REAFFIRMATION OF HISTORIC CHRISTIAN MISSIONS
Nowadays, we face major departures from Historic Christian Missions that I would like to address by quoting and commenting on a document from the website of the German organization, Institut Diakrisis.
The subject of the document is: “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 and purpose 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 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, 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 is clear from the above paragraph, that the theology that had informed the Protestant Christian Missions during the 19th and first half of the 20th century has been replaced by an ideology that is alien to Holy Scripture, the Ecumenical Creeds, and the Confessional standards of the Protestant Reformation.
The following comments of the “Transformation” document explain how this change has taken place:
“The concept of ‘Transformation’ that was 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, ‘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.
“The basis of the classical evangelical view of the Bible was abandoned. Jesus Christ and His salvation are at the centre of the Holy Scriptures. He provides the key to the understanding of the Old Testament (Luke 24:27-45; Acts 13:47; 2 Corinthians 1:20). It is evident that Transformation Theology contradicts the teaching of the Letter to the Romans, namely that the full benefits of the Gospel are part and parcel of the Christian Hope, to be accomplished at the return of Jesus Christ.
“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 first fruits 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.” Romans 8: 14-25 (ESV)
Transformation Theology offers a different doctrine of the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Certainly, Jesus of Nazareth called on men to follow Him, and in His sermons and teachings, He laid down 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.’ 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 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; as based on the saving work of God in Jesus Christ and puts the Old and New Testaments into the right relationship, making the necessary distinctions. Herein is the tension between the ‘already now’ and the ‘only then’.
“This applies 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 of Israel will take place when the mission to the nations has been completed, and Christ will return. To open the hearts of the Jews for Him is what mission to Israel wishes to accomplish. The Church 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).
“Now, we address an urgent warning to the entire Christian Mission Movement. Beware of succumbing to an ideology that 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 3:10,11) He referred to the ‘hour of temptation’ which will come upon the whole world (Greek: oikouméne!) and 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 our Good Shepherd will 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.” Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14).”
I am grateful to Institut Diakrisis for its work and efforts to maintain and defend Historic Christian Missions, in harmony with the Holy Scriptures, the Ecumenical Creeds, and the Confessional Standards of the Protestant Reformation.
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 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 several writings published by the IKBG on various theological topics.