Middle East Resources

A Reaffirmation of Historic Christian Missions

Bassam Michael Madany

13 December 2022

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. http://www.institut-diakrisis.de/  

The subject of the document was: “Transformation” as the New Topic of Evangelical Mission Theology. The following comments of the document, explain how this change had taken place:

“The concept of ‘Transformation’ 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 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.”

It is evident that Transformation Theology contradicts the teaching of Romans 8, 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 Ecumenical Creeds, 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. 

“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’. 

“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).” 

I am grateful to our Sovereign God who has guided the Institute to state the Biblical principles of Christian Missions, at a time when young men and women from non-Christian faiths are attracted to the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.