Darrell Guder - "Called to Witness"
1:46AM Jun 26, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
We are delighted today to be speaking with Dr. Darrell Guder. Dr. Guder is Henry winters Luce professor emeritus of missional and ecumenical theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the editor of Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. And he is also author of the text that we'll be discussing today, Called to Witness: Doing Missional Theology, both available from Bergman's press. Professor Gouda, thank you so much for being with us today.
Thank you for your invitation.
Dr. Gouda in your book called to witness doing missional theology, you advocate doing theology in light of the missio day, a proposal that you also advanced in your earlier book missional church, in called to witness you write that doing theology in this way will produce quote, not one mission theology. But many with all these theologies serving to equip the saints in all their cultural settings for the common missionary theology. Why is it so, so important, especially for the contemporary church in the west to learn to do missionary theology today?
missional theology is that mission defines both the character and the action of the church, very often that distinction will place place worship in Milan, and will place the mission in another. There might also be service and fellowship and other functions of the church and the discussion but mission is reduced to a program you might call it the Office of Foreign Affairs of the church at our contention is that that is a reductionistic understanding of the character gospel and of the understanding of God's action in calling informing the people that serves God's purposes. And that takes us right back to the call to the themes we're dealing with are the overarching fundamental themes of the biblical ground. And so traditional theology in our view is to go back to the beginning. And to place the priorities properly. The church exists for God's purposes, there is a church because there is mission. It is not mission and therefore there is church. The The reason that there is churches because of God's initiation, and God's desire to have the nations healed, and the church has called into existence to be a witness to that desire and to be its instrument. So missional theology is crucial and basic for our understanding of who we are. And what we're all about is the Church of Jesus Christ.
Hmm. Would you be willing to give us a brief definition of when when you speak of missional theology?
missional theology is a theology that takes seriously the fact that God has acted decisively to bring about the healing of the nations to accomplish that work. of salvation, that work of redemption. He has called instead of part of people for his purposes, their reason to exist is to serve God's mission. And so missional theology is about how God's mission is being implemented by God's people, as they're called by God's Spirit gathered together equipped. And then
as recorded in the backs.
Dr. Gouda, the Missy ologists. Leslie nouvion is remembered for his claim that the West is a post Christian context, and the Christian missionaries should evangelize the West as such, in your view, why has the West become a post Christian context in the relatively recent past?
I would say that the idea that we represented some kind of arrived accomplished Christian culture in the west by the Christian tradition by the gospel, for which I'm very grateful. But there is I think, to the gospel a great deal more than what Western Christianity has done up until now. And certainly the events of the 20th century are a reflection of the bankruptcy about any claim that Western culture is Christian. I think the end of Christendom is a an interaction of a number of major components. One of those is the Enlightenment, and the growing skepticism in western intellectual history, about the claim that God only is but God acts and speaks, and we can respond, we can be a part of God's action in the world, we we are living in a in a Western intellectual atmosphere that is profoundly skeptical of such claims. And I think one of the reactions to that has been in some doors in some sectors, in some respects a real decline of the conviction of faith. But I see that also being heightened by the course of Western history. The 20th century in so called Christian countries on both sides, the North Atlantic was a disaster. The world's Worst wars the world has ever seen the greatest acts of injustice, the rapid spread of an atheistic Russian Empire, the end of established church contexts in many European countries, the Great Depression, the questionable linkage between colonialism and mission, all of these factors come together and which countries stopped. It's it is I think, the mark of the fact that God's history with humanity is moving onward. And we in the West, the North Atlantic countries are now on the margins of God's mission history as it moves around the world.
Dr. Gouda Did you know Leslie Newman, and personally,
I first encountered less than you begin in around 1960, when he was awarded an honorary doctorate in theology by the University of Humber missionary as a Trinitarian undertaking, and so from that time on, whenever I found anything by new beginning i got it and I read it. And ultimately I did have the opportunity to meet with him and talk with him a few times. Those are real great experiences in my life. But most of my interaction with moving was through his literature.
Professor Gouda many of us at a popular level may be familiar with the insight that God as a trinity is a missionary God God sends his son to the world. Is this an insight that Leslie new begin helped to disseminate?
