supernatural theism, panentheism and missio dei
July 25, 2008
Currently the biggest influence on my thinking in missiology, and maybe theology, is David Bosch. This is mainly because of the dissertation I’m doing, but obviously there is a reason why I chose this dissertation. I wrote a summary of his thoughts on the missio Dei, at least as found in Transforming Mission, here.
I’m preparing for a youth sermon on Sunday evening, and I want to touch on the almost impossible topic: “God”. It’s crazy, the church is supposed to specialize on the topic of God, but still I call it an impossible topic. But on the other hand if we could say the final word on God, would that be God? But OK, I’m going to try saying some words, and try to get the conversation going.
In preparation I was reading Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity, the chapter on God. His explanation, and others have said similar things, on two views of God (obviously it’s more complex than this, but it helps to get a handle on things), really helps me, although I’m not sure I’ve completely internalized this yet. Supernatural theism is usually an extremely personalized view of God, but a God which is far-off and breaks into this world at certain points. Panentheism talks about a God which is the ground of our being, everything exist in God, but God is more than everything. God is everywhere, personal language about God is still used, but understood metaphorically, not ontologically.
As I’m thinking mission at the moment, and the missio Dei is such an important topic, what would the different views on the missio Dei be in these two different views? I experience people working with supernatural theism to view the missio Dei as God being on a mission himself. Thus God is breaking into this world on his mission and our task is to find this and take part (yes, this is probably an extreme view and a caricature).
What would a panentheistic view on the missio Dei be? I think we would then have less of a division between what God is doing, what is happening in the world, and what we are doing. In this view the missio Dei might be more the way in which God is sending us and whoever else, and this is the missio Dei, not God ontologically doing something apart from what is happening.
It might be the difference between a God sending, and a God being on a mission which we must follow. OK, this seem like a mess of a post at this stage, and I’m not sure whether this two views on the missio Dei divided exactly between these two views on God, but I think I’m more comfortable with what some call panentheism, and I think I’m more comfortable with the missio Dei as God sending, and not as God running a solo mission which we must follow or take part in…