Theological News Dec 1999 Vol 29


Editor: Dr. David Parker

Excerpts from this issue

Missions Commission Consultation in Brazil

Dr. James Stamoolis, the Executive Director of the Theological Commission, was one of 160 missiologists, educators, theologians, mission leaders and church leaders who gathered in Fox de Iguassu, Brazil at the Consultation sponsored by the Missions Commission of WEF, 8 through 16 of October 1999. Several people commented on how important it was for the two commissions to be seen to be working together.

Dr. Stamoolis was selected by Dr. Bill Taylor to be cochair, along with Dr. David Lee from Korea, of the committee that drafted the statement that came out of the consultation. The committee worked long hours producing three drafts of the statement in six days. The final draft was discussed by the consultation in a plenary session. The resulting document was signed by the participants at the communion service that marked the consultation's conclusion.

Strongly Trinitarian in its focus, the statement affirms the holistic nature of the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit in missions. The statement is a declaration of essential themes of evangelical theology that need to be confessed in this present time and include the Lordship of Christ over the Church and the acknowledgement that He is Lord of the Universe, that authentic Christian living involves holiness, and that suffering and persecution are present realities for the Church.

In addition to the nine declarations that form a theological core of the statement, the Iguassu Affirmation includes fourteen commitments of areas in which Christians need to give leadership. Several of these are areas in which the Theological Commission, through study units and monographs can provide assistance. For example, the statement called for a biblical theology of martyrdom. A forthcoming issue of the Evangelical Review of Theology is dealing with the issue of persecution and martyrdom, but more work could be done. Jim Stamoolis would like to hear from individuals who might work on this topic.

Another commitment found in the affirmation is that issue of Gospel and Culture. Again as a theological commission that is a topic that we can contribute to.

Looking Forward to the Next Millennium

by Dr. Rolf Hille, Chairman, WEF Theological Commission

People world-wide are fascinated with numbers. The turn of the millennium awakens fears and hopes at the same time. What will the future of our world look like in the next millennium? What is awaiting us?

Before we look forward, we have good reasons to review the past two thousand years since the birth of Jesus Christ. As Christians we should use the opportunity of the 2000th birthday of Jesus to present His person and story to the people of our time. We should make clear that this event of the century is due alone to the fact of His birth, and explain what it means that God has become incarnate for us!

Certainly we find in church history many examples of human weakness, sin, even acts of crime which have been committed in the name of Christianity. But nevertheless, Jesus has brought into this world a gulf stream of love with His example and His message, which has positively changed the climate everywhere and people have seriously tried to follow his example. In every century and in just about all countries we find witnesses to Jesus Christ. We should point to these witnesses and thereby make clear and concrete the Lords unique importance and invite people to have faith in Him.

Since we know where we have come from, why we are Christians, why we celebrate this turn of the century at all, then we should also look into the future full of certainty, and understand the trends of the present as a challenge to integrate the message of Jesus in word and deed today in a relevant way. For this reason I would like to list some of the megatrends at the turn of the millennium and clarify which Biblical answers we can use to meet the respective challenges:

  1. We live in world-wide information society. Communication networks are tighter, news is traveling faster, and last, but not least, the amount of information is getting larger and larger. One major competency in the next millennium will be to select from the huge supply of information offered and to recognize real priorities. To be able to do this sensibly, we need a spiritual center for our lives. This is given to us through the Word of Scripture. In this Word we encounter the eternity of God amid the flood of information of mere human words. This is all about basic life orientation, the wisdom concerning life that is defined so clearly in Psalm 1:1-3:

    We can only withstand and resist the bad influences and temptations if we have something better and deeper than this world. Turning away from sin should not leave behind a vacuum in us. By being rooted in God's Word, we have the center amid the flood of information to live productive and meaningful lives.

  2. The trend towards globalization is tied closely to the information society. As it is well-known - Our world has become a 'global village. For many people globalization means confronting other cultures and the insecurity caused by the pluralization of society. Radical political fundamentalism in many parts of the world is a dangerous reaction to this insecurity. Since the universally valid word Jesus addressed to His disciples in the Great Commission, and since the decision of the apostles that the Gentiles could also become a part of the Church of Jesus Christ without first having to become Jews, since these early days in the first century, the Church has been the vanguard on the road to globalization. The mission of the Church is actually two thousand years ahead of her time. As a result of missions, a world-wide fellowship of believers has arisen, transcending all national, social, racial, and gender-specific boundaries, in which people live together through faith in Christ and are enabled to love one another through Him.
  3. One aspect of globalization is urbanization. Millions of people have been attracted to big cities. And many of them are now hardly governable. People lose their traditional stability and are in danger of sinking into anonymity. Christian churches must create here an infrastructure of a living fellowship a sense of feeling at home, in which inhabitants of cities with millions of people can find shelter and security.

    But from a very interesting eschatological perspective, cities have a special Biblical promise. Scripture records how God began to deal with man in a garden, in paradise. At the end of a long history of salvation is the city, the celestial Jerusalem. According to Revelation 21:24, "the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it." The history of human culture and civilization which began in the Garden and ends with the City is a promising perspective in view of urbanization and in spite of all its problems and dangers.

  4. Urbanization is part of an immense ecological problem. Scientific-technological civilization has arisen in the West, that is, in countries which are culturally influenced by Christianity. Some have seen the reason for the exploitation of our world and nature in the so-called dominion theology' (cultural commission, or command) of Genesis 1:28: "fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

    The aggressive attitude towards nature is, however, a fruit of the emancipation of modern secular humans from God at the beginning of the Modern Age. The Bible clearly emphasizes taking care of creation according to Genesis 2:15: 'The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it."

    The story of the Flood and especially God's covenant with Noah make clear that God has not given up His creation, but has guaranteed its protection. This guarantee is not a license for people to do whatever they like with our world, but an obligation to handle our resources carefully and conservatively. To undergird this matter theologically and to show the practical ethical consequences of this, we in the Theological Commission have initiated a study unit concerning the issue of ecology.

  5. A strong impulse for the liberation of the oppressed people resulted from the power of the Gospel from the early Church and even in the Modem Age, which will also be important for the new millennium. Women, children, and slaves were fully respected as people in the Church. This was a powerful sign for the ancient world. Even today we gain credibility for our Christian witness in all parts of the world when we stand for human rights and religious freedom. Therefore we in the Theological Commission are working closely together with the Women's Commission and with the Religious Liberty Commission to support this work and to give a solid Biblical-theological orientation to the necessary practical actions taken.

All in all we stand before great tasks, which we wish to confidently undertake trusting our Lord to whom "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given.. ." (Mt 28:18).