June 16, 2009 / David Fitch

Missional Theology: Towards a Theology that Shapes a People for Mission – A new course offering at Northern

This fall I am teaching a new course at Northern Seminary entitled “Missional Theology: Towards a Theology that Shapes a People for Mission.” It will meet Mondays 4-6:40 p.m. for the Fall quarter.
The premise for the course is that the ways we articulate our beliefs, and the ways we in turn practice them, shape us into a certain “kind of people” with a certain disposition in the world. Theology, in other words, is spiritual formation for the community of Christ. We need then to ask “how is our belief and practice shaping us into His Mission as the people of God.” “How is our belief and practice shaping us into a people whose very character is congruent with the gospel we proclaim?” There are missional theologies (both biblical and systematic) that have sought to articulate our beliefs according to the driving theme (rubric) of Missio Dei. What I am aiming for here is a little different. I am actually seeking a theology that, in its practice, shapes a people in disposition (hospitality, love, patience, rootedness, compassion, kindness, integrity, authenticity, justice,etc.) so as to embody the gospel in the world. So often the ways we have articulated and practiced the doctrines of Scripture, Church and Salvation have worked contra the gospel, to produce a people who are either judgmental or defensive or hypocritical or dispassionate. By opting out of some of our bad theological habits of the past, and without compromising one iota of orthodoxy, I contend we can articulate our basic beliefs concerning Scripture, the church in the world, and the salvation we have in Christ Jesus in a way that shapes us for Mission.

Here’s the course description from the syllabus.

TH 423 Missional Theology” explores the ways our belief and practice shape a people for Mission. Theology in the West has often erred by separating doctrine from life (praxis). A missional theology however is a belief (and a corresponding practice to that belief) that shapes a people for the social incarnational presence/ministry of the gospel in the world. Bringing to bear the fields of political theory and political theology, we will develop a method to explore this connection of belief to life, the shaping of a community into the Mission of God. We will specifically explore the ways we talk about and practice Scripture, the Church and Salvation and how each doctrinal expression shapes the very character of a community for Mission. We will focus heavily on traditional evangelical theology and practice as our test case for whether a theology is ‘missional’ or not (as I have defined it). We will then play off this exploration to draw on multiple sources to articulate a theology (and corresponding practices) for each of these three doctrines that is decidedly ‘Missional.’ The course will conclude with each student examining his/her own inherited doctrine and practice in the same manner with the goal of each student being capable of extending their theological practice towards the shaping a people for the Mission of God.

A pre-requisite for the course is having already passed/excelled in the  Christian Theology sequence of Northern or another seminary. This course requires the student be motivated to engage in some challenging reading material.

If anyone is interested in the course let me (e-mail me at fitchest@gmail.com) or admissions at Northern know. We’ll figure out a way to get you in.