Middle East Resources

A Reaffirmation of Historic Christian Missions

Bassam Michael Madany

19 December 2020

Nowadays, we face major departures from Historic Christian Missions. I would like to address this subject, by quoting and commenting on a document posted on the website of the German organization, Institut Diakrisis. The subject of the document was: “Transformation” as the New Topic of Evangelical Mission Theology [i] The preamble explains the role played by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in the redefinition of the nature of Christian Missions.

“Ever since the Third General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in New Delhi, 1961, a modern understanding of missions has developed through the influence of secular ecumenical theologies and political ideologies. Due to the influence of ‘radical evangelicals’ originally from Latin America, this view is increasingly being adopted also by the evangelical side. The contemporary theological thinking of evangelicals ranges between the proclamation of salvation in Christ on the one hand, and the changing of society as the surmised goal of evangelism on the other. The latter understanding of mission is called ‘holistic’ or ‘incarnatory’. Many missiologists now call their discipline ‘Missional Theology’, based on the view that all functions of the church, including her social and political responsibilities, plus the dialogue with other religions, are determined by her total mission in the world which is to establish the promised ‘Kingdom of God’. In this connection, the word ‘Transformation’, so far unknown to many Christians, has become a key concept.”

It becomes clear from the above paragraph that the theology that informed the Protestant Christian Missions during the 19th and first half of the 20th century, has been replaced by an ideology that is alien to Holy Scripture, the Ecumenical Creeds and the Confessional standards of the Reformation. It is not Evangelization, i.e., the proclamation of the Good News of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, but Transformation or Renewal of the structures of society, that has become the goal of Christion Missions.

The following comments of the “Transformation” document explain how this change has taken place:

“The concept of ‘Transformation’ which was first adopted by the Neo-Evangelical movement in North America, is dangerously loaded. The reason why the Neo-Evangelicals found the concept of a societal transformation useful is because, since the last quarter of the 20th century, ‘Kingdom Theology’ had asserted itself in major parts of the American mission movement, while the Missions theology which focused on personal conversion and the planting of churches was pushed aside.

“One facet of this ‘Kingdom of God Theology’ arose from the older tradition of Post-Millennialism, i.e., the conviction that Jesus would return after the messianic kingdom of peace which he had proclaimed and initiated, the millennium of Revelation 20:1-6, had been established on earth. In their publications, Transformation theologians consider that next to the proclamation of the Gospel, social and possibly political action is presented as an equally important – if not even preferred – expression of the Gospel and the kingly rule of God. Through this widening of the concept of mission, the soteriological, i.e., the dimension of the Gospel, which is focused on eternal life, namely the salvation brought by Jesus through His atoning death, does not remain unaffected. On the contrary: in theory as well as in missionary practice, the salvation of the soul takes second place to the creation of better social and economic conditions.”

The emphasis on the “Here & Now” was due to the Hermeneutics adopted by Transformation Theology

“Transformation theologians [employ] ‘contextual hermeneutics’ which seeks to understand a text from its context (the context in which people find themselves), in this case the social and political situation. The problem is that Biblical texts are then read using such contextual methods of interpretation, as we have seen from Liberation and Feminist Theologies. The social and political situation of the readers of the Biblical texts thus provides the key to interpretation. …. Arbitrarily chosen historic events of the Old Testament, especially the liberation of Israel from Egypt and the prophetic sermons against misuse of power and injustice, are regarded as ‘paradigmatic’ models to be imposed upon today’s mission of the Church. With this, the basis of the classical evangelical view of the Bible is abandoned. As we know, Jesus Christ and His salvation are at the centre of the Holy Scriptures. He Himself provides the key as to how the Old Testament should be understood in relation to Him (Luke 24:27,45; see Acts 13:47; 2 Corinthians 1:20). The consequence of a contextual view of the Bible among Transformation theologians is that man with his problems and wishes, becomes the centre, not God who in the Scriptures reveals His actions in judgment and mercy. When the Biblical text is read only in terms of today’s context, then it can no longer show what it really intended to say.”

It is evident that Transformation Theology contradicts the teaching of the eighth chapter of Romans, that the full benefits of the Gospel await the return of Christ at the end of time.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father.’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope, we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”                    Romans 8: 14-39 (ESV)

Transformation Theology offers a different teaching on the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ in the areas of Christology and Soteriology,

“Contextual Bible interpretation has major consequences for Christology, i.e., the doctrine of the person and work of Jesus the Christ ... It is true that, at times, authors of the Transformation Theology are expressing Christological viewpoints. But what interests them most, is the humanness of Jesus and His devoted service in the social needs of this world. At the same time His divinity, as emphasized particularly in the Gospel of John (John 1:1-14; 2:28) and formulated by the early church in its basic Creeds of Nicea and Chalcedon (325 and 451 AD, respectively), is largely obliterated. According to these, the Son of God is of one nature with God the Father and in His Person both natures, the divine and the human, are inseparably united. Now the miracle of the Incarnation of God is called ‘incarnatory’ and plays an important role in the contemporary understanding of the Neo-Evangelical movement. However, what is meant is not so much the singular miracle of the Incarnation of the eternal Logos in the Person of the Christ. Rather, in what could be called an ‘Example Christology,’ it is emphasized that the Incarnate Jesus Christ has made Himself a servant and led a life of service in the needs of mankind.