Yes, he wrote Trinitarian theology of mission, the sending father sent son, the father and the son sending the spirit the Triune God calling, sending, calling, equipping, and sending the church and I take it one step further, because I like to have every congregation understand that it is sending its men into the world every week. This is the fundamental sort of mode of existence of the church. We get the church we gathered the center
Dr. Gouda in your opening chapter, which is entitled From mission and theology to missional theology, you trace the rise of missional theology from the founding of Princeton Theological Seminary in 1812. to the present day, what role did Carl Bart play in the rise of missional theology?
the 1990s in some of the major theater missional literature, the theological literature of the time, that claim was being made the call Bart was the most important doctrinal theologian in the 20th century. With regard to the taking seriously of mission. Barton ever uses the term missional but the mission of the church is the driving theme of his entire dogmatic project. It's triggered by his dramatic experience with the end of Christendom, which was when his professors in 1914 signed a letter supporting hyzer in the war, he had just unleashed on greatness. Britton and this was such a traumatic experience for Bart that he was driven back to Scripture could have been back to Romans to the gospel to the reality of sin, and became a what at that time called a theologian of crisis, a dialectical theologian, really calling the church back to the heart of the cross centered gospel. Out of that focus on the gospel emerged. Bart's clear understanding that the church existed as the instrument of God's mission. So that towards the end of the whole project, when he's developing what I call his missional, doctrine of the Church, his missional ecclesiology. He clearly states that the identity of the Christian is to be a witness, that our calling what defines us is our vocation as witnesses to God's love in Jesus Christ, and that is a centrally missional claim.
Dr. Gouda in your text called to witness doing missional theology. In chapter five of this book, we is entitled the Nicene marks in a post Christendom church, you advocate that doing missional theology and its most basic form is reading the four Nicene marks of the church that is one holy, catholic and apostolic in reverse order. What is it precisely that you mean by this?
My dear friend and colleague, George huntzberger. and I were talking about where this missional theological process was going. And he said, it's a little bit like reading the Nicene marks backwards, isn't it? And I said, that's a great idea. So I took the idea began doing a lot of work on it and devote ultimately that chapter in the book resulted. My claim is that the past olicity of the church is the crucial central foundational understanding of the church's nature and purpose. The church exists as a sent people. And it's a set of people who are continuing the Apostolic mission, to which New Testament scriptures testify. We are incorporated into the Apostolic mission by virtue of our baptism, in order to be which stages the next chapters of the translation process, which began at Pentecost, and so apostolic, it is not simply the definition of roots. As important as that is, it doesn't simply set up a genealogy of the generations of leadership in the church. A pasta listening is the actual purpose for which the church is formed. It is formed by God to be sent by God, for God's purposes. If we start with the possibility then everything we say about the church is defined by that apostolic calling.
Then we read
catholicity very differently. We typically we typically translate catholicity as universality, but it's a far more dynamic term than that it's the original term in Greek caught hollow Catholic has to do with in accordance with the Holloman accordance with the core or the whole and the catholicity of the church is the enormous diversity of the church, disciple all of the ethnicities in the great Community Edition. The, that great cultural diversity which is always centered in Jesus Christ, Christ is the Holland Christ is the heart, the core of the gospel, which is then but this could be interpreted, interpreted, which is then but it into every culture, it catholicity generates a multicultural movement, which is the reality of the church. And that's what we already see happen. In New Testament, the training world, they got the going out into all the world for that to happen. God grants the spirit, sanctification of the Spirit, which is the equipping of the Apostolic Catholic people, for its vocation.
And so we talk about
sanctification, not so much in terms of the benefits that we gained from the Gospel, as much as we gave in this as the word In which the gospel equips us to be set apart for God's purposes as communities and as individuals. And that leads us then to unity, which in my view is the fundamental, visible testimony to the Lordship of Christ, that wherever Christ is encountered, were peddling the same price. The Christ of the events, testified to the New Testament, who continues to be the one throughout human history to whom all authority is given in heaven and on earth. And my contention is that we have reduced unity to an organizational and institutional concept, rather than understanding that it is a testimony it is a demonstration of the Lordship of Christ, who is you knighting diverse Christians from all languages and cultures and traditions into one voice one message, one good news for the world. Like my criticism of the ecumenical book, But it's not that it's wrong. It's absolutely right. The concern to the Unity Church of the church is crucial. But we need to redefine unity as a demonstration of the Lordship of Christ in all of our diversity.
Professor Gouda I'm genuinely very fascinated by your response. And I think your theological proposal sponsor is probably
I'm thinking of the Eastern Orthodox tradition or the Roman Catholic tradition, how would they accommodate themselves to this understanding of a pasta Felicity?
