2. God's Story: The Missio Dei (conc.)
Shortcomings and Summary
Shortcomings of this Schema
Any model imposed onto a narrative is bound to fall short in some way. The narrative must be read in its entirety and, just as it cannot be reduced to doctrines, it also cannot be reduced to any given number of movements, acts, or types. Such reductions are helpful in order to grasp the big picture but then all the details must be worked through again in light of the big picture. As this is done, the big picture will continually become more nuanced, it will shift a little here and there. Therefore, one must continually move back and forth between the big picture and the details. Furthermore, it must be said that there are other models that have been developed that are also excellent models and well worth using. This should be expected, especially when missiologies are understood as spiritualities. Tom Wright’s model of the biblical narrative as a drama in five parts is just one example of an excellent model that is gaining increasing use. Therefore, I do not think that this model is the only useful model to be used. Indeed, there is some benefit it comparing and contrasting models to see why various authors stress various elements of the story. Having said that, there are two particular critiques of this model that are especially strong.
The first critique comes in regard to the emphasis upon the movement of exile and the movement out of exile. Although the term “exodus” is deliberately avoided, it is easy to substitute the simple word “exodus” for the compound word “out-of-exile.” However, I would encourage the reader not to do so. Although the phrase out-of-exile may appear to be more awkward and less aesthetically pleasing, I would like to insist that the term “exodus” is not an appropriate substitute. History has shown us that an exodus paradigm has been regularly employed in order to justify the oppression and extermination of others. Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious today than in the way in which the exodus paradigm is used by the State of Israel to justify the systematic abuse, torture, and murder of Palestinians (and as of today, July 17, 2006, Canadian civilians and children). The problem with an exodus paradigm, as Naim Ateek, a Palestinian liberation theologian, notes, is that the notion of exodus is to intimately linked with that of conquest. Therefore, those who conquer others, tend to use the exodus narrative to justify the brutality of their actions. Thus, both the Christian Boers in Africa and the Christian British in Australia appealed to the exodus story in order to justify the atrocities they committed against the aboriginal people found in those places. By using the language of “out-of-exile,” I hope to avoid this sort of abuse. However, I recognize that this model, divorced form the explicatory content of this paper, still remains vulnerable to those abuses.
Secondly, there is an undeniable male-dominance to the language used within this model. Speaking of God as “Father” and as “Son,” and going on to speak of “becoming the Father” and “becoming the Son,” seems to leave women in a place of marginality – or even invisibility. But, to the best of my abilities, I have tried to avoid male-dominated language. I have spoken of all humanity, both male and female, as the imago Dei. Instead of referring to an Adamic covenant, I have spoken of God’s covenant with Adam and Eve. Instead of a Noahic covenant, I have spoken of a covenant with Noah and his descendants (both male and female). Instead of speaking of an Abrahamic covenant, I have spoken of God’s covenant with Abraham and Sarah. Even when I spoke of God as Father, I spoke of God giving birth and suffering labor pains – a distinctly female characteristic. I wholeheartedly want to be divorced from any notion of God as male or any theological argument the supports patriarchy and the ongoing abuse and oppression of women. However, I find the language of “Father” and “Son” to be unavoidable, not only given the way it functions within the ecumenical creeds of the Church, but because of the prominent role it plays within the biblical narrative itself. I only hope that my readers will be open to reading those terms in a way divorced from all contemporary notions of gender and sexuality.
God’s Story: summation of the missio Dei
Concluding our reflections upon these four movements within God’s Story, we can make the following summary of the missio Dei, from a trinitarian perspective. The mission of the Father, in the movement of creation and covenant, is to reign and subvert all opposition, to create new life and goodness, to love and to be loved, to rest and to take pleasure in creation, and, with a great deal of humility, to create a covenant partner to fulfill his mission. The mission of God, Father, Son, and Spirit, in the movement of exile and godforsakenness, is to sustain creation by withdrawing from creation, to continue to subvert other powers, and to continually rely upon God’s covenant partner. The mission of the Son, within the movement out-of-exile, is to be the Father’s faithful covenant partner, to fulfill the covenant made with Israel, to fulfill to covenant made with humanity, to enter into godforsakenness and bring exile to an end, and to embody God’s return from his exile, and to prepare the way for the Spirit. Furthermore, the Son, like the Father, continues to fulfill his mission in a way of humility and subversion that confronts all other powers. Finally, the mission of the Spirit, in the movement of the overlap of the ages, is to cause the new age to break into the present all over the cosmos, to bring resurrection life, to restore the people of God to the image of God, to bring light, prophetic truth, and practical guidance, and to comfort all who are afflicted.
Naim Ateek, Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation.
Jane Doe, The Story of Jane Doe: A Book About Rape.
N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God.