Second answer to Paul Gilchrist [September 21, 2011]
Thanks for reacting to my thoughts on your criticism of the ecumenical “recommendations”. I’m sorry that you think your “concerns have not really been answered”.
Am I right, that your new letter does not have the intention to discuss the topics you and I brought up so far, but to add three further topics?
1. You miss a theology of church and state. Yes, you are right, it is only hinted at by stating how the gospel should not be spread (which implies that the typical means of a state may not be used) and by shortly stating that the state should not be used to suppress or hinder other religions.
In our evangelical code, we will certainly elaborate on this topic, but this topic was not on the agenda of the ecumenical commission preparing the code, which only had the designed task to write a code from the perspectives of churches and missions. Nevertheless I am quite convinced that a second text on this specific matter will be negotiated soon.
2. You suggest, that we should “start with God”, otherwise the starting point is man. Do you thus want to say, that the present “recommendations” start with man, not with God? The text clearly says the opposite. Even though it is not a theological statement on mission, as mission is always based theologically. It clearly is not a sophisticated theological statement agreeing on theology („The Evangelical-Roman Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue on Mission“ needed 100 pages to list all things which we have in common and where we disagree) or giving detailed theological discussion. But with dozens of Bible verses mentioned and quoted and several clear statements, that all mission comes from God and that Jesus is the ultimate witness, it is clear that our arguments come from Scripture and take God (and thus „theology“) as basis for all mission. It is God himself through Scripture Who forbids us any immoral ways to do mission – that is the core of the document!
3. You suggest, we should exchange the “recommendations” for several paragraphs from the Bible, especially the Ten Commandements – or do I misunderstand your last sentence and the following quotations? Or is the very last paragraph, a mix of quotations and your statements, thought to be a code?
My reaction would be: That is true for any theology: quote the Bible instead of saying something yourself. And the Ten Commandements are great and we mentioned some of them in our “recommendations” (eg not to bear false witness), but what has eg “commit no adultery” or keeping the Sabbath have to do with an ethical code for mission?
Where we surely agree here is that a ethical code of mission clearly comes from the Bible itself, but I see no problem in applying the Westminster Confession’s “good and necessary consequences” to modern day problems between mission and politics, eg religious freedom laws (surely not in the Bible).
Yours, Thomas Schirrmacher