Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Discovering phase: Missiology, ecclesiology, and political theology

During breakfast yesterday (18th July, Monday), somehow Edmund and I chatted about the fact that I am currently taking the course 'Theology of Mission' in this new semester.

I found myself saying, "Nowadays I have come to sense a gradual draw towards mission and missiology. And the draw is getting stronger by the day."

My enrollment into theological studies is not due to 'mission' in the sense of how usually being understood as planting churches in the conventional way. The discovery of interest in the area of mission is not so much simply the change in preference but a new appreciation of what 'mission' actually is.

To briefly recall the process of the discovery, the experience owes much to the course on ethics that I took under Daniel Koh last semester. Through the course, I was introduced to the importance of ecclesiological ethics, the Church as a moral community, that helped to boost an appreciation of the ontology of the Church.

By the time I submitted my final paper for Daniel Koh's course, it dawned on me a necessary and natural relation between ethics and ecclesiology in a way that redefines my understanding of mission and all its sub-categories such as evangelism and missiology. And it is for the sake of continuing to further develop and nuance this understanding that I signed up for Andrew Peh's Theology of Mission course for this semester.

It is 7.15am as I'm typing this. And I have been awake for more than three hours, since about 3.50am.

I went to bed at 12.50am, and I don't know why I woke up in the middle of the night after a mere 3 hours sleep. Could be the milk tea that I had for dinner earlier.

After failing to get myself to lose consciousness, I decided to pick up something to read. And somehow I felt drawn to a book that I have bought last year but yet to read. It was Langham Partnership's International Director Christopher Wright's 'The Mission of God's People: A Biblical Theology of the Church's Mission', published last year under Zondervan's Biblical Theology for Life series.

I have no idea why I was drawn to read that book (despite other books that I am usually more keen to read like those on social engagement) in the middle of a sleepless night. Until last Friday before I cleaned my room, that book was laid at the bottom of a stack of other books.

By the time my eyes felt sore, at about 6.30am, I realized that I've finished reading the first five chapters. Through these chapters that I was guided by Wright to connect ethics, ecclesiology, and mission in a nuance and elaborate way.

Commenting on Genesis 18.18-19, Wright writes,

"[Genesis 18.18-19] binds together election, ethics and mission into a single sequence located in the will, action and desire of God. It is fundamentally missional declaration, which explains the reason for election and explains the purpose of ethical living. [...] We should particularly notice the way ethics stands as the mid-term between election and mission. Ethics is the purpose of election and the basis of mission."
(p. 92-93. Emphasis original.)

"Here [is a] passage that shows us the important link, in our biblical theology, between our ecclesiology and our missiology. We have already pointed out how important it is to see the missional reason for the very existence of the church as the people of God. In this age, the church is missional or it is not church.

"But now we see more clearly that this link between church and mission is also ethical. The community God seeks for the sake of his mission is to be a community shaped by his own ethical character, with specific attention to righteousness and justice in a world filled with oppression and injustice. Only such a community can be a blessing to the nations. [...] There is no biblical mission without biblical ethics."
(p. 93-94. Emphasis original.)

The connection between public theology, political theology, social engagement, ethics, missiology and ecclesiology is all there in-between.

I didn't start with an interest in 'mission' but in subjects like historical Jesus studies and systematic and philosophical theology. It seems that it's the other way around as I experienced it.

Enough writing for now. Have to prepare for 'Theology of Mission' class, which will be starting at 8.30am later.Link


Martin Yee said...

Hi Sze Zeng,

Great. If indeed the Lord call you to mission, I give thanks to Him! It is very needful in this age. You have shown your giftings in these areas. As missiology, ecclesiology and political theology is a rather potent and explosive mix, be prepared for a path of trials, persecutions and the cross ahead. The Lord be with you.


Sze Zeng said...

Thank you Martin. I'm afraid the trial started too early!

After I wrote this post, I had high fever in the evening, at 39C. At about 7.30pm, I went into hyper-ventilation and was sent to a hospital by an ambulance. Went for further check-up yesterday at NUH, doc said I need to do another blood-test this Saturday to see if it is dengue. Now still weak, feeling giddy, and having difficulty to eat.

Martin Yee said...

Wow. Sorry to hear that. Wish you a speedy recovery. The Lord's grace and strength be with you.


Michelle said...

Take care...may God bless you with good health and speedy recovery !