Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Paradigms in Conflict-Chapter 1 by David J. Hesselgrave

A while back I said that I would begin discussion Hesselgrave's book Paradigms in Conflict. I have been busy and I've posted about other things. In the time leading up to now I learned that my two compadres were reading the book as well. So, they said they would like to blog about some chapters. I, being busy, asked if one of them wanted to kick off the book and blog about chapter one. But, they would not. Why? Because they are wimps! :) Who wants to discuss sovereignty and free will on a blog? Not many. That's why I was trying to get one of them to do it. But, alas, someone must begin this book and I have decided that it will be me.

Before I jump into the main points of Hesselgrave's discussion, I think it might be wise to give a disclaimer. If you are a Calvinist you probably won't like his first chapter. Indeed, this chapter is not well argued on the finer points. He gets some things completely wrong. The most glaring one is on page 31 where he says, "William Carey (1761-1834) moved to [an Arminian] position after his rejection by some members of his own presbytery and it became the theological position of his Baptist missions board." Hesselgrave lists no sources. I have checked with a baptist historian on this. Carey started an organization which had the words "particular baptist" in it later on in his life. So, Hesselgrave is a little off here.

A couple of times his logic isn't too sound either and his arguments don't seem to flow together well. He also adds little words that could cause the readers view to be tainted. After discussing more Calvinistic views he turns his attention to three views that he believes are mediating options. He says, "All three are sincere attempts to wrestle with what the Bible actually has to say on this critical issue." As if the others don't. And the others contain John Piper, who I think has done a pretty good job of trying to wrestle with the text with his monograph on Romans 9.

Finally, the last thing that kind of got under my skin was the implication that missions spread due to the fact that people abandoned the Calvinistic theology. That is why, I think, he says Carey changed his view. In short, Hesselgrave doesn't give a fair representation to our reformed brothers and their missionary hearts.

Hesselgrave begins his chapter by categorizing different answers to the question of divine sovereignty and human free will. He has five: 1) Augustinian deterministic Calvinism (John Piper) 2) Moderate Calvinism (D.A. Carson) 3) A Mediate theological view (C. Gordon Olson) 4) Moderate Arminianism (Grant Osborne) 5) Open theism (Gordon C. Olson not the same as above; Clark Pinnock).

He then turns his attention to a loose exposition of Romans 9-11. I say loose because it only takes a little less than 6 pages to do when people have written whole books on one chapter. Here he basically works out his "Mediate theological view" with the text. Which, there is nothing necessarily heretical with what he says. In fact, I like his balance a little, though I still think it doesn't answer the question fully. And, he doesn't deal with other texts like Ephesians 1.

So, what is the point of his chapter? Mainly that human freedom and divine sovereignty can work together. He says, "In the end, divine sovereignty and human free will prove to be a perfect match, not an impossible mix."

I have to admit on my first reading of the chapter (my only reading) I did not catch how this affects missions. I have heard that it connects to the following chapter. I guess, he's suggesting that if you take a mediate position you'll do missions properly. But, maybe one of my compadres would like to shed some light on the matter in their reading of Hesselgrave's first chapter.

Through Christ,

PS- If you are wondering where I fall on the Hesselgrave scale, he would probably put me at a 1 or 1.75.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Missions and the Local Church- A look at cooperative missions and missions sending orginizations

For the sake of review, let me give a synopsis of the things that I am focusing on in this series before moving on to the subject of cooperative missions. I believe that the primary mission sending organization is the local church. Let me put that in a way that may be more biblical. The church's mission is to spread the glory and gospel of God throughout all nations. Now, I have said that one of the stumbling blocks to the church seeing this as their mission is the disconnect that both the church feels when its missionaries leave and the missionaries feel from their church when they leave. I would like to charge both to keep in contact with one another and to hold one another accountable. If you are a missionary out on the field and you are reading this and you haven't heard from your home church in years; send them a letter, or an email that lovingly asks for their support and care. If you are a church member and you haven't heard from missionaries in years but you remember sending them out, take the time to find out who has been sent out and contact them. They'll appreciate it. Most importantly—maintain contact.

