Friday, August 11, 2006

Paul Tillich On Missions

Missions is about regaining the territory where Satan and his evil forces reign. Preaching the gospel to the unreached people groups defeats the power of darkness and reconquers the lost territory that God had temporarily lost to the enemies. Eventually, when the gospel is preached to the ends of the earth, our Lord Jesus Christ will come again with a shout of victory. The earth is now redeemed and the Kingdom of God on earth is established forever. This is how theology of missions is being presented in most of the missions’ seminar and courses I had taken.

Interestingly, Paul Tillich has the same vision of history and missions. However,he called it mythological presentation and his terminology have different existential definitions. He says that “in history there is always a struggle going on between the forces which try to drive toward fulfillment in the Kingdom of God and its unity and the forces which try to disrupt this unity and prevent history from moving toward the Kingdom of God.”

For Tillich the direction and goal of history is indeed the realization of the Kingdom of God. However, the Kingdom of God is not a utopia which is somewhere and nowhere. The Kingdom of God is the symbol of clear-cut situation, a purification of history, where the demonic is conquered. The Kingdom of God is the answer to the puzzles of history.

The church is the historical representative of the Kingdom of God. In itself, it is not the Kingdom but it is an agent, its anticipation, it is part of the Kingdom. And since it represents the Kingdom it can be damaged but not conquered.

Jesus as the Christ is the center of history. History is divided into two main parts from this center—the Christ event. Those who have not accepted Jesus as the Christ are living before the center and those who accepted are living after the center. Even today there are many people who are living before the center. And of course, Christians are living after the center. Nonetheless, there are individuals, nations or groups who are still do not have knowledge of the center. Tillich called this period as the period of the latency of church. Thus, we can say that in other religions like animism, Buddhism and humanism among others, the church is latently present and it prepares for the coming of the center. Eventually Christ as the center of history will be received by all religions and here the church is no longer hidden but will be in its manifest form.

In my previous post, I stated that Christ is indeed present in every religion and the job of missionaries is to discover the hidden Christ and teach about him. Tillich has the same idea. With this statement in mind, he gives his existential definition of missions. “Missions is that activity by the Church by which it works for the transformation of its own hiddenness into its own manifestation all over the world.”

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