A Missional Method for Constructive Theology (Part 2)
Missional theology is a movement without a method—a movement with many methods. Born of interculturality, contextualism, and an adaptive instinct, the missional disposition entails a certain eclecticism, even a methodological relativism. Indeed, the commitment to mission precedes the question of method and judges the demand for methodological rigor and unity. This is, in fact, a dual commitment—one practical and one theoretical. The practical commitment is that of being committed to a course of action, of being beyond the point of no return—the bodily locus of having already been sent to participate in God’s mission. The theoretical commitment is that of being committed to a formal assumption—the presupposition that God’s mission is theologically primary. Missional theology is theology born of mission, theology for the sake of mission, and theology as mission.[3. I have in mind the felicitous title of J. Andrew Kirk’s book, The Mission of Theology and Theology as Mission, Christian Mission and Modern Culture (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997).] Thus, it is radically participatory and radically teleological.
These characteristics circumscribe a single movement, and the exploration of the origin and basis of its commitments may yield methodological fruit. Yet, participation and telos engender methodological pluralism nonetheless. Therefore, the question that motivates this essay is how to move missional beyond the eclecticism of mere methodological inevitability toward a method capable of playing a clarifying role for missional theology. My thesis is that the missiological conception of worldview is the best theoretical basis for a missional method. Theology is ultimately about transformation, which happens on the level of worldviews, through the encounter of worldviews. Furthermore, theology itself is always the product of a worldview and makes sense to a worldview. Transforming theology[4. The phrase “transforming theology” is an homage to three works that have been seminal for my development of missional theological method: David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, American Society of Missiology Series 16 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991); Paul G. Hiebert, Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008); and Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton, The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian World View (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984).]—the transformation of theology into a theology that transforms—calls for a deep methodological engagement with worldview. The missiological conception of worldview in particular offers constructive theology an analytical framework of tremendous value.