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Theology and Evangelism: the Great Divorce?

2 Jun

Today I attended a “round table discussion” as part of the Regent College Spring School. The panel consisted of

Krish Kandiah, the Executive Director of Churches in Mission of the UK Evangelical Alliance, who is teaching a Spring School course entitled, “Subzero Evangelism: Communicating the Gospel in Post-Christian Contexts.”

Hans Boersma, the JI Packer Professor of Theology at Regent.

Rikk Watts, Professor of New Testament at Regent.

A couple of months ago I attended another debate between Hans and Rikk which centred around their (sometimes opposing) views on philosophy and history. In that debate it was Hans who impressed me and his defence of sacramental ontology. This time is was Rikk who impressed me and his passion for the good news of Jesus. But I think I was really reserving my loudest cheers for what Krish had to say.

There was so much more that could have been said. For example, in “defending” intentional time for doing theological reflection not in a context of mission Rikk cited the example of the Apostle Paul who spent years in Sinai after his conversation. What he failed to mention was that that was in preparation for him to be first and foremost a missionary not a theologian. With Paul we find him doing theology (i.e. writting the books of the New Testament) in the context of mission (i.e. the growth of new church plants).

Anyways… here are some notes that I took of the discussion. The notes are not a “verbatum” recording, but I think most of what is noted was “essentially” said. I’ve grouped the “highlights” under each particular speaker.

So… if you have a read, feel free to let me know what you think.

Hans Boersma

  • Theology is ecclesial engagement… it belongs within the church. It is Christians speaking about the God they really love…. its task is to draw Christians in into the life of the triune God. It is evangelistic in its very nature.
  • Theology has to do with liturgy. The rule of faith comes from the rule of prayer. When I do theology I want to connect this to the liturgy of the church.
  • There is no one method (or model) of evangelism.
  • Modernity cut the link between theology and the church. Thus we have theology with no ecclesial embodiment and no ecclesial authority.
  • Among younger evangelicals… there has been renewed emphasis on the centrality on the church… and talk about monasticism. Perhaps we don’t live as monks enough. New monasticism follows through on writers such as Hauerwas who believe that modernity is incompatible with the Christian faith. The questions we ask need to be shaped by the gospel and not necessarily the questions of modernity.

Rick Watts

  • Mission has to do with participating with God in the “othering”. Life does however have a number of facets. Paul after his conversion goes to Sinai and spends a lot of time in reflection (not mission).
  • We need models, but they are personal. Paul says, imitate me as I imitate Christ.
  • I don’t think the problem is modernity. The problem goes back to the influence of Greek philosophical thought when the discourse of the elite gets co-opted… and you need to know philosophy to do this.
  • Maybe our problem is that we are not comfortable with Jesus. The key question is… how do we form Christ in our lives holistically so that his life flows out in whatever situation we are in?

Krish Kandiah

  • Mission is the total task. Evangelism is a sub-set… the verbal communication of the Gospel.
  • To a certain extent I think there is a divorce…. You can get theological degree without doing evangelism. A key question… is theology learnt in mission? It was only as the early church engaged in mission that they did theology. Thus… can we do theology in the academy through the writing of essays?
  • We need to break down the barriers. In practice there is a division… evangelists don’t tend to think theologically… evangelists don’t think theologians have anything to say… some theologians spend little time in mission. We need to expose theologians to evangelism and expose evangelism to theology.
  • Jesus academy was on the road (in the context of God’s mission in the world). He said… -eat, live and breath with me for 3 years… I’m not going to give you a model… I’m going to ask you to live out my life.
  • Just take a look at commentaries. Most are written with a set of questions about the text, which are not missiological.
  • Jesus model of training was not taking his disciples up a mountain for 3 years to exegete the Old Testament.

A Definition of Theology?

17 Apr

I’m just starting on a new chapter (or maybe it will be a section) in my PhD and I am currently working on a paragraph in which I want to define what Christian theology is.

Here is what what my supervisor, Andrew Kirk, says in his book “The Mission of Theology and Theology as Mission“…

It is a reflective, intellectual process carried out by a community of faith whose concern is with God and his relationship to the entire universe. This process gives a privileged place to certain sources of knowledge, namely the Bible, the ecumenical creeds, and other historical confessions of faith. It has two fundamental tasks: to make sense of the whole of life by reference to God, and to be an agent of the transformation of the whole of life so that it may reflect God’s intentions. (p.8)

So… what do you think? Too academic? Too unacademic? Too practical? Too impractical?

Hmmmm….

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