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About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

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I tried to argue in the last post that neither soteriology nor ecclesiology nor eschatology should define our priorities in mission.  Rather, it's our doctrine of God that must be our first point of call.  It is the God whose being is in the Father's sending (missio) of the Son who is the proper foundation for missiology.  If that's true then it follows...

  

4)    A deficient doctrine of God will lead to a deficient missiology

5)    The divorce of 'God the Creator' from 'God the Redeemer' is one of the chief errors in doctrine of God and, consequently, missiology. 

John Stott has been a vocal proponent of “evangelism + social action = mission.”  The links with his doctrine of God are exposed in quotes like this: 

"[There are two freedoms and two unities for which Jesus Christ is concerned] On the one hand there is socio-political liberation and the unity of all mankind, for these things are the good will of God the Creator, while on the other there is the redemptive work of Christ who sets his people free from sin and guilt, and unites them in his new community.  To muddle these two things (creation and redemption, common grace and saving grace, liberation and salvation, justice and justification) is to plunge oneself into all kinds of confusion." (From a sermon quoted in Timothy Dudley Smith, John Stott: A Global Ministry, IVP, 2001, p204). 

Here we see God the Creator and God the Redeemer laid side by side.  The concerns of creation and redemption are, in this way of thinking, separately addressed by the Living God. 

Now of course the Father is very interested in the whole spectrum of these activities above.  Yet He accomplishes them through the one Gospel. 

As Athanasius was so keen to stress:

“The first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word who made it in the beginning.” (Athanasius, On the Incarnation #1)

The Word became flesh – there are no purposes of God that are not bound up in the exaltation of His Son, in Him creation and redemption are inseparably bound.

 6)    God’s mission is a Gospel mission 

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The purposes of the Father from all ages have been exclusively focussed on His Son (Psalm 2:1-12; Psalm 110:1; Daniel 7:13,14; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:15f).

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In the power of the Spirit, His word has been the agent for all divine activity in creation and redemption.( 2 Peter 3:5-7; Hebrews 1:3; 1 Peter 1:23; John 1:1-3; 5:24; 6:63,68) 

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In the Incarnation of the Word, the Father gives to Jesus His word (John 8:55; 14:24), which accomplished all that Jesus does (John 14:10; Mark 4:41; Luke 4:43; John 5:24; 12:48; 17:17).

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It is this word that Jesus entrusts to his followers (John 15:20; 17:6,14,20). 

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The Church has inherited a Gospel mission for the world, i.e. the Father’s mission to the exalt His Son in His Spirit-empowered word.

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God is exclusively concerned for the exaltation of His Son.  All other interests (in justice, liberation, common grace etc) find their place under this one agenda.  And the Father has committed all His omnipotent power to Christ (Matt 28:18) who in turn grants it to the Church (Matt 28:19-20; Eph 1:22-23).  The Living God has unreservedly committed Himself to the Gospel mission of the Church.

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Barth saw these things so clearly.  In 1934 the pressure for the Confessing Church to have another agenda was immense.  Yet even (and especially) here Barth is adamant that the mission of the Church is the proclamation of Christ: 

‘The Church's commission, which is the foundation of its freedom, consists in this: in Christ's stead, and so in the service of his own Word and work, to deliver to all people, through preaching and sacrament, the message of the free grace of God.’ (Barmen Declaration, article 6)

 Or as he says in IV/3: 

“The first if not the only thing in its witness is the ministry of the viva vox Evangelii to be discharged voce humana in human words.  It is its declaration, explanation and evangelical address with the lips.”  (IV/3, p864.) 

Now if Barth can say that in the face of the Nazis, can we really countenance a socio-political side-show in our own day?   In my next post I'll tease out some of the implications for the Church's ministry today.

Here are some thoughts on the inter-relation of mission, evangelism and social action. I have written a longer essay on this on my website here.  Here are some abridged thoughts… In part one I will flag up the doctrine of God issues which ought to be the very foundation of our missiology.  But first, a word of warning… 

1)    I lavish exhorbitant amounts of money and time on my own ‘non-spiritual’ blessings 

 

Before we say anything else, let’s admit this.  I will argue strongly that the mission of the church is to proclaim the Gospel and that to add social action as a separate component is confused and confusing.  BUT… before we get into all that let’s come clean: I love myself by spending many resources on my own health, comfort, recreation, food, clothing, shelter etc etc.   If I am to love my neighbour as myself, will I really with-hold such blessings from others – those blessings which I indulge myself with on a daily basis??  If someone refuses to feed and clothe the poor let them never claim justification in an ‘evangelism-only’ missiology.  It is greed pure and simple. 

 

 

2)    Mission is God’s work first, then ours 

“It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world, it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father which includes the church.” (Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit: A Contribution of Messianic Ecclesiology, London: SCM Pr., 1977, p64).

  

3)    Mission is founded in our doctrine of God 

 

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21 

 

“Must not even the most faithful missionary, the most convinced friend of missions, have reason to reflect that the term missio was in the ancient Church an expression of the doctrine of the Trinity—namely the expression of the divine sending forth of self, the sending of the Son and Holy Spirit to the world? Can we indeed claim that we do it any other way?” (Karl Barth, quoted in Norman E. Thomas, ed., Classic Texts in Mission and World Christianity, Orbis, 1995, p105–6.) 

In evangelical circles we are accustomed to thinking through this question from the perspective of certain priorities.  That is, we begin with “We’re on the Titanic!  Get people to the life rafts, don’t re-arrange the deck-chairs!”  The urgency driving such thinking, the priority of the gospel task that this engenders, is completely admirable.  If you’re proclaiming Christ from the roof-tops out of this understanding of mission, I stand with you, shoulder-to-shoulder!  Evangelism is my passion, my gifting and my job!  But is this really where we should begin??  Such a perspective often leads to the following assessments: 

 

 

We highlight the priority of then over now, of soul over body, of heaven over earth, of individual over corporate, of internal mental acts, over external physical acts.   

