Eddie and Sue Arthur

Mission Shaped by The Trinity

I am currently reading The Mission of the Triune God: Trinitarian Missiology in the Tradition of Lesslie Newbigin, which is a stimulating read if a little hard going at times. The great thing about reading on a Kindle is that you are able to highlight passages and easily find them again online. Here is a selection of things that I highlighted in the first half of the book.

On the Nature of Mission

… all Christian thinking, especially our thinking about mission, had to be done in the light of the triune God’s presence with us through his Son and Spirit.

Mission is not something that we do in response to the directives of a remote God, but is rather to be understood as the action of God himself exercised through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Mission is not something that we do in response to the directives of a remote God, but is rather to be understood as the action of God himself exercised through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet

The first witnesses to the gospel in Antioch were not missionaries but refugees. And so it has happened over and over again and so it continues to happen. ‘Unreached peoples’ are reached and cultural frontiers are crossed by refugees, fugitives, famine-stricken villagers, conscripted soldiers, traders, professional workers, and many others. A whole history of the ‘expansion of Christianity’ could be written with very few missionary names in it!

Thus, “the Church’s very being is the continuation of Christ’s redeeming mission in the world.” This view, now standard in twenty-first-century missiology, was a radical departure from nineteenth-century-missiology. Then, missions were primarily carried out by missionary societies that were peripheral to the life of the churches.

Theology is missionary by definition, therefore, “theology ceases to be theology if it loses its missionary character.”

Christ is the light that lightens every man. My point is that the Christian missionary is not going out to enroll men under the banner of a tribal deity. We are not inviting strangers to come into our house. We are asking all men to come to their own home where they have as much right as we have.

We [the church] are invited to participate in an activity of God which is the central meaning of creation itself. We are invited to become, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, participants in the Son’s loving obedience to the Father. All things have been created that they may be summed up in Christ the Son. All history is directed towards that end.

On the Trinity

“The doctrine of the Trinity is what basically distinguishes the Christian doctrine of God as Christian.”

This doctrine carefully describes who God is, based upon who God has revealed himself to be in Christ and the Spirit. It is therefore rooted in revelation rather than speculation, and this revelation takes shape in the actions of God ad extra, in particular, the missions or sendings of the Son (incarnation) and the Spirit (Pentecost).

“When Christian communities speak about God, by definition they have to speak about Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is simply no other God.”

On the Holy Spirit

“Evangelism is the telling of good news, but what changes people’s minds and converts their wills is always a mysterious work of the sovereign Holy Spirit and we are not permitted to know more than a little of his secret working.”

Evangelism is the telling of good news, but what changes people’s minds and converts their wills is always a mysterious work of the sovereign Holy Spirit Click To Tweet

Newbigin’s point is that the Holy Spirit is the principal witness to Christ, therefore the burden of the church’s missionary task does not fall primarily on the church. The church is the proper locus of Christ’s mission to the world that is carried out by the Holy Spirit, and the church can therefore be confident that God will complete his mission.

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