Chapter 2 Theological foundation of the Struggle for a dignified life



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Chapter 2 Theological foundation of the Struggle for a dignified life
The struggle of the people of Ash Road is not something extraneous to mission. On the contrary, it has to be grounded theologically and understood in the context of the coming of the Kingdom of God. As a matter of fact, when oppressed people struggle for their own liberation and dignity they are witnessing Kingdom’s values and opposing oppression and dehumanization. It is therefore, of pivotal importance to understand where and how the struggle is theologically grounded. The theological category of mission as missio Dei offers deep theological insights in this direction.
2.1 Mission as Missio Dei
Mission as an activity of Godself was articulated for the first time by Karl Barth.

At the 1932 Branderburg Mission Conference, Barth rejected the idea of mission as a human activity, as the work of the Church and, insisted that it was primarily God who engages in mission by sending God’s self in the mission of the Son and the Spirit. This idea was taken up by Karl Hartenstein, who in 1934 coined the term missio Dei. Hartenstein distinguished it from the missio ecclesiae affirming that the mission of the Church stem from the participation in God’s mission, which is always accomplished in Trinitarian fashion.

Barth’s influence was crucial in the development of a theological paradigm which saw the being of God as motive for mission. At the Willingen Conference of the International Missionary Council in 1952 mission was stated to derive from the very nature of God. David Bosch (1991:390) notes that from this moment onwards, mission is put in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity, not of Ecclesiology or Soteriology. At Willingen came to be understood that alongside the sending of the Son by the Father and of the Spirit by the Son and the Father, there was another movement: Father, Son and Holy Spirit sending the Church into the world. The image of mission that crystallized at Willingen was of mission as participating in the sending of God. Willingen was also important for another important recognition: missio Dei is intrinsically related to the solidarity of the Crucified Jesus. Understanding mission as missio Dei means that ‘mission is not primarily an activity of the Church, but an attribute of God. God is a missionary God’ (1991:390). The Church is seen as an instrument which serves the movement of God towards the world. Therefore, to participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God towards the people, since God is the fountain of sending love.

After Willingen it gradually came to be understood that, since God’s concern is for the entire world, it affects all the people in all aspects of their existence. Therefore, missio Dei is wider than the Church. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes highlights this understanding pneumatologically rather than christologically. Bosch (:391) explains this affirming that the history of the world must be seen not only as a history of evil but also as a history of love and hope, in which the Reign of God has advanced through the work of the Spirit. The missionary activity of the Church therefore, encounters a world in which God’s salvation is already at work. L. Boff affirms that ‘the missionary always comes late: the Holy Trinity has already arrived, ever revealing itself in the awareness, the history, the societies, the deeds, and the destiny of peoples’ (1991:70). It is the Holy Spirit who is the protagonist of the mission. It is the Spirit who directs history towards a more humanized world. Mission has its origin in the heart of God and, as Bosch points out ‘it is impossible to penetrate deeper still; there is mission because God loves people’ (:392). Mission as missio Dei was also endorsed by the documents of the Second Vatican Council especially in the Decree Ad Gentes.


2.2 Ad Gentes
Bevans and Schroeder (2004:286) affirm that in order to understand the implications of Ad Gentes, it is important to highlight the fact that Vatican II marks a radical departure from a Roman Catholic Ecclesiology that had primarily concerned itself with the external and institutional aspect of the Church. The Council spoke of the Church as a “mystery” and as “the people made one in the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (LG 4). The images of Church as people and communion enabled Christians to understand mission as the participation in the dynamic communion of God’s triune life. Although, Ad Gentes presents a definition of mission as “evangelization and planting of the Church among those peoples and groups where she has not yet taken root” (AG 6) this is presented as a consequence of God’s self giving to humanity. The People of God participate in the saving life of the Trinity and, at the same time, is agent and cooperator in God’s outreach to the whole of creation. In Ad Gentes 2 the Father is described as a self giving love who freely created the world and calls humanity to share in the fullness of divine life. God wills that human beings might form a community in the image of the Trinity. God therefore, is involved in history through Jesus who came into the world to call people to a greater and more abundant life. God’s involvement in history is made clear through the procession of the Holy Spirit. According to Ad Gentes the main task of the Holy Spirit is to form a community in mission that would mirror the Trinitarian community. The Church thus, cooperates with God in making God all in all. Moreover, just as Jesus identifies himself with humanity, the Church is called to identify herself with the peoples and cultures among whom she works. Ad Gentes therefore, describes a Church which is in mission because she has been caught up in the missio Dei, the mission of God in creation, redemption and continual sanctification.


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