I know it is sad but I got several theology books for my birthday (it is the only way i can get them as so pricey) one of which was Constants in Context which is set to be a classic like Bosch’s Transforming Mission. I am happy to review mission books if there are any publishers out there who want to send me a free copy, or I have a wish list on amazon next time you want to buy me a pressie! (thanks Mark and Annie for the Arbuckle book)
Constants in context – The clue is in the title and is written from the perspective that church by its nature is missional and inhabits a changing context. The six constants of the church in mission that they identify are:
Christology – Who is JC and what is his meaning?
Ecclesiology – What is the nature of the christian church?
Eschatology – How does the church view the future?
Soteriology – What is the nature of the salvation it preaches?
Anthropology – How does the church value the human?
Culture – What is the value of the human culture as the context?
These constants are addressed depending on your paradigm and they use Gonzalez and Solle to suggest there are three main theological approaches:
Type A: mission as saving souls and extending the church (orthodox-conservative position, characterised by Tertullian)
Type B: mission as discovery of the truth (liberal position, characterised by Origen)
Type C: mission as commitment to transformation (liberation perspective, characterised by Irenaeus)
They then have a history section which is great as it has most of the key stuff all in one place; early celts and local inculturation, Francis of Assisi and all creation, Francis Xavier and indigenous language, Hudson Taylor and other pioneers, Henry Venn and the importance of Localism, E. Stanley Jones (whats not to like), Niles and missional humility, McGavran and the Church Growth movement, Newbigin grappling with issues of gospel and culture, and the late John Stott recognising the need for confidence in the gospel.
The last section is great; it starts looking at missio dei, then explores the perspective that christ came primarily to build kingdom not church, and lastly explores mission as affirming the uniqueness of christ. It then uses notions around ‘Mission as prophetic dialogue’ to draw these strands together. “Only by preaching, serving and witnessing to the reign of God in bold and humble prophetic dialogue will the missionary church be constant in today’s context.”p398.
Reflecting on the book in the light of StreetSpace, offers some challenges. My own approach is certainly a mixture of the three perspectives they outline (a product of post modernity?), with an Eschatological hope that is found in the here and now rather than the hereafter. I think this hope balances the hyper criticism of post modernity, and enables us to be the constant that the young people need. Most of our atesting to the reign of God is in the serving and witnessing elements (not much preaching) but the dialogue is real and genuine, in that we are changed as we converse and act together. I think this lack of action and the role animating the gospel together with the communities and contexts we are called to is the final weakness of Constants in context, ie the missional humility is identified but perhaps the deeper and more dynamic challenges of inculturalation are missed a little, as there is some implicit orthodox understanding of church.