Category Archives: Seminary

Missio Dei: Journey of the Elect

Missio Dei: Journey of the Elect

Russell Duren

IN581: Theology of Mission & Evangelism

University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

April 14, 2008

Missio Dei… a term that has been selfishly abused, a term that is robustly debated, a term that holds great hope. From Latin, missio Dei simply means “mission of God”. However, not so simple is Christianity’s responsibility – both as a corporate body and as individual believers – to discern how this term is to be lived out, to map out how to follow the mission of God. This paper shall strive to define the missio Dei as the journey embarked upon by the elect of the Triune God of Christianity, in which these believers seek to follow God’s movement for the purpose of its creation’s ultimate reconciliation to Him. Important factors in this definition are the elect, the Trinity, and the action of following. As each component plays a crucial role in the missio Dei, this paper will explain its thesis by giving special attention to these topics. Continue reading

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The Changing Face of Christianity

Strapped for time available for posting material here, I humbly submit my first seminary paper. The prompt was “Drawing on your readings and class discussion, how is the face of Christianity changing? Describe the changes and what has contributed to those changes, and then analyze how this may affect the church as a whole.” Bear with me, as I have opted to not remove the parenthetical citations.; if you have questions about the context in the articles from which I drew my quotes, don’t hesitate to ask :)

The Changing Face of Christianity

Russell Duren

IN581: Theology of Mission & Evangelism

University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

March 3, 2008

Without a doubt, the face of Christianity is changing. Worldwide, Christians comprise a dynamic and diverse group of people. Because of this makeup, change -or the call for change, at the very least- should come as no surprise. So, although one could make the case that this state of constant transition might be called business as usual in Christianity, the possible changes themselves that lie on the horizon are quite remarkable. Global Christianity stands on the verge of deep shifts in demographics, in a revival of the missio Dei and the Gospel’s relation to the surrounding culture, and in the influence exerted on the church by technology. Though the effects of these changes remain largely unseen, no collection of circumstances in recent history holds as much promise for the Bride of Christ to respond in a unified and world-changing manner. Before exploring the church’s expanded possibilities for taking Christ to the world, an examination of the conditions setting the stage is in order. Continue reading

Newbigin & the Enlightenment

For class last week, we read through the first few chapters of Lesslie Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. It was pretty hard stuff. I managed to pull enough out of the text to respond to the questions. Your thoughts are welcomed on anything below (or on other tangents as well, hahaha)…

Newbigin on Doubt & Dogma

The Enlightenment use of “dogma” carries a strong negative connotation (postscript 2-25-08: it’s baaaack!), a tie to faith-based ignorance and/or arrogance. In an appeal to New Testament etymology, Newbigin traces “dogma” to dokein, which means “to seem.” In Acts 16, the Jerusalem Council decreed what “seemed good to a competent authority and was promulgated as such.” (Newbigin p.5) Chances are that even a brief history lesson describing our faith reveals dogma’s entanglement “with coercion, with political power, and so with the denial of freedom – freedom of thought and of conscience.” (Newbigin p.10) But our defense of pure and essential dogma can fairly claim that its past abuses do not necessarily make it inherently flawed or evil. Nevertheless, these days, this term carries so much ‘baggage’ – needs so much ‘unpacking’ – that I try to avoid it in describing the essentials of our faith, and instead find it much more productive to attempt to revive the narrative of God’s love for and involvement among us.

Newbigin on Tradition & Authority

A key Enlightenment paradigm was the rejection of authority as implicitly tied to tradition. Everything was to be tested (postscript 2-25-08: it’s baaaack!). Newbigin says that any defense of the Christian faith must address the Enlightenment era’s rejection of giving such weight to tradition. I struggled with this section of the reading. I’m unclear on precisely what Newbigin advocates, but I take a cue for my own response to attacks on authority and tradition from an anatomy illustration he uses. On pages 40 and 41, Newbigin points to John Oman’s reflections on the frailty of the optic nerves in his book Vision and Authority. He comments so powerfully on the writings of his first theology teacher: “It would seem, in other words, that the Creator had intended fallibility to be part of our human nature, and that the appeal to an authority beyond our own fallible vision is an offense against our Creator.” (Newbigin p. 41) So, in response to Enlightenment criticisms of the tacit authority carried by my faith’s tradition, I say, “That’s a good point… maybe those guys didn’t have it all figured out. Let’s explore it some more…” In other words, perhaps the best defense against Enlightenment claims about tradition is a healthy dose of realizing humanity’s fallibility. This selection from Newbigin merits an entire week’s worth of reading. So in the absence of fully grasping his theses on tradition and authority, I’ll just go on trying to be a good Berean.

