I begin this new series on Christopher Wright’s book, The Mission of God, with a view to helping us (1) understand the Bible better and (2) understand “missional” better. I’ve mentioned Wright’s book before, and I’ve mentioned that we will be using this book in one of our classes this Fall at North Park, but I’d like to have a conversation about this book on this blog as well.
Here’s the ruling set of questions that I hope will be on our minds: If the Bible is about our missional God and if our task is missional, then what does that do to:
Preaching? Pastoring? Discipling?
Theology? Systematics? Historical?
Biblical studies? Book studies?
Vocations? Mine, yours, others?
If the heart of biblical theology is the God of mission who forms a people to participate in God’s mission, can any theology or praxis lay claim to being biblical that does not front and center shape things through the lens of “missional”? Think about this. Was your theology taught this way? Did you learn the Christian life this way? I could go on; you open up your own implications. We are on the threshold with books like this and ideas they contain of a transformation of theology and Christian living and church praxis. A transformation that will move from the inside out. I’ve been saving this book for the right time … and now is the time for me.
The organization of the book is four parts: 1. A missional hermeneutic — that is, showing how “missional” is what the Bible is all about; 2. The God of mission; 3. The people of mission; and 4. The arena of mission.
In Wright’s introduction we get some definitions, the most important of which is this: “Fundamentally, our mission … means our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation” (23).
Chp 1 is about searching for a missional hermeneutic. Chp 1 critiques contemporary models of Bible reading that help but are not complete. I want to declare what I like about this chp: Wright is critical but he doesn’t come off sounding like he’s got everything figured out; he is not polemical; he sees the good in the points of each; he doesn’t set himself as the one and only person who has seen the light. In other words, this is generous conversation instead of polemics. I wish more could learn from his approach. Wright models what I strive to do myself (on this blog and in books).
First, a missional hermeneutic to the Bible must get beyond establishing biblical foundations for mission — beyond arguing for an apologetics for doing missional work and beyond just offering up important proof texts that establish missions.
Second, a missional hermeneutic must get beyond multicultural hermeneutics — beyond the important point that a global church will have a global hermeneutic to finding a coherence of the whole Bible that is missionally shaped.
Third, a missional hermeneutic must get beyond contextual theologies and advocacy readings — that is, beyond the mere tolerance or even acceptance and appropriation of ways of reading the Bible that are shaped by our own context (liberation, feminist, African American, etc) to the admission of an “interested” reading that is both missional and liberational.
Fourth, a missional hermeneutic must get beyond postmodern hermeneutics — beyond pluralism and relativism to embrace plurality and to see that the Bible itself, as it unfolds, has always adapted to various cultures, spoken with those cultures, and challenged those cultures. So, a good missional hermeneutic includes:
diversity, cultures, particularities and local contexts, relational focus, and it does so through stories.