Thoughts on Mission [2]

So, here’s another passage from Vincent J Donavan’s book “Christianity Rediscovered” that really made me think:

In the final analysis, the message of the New Testament, the message that passes from Jesus to us, is that the only way to overcome evil is to give into it.  Overcome it he did, beginning with death which he turned into resurrection.  In his case, he could not have overcome death by violently struggling against it, or by disputing with Pilate or Caiphas over the injustice of it all, and thus avoiding it altogether.  It can be argued that his was a singular case, and a singular solution, and that it is no applicable to others, and to us.  Singular it was, but it stands nonetheless as the only solution to evil offered in the New Testament.

I’m not sure I agree with this, or certainly not all of this.  I don’t think the established churches do either: one of the five CofE marks of mission is “To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation”; one of the five Baptist core values is to be “A Prophetic Community – Following Jesus in confronting evil, injustice and hypocrisy. Challenging worldly concepts of wealth, power, status and security.”  How is that compatible with “the only way to overcome evil is to give into it”?

Perhaps Donavan is just wrong on this?  And yet, there is a ring of truth to some of it.  Jesus could have called on legions of angels to forcibly resist his arrest and execution but he didn’t, and he said as much.  Jesus could have encouraged violent resistance to the forces occupying his nation’s homeland, but he didn’t, and he rebuked Peter when he resorted to violence in Gethsemane.  Jesus did give in to the evil forces that plotted against him, and in so doing has won for us the ultimate victory over death itself.  There was to be no resurrection from the dead without death first.

But can it ever be the right thing simply to give into evil?  Are we simply not far-sighted enough to see how giving in will lead to overcoming?

What do you think?

Thoughts on mission [1]

I’ve been really enjoying Vincent J Donavan’s book “Christianity Rediscovered” about mission to the Masai communities in Tanzania in the latter half of the twentieth century.

The latest chapter contains some really interesting and challenging statements.  I thought I’d post a few of them with my thoughts and see if anyone wanted to come in with their opinion.

So the first is this…

[T]he gospel is the affair of the missionary, and the interpretation of the gospel is the affair of the people who hear that gospel.

It sounds…sensible, interesting, very different from how “mission” has traditionally been done, and has provoked in me a lot of questions!

  • Is this really ever a possibility?  Is it possible to preach/deliver/announce “the gospel” without simultaneously transmitting one’s own interpretation of it?  What is “the gospel” divorced from interpretation by tradition or personal experience?  Can it exist as a purely abstract concept?
  • How would this work out of the context of Donavan’s own experience?  He took the gospel to pagan Masai who had absolutely no knowledge of Christianity at all.  On the other hand the UK is essentially a post-Christian society.  Do different factors apply?
  • Who does this apply to?  Is anyone seeking to share their Christian faith with another a “missionary”?  Should we try to share “the” gospel with others, or “our” gospel?

So, agree?  Disagree?