Missional Manifesto

Here is the newly published Missional Manifesto drafted by Alan Hirsch, Tim Keller, Dan Kimball, Ed Stetzer, and others.  Just click on the above picture to open the link and read it.

There are a couple of minor things I would raise questions with but overall I wholeheartedly like what is written as I think it speaks with great clarity as to what the mission of God is and how the church participates in God’s mission; hence, to be the missional church.  I really like the description that instead of the church having a mission, God has a church for his mission.

9 responses to “Missional Manifesto

  1. Adam Gonnerman

    I spy with my little eye…substitutionary atonement.

    • Yes there are a few doctrinal things that will raise questions…different issues for different folks. I guess that is one of the by-products of writing statements like these. Still, overall I think it does a great job of explaining what the Missio Dei and being Missional are.

      • Adam Gonnerman

        I’ve been thinking lately about how “missional” is really just the theological component of a much larger picture. I’ve been learning a great deal (and have a long way to go) about community development, community organizing and social entrepreneurship. Might not hurt professional clergy to start getting more informed in general about these other, often intertwining, areas.

      • That is a very missional outlook. Part of God’s mission is to bring all facets of life under his Lordship. Therefore, to be participants in God’s mission we cannot separate mission from these other aspects. Unfortunately, I think this has happened in many ways with the Christendom understanding and model of church.

  2. First Impressions
    God by nature is a missionary God. In Orthodox Theology, the ‘sending’ aspect of God is of His Energies, not His Essence or Nature. His Nature is beyond all comprehension, and what has been revealed is incomprehensible.

    This fundamental disagreement, I think, has profound implications for how we view Christian life and what it means to be the people of God; God’s Church, and so forth.

    For our call is to know Him, and knowing Him, whose Nature is beyond comprehension puts at the heart of the Christian life a pursuit of a God who is by Nature Unknowable, and whose Unknowability is Known in Absence of Motion, MIssion, in the Stillness. And it is in the Unknowing of the Stillness we come to know Him, and become equipped for His Energetic Processions.
    That having been said, to characterize his Nature as MIssional then, is an idolatry, and one that will skew in the wrong direction, any sincere attempt to work out Christian living on the basis of that.
    We are stuck. Orthodoxy is the Church and has preserved the Faith. And Right Faith is necessary for right action and for avoiding of the most basic of sins, idolatry.

    This I’ve written after having been at work for twelve hours, not having a chance to sit down and coming home here at 4 am; with that caveat to guard against the possibility of grave conceptual error, I cease and desist.

    • I would disagree that God’s nature is beyond all comprehension. While I don’t believe that God has revealed all of himself to creation, I do believe that we can know a lot about God’s nature from God’s own actions and declarations made within history and told within scripture. That is why judeo-Christian faith has historically drawn such conclusions about God’s holiness, steadfast-love, righteousness. I also believe that when considering the comprehensive scope of God’s creative-redemptive act within the narrative of scripture, it is right to conclude that God is a missionary God.

      If to conclude that is idolatrous because we supposedly can know nothing of who God is, then everything that has been said about God is idolatrous including the claim that God “…is by Nature Unknowable, and whose Unknowability is Known in Absence of Motion, MIssion, in the Stillness. And it is in the Unknowing of the Stillness we come to know Him, and become equipped for His Energetic Processions.”

      Grace and Peace,


  3. Rex- this is my thought on that, and not my thought alone but that of 2000 years of Orthodox thinking.
    God created out of nothing. That means that Creation was formed, not out of ‘archetypes’ within the Divine Nature or Essence, but was of an entirely different Nature than the Creator. Second, to know something one has to be of the same nature as that thing. Since the distance, as they say between the Created and the Uncreated is Infinite, we cannot know God according to His essence. What are we told we can know of God from Creation; His Eternal Power and Godhead; that He is God and that He is powerful. We are not told that from Creation we can know anything of His Essence.
    When we begin to think we can know His essence by his acts, then we begin to feel we have God wired, and it puts Him within the domain, not of revelation but of philosophy. The Catholic Thomists who imported Aristotle via Cordoba into Catholic mainstream thought, believed so, and by virtue of analogia Entis, and actus purus, figured they could reason about the Essence of God, and gave us scholasticism. But the Apostle warns us of the corruptions of philosophy and this digression into scholasticism whether of the realist sort of the Aristoteleans or the nominalist sort of the Reformers is the contamination of philosophy. If God can be known through reasonings, even based on Scripture, then we have lost the Transcendence. And if God in His essence can be known by creatures, then we veer in to the heresy of the Messalians.

    For the Thomist/Augustinian Barlaam in the 15th Century, it was his opinion that God could not be known directly, and so grace was necessarily a creature, and involved the thinking, philosophizing, brain, with discursive reason, and Aristotelean categories. Men, therefore could map out the parameters of God with his brain, but could not have direct experience of Him with his ‘nous’, his spirit. The Orthodox countered, especially Gregory Palamas, and said, ‘no, salvation is knowing God by direct experience, but that experience is that of God’s Energies, which is God’s being outside of His Essence. So that by virtue of His Essence He is unknowable, but by virtue of His Energies He is knowable. How God could exist according to Essence and Energy is unknowable.
    But this hiddenness of the Divine Essence is essential to the freedom men have to know Him.

