Changes to the Bible and Mission blog

Over the last couple of days I’ve been making a few changes to the structure of the blog, primarily with the purpose of integrating it more fully within the activities of Redcliffe’s new Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission.

A new initiative

For some time we have been working hard to develop a new initiative that will ‘serve the Church by engaging in research, teaching, writing and speaking on mission in the Bible, and the Bible in mission thinking, practice and training.’ Though we continue to fundraise we have now received sufficient support from such organisations as Wycliffe Bible Translators and Bible Society for me to have some time to devote to developing the Centre’s activities.

You can see a more detailed explanation of the Centre’s aims and activities on the About page. The main things are teaching (including a new MA in Bible and Mission); hosting an annual lecture and bi-annual consultation in Bible and Mission; research and writing; and hosting a Bible and Mission Scholar from the Majority World each year here at Redcliffe.

What about the blog?

At least for the time being it makes sense to house all the Bible and Mission activities on this site. So it is now more like a microsite than just a blog. Having said that the blog is front and centre and will actually be updated more frequently. It is the best medium by far for thinking aloud and getting across what we are doing in an immediate and accessible way.

I hope you enjoy the developments; let me know what you think!

Themelios journal available free and online

The journal ‘Themelios’ is now available to read for free on The Gospel Coalition website. Here is its blurb:

The Themelios journal is now available online

Themelios is an international evangelical theological journal that expounds and defends the historic Christian faith.

Its primary audience is theological students and pastors, though scholars read it as well. It was formerly a print journal operated by RTSF/UCCF in the UK, and it became a digital journal operated by The Gospel Coalition in 2008.


It’s an excellent resource, especially for students, and covers a variety of themes. One Bible and Mission example is Mission in the Bible: Non-Existent in the Old Testament but Ubiquitous in the New? A Review Article by Craig Blomberg.

Dan Beeby on interfaith relations in the Bible

In his excellent little book, Canon and Mission (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1999), Dan Beeby has a section he calls, ‘The People and the Nations: Interfaith Relations in the Bible’ (pp.80ff.). Here are the headings that structure his discussion, which begins with the Old Testament and then applies a similar framework to the New Testament, while also adding a further dimension as well.

Israel Existed (Exists?) for the Nations

Israel’s Life was Lived Over Against the Nations
1. The nations as enemies.
2. The nations as God’s instruments of punishment.
3. The nations as witness to Israel’s rebellion.
4. The nations as a religious threat to Israel.

Israel as Debtor to the Nations
1. Egypt.
2. Cultural borrowing.
3. The nations as occasion for revelation.
4. The nations as instruments of liberation.
5. The good pagans.

Israel as Missionary to the Nations
1. Centripetal mission.
2. Other ways of doing mission.

Beeby is very quotable. What, I wonder, is the missional significance of what he says in his discussion about ‘good pagans’, under the third of the above headings?

In contrast to most of the Old Testament, some writers take pleasure – almost perverse pleasure – in pointing to the excellent in the nations as though Israel should be made aware of her debt to them for good examples. Esau, who was later regarded as symbolic of the Gentiles, is shown to be more of the gentleman than his chosen brother Jacob. Pharaoh shows up much better than the timid liar Abraham, who is prepared to sacrifice Sarah to save his own skin. The sailors in the Book of Jonah are splended fellows, and the people of Nineveh the most ready converts imaginable, once given a chance to believe. If we take note of Rahab, we see that even the harlots in Canaan are helpful and dependable, and when Israel wants to describe an ideal woman she turns to the Moabitess Ruth. In her better moments, Israel did not allow her sense of election to obscure the virtues in others, virtues that put her in the nations’ debt. (pp.88-89)

Biblical Basis of Mission course – week two

Following on from last week’s introduction to a missional reading of the whole of Scripture, session two of this Biblical Basis of Mission module looked at mission and the Torah.

After a brief overview of Gen. 1-11 we focused on a few key passages:

  • Gen. 12:1-3 – The call/creation of God’s missional people
  • Exod. 19:4-6 – The role of God’s missional people
  • Deut. 10:12-22 – The shape of God’s missional people

I like to mix up-front teaching with small group work so we used some quotations from J. Okoye’s Israel and the Nations: A Mission Theology of the Old Testament (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2006) to stimulate discussion. Here are a couple of examples:

“Mission must be experienced by the peoples as blessing” (p.54)

“Exodus 19:5-6 helps us perceive that the life of a people is a vehicle for mission. The effort to be true to the character of God as the Holy One of Israel also manifests God to the world.” (p.66)

We also watched this MTV/Radiohead video on child labour to remind us why these ancient texts still breathe life into the integral missionary task we are called to as the people of God (see my previous post Human trafficking and mission for more on this).

For next week students have two tasks. The first is to read the Encounters journal article, A Kiss of Heaven: Abraham, Global Blessing, and Civil Society, which considers Abraham’s life as a model for mission. The second is to reflect on the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5:1-19a and think about any mission connections.

