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Missiology

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Essay on research questions: What is missiology and the basic details of missiology?
It must be stressed early in this piece of work that the topic of missiology has been a much discussed concept. Even in theological colleges, administrators find it difficult to departmentalize it. Some colleges have regarded it as course under the ministry department while others saw it as one under the theology department. Others have gone beyond to see it as department on its own. This uncertainty if I may put it, speaks of missiology as an interdisciplinary subject that needs great attention in dealing with it. This piece of work attempts to research into the competing definitions of missiology at the same time draw basic elements that any missiological models. My choice of these questions is primarily based on the notion that any definition of missiology should also reflect the basic elements of the missiological model.
Missiology is the academic discipline or science which researches, records and applies data relating to the biblical origin, history (including the use of documentary materials), anthropological principles, techniques and the theological base of the Christian mission (Tippet 1987, xiii). If this as Tippet puts it, then the theology, methodology and data bank as a church are particularly directed towards: 1. The processes by which the Christian message is communicated, 2. The encounters brought about by its proclamation to non-Christians, 3. The planting of the church and organization of congregations, the incorporation of converts into those congregations, and the growth and relevance of their structures and fellowship, internally to maturity, externally in outreach as the Body of Christ in local situations and beyond, in a variety of cultural patterns.
In light of all these, how should missiology be defined? The simplest definition of missiology is the study of individuals being brought to God in history. However Tippet’s analysis and reference to context and its importance to any discipline or mission brings in a formal working definition. His definition reflects missiology as being a loaded term, pregnant with meaning. His position on context’s bearing on anthropology, theology and finally on Christian mission describes foundational details for missiology. Anthropology is the study of humankind in context. Theologians may speak of existential situation.
There are strong evidences suggesting Tippet’s approach from the functionalist, an anthropological approach famously advocated by a renowned anthropologist, Bronislaw Malinowski. His emphasis on the importance of context exposes a weakness in theology who for some time regarded anthropologists as agnostics. Tippet asserts that context is important for anthropology and theology. Context determines meaning. All things have contexts (1987, 18-19). Tippet’s argument is important in our day because of the increasing resources and techniques that anthropology places at our disposal. Some missionaries were manifestly hostile to the discipline because they consider it agnostic. Missiology and contextual theology are disciplines in the process and are products of the growing awareness of the significant contributions of anthropology. The world has grown to become multi-cultural in context and anthropology offers this kind of multi-layeredness for theology and the mission of the church to consider.

