Written by Dr. Todd Mangum
Tuesday, 06 December 2011 00:00
As academic dean, I often get questions from students, prospective students, alumni or sometimes faculty at other theological seminaries about some of the distinctives of our curriculum at Biblical. I thought I’d devote this set of blogs, today and tomorrow, to two of those distinctives: missional theology and generous orthodoxy (or generous evangelicalism).
We have occasionally had people look at our curriculum and wonder if “missional theology” is actually “theology of missions.” (And those who confuse that point then are also likely to wonder, “So where is there any theology in your curriculum?”) No, missional theology is not “theology of (foreign) missions”; it’s exploration of the character of God, who is a God on a mission.
At Biblical, all the traditional topics of theology are “covered”: creation, Trinitarianism, sin, redemption, anthropology, church, etc., but they are covered in the context of the “drama of Scripture” – the story that Scripture tells.
The truth is, Scripture does not present God as “a philosophical concept” to be analyzed. So, at Biblical, we ask, “so why should we teach theology as though it is a branch of philosophy?”
God is a Person – an eternal, infinite Person, but a Person. He is not concept to be mastered, a formula to be used, or a recipe to be constructed. To understand God is to learn to love and obey God – and we teach theology at Biblical as that being the case.
Why “missional theology”? Because God has communicated in His own Word that He created the universe and the people in it with a purpose. God has existed in three Persons from eternity past in perfect harmony, with no need of anything or anyone more for Him to be “happy and satisfied.” Nevertheless, what is the character of this Being? He chose to create anyway, creating beings unlike Himself, so He could share –share the joy and love of the harmony the Three Person of the Trinity had already been enjoying from eternity. And, even when that creation rebelled and corrupted itself, He did not crush it and start over (though He justly could have); nor did He simply sit back and demand the glory due Him. No, He reached out, and pursued – as on a mission. How far did that mission take Him? How much? Even to brutal death at the hands of creatures He could have easily snuffed out even as they cursed Him and spit on Him. . . .
Everything about God has to be understood within the context of that unfolding drama. And nothing about God can really be understood apart from that – as though He could be comprehended in a vacuum of philosophical abstraction. Students at not getting “less theology” by our emphasis on God’s being “a missional God,” but far, far more – we believe that the true character of God is thereby put more sharply into focus.
That’s why the theology we teach is always, only with the unfolding drama of Scripture’s story in mind, with the Personhood of God in view, with the purposes of His mission always in sight. We don’t believe theology that is truly biblical can be taught any other way. We don’t believe God can really be understood as He truly is any other way. That’s why the only theology we teach is “missional theology.”
Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical. He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention. Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.