The Gospel and Cultural Diversity

Bible and Mission by Richard BauckhamDoes the presence of a single ‘grand narrative’ that is the biblical story reduce, flatten or fight against cultural diversity? Is it just another example of a totalising ideology that seeks to impose itself at the expense of particularity?

I believe the Bible answers these questions with a resounding, ‘no!’. I’ve posted before on what James Brownson calls the ‘irreducibly multi-cultural‘ mode of the presence of God (see The Multicultural Presence of God). But here is a nice quote from Richard Bauckham in his Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World. In it he suggests not only that the Bible does not flatten cultural diversity, but that it celebrates and requires it. Indeed, the biblical metanarrative confronts those competing stories (in our own day, globalisation being a dominant one) that would seek to totalise:

The biblical story is apt to clash with the global metanarratives of power, and… with local narratives that ape them. But this is not necessarily the case with all the local individual narratives it encounters. The biblical story is not, as the narrative of economic globalization has been called, a cultural tidal wave sweeping away all the wonderful diversity of human culture. Perhaps the miracle of tongues at Pentecost in Acts 2 is a symbol of this. It is a miracle that symbolically transcends the diversity of human languages: they no longer divide people or impede understanding, as they did at Babel. But this diversity of human language is not abolished. Everyone hears the gospel in their own language. The miracle was in one sense quite superfluous, since virtually everyone there could have understood Greek, Aramaic or Latin. There was no practical need for such profligate speaking in all kinds of local languages. But God reverses Babel in such a way as rather conspicuously to affirm human cultural diversity. When Paul states that in Christ there is no longer Jew, Greek, barbarian or Scythian (Colossians 3:11), what he denies is cultural privilege, not cultural diversity.

The biblical story is not only critical of other stories but also hospitable to other stories. On its way to the kingdom of God it does not abolish all other stories, but brings them all into relationship to itself and its way to the kingdom. It becomes the story of all stories, taking with it into the kingdom all that can be positively related to the God of Israel and Jesus. The presence of so many little stories within the biblical narrative, so many fragments and glimpses of other stories, within Scripture itself, is surely a sign and an earnest of that. The universal that is the kingdom of God is no dreary uniformity or oppressive denial of difference, but the milieu in which every particular reaches its true destiny in relation to the God who is the God of all because he is the God of Jesus.

It’s worth noting that talking about Pentecost as a ‘reversal’ of Babel is a complex and contested issue. Check out Wycliffe’s Eddie Arthur on Babel, Pentecost and the Blessing of Diversity to explore more.

Bible and mission blogs

Every Tongue blogLately, we’ve been developing the Bible and Mission resources section of the microsite. Last week Wycliffe Bible Translators’ Eddie Arthur suggested that this section would “keep anyone in reading material for the next decade or two.” We are working on it Eddie!!
Here are some blogs we’ve come across that have dealt in some way with the themes of the Bible and mission, and missional hermeneutics. Let us know if there are more:
Realmeal ministries – Brian Russell; nb. missional hermeneutics page and tags here and here
Kouya Chronicle – Eddie Arthur
Cross Talk – Michael Gorman; nb. missional hermeneutic tag
Everytongue – Mark Woodward; nb. missional hermeneutics tag
Billington’s blog – Antony Billington; nb. missional hermeneutics tag

As we continue to build up the resources section, please let us know how it can best serve you in your Bible and mission thinking and practice.

Eddie Arthur on The Radical Result of Bible Translation

Words for Life - Summer 2011 issueWords for Life is Wycliffe Bible Translators’ regular magazine. In the Summer 2011 issue Eddie Arthur tackles the subject of  ‘The Radical Result of Bible Translation’. In a short but insightful article he somehow manages to address a whole range of issues, including: the scary nature of giving someone a Bible; mission and coercion; the Bible and politics; language development and dignity; marginalisation, empowerment and identity.

Here’s some of the text of the article to give you a flavour. You can view the whole thing here: Words for Life – Summer 2011

Far from destroying dignity and oppressing them, Bible translation and language development work helps to give people a new sense of their value before God and amongst the nations. Bilingual education programmes give people a sense of value for their own languages and culture while providing them with a bridge to the wider world through the use of national and international languages. For many marginalised groups, who may well be ignored by their national governments, a language and translation programme may represent the only hope for education and development in their area. The work of Wycliffe Bible Translators and its partner organisations isn’t some sort of luxury; it is a vital part of bringing education, development and a sense of identity to some of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people.

It is hard for English speakers to understand what it is like to belong to a people group whose language is continually ignored or discriminated against, or to have a language so obscure that even God doesn’t seem to speak it.

