Bosch on Dimension and Intention

Bosch, Witness to the World (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1980), pp. 199-201.

Bosch offers here a thought-provoking, if not immediately obvious discussion on the relation between mission and church and in particular on whether mission is an essential aspect of the church. He uses a pair of concepts from H.-W. Gensichen: ‘dimension’ and ‘intention’.

‘Intention’ refers to an explicitly missionary act, something that is primarily intended to be an expression of the love of God, and of the Church, to the outsider.

‘Dimension’, somewhat opaquely, refers to manner in which every aspect of the Church’s life must have a missionary element or, perhaps better, must have a character derived from that of God, who in Christ has shown himself to be ‘missionary’. The Church’s nature is missionary, taken as it is from Christ, the Son of God who who created and redeemed the world as an expression of the love of God.

Therefore, everything the church does must have a missionary dimension, not everything must have a missionary intention.

The church is missionary when she is welcoming to outsiders, open to change for the sake of others, when she upholds the and defends the truth the Gospel, even though there may be no explicitly missionary intention in any of these acts. She has to be this in order to perform mission at all. Intention can only exist on the basis of dimension.

Useful texts listed are:

Phil. 2:14-16. ‘Do everything … as you hold our the word of life.’

Col. 4:5. ‘Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.’

1 The. 4:9-12. ‘Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters … so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one.’

1 Pet. 2:12. ‘Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.’

1 Cor. 5:12-15. ‘What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”’

2 Cor. 3:2-3. ‘You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.’

More generally, I’m reminded of Barth’s discussion of Salt and Light in CD IV.3.2 par.72 and, unsurprisingly for us, the manner in which the Church’s nature is to be shaped by her source in 1 Corinthians: we are the body of Christ. If Christ is the Son of God, and we are the body of Christ, how can our nature be anything but self-giving for the world? Even when we prophesy to one another, our words will point to the one who sets the world free (1 Cor. 14:24-25).

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