A Primer on Missional Theology

Thanks to an invitation by Michael Pailthorpe, I recently wrote and presented (via audio recording) a paper on missional theology for the “Why I Think” series, hosted by Michael at the Rare Treats Cafe in Sydney, Australia. The series gave me an opportunity to argue “why I think missional theology is the future of theology.” The original essay was published online at Theology & Praxis and is also available in PDF format. Because of its length, and because there a few changes I would like to make, I am republishing the essay here as a series of posts. This should facilitate more discussion, since the paper is a survey of theological issues addressed by missional theology.

Why I think missional theology is the future of theology, or,
why I think theology must become missional or perish:
a primer on missional theology

Theology must become missional or perish. That is my thesis. By “missional,” I refer to the recent development in theology which defines God as a “missionary God” who commissions a “missionary church.” Mission is first and foremost proper to the being of God, and secondarily a concept in ecclesiology. Both dimensions—the theological and ecclesiological—are grounded in the missional life history of Jesus Christ. The interest in missional theology arises in the wake of two realities: the rejection of colonialism, and the shift of Christianity’s global “center” from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere. With these two modern developments, missional theology arises as a way of thinking theologically which is both post-colonial and sensitive to cultural particularity, without simply collapsing theology into a post-colonial anthropology. Instead, missional theology is steadfastly rooted in the Christian gospel of the triune God, and in the proclamation of humanity’s reconciliation with God in Jesus of Nazareth. Missional theology is missiological and ecclesiological by being first and foremost theological, speaking about the God of mission while also attending to the apostolic community of the church as those commissioned by God. My argument is (1) exegetical, (2) historical, and (3) dogmatic in nature, and I will proceed in that order as I make my case.

The outline of the series is as follows:
    §1. Exegesis and Missional Theology

    §2. Church History and Missional Theology

    . Dogmatics and Missional Theology

      §3.1. The doctrine of the divine attributes: God is a missionary God

      §3.2. The immanent and economic Trinity: God elects to be a missionary God from all eternity

      §3.3. Christology: hypostatic union as mission

      §3.4. Ecclesiology: worship as mission

      §3.5. Ecclesiology: mission as translation

      . Eschatology: the eternality of mission

    §4. Conclusion: why missional theology?

    Afterword: overview and outline of the series


Greetings! I am not married. I am not a PhD student. I have absolutely no use for German theologians, watch Hollywood romantic comedies, listen to Simon and Garfunkel, smoke cheap cigarettes, and drink Miller High Life. I am, however, deeply intrigued by the notion and possibilities of "missional theology," and am therefore very glad to have found this exciting series, which I intend to read very attentively. I thank you for it.
o1mnikent said…
I'm enjoying reading your posts in this series. I'm wondering if you've seen this collection of digitized books available from Logos Bible Software: Paternoster Missional Theology Collection (16 Vols.)
Unknown said…

Well thought out. I am working on a thesis on the Trinitarian nature of mission (and by corollary the new developments in Missional Theology.)

I began my pursuit researching OT foundations for Missional Theology. It has ultimately led me back to the Trinity. I share many of your arguments and many assumptions. My conversation partners are different from yours. I am currently using Calvin and a smattering of Greek fathers.

BTW, I studied under George Hunsberger, Leanne Van Dyk, and James Brownson at Western Theological Seminary. I also smoke a pipe (Savaerlli's w/ dry system are my favorite) enjoy indie rock (lots of theological tinder there) and enjoy micro-brew (check out New Holland Brewing). I would like to continue a deeper conversation and perhaps share some resources. If you are interested email me... beebe.brandon@gmail.com.

Shalom l'cha.