If you want to join in the conversation, I’ll be tweeting as redcliffeuk at certain points during the lecture using the tag #biblicalbasis.  It will be from 11.10 to 13.00 GMT on Monday. Maybe see you then!

Chris Wright gives missional reading of Jeremiah at Redcliffe Lecture

I have blogged a few times in anticipation of Chris Wright’s public lecture on The Bible and Mission at Redcliffe College, which he delivered on Tuesday evening. It was a great night providing lots of food for thought (and blogging!).

Chris approached a missional reading of Jeremiah using three of George Hunsberger’s categories for how the term ‘missional hermeneutics’ is used (see GOCN website), and added one of his own:

1. The missional framework of the biblical narrative
2. The missional purpose of the texts
3. The missional locatedness of the readers
4. The missional cost to the messenger

It was fascinating to see his approach applied to an unexpected text like Jeremiah. The question and answer session was revealing as well. I’ve been asked whether the talk will be available.  Here’s the plan…

In written form
The June issue of Encounters (out early next month), Redcliffe’s mission journal, will be on the theme of The Bible and Mission. This will include the transcribed talk plus a number of short (c. 500 words) responses from a variety of contributors from academics to mission ‘practitioners’ (forgive the crude distinction!). Papers will also represent something of the global church with writing reflecting a number of cultural contexts. Sign up to Encounters updates

As a podcast
At the same time as the Encounters issue Slipstream will be making their June podcast available. As it happens June’s featured interviewee is (you’ve guessed it!) Chris Wright. Although the theme is not on Bible and Mission as such, Slipstream have kindly agreed to make the lecture available as an ‘extra’. Sign up to Slipstream updates

A few other observations about the evening…

It was packed! To my knowledge this was the most popular public lecture we have had at the College.

The subject of Bible and Mission is of interest both to the local Church and to mission agencies, both of whom were well represented.

Events are stronger if put on in partnership. Bible Society, Wycliffe UK, Keswick Ministries, Global Connections and Slipstream all played a valued part. Even the refreshments were a collaborative effort, thanks to Ethical Addictions!

Mission and the book of Ezekiel

The intriguingly titled Crazy Squirrel blog posted on Mission and the book of Ezekiel a while ago. He highlights some interesting resonances between mission then and now. Here are a couple of quotes

The book of Ezekiel is a good example of God seeking to be known by all nations, and wanting Israel to be His example. Ezekiel was written during a period of exile. Exile occurred primarily because Israel was not following God’s commandments of living a pure and holy life. They were not following their missiological purpose and lifestyle.

I like the last sentence (though would prefer the term ‘missional’ rather than ‘missiological’), making as it does the important connection between calling and behaviour.

Ezekiel’s contribution to mission theology of Israel shows that God’s work in the world aims at something larger than one nation. We can see here that Israel is not the sole desire of God; He wants the nations to know Him as well. In order for the nations to know God, Israel must be a pure witness, cleansed of their sin. Israel was to operate with the awareness that God’s range of vision is decidedly on all the world’s nations. At the time of the exodus, God’s intention with Pharaoh was made clear: Pharaoh, and also “all peoples of the earth,” were to acknowledge Yahweh (Exodus 14:18).

Here, purity, calling and God’s desire for the nations is tied together. If you want to read the whole article visit the Crazy Squirrel blog

Chris Wright Bible and Mission lecture update

Chris Wright’s 12 May public lecture at Redcliffe College on The Bible and Mission is fast approaching.

As well as setting out a missional hermeneutic of the Bible, he will also be putting this into practice by giving a missional reading of the book of Jeremiah. There will also be an opportunity for questions at the end.

Do you have any questions you would like to ask Revd Dr Wright? If so, and you’re not able to be there on the night, why not pass them to me using the comment facility below? I can’t make any promises but will try to fit them in… 

More details about Chris Wright’s The Bible and Mission Redcliffe Lecture

Forthcoming book on reading the Bible missionally

Brian Russell (Asbury Seminary, Kentucky) has blogged about his forthcoming book on the missional interpretation of the Bible. It is due out next year from Wipf and Stock.

The title is, The Scripture Way of Mission: Reading the Bible Missionally for the Church and the World and it promises to be a great resource for thinking through, and putting into practice this way of reading Scripture.

Brian gives us a tentative outline and asks for feedback. I’m particularly intrigued by the second part of the book, which he outlines here:

Part Two: Reading the Bible for the Mission of God
Part Two of Unleashing the Scriptures focuses on specific practices for unleashing the missional message of the Scriptures into our lives and the lives of our communities of faith. If God’s mission is the core theme of the Scriptures, then it must become the focus of our reading and teaching of Scripture.