Missiology itself is a communication system that activates a whole network of forces – some reaching out beyond itself, others linking up relationship within, systems with systems, variable structures, linkages, synapses, material and immaterial aspects which may be sensed or felt, but not necessarily observed, measured or documented. They interact on each other binding the whole together in a synthesis.
In analysing Bosch’s, missiological theory and action may be designated as (1) theological and (2) anthropological. It is theological because the message is from God concerning His purpose for, and promise to humankind; anthropological because it has to be communicated within the structure and organization of human societies. When Jesus spoke of the disciples as being not of this world, and yet in the same utterances as being also in the world, he was demonstrating a basic dichotomy in the Christian mission. In essence He is stressing that these two dimensions must be kept in equilibrium. Similarly, Bosch’s analysis ties in with Tippet’s since both scholars stress a symbiosis - the relationship of disciplines that contribute to missiology (1995, 28-29).
Based on the analysis by these scholars, we can confidently say that missiology requires the interaction of more than one mind, more than one system, more than one methodology. There is no such person as a solitary missiologist. He or she is always involved in some kind of cooperative action, always drawing from someone else and always giving something as well. The coordinate parts of missiology are intertwined in terms of – theological, anthropological, and historical, illuminated by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, an analysis of the parts in isolation is never the whole. Such presupposition was the weakness of some worldviews; compartmentalization of life into segments for specialized consideration as if they were independent isolates. While I fully recognize the importance of specialization, its danger is that we lose that perception of wholeness. This has been the case in the history of scholarship when disciplines avoided each other like plagues. Each composed its own style and set of values as if the other did not exist. Theological scholarship, over history has fallen into this trap until recently when scholars discovered its relational character as important.
Missiology may call on other disciplines for resources. Though, it is a discipline in its own right, it is not a mere borrower from other fields for these dimensions are related to each other in a unique manner. Missiology is dynamic and not static. Her dynamic status is derived through intercourse with other disciplines.
If missiology wants to hold to the mandate that it is tasked to, then it will have open up to other disciplines. Take for instance, concepts like “contextuality” and “contextualisation” are in a sense twentieth century inventions, and have prompted a range of complex discussions. This is exactly what is happening in the Pacific now in which we have just come to realise the need for contextualisation. The way some Pacific scholars reacted has become too harsh hence in some instances reflect anti-western behaviours. While we in the Pacific are talking about contextualisation in the twenty first century the other parts of the world have moved onto discussing particularity and universality of theologies and missiology. In a way we are behind theological developments and the need for us to be open to other disciplines and contexts in our endeavour to construct a relevant missiology is paramount.
This notion is supported by Verstraelen especially in his discussions on the ecumenical developments of missiology. His articulation on the relationship between particularism and universalism as important twenty first century issues that demands missiology to be supportive and assume the role of doing groundwork for theology is imperative. Issues of social ethics too will demand more attention from missiologists than in the past (1995, 468-469). As such any missiology that does not open up to other disciplines and contexts could be damaging. Furthermore, inclusive missiological approaches are bound to emerge since different contexts, disciplines and theologies ask different questions and view missiology in different ways. Diverse oceanic people of the Pacific should not find difficulty at this level considering their heritage as a people engulfed and included in a vast liquid continent. This inclusion should characterize inclusivity in all departments.
The next question to ask is “What basic elements and details should be part of any missiological model?” James A. Scherer made an interesting comparative analysis of competing definitions of missiology by scholars. He used these definitions to derive basic elements that should be included in any missiological model. He termed his approach as an encyclopedic approach which tries to correlate missiology in a comprehensive way to every discipline. Scherer posited that missiological models must include the social sciences including anthropology with its emphasis on context, biblical studies, church history, systematic theology, and world religions (1994, 179-180). I am of the opinion that Scherer must have drawn from J. Verkuyl since the latter advanced missiology as;
A task in every age to investigate scientifically and critically the presuppositions, motives, structures, methods, patterns of cooperation, and leadership which the churches bring to the mandate. In addition missiology must examine every other type of human activity which combats the various evils to see if it fits the criteria and goals of God’s kingdom which has both already come and is yet coming. (1978, 5)

Similarities between these two views exposes us to the need for missiology to be open to other definitions from other contexts. While there may be slight differences the task in which missiology is mandated remains unifying. To locate missiology to a specific locality and claim overarching relevance endangers God’s mission, hinging on creating luke-warm Christians, theologically referred to as nominal Christians, an issue that is also prevalent in our societies today.
In summary, large questions deserve adequate answers, but here only few hints can be given. Missiology’s primary task is the study of the mission of the Triune God and within that of the mission of the Jesus, the apostles, the church, and the mission sending agencies in history. This means that missiology is the study of God’s mission everywhere and anywhere. Missiology is global and inclusive and needs to be attentive the voice of the Holy Spirit as its counsellor and enabler.

Bibliography
Bosch, J. David. 1991. Transforming Mission, Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. New York: Orbis Books.
Evans, H. John. 1964. Churchman Militant: George Augustus Selwyn Bishop of New Zealand and Litchfield. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.
Lindbeck, A. George. 1984. The Nature of Doctrine. Religion and Theology in a Post-liberal Age. London: SPCK.
Scherer A. James. 1994. “Missiology as a Discipline and What it Includes.” In New Directions in Missions & Evangelization 2, edited by James A. Scherer and Stephen B. Bevans, 179-180. New York: Orbis Books.
Tippet, R. Allen. 1991. Introduction to Missiology. Pasadena: William Carey Library.
Verkuyl, J. 1978. Contemporary Missiology: An Introduction. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Whiteman, Darrell. 1983. Melanesians and Missionaries: An Ethno Historical study of Social and Religious change in the South West Pacific. Pasadena: William Carey Library.

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