Well, that would very much depend upon the conversation partner. I think you're quite right, that the proposal I am making is going to be received with some skepticism in the wrong Catholic and Orthodox traditions, but at the same time, it is Vatican two. That makes the very clear statement the pilgrim church is missionary by its very nature, and that is the driving please the ology of our contemporary Catholic Church and this is why they Have, I think in a wonderful fashion develops such a great concern for Christianity for engaging the so called separated Brethren, and in particular, focusing upon the evangelistic mandate of the church. In the same way the Orthodox communion is talking a great deal more today about what they call the liturgy after the liturgy, the continuation of Christian witness in the world. I have personally no debate, no quibble with a high view of the importance of gathering worship or even of sacramental worship. But I think it is it is biblically, more arguable that both baptism and the Lord's table are given to us by our Lord for our equipping as the same people. It's precisely as persons who are in graph
the church to baptism that we are set up
It is precisely at the Lord's table where our Lord is the host that we are nurtured and equipped and then said, We don't stay around the table, that heavenly banquet is still a theme in the future. We always leave gathered worship to go into the world. And I would like that sacrament, the experience of the sacraments to be grabbed, that's as concrete formation into the circle of God's Spirit, making it possible for us to serve God as Christ witnesses in the world. So I would claim that the emphasis is not a lower view of the sacraments, but a very high view that I was advocating that we should be very careful about absolute validity claims. I would not want to say that only one way of interpreting the Lord's Supper is the valid way.
I think that the interpreting
the transyl gospel means that there's going to be a diversity of interpretations that I think are mutually complimentary. from which we can learn, I can always give us an example I was ordained to a Lutheran call.
I'm a Presbyterian.
My first years of the German Lutheran Church, I was functioning as a litigious with my back to the congregation, facing an altar, sometimes with a crucifix. I became more reformed in the part of the process. But I came away with the profound appreciation that that altar centered worship celebrates the fact that Christ is our host at the table. And that is very, very, very important. It's a great gift. At the same time, as a reformed Christian, I very much like the way we gather around the table as a community, and share bread and wine with each other. I want those practices to be upheld as complimentary and not as contradictory.
Dr. Gouda or missional theology necessitates that our theological curriculums constantly change. If we see to equip Christian leaders to witness to the gospel, In constantly changing cultural contexts, then our theological curriculums to must be in constant change. What advice would you give to theological educators whether here in the USA or abroad, who intend for their classes and programs to advance a truly missional theology?
Well, there's a course because we are part of a secular guild all higher education in this country is very much controlled these days by holdouts assessment a theme with a few educator themes of article you can have multiple, the clergyman and that that has been I think, to preview A lot of you theological is about is about, we need to understand the processes of theological formation, as the equipping of the equip ORS of the saints, millions of Christians every week, leaving worship with little flames on their head to enter into the world as light and lemon and salt. As evidence that God's love is true, and that the hope of the gospel is concrete and real. And so this means I think, for our theological education, that we need to be focused very much on the integration of the theological disciplines around the equipping of the community. The equipping of the church, what less than a billion calls the congregation as the hermeneutic of the gospel. I think this revitalizes theological disciplines, Biblical Studies become a very exciting undertaking, when we understand that scripture is God's instrument of the for the formation of witnessing communities. We read our history, with different kinds of questions when we're attracting How have we been faithful to God's mission from one chapter to the next, and where have we reduced or even betrayed God's mission? And in the global church today, we find that we have enormous number of themes that interact with each other around the fundamental question how Do we lead our lives worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ? And that question of gospel worthiness needs to shape what's happening in every congregation.
If I can ask one final question in concluding Dr. Gouda, and that is, what would it mean for the church to be united today? How would Christians recognize this unity? And what can Christians do to pursue this unity?
It would mean that what he leaving the encounters exchange thing that's struggling schools love it, they argue this sees that you're free. And all of that is the fact that they love each other because that is their vocation. That's how they are witnesses in the sense of x one eight, going right back to First Corinthians and the book of Acts, we have plenty of insight into the fact that which has dealt with the challenge I struggled in either door nail or steady, class driven church and this is all what the gospel has.
There is no more compelling evidence of the goodness
then to encounter Christian whose lives are driven by the purpose of witness and in that driven pneus
acknowledge publicly and visibly
that our Christian brothers and sisters are the family God has put us into. That's what our baptism did. It made us a member of that family.
It's been our pleasure to be speaking with Dr. Darrell cooter. Today, Henry winters Luce, Professor Emeritus of missional and ecumenical theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Peter, thank you for being