Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mission: Some Preliminary Explorations


Mission: Some Preliminary Explorations

1. Introduction:
A. the term “mission” comes from a Latin word mission, from the root “to send.” It is equivalent to the Greek term, apostello, from which we have the term “apostle,” one sent. Sometimes the word apostolate is used for the missionary function/structure of the church.
B. in its secular and common usage, the term has come to mean a task for which someone is sent. So we talk of foreign embassies as missions. Astronauts are sent for space missions
C. Missiology is the study of mission, or scientific reflection on the ideas and practice of mission. Missiology is thus to be distinguished from missionary practice.
D. while the practice of mission is as old as the church itself, missiology is rather recent discipline of theology. There have been missiologists – those who reflected on mission – from the very beginning of the church. Early church leaders such as Justin Martyr offered significant missiological reflections, which are relevant even today’s’ context. William Carey was not only a missionary, but also missiologist – he undertook a systematic study of the basis, urgency, challenges, methods and means of doing mission. But missiology as a theological discipline emerged mostly in the 19th century.

E. in the theological curriculum, some argue missiology to be placed in the division of practical theology; others argue for Historical Theology, and some even see it as part of Systematic Theology. But in more recent days, there is a growing recognition that mission is prior to, or foundational to all theological enterprise. This of course, goes with a shift in the understanding of what mission is. Instead of seeing the Bible as containing a theology of mission, the new approach is to see the Bible itself as standing in the context of mission. Mission is thus the “mother of theology” (Bosch, quoting Kahler (1908), 1991, 15-16). The idea is that all theological disciplines ought to be approached from a missilogical angle whether exegesis or systematics, church history or ethics.
F. In this course, we will proceed with the assumption that the biblical revelation is given to the people of God in their existence as a missionary people. Similarly, the whole of theological enterprise must affirm the present existence of the church as a missionary community. Such as attitude will prevent the theologizing from becoming abstract or unrelated to the context.

II. What is mission? Some Misunderstandings.
A. Mission as the task of the western church. Probably the most enduring picture of a missionary is that of a white westerner as a father figure working in a non-western setting. This picture is slowly changing.
B. Mission as an attempt to civilize primitive peoples. In 19th century America, there developed a doctrine known as Manifest Destiny, a view associated with expansionism and dominance. This view saw the Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-American people as a people chosen by providence to bless the world. Towards the end of the century, with the influence of the Social Gospel movement and Social Darwinism, many cam to believe that the Angelo Saxons “were destined by God to carry the benefits of their superior civilizations to less vigorous races and to mater them” (Smith, Handy and Loetscher, II, 1963, 368). Especially with the loss of conviction with regard to sin and salvation, “mission” degenerated to ideas of education, civilizing and developing the ”primitive heathens,”
C. Mission as a colonialist/imperialist plot:
Missions and missionaries have been accused by nations as a plot to overthrow and control non-western peoples.

Mission: A working definition
A. Mission is God’s mission: This simple but profound recognition has radically redefined the understanding of what mission is. Mission proceeds from God’s heart, and is his (mission Dei). A book by George Vicedom, The Mission of God: An Introduction to the Science of Mission, published in 1965, gave much publicity to the term mission Dei.
B. God’s mission is entrusted to the whole church. This is linked to the previous statement. Mission is the responsibility of the church universal. Irrespective of the fact that certain periods of history, God chose certain nations and peoples, mission belongs to the whole people of God
C. Mission is wholistic, but has an essential evangelistic element as its focus and priority. Missin is as broad as salvation itself. Naturally, then in order to understand mission, we need to understand what salvation is. The presupposition is this definition is that salvation, and therefore, mission, is a comprehensive term. Not only “salvation of souls,” but social justice, ecology, feeding the hungry, caring for the oppressed, and other such concepts are related to the biblical idea of salvation and mission. But we also note that when mission is defined broadly, there are some dangers also. First of all, there is the danger of social service or social action done unrelated to the gospel. In such cases, mission simply becomes philanthropy or political struggle. Secondly, we lose sight of the fact that evangelism has a logical priority in Christian mission. Renewal of mid (heart) is essential to God’s saving purpose or plan of salvation. Thus it is essential to maintain that mission is a wholistic concept (thus avoiding polarization in its definition) and to maintain that evangelism (the encounter of the gospel with the sinful world with a view to its redemption) is at the hear of Christian mission.

Biblical Foundations

The Witness of the OT

  1. Is OT relevant for mission? A superficial observation leaves one with impressions to the contrary. While considering the Old Testament basis for mission, biblical scholar G.E.Wrigh concludes: “Indeed, the Old Testament has always been and will always remain something of a problem to the Church, and certainly to the Church’s mission (G.E.Writhg 1961, 27-30).
  1. Too exclusivist
  2. Negative on the nations and their gods – too nationalistic
  3. Wars and even annihilation of the nations.
  4. No “Great Commission”

  1. Other Scholars dispute whether there is any mission concept in the Old Testament
    1. F.Hahn, after considering various themes such as universalism, promise of salvation to the nations, etc., concludes that “in the Old Testament there is no mission in the real sense” (Hahn 1965, 20). Similarly, in later Judaism also there is “no question here of a real mission” in spite of Jewish Proselytism, etc. (23). There reasoning is that mission involves a commission and service to the nations resulting from an eschatological movement (24). He, however, grants that “decisive basic features” for the NT understanding of mission are present in the OT (20).
    2. David Bosch in his major work, Transforming Mission, devotes less than five pages to “Mission in the Old Testament,” and concludes that mission is essentially a NT idea. However, he concedes that” the Old Testament is fundamental to the understanding of mission in the New” (Bsch 1991, 17).

