I've been meditating a lot on missions lately. This has lead me to missiology, systematic theology, biblical theolgy, and everything inbetween. Anyhow, I've discerned some themes in the scriptures and the tradition of the church throughout the ages that are very important to missions, particularly to the mission of God.
1. God's mission involves making his habitation with humanity or being "all in all."
2. God's mission involves being utmost in the affections of those created in God's image.
3. God's mission, because of sin and death, involves defeating sin and death to accomplish the previous.
4. God's mission involves bringing all creation into harmony with his will.
5. God's mission involves making creation something other than it originally was as is started in Jesus' resurrection, this was the goal whether sin existed or not.
These are all well and good.
Here is the problem. God's mission in multiple books of scripture, Daniel, the gospels, Acts, Ephesians, Hebrews, 1John, Jude, 1 & 2 Peter, and the Revelation to John, involves the defeat of powers hostile to God and God's people. This is difficult for me, especially in Daniel when a demonic power prevents God from answering Daniel's prayer immediately. So I'm at a crossroads of either accepting that these are weird mythical intrusions upon revelation that can be used to speak of opressors in general, or that demonic powers are indeed real and powerful and exercise their powers to bring effects upon the real world.
I see advantages for either position. One shields me from believing in people I can't see besides God as well as letting me view certain events as the result of impersonal systemic sin that can be named "demonic." The other lets me do the same thing, but with less certainty because I could be wrong about what personal forces against God are up to. It also helps my view of theodicy. God is against evil, even when he appears to play both sides, because God is defeating evil in the context of creation and history. I don't have to simply say, "evil happens, but God is soveriegn and lets it happen for good reasons." Instead I can say, "God will make this right and hates that this happens, that's why God goes to the cross."
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I've been thinking about the various metaphors used to describe the Christian life in the New Testament and how those have been examined in church history. Some of these have been vital for the understanding of many of the saints for the past 2000 years. For instance Dallas Willard and John Piper have both cited the great influence of John Owen on themselves, who wrote an amazing treatise on "The Mortification of Sin." And the Greek Orthodox writers make great use of the idea of Theosis. The early Calvinists, following Calvin's lead, understood sanctification very deeply. The Anabaptists thought of things in terms of discipleship. These are not mutually exclusive, even within the movements mentioned, but they all function in different ways in the scriptures and in the subsequent life of the church. Anyway, I've been thinking these through in my spare time and I wouldn't know how to organize such a project but here is what an outline might look like. Btw, if I did do a sermon series like this, my research would probably change my opinion on many things mentioned below.
- Intro - Describe what I mean by metaphor, point out method of picking a view from scripture, explaining it within scripture, then how it manifested itself (maybe just one particular time) in church history, then how it could be used today. Here would be a mention of the fact that this is not comprehensive.
- The metaphors:
New Life/Regeneration - the idea that the Christian life is a life of becoming new (Rom 6:4)
Repentance - A change of allegiance, this was the word from Jesus in light of the arrival of the kingdom of God. (Mark 1:15)
Discipleship - This is the idea of becoming a student of Jesus or of being under his discipline. See Matthew gospel.
Mortification/Cross Bearing/Self Denial - This idea has two aspects. First being the inward denial and putting to death of sinful desires, in Luke's gospel it is a daily task. The second is a public, more political idea, it involves the outward allegiance to a crucified king and giving up of one's rights for others. In the gospels and in Paul it is very closely related to new life. For Paul this is inexorably linked to life in the Spirit. (Mark 8:34, Rom 8:13)
Conversion - This one shows up really only by concept in the N.T. and may be best included in new life or repentance.
Sanctification - Progress in personal holiness. As we understand this doctrine today it also shows up chiefly by way of concept in the N.T., when the word is used in the New Testament it typically has the idea of a once for all thing rather than a process. But as a metaphor it carries much weight for us who often fail in holiness as we remember that God is making us holy over time.
Deification/Mimetes tou theou/mimetes tou Christou - This idea was common in the Fathers. It is also hinted at in the N.T. For instance, we can become partakers of the divine nature, we are to imitate God, we are conformed to the image of Jesus who, though the unique Son of God, is also in terms of moral quality God's intention for human persons. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
A Journey or a Race with Rules - This one is important because it focuses on God's liberation, but as seen in certain points in Paul, like 1Cor 9:27 or Hebrews 6:6. This metaphor enforces, without negating the assurance of believers, that if you leave the journey or break the rules and don't finish then you do not recieve the prize. In certain portions of Hebrews in particular salvation is seen as a covenant community journey, so if you leave the community in such a way that you do not come back, then you do not recieve the benefits conferred upon that community. This one is hard for Baptists, especially us calvinistic ones, to grasp. (1Cor 9:27, Heb 6)
A War/Battle - This one is common in Paul, and other than certain allusions to such an idea, is exclusive to Paul. In 2 Corinthians 10 and the Timothy letters it is mostly understood as a sort of war of ideas with Satanic powers whose schemes involve decieving people. In Ephesians 6:10-20, it is a community project that has to do with demonic powers as well, and perhaps their power to decieve. This metaphor is important because it actually brings Christians back to the idea that mortal man is not the enemy.
A slave to sin moving to being a slave to God and righteousness. This includes liberation from and forgivness for sin as the energizing beginning.
Growing Up - Many passages in scripture involve the idea that Christians have to actually grow. They start as babes or new borns, but grow in wisdom, grace, and truth to mature Christlike agents who act in such a way that they are in accordance with God's kingdom. This may fit under New Life/Regeneration
- Conclusion - A call to learn to make use of these metaphors appropriately, as well as the centerpiece of them all: life under the grace of God the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, while confessing Jesus as resurrected Lord.