09 March 2006

The Continuing Conversion of the Church (2)

Chapter 2 of Guder's book is entitled, "God's Mission is Good News". He begins by saying that "Our theory of evangelistic ministry must be rooted in a biblical theology of mission and, above all, dominated and shaped by the gospel it seeks to proclaim." Toward the formation of such a theory, Guder makes the following assertions:
  • "The fundamental certainty of biblical faith is the fact that there is good news about God." This good news is rooted in a particular history, in times and places, and is the continuously surprising story of God's good, loving actions in those times and places. The appropriate response to this story is joy, thanksgiving, and reciprocal love.
  • God's mission - the missio Dei, the arc and thrust of these historical actions - is motivated by God's compassion. In compassion, God created, and in compassion, God acts to heal God's broken creation. The epitome of this compassionate mission is the incarnation of God in Jesus and the sending of Jesus on his earthly ministry.
  • The expression of God's mission on earth is the "kingdom" or "reign" of God, which Jesus proclaimed to be "near" throughout his ministry. The kingdom is both present and yet to come, and it "is defined by the very character and action of God, which means that it cannot be reduced to simple definition nor made to serve human purposes." The nearing of the kingdom invites response - the acceptance of an invitation - but it also causes negative resistance on the part of the powers of the world, and inevitably leads to suffering.
  • Jesus' compassionate sacrifice of himself on the cross is the center of the gospel. It is the inevitable consequence of the breaking in of the kingdom and the ultimate action of the compassionate mission of God.
  • "When God raised Jesus from the dead, the message and the messenger merged, the king and the kingdom came together." "The gospel is the person and work of Jesus as the salvation event towards which God's mission has been moving and from which that mission now moves into the entire world on the way to its eschatological consummation when God fulfills all his promises [at the end of the age]."
Toward the end of the chapter, Guder summarizes:
The missio Dei has always been the gospel, good news about God's goodness revealed in God's Word through Israel's experience, leading up to its climax and culmination in Jesus Christ. Throughout the biblical witness, God acts, initiates, and sends. God's compassion leads to his salvific witness in human history. The Father sends the Son. This exclusive focus on God as the subject of his mission is essential to the gospel, for it makes clear that humans, in their lostness, find hope in what God has done for them, not in what they might imagine they can do for themselves. Now, however, on the cross and at Easter, the salvation of the world was accomplished. God's mission now broadens to embrace the whole world for which Christ died. The gospel of God's love fulfilled in Christ is now to be made known to everyone. Because of the evangel [good news], the call to evangelize is now heard. God's mission continues as that call takes shape in the apostolic community, the church.

So that's what Guder means when he talks about the "good news", "gospel", or "evangel", and since the book is about evangelistic ministry, this is what that ministry is meant to proclaim. But what is the relation of those ministers to this good news, and to the God and Christ that the good news is about? Guder's answer - explored in the next chapter and using a fundamental New Testament vocabulary word that's packed with meaning - is that we are "witnesses." I'll try to help unpack what that means next time.


stew said...

Thanks for the post! Guder has really given me language for and helped me articulate things like mission, witness, the gospel and reductionism in ways I haven't been able to before.

Cori said...

This reminded me so much of an article by Bernard Zelechow in a book titled Postmodernism, Literature and the Future of Theology. Zelechow argues that our faith is based on a real, historical event - the birth, life, death and resurection of Jesus Christ - but that that event is reinterpreted or reexperienced again and again, in new ways, by different faith communities in different times and places.

He also speaks of how Jesus is both 'here and now' as well as 'there and then'.

He speaks of time as being relational rather than linear, and that the Bible is punctuated by instances of God's interaction with his people, rather than being a linear account of History.

This formed part of my Masters thesis so its a topic I feel very strongly about, but I won't go on and on :-) I'm finding Guder very interesting and can't wait to read about chapter 3.