In the following 100 sets of affirmations and denials, TSF has sought to provide a biblical response to a host of missions, missiological, and theology of religions questions. We have decided to use the method of affirmation and denial under the conviction that Scripture lays down fundamental guidelines for faithful missions thinking and practice, and that within those God-given guidelines lies God-given latitude for faithfully creative self-theologising and contextualisation. We recognise that methodologically, within our current late-modern cultural context, the decision to use ‘affirmations’ and ‘denials’ may need a little explanation and perhaps even justification.
In his ambitious and seminal study, The Gagging of God, D. A. Carson entitled one of his chapters ‘On Drawing Lines, When Drawing Lines Is Rude’. Twenty years on, and the drawing of lines can be perceived, both inside and outside the church and academy, to be even more offensive, oppressive, pedantic, simplistic, and stifling.
However, the capacity and necessity to create boundaries and make distinctions is what God’s image bearers have been endowed with since creation. We image a Creator God who creates by placing boundaries, making distinctions and separations, and distinguishing truth from error. Indeed, the capstone of the Christian worldview has rightly been called the ‘Creator-creature distinction’.
Therefore, unpacking the specifics of a Christian worldview ontologically, epistemologically and ethically concerns the making of distinctions and setting of boundaries. Discrimination and boundary setting are not inherently confining or destructive, but when applied according to the divine order (that is, according to a biblically defined structure and interpretation of reality), ensure beautiful, God-exalting, clarifying, and life-giving peace. Conversely it is the blurring or erasing of God-given boundaries that generate sub- and non-Christian worldviews, which evidence and perpetuate rebellion, confusion, human misery and futility.
It is from this perspective that we understand the worldview of the New Testament writers who are constantly making distinctions and creating boundaries for the building up and protection of Christ’s church. In terms of justifying our own exercise in ‘Affirmations and Denials’, it is in this pastoral, and not pedantic, spirit that Paul exhorts Titus to hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, to encourage others by sound doctrine and to refute those who oppose it (1:9). To exhort, encourage and refute, one needs not only an affirmation of what the trustworthy message is, but a corollary denial of what it is not, or by implication, what it cannot be.
Therefore, the following affirmations and denials can act as a foundation upon which, and a fence within which, missional methods can and must operate. The goal of these statements then is not to stifle but to articulate, and ultimately stimulate, healthy and faithful missiology and faithful mission.
For the sake of transparency, a few explanatory points are worthy of disclosure:
- Though deeply aware of our fallibility, the authors self-consciously seek to submit to God’s Word completely in each and every affirmation and denial. These words are reliable only insofar as they honour Holy Scripture.
- The affirmations and denials are saturated with biblical reflection, yet in order to avoid the perils of proof texting, we determined not to include any. When using exact biblical wording, we have put phrases in quotation marks and noted references in the glossary.
- Each affirmation and denial targets specific mission thinking and practice, presenting critiques of extant errors and constructive formulations to engender biblical thought and practice.
- This document should be read as a whole, as each section depends on the others before and after it.
- At several points, we employ phrases common to missiological publications. These quotation-marked phrases and italicised terms are defined in the glossary.
- Not every affirmation has a corresponding denial and vice versa. We have sought to frame each statement according to what we believe to be most useful—sometimes multiple affirmations and sometime multiple denials. The goal at each point therefore is not to impose an artificial affirmation/denial symmetry, but to deliver theological, methodological, and missiological clarity.
- Throughout this document, we use the term “visible” church to include individual local churches, groups of local churches, presbyteries, and synods.
TSF invites every reader of the ‘Affirmations and Denials Concerning World Mission’ to express support for its contents by endorsement at www.TheSouthgateFellowship.org, and to share this document with churches, church leaders, church mission committees, missionaries, and mission agencies.
Finally, TSF wish to express thanks for the detailed input, correction and feedback along the way from national church leaders and missionaries in many nations around the world. Indebted to their input, TSF still assumes full responsibility for the following affirmations and denials.
 D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Leicester: Apollos, 1996), 347.
 As Os Guinness notes, ‘The story of creation is a story of distinctions, a story of discrimination between heaven and earth, which the Tower of Babel tries to undo, between male and female, etc. In fact, the Jews called the Lord, “‘the Great Discriminator,”’ because His creation discriminates between things, and if you remove the discriminations, you create idols’. Os Guinness, ‘Christian Courage and the Struggle for Civilization’, C.S. Lewis Institute Broadcast Talks 2.4 (2017): 6, http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/6110.