A Trinitarian view of the mission of God

We are seeing in many places a resurgence of interest in the mission of God. Wonderful! But, as with all things pertaining to God, the mission of God is seen in the fullness of its grace and truth when viewed through the lens of a Trinitarian, incarnational theology. I'm impressed with how Mike King and Scot McKnight do this in a recent Slant 33 blog post (click here to read the full post).

Here is part of Mike's comment:
Mike King
What is God’s mission? The term missio Dei (mission of God) implies that God has a purposeful plan. Karl Barth emphasized the reality that God is at work, actio dei (the action of God). We often think of mission when we discuss the mission and activity of God, which, unfortunately, is so enmeshed in a Western mindset of saving the heathen... 
We must recover the Eastern Church Trinitarian emphasis on God’s radical communality and the movement toward restoration and shalom. We are being invited to participate in God’s mission and activity through our triune God’s perichoretic activity of relational and complete restoration.
Here is part of Scot's comment:
Scot McKnight
...Basil [who lived A.D. 330-379] knew that God’s mission didn’t begin at creation. He knew it never began but always was. This great Cappadocian theologian was one of the architects plumbing the depths of how to understand God as three-in-one and one-in-three. The foundational term used then was the Greek word perichoresis, which describes the mutual indwelling and the mutual inter-penetration of the Father and the Son and the Spirit. 
Let’s get this down to manageable levels now: perichoresis is the idea that the Father’s life was with the Son and the Spirit and that the Father’s life was for the Son and the Spirit; and the same is true of the Son and the Spirit. When all is said and done, the Trinity becomes an endless dance of love for the “others.” 
The mission of God begins in the perichoresis of the Trinity. 
It follows, then, for Basil, that he as leader and his people as followers of Christ were to dwell with those in need and to live for those in need; which they did, and none did it better, and none gave up more, and none sacrificed himself more willingly than this great leader of the church. Basil set the tone and the example, and the Basiliad has become a living testimony of what God’s people look like when they live out the mission of God in this world: they live with one another and for one another. 
To what these gentlemen observe, I add the thoughts of J.B. and T.F. Torrance:
Through our union with Christ we share in his communion with the Father and in his mission from the Father to bring others into that communion... The mission of the church is the gift of participating through the Holy Spirit in the Son’s mission from the Father to the world.
Because the church is filled with the one universal Spirit of divine love, it is caught up in the universal movement of that love that ceaselessly flows from God through Jesus Christ out into all the world.
And now some concluding thoughts:
  • The mission of God is just that - God's mission. It's what he is doing in our world. And his doing is expressive of his being as a triune communion of love. God's mission is a mission of love from the Father - through the Son - by the Holy Spirit.
  • The mission of God is for the sake of the world. As J.B. Torrance notes (see above) its purpose is to bring people from the union that is theirs already with God in Christ (the Atonement), into full communion (fellowship) with the triune God. For some related thoughts from GCI leader Dr. Dan Rogers concerning the journey with Jesus from union to communion, click here.
  • This communion with God is far more than forgiveness of sin and a free ticket to heaven. It must be seen holistically as intimate fellowship with God that involves all of life.
  • The church is called to participate in the mission of God by sharing in Jesus' ongoing ministry of love in our world by the Holy Spirit. The church is formed by the Spirit for this ministry. The mission/ministry of God is thus the work of a community (the church); with a community (the Trinity); for a community (humankind; and all of God's creation).


Ted, a group of pastors and I (not of GCI) were just speaking on this issue of mission yesterday, and in this light!

I am grateful for your emphasis, and I especially appreciate the T.F. Torrance quote, "Because the church is filled with the one universal Spirit of divine love, it is caught up in the universal movement of that love that ceaselessly flows from God through Jesus Christ out into all the world."

In that quote TF actually makes the mission of the Triune God sound beautiful, captivating and compelling rather than as simply a new buzzword, burdensome, and guilt-driven! Yay!

Ted Johnston said…
David Torrance recently published an essay titled, "The Doctrine of the Church." Here is what he writes in that essay concerning "The Life and Mission of the Church":

The Church shares, or participates through the Holy Spirit, in the mission of Christ. On the evening of the first day of Resurrection Jesus said to his disciples in the upper room, "'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you'. And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven'" (John 20:21-23).

The Church's mission is Christ's mission. There is no other mission. Christ came, sent by the Father, giving himself and his all in love, for the salvation of men and women. The Church is called to do likewise in Christ. Christ alone is the Redeemer of the world. The Church is called in love, in prayer to seek to bring all people to Christ in order to participate in his salvation. The Church's one concern is Christ and the salvation of the world in Christ.

The Church is sent out by Christ to be the image of Christ in human society, to express and hold Christ forth before all, so that all might see Christ and be saved. Christ had received all power in heaven and on earth. It is with that power he sent out his Church equipping his followers with the Holy Spirit. All his followers are commissioned to exercise a ministry of witness and reconciliation according to the gifts sent down upon them.

The Church's ministry is correlative to the ministry of Christ and yet different. Christ is king and Lord. The Church is his servant commissioned, in obedience, to announce the good news of salvation and call people to Christ. The Church is the body, Christ is the Head.

The whole life and mission of the Church is inseparably bound up with its function in serving the Gospel of Christ. It is in that service that the Church, the body of Christ is built up and “we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).