What’s the Purpose of the Law if we can’t actually keep it? On Missional Ethics and Deuteronomy

I am reading a book on mission ethics in the Bible. It strikes me that there is actually a very clear and strong logic for mission ethics in Deuteronomy. Here’s the bottom line:

  1. We can’t save ourselves.
  2. God saves us.
  3. God wants us to observe the Law given by Him.
  4. The Law doesn’t/can’t save us.
  5. The Law is for us to live a new and good life, which is defined as a life relying on God (hence we need to remember God, and live according to His commandments).
  6. Our new life witnesses to God’s power to save and transform.
  7. The way we live the new life (ethics) demonstrate God and God’s realm.
  8. Since we testify for God, our new life is missional.

All of the above can be easily derived from Deuteronomy. For those who are familiar with the book, you can even see the relevant chapters and contents as you browse through the list.

And there will be the question of “violence” in the mix of this. That will be for another post.

Of course the New Testament gives us more clue on how all these work out in the grand narrative of God’s salvation plan, but how often do you notice logic of mission ethics in Deuteronomy?


Talk: What is Incarnational Mission?

The registration link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUof-qhrz0jH9C5F0HdzgzH6VNW3x8ODygs

This talk considers the arguments for and against the missiological concept of Incarnational Mission. It presents a case for the concept to be applied within a framework of Christocentric Missio Dei.

This is a talk which follows the talk I gave for the book launch. The following will be discussed:

1. Incarnation, “the Incarnation,” and “Incarnational Mission”

2. The Motives and Logic of Incarnation

3. Incarnation as a Model for Mission

4. Countering Criticisms of Incarnational Mission

5. Incarnational Mission and the Church

Concerning Incarnational Mission and Social Engagement:

Most Christians believe they should do social engagement – in the form of social action or social services, including welfare and charity. Even the fundamentalist “Evangelicals” who suffer from the phobia of the “social gospel” would do social engagement. But most of them do it with wrong theology, or worse, without theology.

Let’s assume social engagement is the right thing to do. Do Christians do it with the right motive? What is their theological basis?

  1. Some do it to protect human rights
  2. Some do it to prepare for evangelism
  3. Some do it because it is good work
  4. Some do it to transform the society
  5. Some do it to evangelize

They all fall short of proper theologizing or even utterly wrong! Find out why in my upcoming talk. I will explain why incarnational mission could form the basis of Christian social engagement.

Disappointed with leaders? Followers have themselves to blame too!

We have seen people criticizing and venting their anger at leaders who fail them. They have all the rights to do so. But aren’t these leaders put in the position by this very same group of people?

Some would say, “I’ve never voted for that political leader.” Well, if you live in a democracy, you should know how it works. People are expected to recognize the leaders and the party that win the election. Not happy? Do your part and try to beat them in the next election.

The problem is, the amount of complaints is always proportionately much much more than the effort people put in to develop a healthy civil society that is capable of fighting for courses that actually benefiting the local communities. Instead of complaining, it is better to engage in actual community welfare than in debates and polemics. If the party that you supported failed to win the election, instead of attacking everything that the current government is doing (often uncritically), help the party you support improve their performance in their actual service for your local community. Then your party will stand a chance to win the next election and you will get rid of the leaders you don’t like!

But then, what often happens is the fact that the leaders we support have also turned out to be disappointing, and we feel disgruntled. And the same applies to churches and church leaders. How should Christians respond to such disappointment?

As I’ve stated in the beginning, the disappointment we feel comes from ourselves. We put our leaders in a position which they should never have occupied. We long for great leaders and we have created an image of leadership and imposed it on our leaders. Along with that false expectation is the honor which we bestow upon them. Some of us might notice that this is actually an act of idol worship. Idols don’t exist by themselves. We enact them, design them, decorate them, honor them, and worship them. The kind of leadership crisis we see and experience today is none other than a crisis of people making leaders idols, and leaders thinking that they deserve such treatment.

Idols don’t exist by themselves. We enact them, design them, decorate them, honor them, and worship them. The kind of leadership crisis we see and experience today is none other than a crisis of people making leaders idols, and leaders thinking that they deserve such treatment.

I have seen Christians idolizing other Christians. We need leaders. We should all learn from great thinkers, preachers, and teachers; and admire great Christian women and men. But we should be careful not to expect them to be different from us. They are mere mortal beings who are deemed to fail and susceptible to temptations. So we should always love them by setting boundaries for them. God uses broken people. The problem is not so much that our leaders have fallen into sin, but our expectations that they will not. When we do so, we are committing idolatry, because we are creating a false image and render to it what it never deserves.

Leaders at fault are to be punished. They should always be accountable. So are the followers. Are we, the followers doing our best to create a healthy community or civil society which would hold the leaders accountable? Or are we just stop at venting our anger? If we are disappointed, we need to check our expectations – have we stepped into the domain of idolatry by setting up our leaders to be what they are not?