Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Present But Hidden Church

Paul Tillich admitted that he was not an expert on issues regarding missions. He was, in his own words, "a systematic theologian who is trying to bring the great reality of missions into the framework of a Christain interpretation of history and a Christian doctrine of church." He strongly argues that Christians should interpret that the goal of history is the Kingdom of God and the church is its agent in the realization of this goal. He argues that the church is present but apparently hidden in world religions. Thus, missions is the activity of the Church in making this "present but hidden" church to emerge.

With this concept, Tillich then criticized the different misinterpretations of the meaning of missions:

Missions should not be misunderstood as an attempt to save from eternal damnation as many individuals as possible from among the nations of the world. Such an interpretation of the meaning of missions presuppose a separation of individual from individual, a separation of individual from the social group to which he belongs,and it presupposes an dea of predestination which actually excludes most human beings from eternal salvation and gives hope for salvation only to the few--comparatively few, even if it is millions--who are actually reached by the message of Jesus as the Christ. Such an idea is unworthy of the glory of the true relationship of God to this world.

He also criticizes the liberal misinterpretation of missions as cross-fertilization of cultures. The domination and eventually transformation of Asiatic cultures to the Christian culture . It is not transformation of primitive culture into higher culture either. Instead missions should be the function of the church to spread all over the world and reveal the meaning of history. Cultures come and go, and the question of the meaning of history transcends any culture. Missions contributes to the understanding of the goal of history.

The "present but hidden" church will be made apparent only if the church realized that through its missions endeavor the hidden church will be known. It is a function which is always present and which has never been missing. Even though missions activity seems lacking in certain period in Christian history, it was not absent. As long as Christians are in contact with non-Christians there is witness to Christianity. Then if there is witness to Christianity there is implicitly missionary activity.

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