Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Our Missional God 6

posted by xscot mcknight

So how does a biblical view of monotheism — that YHWH is the one and only God — and this God’s mission to make himself known throughout the world, especially in Jesus Christ, lead to a missional understanding of the Bible? This is what Chris Wright discusses in the last part of 4 in his book The Mission of God. Or put a little more clearly: How is biblical monotheism missional? A good question for your cup of coffee or for a chat with a friend. So, put away the little thingies in your ears from your iPod and ponder this question with us.
The first thing to observe is that a biblical sense of mission is driven by God’s will to be known; or put from the other angle, a biblical monotheism is one in which that God wants to be known throughout the world. Here is a principle text, Psalm 22:27-31:
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him?
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn?
for he has done it.
Which means three things:
a. The good of creation depends on humanity knowing God.
b. The good of creation comes from humanity knowing the biblical God.
c. God’s will to be known is the mainspring of our mission to make God known.
Second, biblical monotheism involves a constant christological struggle. The Bible reveals a battlefield. The claim that God reveals himself in Jesus continues the struggle we find in the Bible with other gods and it also reveals a God who is unique.
Third, biblical monotheism leads to praise and praise leads to mission. The Psalms are filled with the summons for others to worship the God of Israel, and to say that God reveals himself in Jesus is to say that this God of Israel is revealed in Jesus — and that means worship of that God leads to worship through and of Jesus.
Biblical monotheism finds a beautiful expression in Psalm 96:
1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his [fn1] holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, ?The Lord reigns.?
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.
11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
13 they will sing before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his truth.

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posted July 30, 2008 at 7:16 am

I like the emphasis upon worship leading to mission, then mission returning to worship. I am not sure that it means there is some kind of reciprocation here, but at first glance, there is a suggestion of it.
On a related note, I was reading Brian Edgar’s book on the Trinity, and he observed that while formal categories are OK, such as revelation or love, we really need to pay attention to God as the God of Israel, i.e., make sure we’re really dealing biblical monotheism as we negotiate understanding the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
That and Wright makes sense to me: although plenty of people have plucked a verse here and there, and called it “the biblical basis for missions” (me, too: ouch), Wright’s attentiveness to the identity of God opens us up to knowing God and being lead into his mission. His discussion on Jesus is great here.

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John W Frye

posted July 30, 2008 at 8:37 am

This reminds me of NT Wright’s emphasizing that the gospel is first a declaration: “Jesus is Lord.” YHWH is Lord in Jesus. Gospel obedience then is first of all faithfully making God in Jesus known in the world. So, my question is: when is invitation needed? That is, when do we invite surrender to this YHWH-who-is-Lord-in-Jesus?

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Scot McKnight

posted July 30, 2008 at 8:42 am

Yes, I see what you mean by connecting this Wright to NT Wright. C Wright, though, focuses more on the mission of God to make himself known in the whole world.
On invitation: first, genuine proclamation of God in Christ is itself invitation as attended by the Spirit; second, the logical implication of this proclamation is to turn to, love and obey this God.

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posted July 30, 2008 at 8:44 am

This is good stuff. I like how this informs what the good news is, and what it hopes to accomplish in the world.
Relatedly, everytime in this series that I hear “God’s mission to make himself known”, I feel like it bears repeating what we, or rather the scriptures, mean by “known.” Not only do our modern understandings of knowledge constantly pull us into a detached way of ‘knowing’, but we are also flooded with information about so many things, most of which just blends into some kind of collage wallpaper in the halls of our minds. For the biblical concept of knowledge, though, phrases like “fruitful connection”, “productive submission” or “active partnership” come to mind. God is either ‘known’ in a productive way or he is not known at all.

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posted July 30, 2008 at 9:34 am

Also, when I hear of ‘knowledge of God’ and ‘mission’, I think we’re still in a (good) shift of concepts. When I hear the phrase ‘knowledge of God’, I think about what constitutes ‘orthodoxy’, which often is a list of teachings about Jesus as opposed to the teachings of Jesus (and, significantly, his being Lord of the earth usually isn’t one of those teachings about him, practically speaking; his role in the afterlife, on the other hand, is generally emphasized).
Perhaps this is what bothers me about the concept and elevation of ‘orthodoxy’ vs. the idea of a ‘knowledge of God': Biblically, a ‘knowledge of God’ is both the information about God and a proper response to it. Orthodoxy, by contrast, is only half of this concept, by definition (or so I’m told ;)). Yet, we tend to discuss ‘orthodoxy’ in the West as if it were the more important and complete ‘knowledge of God.’ To use N.T. Wright’s terms, we’ve muddled these concepts in evangelical circles at least.
Scot, when are you and Tony going to have the ‘orthodoxy’ discussion? Perhaps the above is part of what Tony is thinking as well.

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posted July 30, 2008 at 9:43 am

BTW, I raise this because if even part of our mission is to ‘make God known’, that mission can be very different depending on what kind of knowledge we’re trying to spread to throughout the world.

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John W Frye

posted July 30, 2008 at 10:23 am

Scot #3,
Thanks. This is helpful, but I wonder if we need to be as persuasive as Paul when in 2 Cor 5 he faithfully declares God’s reconciliation with the world in Christ (what God has accomplished), but still exhorts the Corinthians in v 20, “Be reconciled, then, to God”(what human response is expected).
I think it is accurate to proclaim and live-in-community the embracing Gospel of God, yet offer appeals to respond as well. Do we just let the Spirit make the appeal? Why didn’t Paul just let the Spirit make the appeal? I ask because in some emerging conversations it seems the proper thing is just “proclaim” in word and deed and never call for a response. Like it’s tacky somehow to ask for a human response. In almost every encounter of a person with Jesus in the Gospels, Jesus gave the person something TO DO. Am I correct?

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posted July 30, 2008 at 3:40 pm

I gave my friend John W. a copy of this book last year. I don’t know if he’s read it yet, but if you’re interested, he might be willing to meet with folks in the Chicago area to talk about the book.

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posted July 30, 2008 at 3:53 pm

I like to think that one of the reasons that David was a man after God’s own heart was because he understood God’s desire to make Himself know beyond Israel to the world. When he stepped out to fight Goliath, he said, “This day the LORD will hand you over to me..and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.” His motive was not about getting to marry the king’s daughter, or getting rich, or getting out of having to pay taxes. He wanted the world to know that the God of Israel was the one true God.He understood the mission.
Certainly his understanding of monotheism and mission resulted in some great worship.

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posted July 30, 2008 at 4:41 pm

Sorry to not write on topic but I was googling Emergent Ecclesiology for a paper I’m writing and I saw a post you made about one day writing what you thought was the emergent ecclesiology (if there can/should actually be one) but I never found out if you did? If you did could you email me the link or the article? Much thanks

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