Now, with that said, I know that I have also said that I feel mission sending organizations have unintentionally communicated that they are the primary mission sending organization. I, being a Southern Baptist, have looked directly at the IMB and asked what they are doing to connect missionaries to local churches. But, I also see the way they view themselves in the mission sending organization. They want to "lead" Southern Baptist in doing missions. I have suggested that they "serve." Now, what does that mean? Isn't cooperative missions important? Are there different ways of doing cooperative missions? How could the IMB serve the SBC churches in doing missions?

First, let me say that I am very supportive of cooperative missions. I am not against it, and I think that missions sending organizations have done a great service to the kingdom of God. So, by no means am I suggesting we kick the IMB or NAMB to the curb. Cooperative missions is very important especially for those churches that cannot afford to send missionaries out on their own. Now, I could continue to develop this point, but I'll be developing it throughout the post so I'll depart from it for right now.

Second, there are different ways of doing cooperative missions. One way, is through your local association (See this post for the importance of associational missions). There are a few advantages to this. First, it puts you in contact with people that are around you, can get to know you and examine your life. One of the greatest problems I've seen with the way we do missions in the SBC currently is that the IMB or NAMB has to make decisions based upon a few meetings and references. They really don't know the Christian who is applying to go overseas. My feeling is that the church could do a much better job at setting apart those who are to be sent out.

What if churches or associations were sending missionaries? Would we still need the IMB? Absolutely! The IMB could help coordinate these two in doing missions by letting them know of other churches/associations working in a particular area where they are sending people. They could also help by giving money to associations that struggle financially year after year. In this they would be providing a service. There also may be some associations and churches not actively sending missionaries. They could help encourage, educate and equip the church/association for this (wow I just did some alliteration! I have a three point sermon!). They would take less of a leadership position over these churches as they have now, but they would provide a great service to the SBC. Would the IMB be willing to do this?

The IMB could also be Johnny-on-the-spot when catastrophes happen (such as tsunamis) in the areas where missionaries are at work, all the time connecting with the local church/associations to do so. I've been part of several churches, and my father has been a pastor of some that have split just before we arrived. So, I know all too well that sometimes power struggles can happen in a church. The IMB could help a missionary family out who has been defunded because Mr. "I've got money" quits tithing because the new fellowship hall wasn't named after his grandmother. The IMB could help support those missionaries that lose their funding for reasons beyond the fact that the missionaries were not being faithful to what they had been sent out to do.

There are many other ways that the IMB could help serve us, the local church, that I haven't listed here . Nor, have I worked out all the logistical problems of my suggestion. All I want to do is ask, "can we do this differently?" My generation is good at asking questions and picking apart people and ideas (like some have done when they criticize the IMB), but we never provide any answers. I hope that this will cause us to reexamine the local churches role in sending missionaries and provide an answer to some of the question that many are asking.

Finally, let me say one thing to missionaries who feel called to go to a different country (this is a little off subject). You don't need a missionary sending organization, a church, or whatever, to pay your bills for you while you serve as a missionary. You could work overseas, or just buy a one way ticket and put your trust in God to take care of you. Read Bruchko. Here, you'll see a young man who bought a one way ticket to Colombia to work with Indians who had never heard the gospel. He did so with absolutely no financial backing. I do encourage you to seek your local churches support (none would give it to the author of this book) and work with them in what you feel called to do.

Through Christ,

PS-Please have mercy on me if I have not said something well! Or, ask me to clarify! :)

Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Old Testament and the Missionary Nature of the Church--Part 1

Missions is considered by most to be a New Testament enterprise. From the inception of the Modern Missionary Movement, of which William Carey is considered the father, missions has been accomplished by means of missionary societies and agencies. The church has been a chief financial resource for the movement, but until recently, other than through individuals, the church has not been directly involved in the process, being separated by oceans and dependent on its agencies to carry out the work. Furthermore, the autonomy of churches that were being planted was not immediately assumed. Nonetheless, something about the nature of the church is missionary.