 

 

If we start here, we’re defeated before we’ve begun.  First of all, so much of this dichotomous thinking is closer to Plato than Scripture.  But more importantly, our first thoughts should be about our God, not our plight.  We must begin with doctrine of God.  We should be asking: “What do we learn from the Father’s sending of the Son? (a mission constitutive of the divine being).  “What is His mission in creation and redemption?” 

 

 

 

As we do so, we will see that there is a tremendous urgency to proclaim the Son, yet it springs from a different well.  More in part two…

The rest of the series:

Part two

Part three

Part four

Part five

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This should be very obvious, but we easily forget it.  Even in the verses that most directly uphold the full and complete revelation of the Father in the Son, the differentiation of Father and Son are also prominently in view:

"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9)

"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." (Heb 1:3)

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." (Col 1:15)

"...see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God... For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2 Cor 4:4-6)

The Father is perfectly revealed, not by His Twin, not by a Clone, but by Someone who is His Complement.  The Father is revealed in His Son, the Firstborn, His Image, His right-hand Man-Priest.  Self-differentiation is at the heart of God's revelation.  Jesus is not the same as His Father and yet fully reveals Him. More than this - this difference is of the essence of the divine self-disclosure.  Self-differentiation in communion is the being of God - all of this is perfectly revealed in, by and through Jesus of Nazareth.

Now to say that Jesus is other to His Father is not an Arian position.  On the contrary this is a determination to see Jesus' revelation as a full disclosure of the life of God.  It was Arius who would leave us short of full revelation in Jesus.  Here we are embracing the otherness of Father and Son as the very deepest revelation of the divine nature. It is because of His equality with the Father that Christ's otherness must be taken as part and parcel of the divine revelation. Because Jesus fully reveals the divine life by speaking of Another, thus He is not obstructing our view of this Other.   Rather the interplay of He and the Other are constitutive of the divine life which He reveals.  Arius is refuted at the deepest level, and all by heeding this simple truth: God is not revealed in His Twin but in His Son.

This should be so obvious and plain and yet so many take their opposition of Arius in precisely the opposite direction.  Their first and fatal move is to maintain that homo-ousios commits us to three-fold repetition.  They assume Father and Son are identical from the outset - all in the name of Nicene orthodoxy (of course ignoring 'God from God...').  Now when they approach the eating, sleeping, dying, rising Jesus they must account for these differences while upholding that the Father and Son possess identical CVs.  What to do with the discrepancies?  Simple.  Ignore the fact that Nicea pronounced the homo-ousios on Jesus of Nazareth and instead attribute all discrepancies to a human nature that is distinct from His divine nature.  The cost of such a move?  Immediately, the otherness of Jesus is not revelatory of the divine nature, in fact it impedes our view of God.  To see Jesus is suddenly not to see divine life, but merely human.  We have in fact lost the one Image, Word, Representative and Mediator of God.  Jesus of Nazareth has become, to all intents and purposes, homoi-ousios with the Father.  Question marks hover over everything we see in Jesus as to whether or not we should attribute this to the divine life.  We have returned to Arius's problem via another route - we are left short of full revelation in Jesus.

Now if we took seriously the fact that God is not revealed in His Twin but in His Son we would be saved from all of this.  Christ's humanity neither commits us to an eating, sleeping, dying, rising Father, but nor does it distance us from a true revelation of God.  Instead Christ's eating reveals a Father who provides in our frailties, His sleeping reveals a Father who protects in our weakness, His death reveals a living, judging Father, His resurrection reveals a justifying, reconciling Father.  We see into the very heart-beat of the eternal trinity when we see Jesus of Nazareth in all His glorious humanity. 

And all because we have remembered the simple adage: God is not revealed in His Twin, but in His Son!

On the Cruciform God thing - here's a brilliant sermon by Darrell Johnson on these same issues.  His text is Phil 2:5-11 and his title: "So that's what it means to be God!"

The real realization is not "Oh, Jesus is the god I'd always believed in!" - how's that for fitting the Saviour onto a Procrustean bed! No, the real realization is "Oh, God is nothing like I'd thought - He's who I see in Jesus!"

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[I've edited this post from it's original form which was a little specialized and 'try-hard'!] 

For a long time I've held a certain verse from John at arm's length:

"The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life." (John 10:17)

I've always held it at arm's length because... well what would it mean to take it with full seriousness??  The Father-Son love in the bond of the Spirit is the divine life.   This love is who God is.  And the Son says it's founded on the cross!

As 1 John 4 says, "this is love" - the love that God is - "the sending of the Son as an atoning sacrifice".  (1 John 4:7-10)   Isn't the logic here inescapable?  Cruciformity (cross-shaped-ness) is the essence of the divine life.  God's very life is laid bare (upheld??) at the cross.  It is God glorified in shame and lifted up in ignominy.  

Now we can try to be poetic about this, but are we forced to speak simply in terms of contradiction?  Is there any way of relating the cry of dereliction (Ps 22:1; Mark 15:34) to the love song of Father-Son communion?  Is it right to say "the cry of dereliction is of the essence of the Father-Son communion"?  Is it possible to say "the cry of dereliction is of the essence of the Father-Son communion" without simply re-stating it in equally paradoxical terms?  Would such a re-statement be, at bottom, a betrayal of the cross?

Probably not your average first post, but there you are.  I'll jump right in.  Who'll join me? 

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