“Certainly, Jesus of Nazareth called on men to follow Him, and in His sermons and teachings he did lay the foundations of a Christian ethic. However, we need to understand that the matchless Incarnation of the eternal Word of God (John 1:14), His once for all sacrificial death, and His ascension to the throne of God, set up a barrier against any ‘imitatio Christi’ for His atoning sacrifice on the cross to take away our guilt cannot be imitated. This would contradict the Biblical understanding of salvation as taught by the Reformers. Indeed, it is inadmissible to change the message of ‘Christ for us’ to the slogan, ‘Let us act like Christ’, thereby making the Gospel a new Law.

“The ‘view of the end’ (Eschatology) which used to guide the Protestant mission movement in the past, has been allowed to be forgotten. For the strength of the salvation-oriented understanding of missions proves itself in that it takes up the Bible's own understanding of God, the world, and time. It centers in the saving work of God in Jesus Christ, and accordingly puts the Old and New Testaments into the right relationship to one another, making the necessary distinctions. Herein originates the tension between the ‘already now’ and the ‘only then’.

“This applies firstly and especially to the place of the people of Israel among the nations. According to the testimony of Paul in Romans 11:25-36, the ultimate conversion and re-acceptance of Israel will take place when the mission to the nations has been completed, the ‘fullness of the gentiles’ has been gathered, and Christ will return. To open the hearts of the Jews for Him is what mission to Israel wishes to do. Secondly, the question of the nature of non-Christian religions in their relationship to the Christian faith, will be answered according to their threefold determination, i.e., through God’s original revelation (Acts 14:17; John 1:9; Romans 1:19-20), through man’s response in obedience and resistance (Acts 17:27f; Isaiah 53:6a), and through the efficacy of demons (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2). Thirdly, the salvation historical view also proves itself in the present struggle for a future in line with the Gospel. The Church of Jesus Christ may, by taking her share of social and political responsibility, set signs of the dawning Kingdom, but without attaching to a false significance to them. She rather trusts in the fulfillment of the Biblical promise of the Kingdom of God at the return of Jesus Christ in power and in glory. In His Kingdom, peace and justice will finally be established (Revelation 21:1.24).

“In closing, we want to stress that our criticism of Transformation Theology is not aimed at a single false doctrine, and not at individual theologians representing it. Rather, we retain with them the brotherhood in Christ, although, unfortunately, they have been enticed by an erroneous trend. Therefore, we want to struggle for an abiding in the Biblical truth jointly with them. In this, we are also conscious of the fact that we ourselves are in constant need of correction and deepening through the Word of God and are ready, therefore, for Biblical correction on our part. At the same time, we address our urgent warning to the entire Christian Mission Movement. May it beware of succumbing to a historical theology which is becoming an ideology! For this, as we can see, replaces eternal salvation with temporal social well-being and forgets that the Kingly rule of Christ is not of this world (John 18:36). In His end-times address on the Mount of Olives, Jesus warned his disciples of false prophets and false Christs who would come in the last days and lead many astray (Matthew 24:11). As the Ascended One (Revelation 3:10) He warns of the ‘hour of temptation’ which will come upon the whole world (Greek: oikouméne!)  3:11 But the ascended Christ promised the church of Philadelphia to keep them from the hour of temptation because they had kept His word steadfastly.

“We, too, may likewise firmly trust that He, the Good Shepherd, will even today help His faithful flock through all external and internal temptations. He will do this through the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit whom He has given to His own as a pledge of the completed salvation in His Kingdom (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14).”

Tübingen, Pentecost 2013 International Christian Network

https://www.ikbg.net/pdf/The-Tuebingen-Call-of-Pentecost-2013-On-Missions.pdf

A Personal Note of Thanks

I am indebted to the Institut Diakrisis for the above information, and its steadfast efforts, to maintain and defend the Historic Christian Missions, in harmony with the Holy Scriptures, the Ecumenical Creeds, and the Confessional Standards of the Protestant Reformation.

Bassam Michael Madany bashir2824@msn.com

Middle East Resources www.unashamedofthegospel.org

 

 

http://www.institut-diakrisis.de/  

The International Conference of Confessing Communities (IKBG/ICN) is a worldwide association of Christians of different denominations who see themselves as “confessing.” This means that the accept the Bible with the Old and New Testaments as a binding basis for faith and ethics and profess the Triune God with the Apostolic and Nicene Creeds. Those dealing with the faith today encounter many currents that have distanced themselves far from these elementary foundations, both inside and outside the Church.

The IKBG has set itself the goal of counteracting this and protecting and preserving the common Apostolic Heritage in order to promote the unity of the worldwide Christian Church. It forms a network for professed Christians all over the world and wants to give them a public presence and voice. At the same time, the IKBG offers its members and supporters an important forum for exchange among themselves, information, and cooperation. The support of persecuted Christians all over the world is also an important concern of the IKBG. With this website we would like to introduce ourselves, our goals, and activities. We invite interested lay people to dialogue and engage with the faith. Under Publications/Archive you will find a number of writings published by the IKBG on various theological topics.                                    

IKBG Internationale Konferenz Bekennender Gemeinschaften Veröffentlichungen
 

Dr. Peter Paul Johannes Beyerhaus (1 February 1929 – 18 January 2020) was a German Protestant pastor, theologian, missionary scholar, and academic teacher.

To learn about his interest in Christian Missions, read: My Pilgrimage in Mission

https://www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-68157996/my-pilgrimage-in-mission