Contemporary theologies of mission rely on the central concept of the missio Dei, which states that mission properly belongs to the triune God over the church. However, present accounts fail to establish any corresponding link between God’s trinitarian economy and ontology. In other words, the problem of the missio Dei is the problem of the break between the act and being of God. Benjamin H. Kim argues that a repair is needed for missio Dei theology, and this repair is found in reexamining Barth’s doctrine of revelation. In doing so, the locus of mission moves from God’s trinitarian sending to his trinitarian revealing. The repair is further advanced by Dietrich Bonhoeffer through his concept of person, which functions as the unity of act and being. This account returns mission to its original definition, which was intended to describe the inner-trinitarian being of God in relation to humanity. The concept of person recovers this meaning of mission by locating it first in the person of Christ and second, in the collective person of the church existing as the Christ community. Thus, Bonhoeffer’s description of revelation in terms of personhood provides and account that is more faithful to the missio Dei’s core insights.
Benjamin H. Kim is associate professor of theological studies at SUM Bible College and Theological Seminary in El Dorado Hills, CA.
Chapter 1 Re-examining Missio Dei Theology
Chapter 2 The Theology of the Missio Dei
Chapter 3 Karl Barth and the Mission of Revelation
Chapter 4 Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Person of Mission
Chapter 5 Reconstructing a Theology of Mission
The issues Benjamin H. Kim raises concerning mission and its relation to the missio Dei are the questions being asked by thoughtful missiologists and especially theologians of mission. . . . It carries the missio Dei argument forward to its next stage of development and to a deeper level, with consequences for how we see the church and its mission. All missiologists and theologians of mission should be interested in this book.
In this systematic work, Benjamin H. Kim adds significantly to the debate on the twentieth-century origins of the problematic concept of missio Dei. By appropriating Barth's theology of revelation through Bonhoeffer's explication of "person," Kim offers a fecund mission theology of the church community being Christ's body with and for the world.
There is no theologian of the twentieth century who diagnosed the significance of the current context for the church as well as Bonhoeffer and in so thoroughly a theological way. Benjamin H. Kim draws out the deep theological logics of Bonhoeffer’s work for a theological account of mission. His work is scholarly, ecclesial, and – most importantly – timely.
While acknowledging that what has come to be the dominant paradigm in missiological thinking and theologizing for the past 75 years, the concept of missio Dei, needs to be reevaluated and reassessed, Kim has creatively done this through a sustained and serious engagement with the writings of Barth and Bonhoeffer, whose own views come across with surprising freshness and vitality when viewed through the lens of acknowledging mission in terms of the gathered community testifying to the abiding presence of Christ, with whom they “exist with and for others."
The expansion of its conceptual lexicon is one of the most urgent tasks facing missiology. Benjamin Kim’s development of Bonhoeffer’s idea of person makes a welcome contribution to this task. Much of the talk of “being” and “act” has tended to remain abstract and without clear paths for translation into missionary practices. Kim aids that work of translation by locating the formal language within the framework of the relationality of persons. The result is a conceptual framework which moves beyond traditional anthropological and ecclesiocentric points of departure, to locating mission in God’s ongoing self-revelation in history and so in the eschaton. We need more of this type of work!