On March 19, I will be giving a paper at a theology conference at Northeastern Seminary (the event is co-sponsored by Northeastern and the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association). The keynote speaker is Dr. Michael Gorman and the theme is participation in God’s mission. I’m super excited to go, especially since I’ll be going with my friend Rob Dean who is also presenting.
Here’s my tentative title and abstract:
The God Who Sends is the God Who Loves:
Mission as Participating in the Ecstatic Love of the Triune God
In recent years many have attempted to recover an emphasis on missiology by articulating its significance for our understanding of theology and ecclesiology, God and church. For example, the missional church literature describes God as a missional or sending God. Just as the Father sent the Son and the Spirit into the world to accomplish the missio Dei (mission of God), so now God sends the church into the world as “God’s instrument for God’s mission” (Guder, Missional Church).
While this renewed emphasis on mission is welcome and helpful, it sometimes has the tendency to promote a pragmatic and functional approach to church (especially in some of the popular missional literature). To avoid this mistake, it is important to envision missional ecclesiology flowing out of a participatory and relational trinitarian theology, in which God’s redemptive mission is grounded more fundamentally in God’s nature as love. God’s mission to redeem the world flows from God’s prior love for human beings and creation. God’s love for human beings and creation is rooted, in turn, in the other-centered, ecstatic, perichoretic love that constitutes God’s triune being (God’s inner life and intrinsic character) and reflects the fullness and over-flowing quality of the divine life (the external missions of the Son and Spirit flow from their inner, eternal processions). Along these lines, this paper will outline and commend, in exploratory fashion, a participatory and relational trinitarian missional ecclesiology, drawing on the work of several theologians (notably Augustine, J. B. Torrance, Bonhoeffer, Pannenberg, Newbigin, and Grenz).
I’ll be blogging my reflections on the conference – watch for that the week of March 21-25.