A Missional View of the Doctrine of Election – Part I
Does the doctrine of election have missional significance? Over the last century there has been much thinking and writing on how to re-link missiology and ecclesiology, which has led to more missional modes of theological reflection in the last century (Van Gelder 2011:15-67). One of the foremost thinkers in this area has been the missionary theologian Lesslie Newbigin. As a reformed theologian and missionary, the doctrine of election was central to his thinking, to the point his fivefold schema of salvation history was: “creation, fall, election, redemption, and consummation” (Wainright 2000:322). It was in the “problem” of election, he found the missional significance of the doctrine (Hunsberger 1998:94). But, for Newbigin, this meant the church must recover a proper understanding.
“This doctrine of divine election has fallen into disrepute because those who were so chosen and called (the ‘elect’) so often saw themselves as exclusive beneficiaries of God’s choice, rather than trustees on behalf of the nations. But this disastrous misunderstanding, so manifest in the story of Israel and in the life of the church in all generations, cannot negate the fundamental truth of the doctrine of election. It is God who chooses, calls and sends” (Newbigin, 1995:17,18).
The purpose of this essay is to bring Leslie Newbigin into dialogue with Wayne Grudem to demonstrate how a robust view of the doctrine of election leads to a holistic gospel and meaningful missional engagement.
My thesis is that as we recover a missional view of election, with the help of Lesslie Newbigin, in contrast to the historic Calvinist view of election, as understood by Wayne Grudem, we will discover how the “logic of election” is congruent with the universality of God’s love and the nature of salvation as cosmic, corporate and personal, thus be able to engage in mission more faithfully.
First, I will mention the key developments that have led to missional mode of theological reflection. Second, I will bring Wayne Grudem and Lesslie Newbigin into conversation in regard to the doctrine of election. Then I will assess their understanding as it relates to the nature of salvation, missional engagement and our view of God. Finally, I will summarize my findings and make suggestions about further studies.
It should be an interesting series. I hope you join me. Here is Part II.