What is Missional Theology? New Applied Theology Chapter by Steve Childers & John Frame

August 30, 2019 — Leave a comment

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Professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their almost 90 years of experience (Frame 49 Systematic Theology, Childers 22 Practical Theology & 15 in church planting and pastoring) to help you apply theology to life and ministry. Study the 8 foundations Scripture provides for developing sound theology.

God means for the revelation of his mission in Scripture to shape our theology, to draw us into its plot, and to compel us to align our life purpose with his for the world.

The Bible gives us more than just a set of truths to help us develop our theology. It also gives us a unified, unfolding story to shape our theology. It provides a unique and true story for understanding the history of the world all culminating in Christ. If we would have a sound theology of the Bible, then we must rightly understand God’s mission detailed throughout Genesis to Revelation.
This chapter will help you learn how God means for the revelation of his mission in Scripture to shape your theology, to draw you into its plot, and to compel you to align your life purpose more with his.

Missional Foundation

The Bible gives us more than just a consistent set of truths to help us develop our theology. It also gives us a unified, unfolding story to shape our theology. It’s the story of God’s mission. Although the Bible comprises a wide variety of literature—including laws, history, prophecies, poetry, letters, and apocalyptic writings—at its core, it is one unfolding story with a beginning, middle, and end.

The Bible isn’t a hodge podge compilation of isolated facts we need to arrange into a coherent set of topics to understand it. Kevin Vanhoozer describes this traditional approach to theology when he writes, “For large swaths of the Western tradition, the task of theology consisted in mining propositional nuggets from the biblical deposit of truth.”

Similarly, Michael Goheen warns against the common danger of approaching the study of the Bible apart from understanding its overarching story:

We have fragmented the Bible into bits … moral bits, systematic- theological bits, devotional bits, narrative bits, and sermon bits. And when the Bible is broken up in this way there is no comprehensive grand narrative to withstand the power of the comprehensive humanist narrative that shapes our culture.

Therefore, it’s possible to master Christian doctrine and know all the stories in the Bible, but still miss what Edmund Clowney calls the Story in the stories:

It is possible to know Bible stories, yet miss the Bible story.

The Bible is much more than William How stated: “a golden casket where gems of truth are stored.” It is more than a bewildering collection of oracles, proverbs, poems, architectural directions, annals, and prophecies. The Bible has a story line. It traces an unfolding drama … The story is God’s story. It describes His work to rescue rebels from their folly, guilt, and ruin … Only God’s revelation can build a story where the end is anticipated from the beginning, and where the guiding principle is not chance or fate, but a promise. Human authors may build fiction around a plot they have devised, but only God can shape history to a real and ultimate purpose.

Lesslie Newbigin was a twentieth-century British theologian and missionary to India. While in India, a Hindu leader admonished him for presenting the truths of Scripture apart from God’s unfolding mission in history:

I can’t understand why you missionaries present the Bible to us in India as a book of religion. It is not a book of religion—and anyway we have plenty of books of religion in India. We don’t need any more! I find in your Bible a unique interpretation of universal history, the history of the whole of creation and the history of the human race. And therefore a unique interpretation of the human person as a responsible actor in history. That is unique. There is nothing else in the whole religious literature of the world to put alongside it.

To understand the Bible, we must interpret it in light of God’s mission. At its heart, biblical theology is missional theology. Knowing this, we can understand how all the familiar bits and pieces fit into the grand narrative. We don’t find God’s mission in only a few New Testament passages. Instead, we find it throughout the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

God means for this revelation of his mission in Scripture to shape our theology, to draw us into its plot, and to compel us to align our life purpose with his.


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