    So, borrowing on the thought of early generations, Dionysios the Aeropagite, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Palamas restated the distinction between God’s energies and God’s Essence. Think of Theosis; if men are called to be united to God, and it is a union with His essence, then men, so united to God, ought to be the objects of Divine Worship, seeing that they are United to Him. But the union of men with God is not according to the Divine Essence, but according to the Divine Energies, that is to say Grace, and so men who are united to Christ are not objects of worship. For when God created, He did so out of nothing; not out of ‘archetypes’ within Himself, so that there is no way we can move from what we experience in the created order to make deductions about the Uncreated, else the philosophical effort would be able to come to the same conclusions as Theology and Revelation.
    However, concerning the few things we have been told about the Divine Essence, especially God existing in Trinity, such has never been fathomed by philosophy, for most realist philosophers end at a simple monad , an unmoved mover as the beginning of all things and are clueless to the Being in Communion that is the Ground of Being beyond all being… That information is all that we have about the Divine Essence, except that it is in hiddenness; the Fathers spoke of the dazzling darkness into which Moses passed on the Holy Mount. This was universally perceived by the early Church of Christ fathers as the unknowningness of the Divine Nature or Essence. So, to begin to say we can know the Divine Nature veers in a significant way from Early Patristics, the Orthodox continuity with Patristics, and sides itself with Catholic medievalisms, the triumph of reason over revelation, in Thomism and in nominalism, and begs, again for a return to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which has preserved the Faith Once Delivered.
    If we persist in saying that the Nature is revealed in His missionary acts, we will eventually find ourselves in burn out; for that is but one of the many ways that the Divine Energies Express themselves in the Cosmos. Fundamentally, it is more certainly a constant that He acts to sustain the Cosmos; and that He has acted to sustain it in a disordered state since Adam’s apostacy from life. But to take one of the Energetic expressions and to absolutize it speaks more about our anthropmorphic impulses concerning the deity than true knowledge of Him. We find ourselves with lots of energies and wanting to ‘do’ something and so we allow this image of ourselves to be projected into the Divine Essence. God will bring this to naught, and because of His great love for you, Rex, He will bring it to naught in you, for He sees your heart and you have a great love for Him who exists beyond all knowing in His essence. This is why monks are so important. They do nothing. The simply are in Communion with the One who is unknowable in His Essence, and so bear testimony to the Divine Essence. That is what Paul did in Arabia for 14 years, until the God who is the I AM, moved upon Him energetically and then He acted missionally.
    So, to say that we can know the Divine Essence demonstrated the fundamental unity you have with Western Christianity since its medieval digression from the Apostolic Faith. Lord have mercy on us all.
    Statements concerning the unknowability of the Divine Nature, to avoid being idolatrous themselves are not revelations themselves but pointers beyond themselves. To say that the Divine Nature is not knowable is a statement about myself, my capacities. There must be apophatic statement to say what is not being said, and apophatic prayer to live the reality.
    When one finds oneself into the Stillness for which words and reasonings are inadequate, one uses words as a sort of scaffold around the Thing itself, saying that it is not the Thing Itself, but within the scaffolding lies the Thing, and it is the seeking heart, and the heart hungering that will take you there, and not the reasoning brain, for there is no perspicuity to our life or our attending to Scripture;the only perspicuity lies in the hungering heart and the pure in heart.

  4. The Notes of the Church
    For 1200 years from 325 until 1517, more or less, all Christians expressed a belief in the essential notes of the Church: It was One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. In the absence of Creeds or a faith that takes them seriously, one is cast about to make new ones. The “Missional” Church movement is another one of those movements.
    The category of ‘missional’ falls within the category of Apostolic. For it is the apostles that are sent, and their teaching that is declared, and their mandate to baptize is the mandate of the church that is sent. But apostolic also involves the idea of the Apostolic tradition of prayer that was and is preserved chiefly through the monastics who, it is strongly attested to in history, were the heirs of the real Christian Orthopraxy.
    But to take ‘missional’ as one thread as the essential note of the Church is to miss the fact that Christians have believed otherwise and more for most of the history of the Church. The Church is also “One”; the Oneness of the Church is a revelation of the Godhead according to Its Essence. The Father as the source of the Son by begetting and the Spirit by procession. Because the Church participates in that Communion it is also necessarily One, and in both a visible and an invisible way. That is why Orthodoxy is put in the place of insisting that It is the Church; it is the awkwardness that flows organically from its claim in kind that Jesus Christ is the unique and only begotten and Incarnate son of God. The unique claims of the Church concerning Christ extend necessarily to His Body the Church. Also One in doctrine, for as the Church is one, so also is the teaching. This is not so with the ‘missional’ movmement, that has various proponents of mutually exclusive theological tenants within its various adherants.
    The Holiness of the Church flows from the communion Communion from the Beginning, the washing of the Blood and the partaking of the One Loaf, and from the Communion of the Spirit, in the mystery of the Cross, where sinful men are united in Holiness to the Lord.
    Catholic speaks to the embrace of the whole; the totality of our created humanity, and the totality of the redemption of Christ to all nations, and unto the entire groaning and suffering cosmos. There is room enough and to spare in union with Christ for endless myriads of hypostases.
    So, if we wish truly to have the Church which Scripture speaks of as the pillar and ground of the Truth; then it ought to be with all the notes that the Holy Bishops articulated for more than a millennia, and the people of God attested to for the same period of time.

  5. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” John 14:9

    I’d rather err on the side of hanging too much with Jesus than err on the side of hanging too much with other folks. Even if those folks are people I respect, such as the Cappadocian Fathers.

    As for the Manifesto, I’ve also got issues with key parts of the document. But I would find it strange to hear a church say they would not want to do most of the things it lists (whatever you call them.) “We’re against Christology, discipleship, God’s kingdom, and the work of God in the world.” That’s really strange. I think the Manifesto simply articulated in newer (Reformed) terms what most of us would affirm generally, but with some various theological nuances.

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