I used to be a Christian missionary. I have a (first class) UK bachelor degree in Christian missiology, the theories and practices of how to spread the Christian faith. I had a burning passion to make sure as many people would enjoy life with God as possible. I have had this passion for three decades. Yet ironically, the number one thing that drove me out of the Christian faith was…
The Mission of God
So what is this “mission of God”? In short, it says that God has been working throughout history to ‘redeem’ mankind to Himself. In other words, he wants a loving relationship with human beings, who worship Him and love Him in return, in a perfect state of happiness. So far, so good.
Missionaries like to think of the whole Bible as a missionary document. This means that God started His mission already with Adam and Eve (promised them a savior), then it continues to Noah with the Flood, then Abraham, Moses, David/Solomon, and ultimately Jesus. Jesus is crucial for the mission of God because the whole mission is about the ‘broken relation’: people are inherently flawed and Jesus had to die so this broken relationship (sin) is restored when somebody believes in Jesus.
There is one side note: if you don’t believe in Jesus, then you can’t be with God in this restored relationship, which means that you will burn for all eternity in hell. Oh, and you have to make up your mind in THIS life, because after your death it is too late (Hebrews 9:27).
So the mission of God is to get everyone on board with Jesus, so that everyone can be saved. After all, it clearly says in the Bible that God loves the world (not just a few), see the famous John 3:16. He does not want anyone to get lost (2 peter 3:9). So as a missionary I was just trying to help God out to reach everyone, since God wanted to reach everyone anyway. And this big God chose me (and many others) to bring this ‘good news’. How great!
My Problem? Strategy!
Okay. So God wants to save everybody. Now imagine being God for a moment. You control every single subatomic particle in this entire universe. You know everything there is to know. You see every little grain of sand on Mars. Every little hair of every person that has EVER lived and you know every little hair of every person that WILL ever live. Wow.
Now imagine some Thai person, let’s call him Nok. He believes in Buddha. Nok happily lives his life; he does not know any better than believing in Buddha and the animistic religion he is in. How can he know about Jesus? Then a missionary comes by to his village. Nok hears a story about how God loves the world and wants you to live forever, but it just doesn’t connect with Noks worldview. Love is attachment to this world, and life is suffering, so why live forever? Nok does ask the missionary to pray for his sick daughter, but nothing happens. Nok goes on in his Buddhist life and dies. Nok comes to speak to God. God sends Nok to hell, to burn in all eternity. End of story.
Now go back to Gods perspective. You have been crunching all those atoms, molecules, DNA, cells, heart beats, neurons of Nok his entire life. You were there when he was conceived. You were there when he was born. You saw his first steps. You heard his first laugh. You made sure the system kept running. You claim that your mission is to restore Nok to yourself. You love Nok, he is your creation. Of course Nok doesn’t always do what you want, but you love him nonetheless. And you are all-powerful. You could send an angel. You could write your name on the wall. You could speak with a thunderous voice. You could take Nok walking on the moon. You could appear to him in a bright light, like you have done with Saul (Acts 9). You could appear to him in a burning bush, like you have done with Moses. You could appear to him in a bizarre vision, like with Ezechiel. You could appear to him on your throne, like with Isaiah. You could appear as a pillar of fire, like with the Israelites. Yet you choose to appear like a missionary, tell a story that doesn’t connect, perform no miracle, and… leave.
How the heck is God standing by this ENTIRE life doing absolutely NOTHING?
Why does God choose people to do his ‘mission’, while they have so much trouble conveying the story without good proof?
Why doesn’t God just do it himself, since he can be FAR more convincing, it is FAR easier for Him to do, and the Bible is full of examples where He does exactly that?
Where are all the (credible) miracles that God promised as ‘signs’ so we may know the truth?
These were some of the thoughts I had while studying the Christian mission. And you know what? I still believed in it. There are many justifications that Christians have for the dichotomy between the stated mission of God, or love of God, and actual reality. But that is for another post. For now, just think about the enormous tension that is contained within the mission of an absent God.