Missiology and Theology – Best Friends?

Eberhard Werner (werner(a)forschungsinstitut.net)


The relationship between missiology and theology was and is not always an easy one. Theological education and the dominance of theological presence and orientation on the university level let Missiology appear as a pansy. However, a mutual interaction is undisputed. Missiology is considered a “fruit of theology” (Kasdorf) or its practical branch, but at the same time it forces theology to integrate missiological insights and experiences into local and sometimes even global (glocal) theological orientations. A ratio determination will not easily made finally. The ongoing interaction with each other on the same scientific level should be the actual reason for the fundamental determination of the respective (in)dependent discipline.

Intercultural Theology, Missiology and Missionary Sciences

With the introduction of the discipline Intercultural Theology (see position paper of the German Community for Missiology – DGMW – and the Scientific Society for Theology – WGTh from 2005) as a subject relevant to higher education, the relation to the established mission science, to the in the anglophone area located missiology ( missiology) and to theology needs to be determined. A wide variety of opinions collide when it comes to determining whether it is a new subject, whether it is only replacing mission sciences or whether a complementation or supplementation in the disciplinary discourse is sought. In the aforementioned position paper, a complementation is proposed. Religious studies, mission sciences and ecumenical theology should be closely interlinked within the framework of intercultural theology. Transnational, transcultural and interreligious discourses require this extension due to globalization and digitization.

These observations, however, are not new and refer to the history of Christian Development science. While Christian Service and church history takes on a written form for the first time in Acts, its oracle is anchored in the Hebrew Bible and the life and traditions of Jesus of Nazareth. In the Hebrew Bible, the future-oriented field of action by the Israelite deity YHWH is already being anticipated in the election of a “holy” people. Thus, YHWH pretends that the future order of election and salvation is based solely on this deity. It is JHWH who determines the framework for salvation and election. Worldly kingdoms of Israel and Judah formed the kingdom of God, that is the sphere of activity of YHWH. The prophetic orientation (e.g. prophets, visions and miracles) and Israelitic priesthood of the Hebrew Bible continues in the priestly and prophetic direction of the global Church. The open canon of the New Testament and the lack of a final and legal basic text are indications that the history of the Church and Christian Service will not end, but will last until the “completion of times”. Thus, the ethical-moral development of the global Church becomes a progressively-evolving realization of the divine influence of power on and in man(kind). The (in) indirect divine effect (Holy Spirit) reveals the ideal Church, which moves in a reflective and ascending way in the history of the world towards an eschatological cumulation point.

A look back at the Christian Service sciences and their separation from theology gives hints on how these developments are to be valued. Until the late late Middle Ages, Christian Service sciences were part of applied theology. Christology and theology were interlinked. With the pietistic detachment of diakonia and sending the scientific possibility of specialization emerged outside of theology. Pedagogy (Spehner), religion and active service, as was necessary with the expiring monastic and order life due to the emerging industrialization found their way into the theological endowment and justification. Foreign assignments and an emerging Christian development service through scripture translation (Bible translation) as conducted by Wiliam Carey, Zinzendorf or American (Z. B. ABCFM) and British (eg BFBS) organizations asked for justifications. Christian Service science was born. At the present time, mobility, the digital revolution and ecumenical and interfaith dialogue have not joined this development.

Intercultural theology is therefore in a position to form an interdisciplinary interface between the auxiliary disciplines of linguistics, anthropology, sociology, psychology and pedagogy in order to do justice to the task of transcultural, transnational and interreligious exchange. In anglophone space, missiology (missiology) is so operated.

Whether Christian Service science, because of its unilateral Christian orientation, encourages subjectivization or whether it can not accomplish the interdisciplinary challenge in its Western interlinking remains a speculative question.

Discussions are welcome: werner@forschungssinstitut.net