Should Mission focus on Salvation of People or on God’s Glory?
An intriguing tweet
Mission ceases to be biblical when it is focused more on what humans get out of it (salvation) than on what God gets out of it (glory)… the former is anthropology the later is theology and if you do not properly order these your missiology will constantly go astray.
— Andy Herbek (@andyherbek) April 22, 2019
caught my attention. At first I thought I maybe liked it… and then maybe it was just the (MBTI) INTP in me talking, but I felt less satisfied with it. OK, I know Twitter isn’t the place for nuance, but there are a few problems I’m afraid I would bring up. I don’t know Andy Herbek and maybe he would like to interact a little more, but here’s my first try.
- Salvation (what humans get out of mission) isn’t really best described as anthropology. Perhaps the word Andy was reaching for was philanthropy. Anthropology is generally understood to be the study of people. It may lead to philanthropy (loving people) or just to PhDs (loving academics).
- Glory (what God gets out of mission) isn’t really best described as theology either. Theology would be the study of God. That’s best done through what he (surprisingly) reveals about himself clearly in human language. Perhaps a better phrase for what Andy was trying to express would be ‘Loving God‘, or the name ‘Theophilus’. (cf Luke 1:1)
- If we’re really loving people and wanting them to be saved from stupidity and mess and harm and death, then we would properly be going after the best solutions for that.
- God as the creator and sustainer of the whole universe seems to be the best solution creator. Easter is a great time to remember that.
- People worshipping the real creator-and-sustainer (not some fake identity-theft imposter) will both give God glory and be saved. They are 2 sides of the same coin.
So possibly I agree with Andy: that if you’re saying you are concerned about saving people (from bad stuff) but you don’t really think too much about what God gets out of it then you’ve gone wrong. But actually if God’s not getting glory, then you’re probably not really doing any kind of mission that will save anyone. Not in any meaningful way. We might feel good but leave people worse than ever, or at least just as badly off.
Possibly that’s what Andy was aiming at pointing out. But as the Passover and as Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday show, God gets glory when he saves his people and people are saved when God is glorified. The two go inescapably together. Could God be glorified without saving people? Possibly. But the Bible’s consistent evidence about what God is like would make you think that actually saving people is in God’s very nature. That’s great, isn’t it? Thank you God.
(In passing – the real God is obviously not glorified by Islamist-style murder, and yet the real God gets glory in the end because nothing can separate God from his children – not even such hideous cowardly murder. The Easter 2019 attacks in Sri Lanka are in my mind.)
ps. Watch out for the distinction between later and latter. Sorry. That’s the proof-reader / checker in me.