Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

How relevant are today’s theological debates?

When I completed my PhD back in 1992, my promoter came to speak to me after the graduation ceremony and said, amongst others: “Well, now you are also a theologian.” As I had done my PhD in Missiology, I responded by saying: “No, I’m a missiologist.” And he answered: “No, you’re a theologian.” Fine, so I’m a theologian and I love theology and I love discussing theological issues and perhaps, more than anything else, I love explaining difficult theological issues in such a way that people without theological knowledge can also understand the concepts. There’s few things that give me a greater “high” than to see the light go on in someone’s eyes when they have this “a-ha” experience of understanding something.
The church in South Africa (one of the mainline churches) that sent me to Swaziland in 1985, is presently going through a number of intense theological debates. Obviously I’m interested in the outcome. Or perhaps, more correctly, I should say, that I was interested. For the past number of years, one of the main issues being discussed concerns the resurrection of Jesus Christ. On the one hand there’s a group of people, mainly theologians, who are claiming that we cannot say that Jesus really rose from the dead, because the accounts in the Bible of His resurrection are biased and the Apostles may have meant that He merely rose in a spiritual way. One of the arguments they are using is to say that the authors of the gospels had no understanding of physics, of atoms and electrons and therefore could not really understand what they are saying.
On the other hand, there are people who want to try and explain exactly how Jesus was resurrected (and how we as Christians will be resurrected) without realizing that there is a certain mystery about this that we do not understand. And this debate has been going on ad nauseum! Both sides are writing reports, newspaper articles, letters to the editor and books, each claiming that their argument carries more weight than the other. The church in Europe has been through these debates as has certain churches in the USA, so what we are experiencing in South Africa in the mainline churches is not unique.
I was travelling with one of the church leaders a few weeks ago, one who had been part of writing a report supporting the physical resurrection of Jesus, while admitting that there is a mystery involved in this and that it does seem, from Biblical accounts, that the resurrected body of Jesus had certain qualities (such as passing through locked doors – John 20:19) which it did not have before. Eventually I said to him: “I think the people in the marketplace, the people who are loyal church members, who want to serve God, are really not interested in the theological debates taking place. They want to hear one thing from their church leaders: We believe that Jesus was really resurrected from the dead and that we will also one day be really resurrected from the dead.For the majority, I would think 95% or more of church members, these theological debates have no positive meaning at all.
When I think of the issues we re confronted with in Africa (and this is true for many other countries as well, such as Asia and Eastern Europe) where people are confronted with extreme poverty, lack of food and drinking water, diseases such as HIV and AIDS, TB and malaria, orphaned children, war, forced prostitution, persecution, etc, etc, then I wonder whether we can still afford the luxury of indulging in theological debates which does not lead to the spiritual growth of anybody.
I’m as serious as any theologian to understand the Bible correctly and I will go to great pains to discover the true message of a certain part of Scripture. But honestly, I think most of these debates are a waste of time.
Surely there’s more important issues that could (and should!) be discussed in the church.


Saturday, July 4, 2009 - Posted by | Theology


  1. Amen, Mr. Van Wyngard !

    Most of my comments are like those of John the Baptist,
    “A voice crying in the wilderness…”, the wilderness of today’s so-called “enlightened ones”…the THEOLOGIANS

    Comment by Glenda | Sunday, July 5, 2009 | Reply

  2. Mr. Van Wyngard,

    So sorry, but the comment was sent before I was finished with it. However, perhaps it is sufficient !

    I am so glad to hear you come to the conclusion you did, because I know it is scriptural. God does not want us to be “arguing” about Him…He wants us to be listening TO Him, through His Word…and obeing Him…through His Word. How else can we KNOW Him unless He reveals Himself to us. I think those who want to debate and argue scripture are enjoying gazing at their “spiritual” navels, and have no real agenda for KNOWING God. In a way, it is taking God’s Name in vain for mere mortals to profess to be able to EXPLAIN Him or what He said or meant. Scripture is clear on this, “the natural man cannot understand the things of the Holy Spirit of God for they are spiritually discerned…” Where there is an argument or debate, there is confusion…and we all know who the author of confusion is.

    As for the resurrection of Jesus Christ…it is the most pivotal point of the Christian faith after acknowledging Him as Christ our Lord. Paul said, “…if there is no resurection from the dead the we (Christians) of all people are most miserable…”…what is the point then of this faith we have if it is for this life only? Scripture is perfectly clear on this…He rose from the dead and showed Himself to thousands, not only His disciples. However, this once cowardly band of followers were conviced enought to be willing to be subjected to the utmost persecution and even at the cost of their lives. No, they saw with their eyes and heard with their hears our risen Lord. Not only that, they received the promise of His endwelling Holy Spirit that it seems these theologians have kicked out of their own hearts and now enthrone themselves and their “awesome intellect” !

    My advice to you is, indeed, come out from among them…how can you have fellowship with those who deny His whole Gospel and the truth of scripture.

    Comment by Glenda | Sunday, July 5, 2009 | Reply

  3. By the way, my main interest is missions, too. It is hard for me to get people convinced in supporting missionaries. On the Face Book pages of most of my church friends, the emphasis is on their own lives and their families, their favorite music, their favorite foods, their favorite ball teams and race car drivers, etc.,etc. It is a comfortable believism with now true commitment to go into all the world for Christ. I know we have a lot of work to do here at home, in America, but we should be doing both things…at home and abroad…and when we cannot go, we need to support those who do; in whatever capacity they serve we need to support them if they are takeing the Gospel of Jesus to their respective parts of the world.

    Thank you for HEARING from God on these matters !!!

    Comment by Glenda | Sunday, July 5, 2009 | Reply

  4. The pride, corruption, greed and avariceness of this present age is rotten with internal decay as self rules over spirit. To quote Frederic Farrar, “Happy is he, who having the witness in himself is given the high grace of labouring to strengthen the faith of others”.

    From age to age God has left His Saints as witnesses to His Mighty Presence as the banner of Christianity is carried into places of darkness, misery, poverty, sickness and disease. Christ has raised an altar to Pity in the hearts of these, His chosen ones; He teaches the feeding of the hungry, the clothing of the naked, the teaching of the ignorant. Humility and tenderness done in the name of Christ invokes blessings beyond understanding and brings forth healing amongst the impoverished as the Power and Presence of God manifests to bring forth restoration and healing, to the nation and the suffering people. In the midst of suffering, Christ is there.

    God has renewed and given His Saints the strength of an eagle, made them to run and not be weary, to walk and not feel faint. These witnesses to Christ throw light upon the dark world of decay and reveal the love of Christ as the living and eternal hope of mankind. Thank you for carrying this banner – our prayers are with you.

    Comment by Marlene Dickerson | Tuesday, July 7, 2009 | Reply

  5. hmmm, great post

    Comment by medrawl | Saturday, July 25, 2009 | Reply

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