What is “Trinitarian Mission[s]”?

To ask about trinitarian missions on the face of it seems strange; almost like asking about a christological gospel — what other kind of gospel could there be? What other kind of faithful Christian missions can there be except one that is trinitarian? The other response I get: Trinitarian missions what is that, some new thing?

The gospels themselves reveal the trinitarian mission as the mission of the church. Luke takes two volumes to narrative it: with the coming of the Son in his gospel, and the coming of the Spirit and the sending of the Church in Acts. The Johannine “great commission” (as it were) records the trinitarian mission in two condensed verses, “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21-22). Matthew captures the trinitarian nature of missions in the Lord’s final mandate to the Church: “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). A robust, biblically faithful, trinitarian theology is vital to the church and its mission.


The Missional Church in Perspective

This book is a must read for those who want the status quaestionis on  “the missional church.”  A flurry of publications in the last few years on the theology of the Church, on the state of the American Evangelical church (including its increasing diversity), as well as on the global church, make this an exciting period for the study and practice of what it means to be the Triune God’s missional people for the sake of our world.

I am reminded of  Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s remark that the only choice for the Church is between concrete statement and silence, and that the Church is lying if it only utters principles.  His overstatement can be forgiven (considering the desperate need to resist Nazism in his day).  This is the point:   “missional” MUST NOT be an mere “master signifier” (see Fitch, The End of Evangelicalism?), rather it must result in the concrete materialization of the Church in our day.  That  is the challenge.  May Christ build his church among us in the power of the Spirit and for the glory of the Father.

Expanding the Church’s Vision of “Witness”

John G. Flett on The Witness of God

This quote is worth pondering.  It sets the present mission of the Church in a richer eternal and Trinitarian context:

“Witness is the nature of the Son’s relationship with the Father (John 14:10), the Father’s relationship to the Son (John 5:32), the Spirit’s relationship to the Son (John 15:26), the Son’s relationship to the disciples (Acts 26:16-18), and the disciples’ relationship to the Son (Rev. 7:9-10).  Witness is not something beyond which the community will move in the eschaton.  It is the very nature of the eschaton, for it is the very nature of the history that is the human fellowship with the divine (pp. 224-225).

While much of Fleet’s book is a critique of the use of the “missio Dei” motif  (it has functioned almost like a “Master Signifier” to link it with the fascinating and troubling book, The End of Evangelicalism? by David E. Fitch).  However, in chapter six  (“The Trinity Is a Missionary God”) Fleet gets to his positive construction.  The following paragraph summarizes his thesis well:

“The question of the grounding and consequent form of mission is, first, a question of who God is in himself.  God is a missionary God because his deliberate acting in apostolic movement toward humanity is not a second step alongside – and thus in distinction to – his perfect divine being.  In his economy, in his movement for the human, God lives his own eternal life….Second, it is a question of how it is actual that this God lives his own proper life in the economy of salvation.  Jesus Christ, the mediator between God and humanity, has objectively completed the reconciliation of the world, and he calls humanity to active participation in the fellowship of God’s self-humiliation and his exaltation of the human.  Third it is a question of the accomplishment of reconciliation. The Spirit acts to secure the human’s subjective involvement in God’s act, uniting the human with the history that takes place first in God’s own life and then in the history of Jesus Christ with us.  Participation in this history takes the particular form of a servant.  That is, the community accompanies Jesus Christ in his mission as she herself is an apostolic community – shaped to be so by the witness of the Spirit” (197).

For a helpful reviews of the book see the following:

Deanna Ferree Womack’s review at Princeton Theological Seminary

W. Travis McMaken  at Der Evangelische Theologe

Sarah Wilson at The Lutheran Forum

And for some helpful background to the discussion, see the post by Andrew Perriman:

“Missio Dei” in historical perspectives, part 1


Inhabiting the Cruciform God is a stimulating work by Micahel J. Gorman.  “Theosis” does not mean “becoming God,” but rather  that humans become like God by entering the Trinitarian life through the work of Christ and the Spirit.  Here is the thesis of the book:

“Theosis is transformative participation in the kenotic, cruciform character of God through Spirit-enabled conformity to the incarnate, crucified, and resurrected/glorified Christ.” (p. 7)

Gorman argues that the Pauline phrase “in Christ” is shorthand for “in God/in Christ/in the Spirit.”  Paul’s christocentricity is really an implicit Trinitarianism.  (p. 4)

This book takes the conversation about the “new perspective” on Paul and the law to a new level.

The Trinitarian Story in 100 Words or Less

From the Triune God comes a narrative centering on Christ, God’s incarnate Son, and supernaturally recorded in Scripture. This story begins with creation, reports humanity’s fall, Israel’s history, and God’s redemption in Jesus, the Messiah. People, who by the Spirit’s power repent and believe this good news, experience salvation: deliverance from sin, Satan, and death. United with the crucified and resurrected Lord, believers participate in Christ’s Body, the eschatological community that worships God, serves a needy world, and provisionally embodies God’s coming Kingdom. This blessing is for the whole creation, which will soon be judged and renewed for God’s glory.

Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective

This introduction to Christology is an excellent model of careful, creative, and yet confessing theology. The intentional integration of Christology with a rich Trinitarian theology is refreshing. Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective is edited by Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler.

Here is a sample (following a wonderfully concise and helpful summary of the early church councils on Christology):

“At the center of the open space marked out by the boundaries of Chalcedon are two things: the apostolic narrative of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and the confession that this person in the gospel narrative is an eternal person distinct from the Father, yet fully divine. What stands in the middle of the Chalcedonian categories is the biblical story of Jesus, interpreted in light of the Trinity” (p. 25).

The following also resonates with me:  “To think rightly about the Trinity, the incarnation, or the atonement, the theologian must think about all of them at once, in relation to each other.” (p. 226).