Understanding the centrality of mission in the Scriptures demands action. It is not enough to understand that mission stands at the center of the biblical witness. Our use of Scripture must (re)align with the Bible’s overarching aim of creating and shaping a missional community to reflect and embody God’s character to and for the World. This message needs to permeate throughout existing communities of faith and be experienced anew by those outside of these communities. In short, we must be reconverted to God’s mission and allow God to deploy us as agents of change in our communities and as ambassadors for God to those on the peripheries of our communities.

Chapter Eight, “Scripture Unleashed: Learning to Speak Human,” provides a method for engaging in the missional reading of Scripture. It will offer a step-by-step guide for reading the Bible through the lens of mission. It includes practical advice for transforming one’s current reading practices and for learning to read the Bible for humanity—for both insiders and outsiders to the Gospel message.

Chapter Nine, “The Practice and Possibilities of a Missional Reading,” offers concrete examples of missional interpretation that will enhance your own ability to read the Scriptures and translate their message for humanity.

Chapter Ten, “Transforming Our Communities—Engaging the World: A Conversion to Mission,” offers a framework for transforming Churches into missional communities. This chapter explores the role that missional interpretation plays in shaping a missional ethos in contemporary communities of faith and how this impacts the Church’s engagement with contemporary cultures. We will explore strategies for integrating a missional reading into all aspects of our communities.

Chapter Eleven, “Deployment,” brings Unleashing the Scriptures to a conclusion. It will summarize key findings and end with a challenge to those who teach and preach the Scriptures in local churches to unleash the Scriptures as a catalyst to mission.

Please do visit Brian’s blog and share your thoughts with him. It looks like an extremely valuable development in the area of Bible and Mission, and I commend him for being so open to others shaping his work.

A missiologist and a biblical scholar review Chris Wright’s The Mission of God

missionofgodBack in April 2007 I edited an issue of Encounters Mission Ezine, on the theme of Mission and the Old Testament. Every now and then I will blog on these articles as contributors came up with some really interesting stuff.

At the time, Chris Wright’s The Mission of God had just come out so we featured an interview with him about it. As the book spans both Missiology and Biblical Studies, I was interested to see what specialists from each discipline would make of it. So I asked both Dr Kang-San Tan, Head of Mission Studies at Redcliffe College, and Prof Gordon McConville, Professor of Old Testament Theology at the University of Gloucestershire, to review it.

Both described The Mission of God as “remarkable”. Here are a couple of extracts from their reviews.

Prof Gordon McConville:

The product of Wright’s readiness to embrace the particularity of Israel in his view of mission is a holistic Gospel.  The exodus model shows that political freedom is part of God’s purpose for humanity; similarly, the Jubilee (Leviticus 25) illustrates an economic aspect.  Such facets of social existence are inseparable from the spiritual life, and the twin dangers of over-spiritualizing and over-politicizing the Gospel are well addressed (pp. 275-88).  Mission ultimately embraces all dimensions of human life, including praise (p. 132), pastoral and ethical concerns (pp. 182-86), and environmental issues (pp. 397-420).  And this vision informs evangelism, since ‘the fundamental theology behind [the Jubilee] also lies behind our practice of evangelism’ (p. 300).  In these ways, the particularity of Israel is put to the cause of a universal proclamation.  In God’s purpose, Israel not only witnesses to the nations, but the nations are finally brought under covenant obedience along with Israel.  Ultimately too, the divine mission overcomes death, for a biblical concept of salvation is distinguished from all others by its promise of the defeat of death itself (p. 440).
Read Prof McConville’s review article in full

Dr Kang-San Tan:

Although it was not the expressed purpose of the book, The Mission of God contributes towards the closing of the existing gap between missiology and biblical studies.  Instead of separating theology and biblical studies from mission contexts, Wright approaches the texts of scripture through a mission paradigm.  In some circles, theological and biblical studies have been considered academic and scientific, while missiology still finds itself under suspect by scholars of other academic disciplines.  Part of the distrust may come from missiologists using biblical proof-texts to justify their mission theories and strategies.  To some extent, Wright demonstrates in action, more than words, that mission readings and careful exegesis of scripture are both needed for critical missiology.
Read Dr Tan’s review article in full

Bible, mission and mosaics

Assesments at Redcliffe College take many forms including essays, group or individual presentations, and the occasional exam. One of the highlights for me is when my colleague Derek Foster takes in the assessments for his Psalms course. Students are required to produce a piece of creative work that expresses a Psalm, and write an accompanying reflection.

HandsI’ll blog more about the immense variety of creative responses another time; for now I want to highlight one student for whom this assessment became a catalyst for a new creative vocation. Ali Edmondson is now in her final year on the BA (hons) in Applied Theology.  Her piece of Psalms coursework was a mosaic, ‘Hands’ (opposite), inspired by Psalm 24 (‘The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it…’).

MarySince that initial piece she has developed her obvious, God-given creative gift and produced a number of other stunning mosaics that reflect deeply on biblical texts. ‘Mary’ (opposite) came about as a result of work Ali was doing on my Isaiah course.

Check out Ali’s new website, Mosaic Creations. You can order prints of the mosaics in various formats.