything has changed; including, I would argue, how we read the OT (though I know I get in trouble when I say that).

  4. Dan I was wondering if you’ve come accross Harvey Conn, an Urban Missiologist from Westminster who served in Korea as a missionary to prostitutes. He was eventually crippled for life by local pimps there because of the amount of conversions his mission was experiencing.

    The reason I ask is because Bosch along with Conn’s “Eternal Word in a Changing World” are the two central missiological readings at Westminster. To some of the adjectives used by Bosch in your closing quote, Conn would likely have added the “cross is where justice and mercy meet, where we not only preach mercy but do justice in our lives.”

    In my mind the missiologists of the 20th century of great renown are Newbigin, Guder, and Bosch; to their number I’d like to add Conn. I encourage members of the conversation here to read his text, you’ll find a rich theological musing on the history of the ‘consciousness’s of mission’ in Church history.

    Sets ‘n’ Service – Anthony Stiff

  5. […] Without such foundations in place, pastors will continue to think more highly of themselves than they ought (Romans 12:3) while their churches continue (1) to starve for a purpose in life greater than their own personal affluence and pleasure and (2) to walk waywardly through the world, ignorant of the Gospel’s power to transform one ’s approach to all areas of life. I offer these thoughts from the seat of a student, not the podium of a professor. Furthermore, I use “conversation” intentionally here; please add your thoughts, critiques, etc. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this matter. For a brief entree into the Missio Dei, see Dr. Ebert’s Missio Dei post. For more than a small taste of how God’s triune lordship is the foundation of the Kingdom of God and the Missio Dei, see John M. Frame’s Doctrine of God. I should not claim credit for such a thesis. The teachings of Dr. Richard Pratt, especially in hermeneutics and Old Testament introduction at Reformed Seminary in Orlando have deeply influenced me in this area. Dr. Pratt has a profound understanding of the Kingdom of God and teaches the implications of this Kingdom Gospel with authenticity and ardor second to none. For more on Dr. Pratt, visit his ministry at http://www.thirdmill.org I like how my professor of preaching, Rev. Eric Watkins of Reformation OPC in Oviedo, FL puts it: “A preacher is the man of God with the Word of God to the people of God.” See Book First of Calvin’s Institutes wherein Calvin argues that the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self are so highly interrelated that it is hard to tell which one comes first and harder still to ignore the manifold ways in which the one influences the other. […]

  6. Hi Dr. Ebert.
    Studying the significance of the Trinity is really something new to me. Up to this point I had only given thought to Van Til’s words that “In God’s being there are no particulars not related to the universal and there is nothing universal that is not fully expressed in the particulars.” As I have already talked to you about some, the Fristian objection has caused me to think about the way in which the Trinity must play some significant role in our lives and our thinking.

    Have you read O. Palmer Robertson’s “The Christ of the Prophets”?

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