The classical marks of the church—one, holy, catholic, apostolic—assume a growing, universal mission. It is “One” in spite of its many congregations spread over the whole world. It is “Holy,” called out of the nations into a new people of God set apart for God and His purposes. The “Catholicity” of the church describes its universal nature, it crosses every geographic, racial, social and spiritual barrier in the power of the gospel. Finally, though “Apostolic” is generally concerned with the faithful passing on of the gospel, the fact that it is to be passed on points to a missionary purpose. In the 16th century, the reformers refocused the church on the gospel. Their marks of the church included the right preaching of the word and the right administration of the sacraments. Though the reformers have been critiqued for not being concerned with the conversion of the heathen, by keeping the gospel central in the nature of the church, they laid the foundations necessary for the great missionary movement beginning in the 18th century. Furthermore, the radical reformers, though perhaps because of persecution, were itinerant evangelists, with some Moravians allegedly selling themselves into slavery for the sake of the gospel. In contemporary ecclesiology, evangelism and social ministry are considered by most to be biblical marks of the church (see Hammett and also Warren). Moreover, discipleship is at the heart of the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20). This brief survey of the historical considerations of the marks of the church reveals that mission lies deep at the heart of the church.

When it comes to missionary theology, the message of the Old Testament has not received the same scrutiny and consideration as the New Testament. The result is that readers of the Old Testament expect the same theological results from a cursory reading of the Old Testament that have seemingly popped up from the page through a “taken for granted” detailed and repeated reading of the New Testament. Allegorical and “moral” preaching of the Old Testament have not aided in the situation either. Furthermore, the poetic and prophetic genres of the Old Testament are some of the most difficult types of passages to interpret even through years of study. However, the renewed emphasis on Biblical Theology provides hope for this otherwise dark situation.

Key works that have addressed the Old Testament's contribution to missionary theology include the following:

Blauw, Johannes. The Missionary Nature of the Church: A Survey of the Biblical Theology of Mission. New York: and Toronto: and London: McGraw-Hill, 1962.

Filbeck, David. Yes, God of the Gentiles, Too: The Missionary Message of the Old Testament. Wheaton, IL: The Billy Graham Center, Wheaton College, 1994.

Kaiser, Walter C. Mission in the Old Testament: Israel as a Light to the Nations. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000.

K√∂stenberger, Andreas, and Peter T. O’Brien. Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission. Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2001.

Peters, George W. A Biblical Theology of Missions. Chicago: Moody, 1972.

Senior, Donald, and Carroll Stuhlmueller. The Biblical Foundations for Mission. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1983.

Wright, Christopher J. H. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2006.

We will be interacting with these works, but the main focus of this inquiry is the unfolding message of scripture. Thus, rather than taking a synchronic approach that looks at certain themes individually and traces them throughout scripture, I will take a diachronic approach that investigates themes as they are produced in the text. However, at times I may vascillate between diachronic and synchronic. You will find that I prefer a Hebrew reading order of the Old Testament (the Tanak) and I will note, if necessary, places where there are differences in the order, even among Hebrew manuscripts (if I miss something, Dougald will fill us in through comments).

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Missions and the Local Church: Part 2- Ecclesiology is Essential

Before one can ask the question of what is missions? One must answer the question, what is the church? What is its function? How is one church or local believers supposed to work with another church of local believers? What is the responsibility they have towards one another in Christ?

These are questions I won't answer here, in fact, all I want to do is raise questions in this post. I hope that these questions stimulate us as we think about what the church is supposed to be biblically. One important question that I have is this: Have the church and its mission been separated from one another? Or, has the mission of the church been separated from its mission?

Growing up in several small country churches one of the best things that would happen is to have the opportunity to meet a RLM (Real Live Missionary). I don't remember any of the RLMs that I met actually being from my local church. It wasn't until I moved to a church in Nashville, NC that my father pastored for a while, when I actually met someone who had spent more than two weeks in another country doing mission work. Even my language betrays the bifurcation of the church and its mission. See, I am discussing missions as the work that only happens overseas. I probably should correct that.

But, I digress...My point here, is that no one went out from our church to do missions (even planting churches in our local area--unless of course there was a church split, which usually we arrived after this at churches). There was always a feeling that the RLMs were someone special who God called out from Churches, but usually not ours.

It also seemed that as I began to meet missionaries from different local churches, their connection to the local churches after they had left was slim. Very few people contacted them and the church never really held them accountable. They were, however, held accountable by a missions sending organization and their donors.

Does this communicate a close tie between the church and the one's sent out? What about a tie between the church and its mission? What are your experiences? Do we think that this is a biblical model? How can we change, if in fact, there needs to be one?

The mission organizations have done wonderful things, but I think they have run their course, at least in their present structure. Next time we'll look closer at why I want to change that word "lead" to "serve." And, what it would mean to "serve" Southern Baptist churches in doing missions.

Through Christ,