The most neglected books in the Old Testament are the Wisdom books, and so it is nice to see Chris Wright look at “mission” in light of what the Wisdom books teach (2d half of chp 13: The Mission of God). Several themes open up the borders for missional thinking, and they take this discussion in new directions.
So what does mission look like if we pursue such through Wisdom? The Wisdom movement of the Old Testament is an ancient form of the best themes and questions of the emerging movement of our day.
How often — think about this one with me — does the wisdom tradition of the Bible come into play in our modern missional movement? Does a wisdom approach create the difference we find today between the missional/incarnational approach and the evangelistic/attractional approach?
There is one major theme to begin with: Israel’s wisdom is seriously connected to the ancient middle eastern wisdom traditions of Egypt and Babylon. There is clear evidence Israel both borrowed common themes from these wisdom traditions and then adapted them to their own faith. They drop the gods/goddesses and the use of magic and occult practices.
So, mission looks like this:
1. Use common human themes.
2. Welcome the wisdom of the nations.
3. Critique the wisdom of the nations.
4. The wisdom bridge is not in itself redemptive: it is not enough; but it is a bridge to the gospel.
Second, if the rest of the Bible operates with a redemptive approach to life, Wisdom operates with a creational approach. It roots itself in creation rather than God’s redemptive acts. Law says “don’t do this” and Wisdom says “this isn’t intelligent.” The focus is on our common humanity.
Third, Wisdom admits to an honest, struggling, mysterious faith. One finds doubts in Wisdom. Think Ecclesiastes. Yes, the Torah says, be obedient and God blesses. Well, Wisdom says, not always. How, they ask, does Torah respond to the realities we experience.
(Hence, Wisdom is the emerging movement of the Old Testament!)