    1. Johannes Blauw, who says that a theology of mission must not be built on isolated texts, nevertheless argues that distinction must be between “universal” and “missionary.” He says: “When we call the message of the Old Testament “universal”, we mean that it has the whole world in view and that it has validity for the whole world. This universality is the basis of the missionary message of the Old Testament. By “missionary” we understand the commission to deliberate witness, to going out. Our thesis… is that we must be much more reserved in speaking of the missionary message of the Old Testament: Isaiah 40-55 and the Book of Jonah (30). (see also G.E.Wright 1961, 19.) So Blauw concludes: “When one turns to the Old Testament to find a justification for missions in the current meaning, that is ‘foreign mission,’ one is bound to be disappointed.

  1. However, a more careful study shows that the OT is more positive than it is often thought to be.
  1. Most modern scholars show greater appreciation for the OT in a theology of mission. “In recent approaches to the theology of mission it has been heartening to note the emphasis going right back to the Old Testament” (Gnanakan 1989, 41).
  2. The OT is more “familiar” to non-Christians through their own scriptures: at least it has certain affinities.
  3. The negatives of the OT are not so when we study it closely.
        1. it is not exclusivist or nationalistic to the point of being blind.
        2. There is lot more of the cultures of its neighbors in it than often thought.
        3. the wars, etc. are God’s covenant punishments. To be fair, God is pretty tough on disobedient Israel also.
        4. Is there a Great Commission in the OT? Some refer to Gen 12 and to others to Gen 28. To speak of a Great Commission in the OT may be anachronistic. It may be more accurate to say that while there is no Great Commission in the OT, there is a Great Promise to the nations.
  4. We cannot define mission in the NT sense and then fail to find it in the OT, as Hahn and Bosch seem to be doing. The eschatological moment is not absent in the OT. Blauw’s conclusion points to the fact that definition is the problem. One cannot impose a pre-conceived definition of mission and then look for it in the Bible. (see also Wright 2008, 79).
  5. However, it is legitimate to say that there are shifts in emphasis between the OT and the NT (Cf.Bosch). According to many missiologists, in the OT there is a mission “ideal” or “foundation” but the mandate makes the NT clearly a mission book.
  6. It is also helpful to distinguish between the OT revelation given to Israel and Israel as a religio-political entity. In the latter sense, we have a narrow-minded, nationalist community, often disobedient to biblical revelation in the OT. “even though Judaism was not a missionary religion, at the same time it must be said that the Old Testament is a missionary book” (Power 1971, 76).
  7. Verkuyl quite insightfully summaries the OT foundations of mission in terms of four basic motifs; the underversal motif, the motif of rescue and saving, the missionary motif, and the antagonistic motif (91). To this we may add two others; the motif of attraction and the doxological motif (Verkuyl includes this under “antagonistic”). The motif of attraction points to Irael as a light that attracts the nations. Verkuyl includes this along with the idea of “presebce,” a part of witness relevant even today in closed situations as missiologists have recongnised. But essentially here we recognize that part of Israel’s mission was to be Israel. God’s holy people. Seeing Irael as an exemplary community of truth and justice, the nations will stream to it (Isaiah 2). The doxological motif is present especially in the Psalms and the Prophets. The whole earth is to be full of the glory of God. Hence, the psalmists issue a call to worship to all nations. “Declare his glory among nations.”


Setting the stage: Genesis 1-11
A. The Bible is not a book about a sectarian or tribal god or a provincial relation. It begins with claims of universality. The doctrine of creation has tremendous missiological significance (Ch. Oh). Understanding of mission must start with creation rather than with Gen 3: 15.
  1. God is revealed as the creator of all that exists, and hence implicitly claims all of the universe as his. Many theologians assert that Israel knew Yahweh first as their Redeemer, and then only as their creator. The creation account, in their opinion, has its origin from the time of the exile. Even so, the significance of creation for mission is acknowledged. The forming of the earth from chaos is seen as a redemptive act (Song, 21).
  2. In the context, a claim that Yahweh is the God of the Jews is quite understandable; but that is not what the Bible claims.
B. The bible reveals a unique view of God and the world that from the very beginning sets the stage for a conflict with other worldviews.
  1. God is holy, uncreated, and sovereign; the world is created and non-divine (contra pantheism, advaita, dualism).
  2. All creation is essentially good, having come from God (contra evolutionism).
  3. Unity of the human race (contra caste system and racialism).
C. The creation account reveals that cultural pursuits are within the purpose of God rather than something extra or even contrary to it, as often thought.
  1. The “cultural mandate” of Gen 1:28 often neglected by fundamentalists but redeeming cultures falls within the mission mandate.
  2. All cultures – including non-Christian cultures-bear the genius of the creator, and so we need not be afraid to recognize noble elements in them.
  3. All cultures are affected by the fall, and show effects of sin. They are in varying measures in need of redemption (Cf. Lausanne Covenant).
D. The account of the Fall adds two significant dimensions
  1. Its universality. All human beings, throught the disobedience of their convenant head, are equally rebellious. Western or Eastern, educated or illiterate,


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