Wednesday, April 21, 2010


1. Whenever we ponder the subject of Missions, we would do well to constantly remember that it is not some justifying work that we are up to. It would be nonsensical to suppose that we earn or add to our salvation by going out and telling people about the grace of Jesus Christ. Those who think like this may do well to sit tight at home.

2. "I tell you the one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age...." Mk 10:39-30.

3. From this proposition it is clear that missions is about Jesus and the good news. We merely go out because the gospel is so radically good and Jesus is so profoundly beautiful. I would argue that a true missionary is the happiest person alive. Missions without joy is not missions.

4. It is also clear that the purpose behind this work is neither political nor cultural nor economic...but theological.

5. It is written in Isaiah: "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news..." and therein lies the hammer against alot of current missiology. We are not going out to different places to get good news but to bring it. Missions is certainly not about fuzzy conversations with Muslims or Jews or Buddhists, it is not about stilling ourselves to hear the voice of God already speaking in the other, nor is it one big pat on the back of indigenous idolatry. The missionary comes to deliver something that has not yet been heard: news...good news. He is coming to proclaim that Christ is the Lord and the Savior of all men, and thus these particular men. And as for Belial: "What harmony is there between Christ and idols?" to paraphrase Paul. We are not looking for something but always bringing something.

6. Yet since missions is always about the gospel, it can never be a work apart from grace. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation in mercy (so Paul). The atrocities committed in the name of Jesus Christ throughout the ages does not nullify this point but establishes it. Mercy is only ever rendered to sinners. The Missionary is the sinner.

7. But since this ministry is indeed a work of mercy, we may certainly not lose heart. To quote from Boris of Goldeneye: "I am invincible!!!!" Yes indeed, and yet far more than invincible... a conquerer.

8. And again, since the gospel is a matter of free grace, we ought not to lose heart if we gain not a single convert. Henri Nouwen once said that "ministry is not based on success but on promises." And that alone is enough, for we are merely conveying to others what God has already done on their behalf.

9. And if there be opposition, we must remember that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Salt stings and light blinds. "If they hated me, they will hate you also."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Theology of Atheism?

"If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, 'Curse David,' who can ask, 'Why do you do this?'" "Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to."

-David (When Shimei stood to mock him in his flight from Absalom)

Have you ever wondered what theological purpose atheists serve for this earth? How exactly do they serve the Sovereign Lord, and what has he raised them up for? It would be interesting to investigate this question via scriptural exegesis and solid theological (and philosophical work).

I used to think that they were a sort of bulwark of reason and scientific knowledge. In that sense one could propose that they have been sent to rebuke the Church's severe lack of understanding and thoughtlessness in regards to the aforementioned epistemic regimes. But that cannot really suffice for a doctrine of atheism. I have seen just as many close-minded and thoughtless atheists in regards to reason and science as I have Christians within the church. Besides, there are still far too many good scientists and philosophers in the church for any need of this rebuke (one is reminded off-hand of the quantum physicist John Polkinghorne or the phenomenologist Paul Ricoer). What then?

This might be pseudo-Barthian, but could it be that their publications of rhetoric and mockery against Christianity or even religion in general are their raison d'ĂȘtre? A Christopher Hitchins or a Richard Dawkins cannot teach us much about reason, but what they can do is shame us and oppose us with their ice and their slander. This has the effect of humbling all of our religious attempts to move beyond or manipulate the Revelation of God in Christ. We think we have scientific ownership of God much as 'scientismists' (my own word) claim in regards to truth and reality. Both of us are dead wrong. God opposes the proud. But often he will use a proud man to bring down another proud man.

Just some naive considerations.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Cosmos and the Eschaton: Renewal or Destruction?

It's become somewhat of a fashion in the church (and the theological intelligentsia?) to supplement our discussions of ecology with a bit of revised eschatology. Lately I've heard- in popular books on theology, in my college, and in the pulpit- some pretty excited talk about the continuity of the present cosmos with the future one. In keeping with the spirit of theological neology; the latest idea about Heaven and the future of Earth is the real-meal-deal. Any previous doctrines in this respect require demythologisation, discarding or simple neglect. Today it is not uncommon to believe that the orthodox view of heaven has a developmental history that goes something like this: the scriptural narrative was exegetically distorted sometime in the early centuries of the church to keep in step with the influences of platonic philosophy (does that not already reek of absolute ignorance in regard to patristics?). This trend of syncretism saw the body as essentially unworthy of future glory, along with the present cosmos. And so an eschatology was promulgated in which the universe would be completely destroyed and remade in complete (perhaps even disembodied) discontinuity with the previous one.

It gives me shivers and a bit of bile when people attribute every doctrine they do not like to some nebulous outbreak of platonism in the early church (ie. the doctrine of God's atemporality, impassibility, the duality of the soul etc..) But I'm getting a little off topic.

In light of this deconstruction, the fashionable eschatology of our day advances in a manner something like this:

1. God would not destroy his good creation. Therefore the present cosmos will not be discarded.

2. God has taken steps to reconcile the universe to himself (cf. col 1:20).

3. The future age will see a marriage between Heaven and Earth.

4. The universe as we know it will be "renewed"....made exponentially better. It will not be destroyed.

As in all theological trends, there is something to this idea. In one of Peter's first recorded speech's in the book of Acts, he mentions that Jesus "must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago by his holy prophets. (3:21)" Moreover, the book of Colossians speaks of God reconciling "all things" in this universe to himself.

Doesn't this unquestionably call for an emphasis on continuity? This could be. But if we are going to synthesize and establish a biblical definition of continuity, we need to make use of all of the relevant biblical themes. I put this recent trend to the test with a few simple questions:

1. 2 Peter ch.3 provides a number of necessary predicates for our talk of continuity. Is the "renewal" trend ready and willing to make usage of these predicates?

Can they say, for instance, that "the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men"?

Do they agree that "the heavens will disappear with a roar, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare"?

Will they teach that "That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat"?

While holding to the "renewal of all things", do they equally agree that "everything will be destroyed"?

2 Peter is merely an isolated test case. The prophetic texts also use phrases like "dissolve", "rolling up like a scroll", "withered", "shriveled", "shake", "tremble", "darkened", "perish", "discarded", "wear out", "vanish like smoke" and so on.

However we emphasize continuity in our eschatology; we cannot explain away these statements as mere inconveniences. We have to use them. We have to learn from them. They have to formulate a true constraint and a true provision in our definition of the future cosmos.