Moving on from Modernist Perspectives of Theology & Mission


Currently I’m working towards my Doctor of Intercultural Studies/Missiology with Fuller Theological Seminary. The theme of my dissertation will be the impact that missional formation (both missional learning and praxis) has upon spiritual formation. We usually focus on how spiritual formation (or spiritual growth) leads to mission. But I am convinced of the reverse as well: missional formation will lead to the church’s spiritual formation. My short time of research thus far has not led me to many works that focus on this angle. And I’m particularly considering this topic and its effect amongst emerging creative folk, which is the context of those I participate with in work and ministry each day at Visible Music College.

Tonight I was reviewing a certain work on mission: The Changing Face of World Missions: Engaging Contemporary Issues and Trends. It’s a book that deals with 12 issues of change in our world today and how the church needs to rethink mission (both globally and locally) in light of these issues. It has some good stuff we need to think through as we participate in mission in the 21st century.

the changing face of world missionsI was reminded of one particular quote I had highlighted from one chapter entitled, “The Changing Basis of Knowledge: From Modernity to Postmodernity.” Post-Enlightenment modernity, with it’s motto of Cogito ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am.”) did not have the answers many thought it would.

The church never thought the Enlightenment would have all the answers. However, as the church of the early 1900’s began to deal with the issues of their day, they began to engage in the playing field of Enlightenment rationalist modernity. And as time passed, the church began to increasingly accept the perspectives of modernity in regards to truth, particularly epistemology (or how we know truth). It soaked our theology, our apologetics, and our mission.

I believe this was a tragedy in many ways.

The words below are a reminder that truth is not merely discerned through cerebral rationalism, but rather through more holistic measures – stories, history, beauty, experience, community, and yes, reasonable measures.

Consider these:

“Missionaries can no longer rely on didactic, cognitive approaches, as if Christianity were a case that could be proven in a court of law or demonstrated by methods suited to the laboratory. Christians are still called to declare the truth of Scripture, but hearers are more likely to believe when the gospel is “storied,” set in aesthetic, poetic, or dramatic fashion and lived out in relationships and concrete ways.”

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