Newbigin on Reason & Revelation

A solid response to Enlightenment claims about Christianity’s ties to reason and revelation simply rests on the issue of context. Newbigin says it well: “the development of a tradition of rationality is never unrelated to the social, political, economic, military, and cultural changes which the society in question is going through.” (Newbigin p. 54) In my mind, if today’s challengers to faith want to embrace pluralism, they must concede that their own framework (i.e. tradition of rationality) arose from a particular context and is not sufficiently universal to make unreasonable my decision to pursue a life of faith.

mission of God

Last week, in our class discussion, we explored how the recovery of missio Dei (the mission of God) might be tied to church renewal. One of the key articles for this discussion was titled “Recasting Theology of Mission: Impulses from the Non-Western World,” by Wilbert Shenk. If you can find the article, I encourage you to read it. I’m not sure about the copyright implications of posting it here though, so you’re on your own, unfortunately.

Shenk’s first mention of missio Dei is an assertion about its central role as the foundation for the theological concerns of the New Testament church. As I read this sentence, I could not shake from my mind the Acts 6 story of the apostles delegating food-distribution duties to other believers “full of the Spirit and wisdom.” On the face of it, this story could be improperly read as an example of the apostles’ humanity, an unfortunate record of an arrogant refusal to “get their hands dirty.” But what if the apostles teach us to each fully embrace our unique gifts in the service of the message of Jesus Christ? Contrary to the easy misinterpretation, this story is about nothing less than rolling up one’s sleeves and engaging the world in Christ’s name. For the apostles, spending even an hour doing something other than preaching and teaching was a disservice to the movement. Likewise, they expected the differently gifted believers to step forward and serve the common cause by organizing food distribution. The western response to this situation might have been, “Well, go find some more believers to sell some land and we’ll hire someone to make it happen. And let’s not repeat the Ananias incident this time…” Preposterous! The apostles refused to simply “write a check” to solve a problem.

It is when we as individual Christians reclaim our own potential to contribute to the mission of God in a hands-on way that we will see renewal in the western church.

To ponder…

  • Is missio Dei a piece of flawed terminology? In other words, does it employ an elitist linguistic device (namely Latin) to describe a term focused on egalitarian involvement in invoking the Kingdom of God?
  • Does the western church excessively write checks to solve problems? Or does it have its sleeves sufficiently rolled up?
  • How does the apostles’ delegation story strike you at first glance? At second glance? After detailed exploration?

P.S. – I’m beginning to understand why my seminarian friend Shedden blogs so much when his classes are in session.

dbq.edu

I’m now a student at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. I’m easing my way in, via their M.Div. Online program. I’m very happy that PC(USA) has stepped forward with utilizing technology in preparing pastors. It’s not a degree mill, trust me. This is just me taking one class per semester until the time is right to move to Dubuque and do the bulk of my coursework in residence.

The class I’m taking is “Theology of Mission and Evangelism.” Very excited. Here’s why:

This course begins a series of 3 courses on the contextual nature of the Church’s life in mission and evangelism. It seeks to rethink Mission and Evangelism, seeing them both as part of the essence of the Church and of every local congregation. Beginning with the Triune God as a missionary God this course will focus on changing paradigms of mission and its influence on how we do evangelism in today’s post-modern, post-Christendom, pluralistic society. Thus, evangelism and mission are grounded in a missiological ecclesiology. This required course is part I of the Evangelism/Mission/Contextual Theology sequence.

4 of the 6 books assigned for this class have arrived (alpha by author).

Looks like a provocative selection.

Also, this is turning out to be a really affordable semester. Tuition was $1,485, books were $100, and there were some miscellaneous fees, to total about $1,600. Two ecclesiastical entities I’m tied to kicked in $1,350; and an awesome family from my church contributed $100. So, this class only cost me about $150. What a great way to start off, especially considering I had originally budgeted to spend up to $900 out of pocket.

So… yeah… seminary. I’m excited.

Forthcoming posts:

  • New pastor
  • Snow
  • Swamped @ work

Good night!