Eddie has much more to say on these and other important topics, as our MA in Bible and Mission students discover when he comes to Redcliffe to teach half of the module, ‘Bible Engagement in Intercultural Contexts’.

Check out his blog as well.

Why read the Bible with the global church?

Reading the Bible with the Global ChurchOn 30 March Eddie Arthur (UK Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators) will be giving the 2011 Annual Lecture in Bible and Mission here at Redcliffe on the subject of Reading the Bible with the Global Church.

It seems to me that the act of Bible reading is itself a cross-cultural experience. Within the pages of the Bible we have the Spirit-inspired thoughts, songs, stories, instructions, visions and poems of a remarkably diverse group of people. As I read the text I am constantly engaged in a process of understanding the language and ideas of people unlike myself. I am constantly crossing borders and boundaries. This is one of the many reasons why it is essential to recognise the worth in reading alongside others, and especially others from different cultures. The wonderful diversity of the global church parallels and broadens the cultural diversity of the biblical writers and figures themselves.

In anticipation of the event and as part of an ongoing discussion we would love to hear your views and your stories:

  • Why do you think it is important to read the Bible alongside brothers and sisters from around the globe?
  • Do you have stories of how you’ve experienced this?
  • How can this be encouraged practically?

Please join the conversation by leaving a comment below, or posting something on Twitter or Facebook.

Redcliffe’s 2011 Lecture in Bible and Mission

Reading the Bible with the Global ChurchThis year’s Annual Lecture in Bible and Mission will be held on Wed 30 March, 7pm to 9pm. It is the key public event of the year for the Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission, with previous speakers being Chris Wright on The Bible and Mission and Gordon Wenham on The Nations in the Psalms.

Our lecturer this year is Eddie Arthur, Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators, who will be speaking on the subject, ‘Reading the Bible with the Global Church: Opening our eyes to see how God speaks worldwide’.

It is being put on in partnership with Bible Society, Wycliffe Bible Translators and Biblefresh.

Here are the details from Redcliffe’s website:

We all come to the Bible with our own perspectives, insights and blind spots, which is why reading it with others is vital. But often the groups we are part of come from similar cultural backgrounds. Are there things we could be missing?

Imagine being part of a Bible Study group made up of believers from Britain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burkina Faso and Bulgaria. How might this open our eyes to read God’s Word afresh?
At this year’s lecture in Bible and Mission Eddie Arthur will explore what it means to read the Bible alongside believers around the world. There will also be discussion groups led by church leaders to unpack what this might look like in a local congregation context.

About Eddie Arthur
Eddie Arthur is the Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Previously he has worked as part of the translation team for the Kouya NewTestament in Ivory Coast and as the National Director for a Wycliffe partner organization in Ivory Coast and Mali. You can read more of Eddie’s thoughts on Bible translation and life on his website, or follow him on Twitter @kouya

The evening is free, but prebooking is required.

To book
Please complete the online form or call 01452 308 097.

Please see our directions page for details on how to find us.


Suffice it to say that it should be an excellent evening! Eddie is a clear and deep thinker, a great communicator, and someone with a wealth of experience in the thinking and practice of Bible and mission.

More reflections to follow in the run up to the event…

Encounters mission journal issue on The Psalms and Mission

The latest edition of Redcliffe’s free, online journal, ‘Encounters’, is on the theme of The Psalms and Mission. It was edited by myself and features a range of articles on the relationship between the Psalter and mission.

Here’s my introduction and the contents:

12 May 2010 saw the public launch of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission, a new Redcliffe College initiative aiming to 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.

In my editorial I outline the activities of the Centre in more detail, one of which is to produce an annual issue of Encounters on a Bible and mission theme. This current edition focuses on The Psalms and Mission. The launch event also included Redcliffe’s 2010 Annual Lecture in Bible and Mission, delivered by Prof. Gordon Wenham on the theme of ‘The Nations in the Psalms’. The lecture is provided in full along with responses from myself, Eddie Arthur (Wycliffe Bible Translators) and David Spriggs (Bible Society).

Brian Russell and Tony Hughes outline missional readings of particular psalms, and a Redcliffe student offers a fascinating vision for the use of psalms of lament in order to help prevent missionary attrition. Finally, with kind permission from the author and Paternoster Press, we have included Ian Stackhouse’s chapter on Praying the Psalms from his book, The Day is Yours: Slow Spirituality in a Fast-Moving World.

I trust you will enjoy this edition of Encounters. Please read, reflect and join in the conversation.


Tim Davy teaches Biblical Studies and is Director of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission at Redcliffe College. He writes the Bible and Mission blog and also edited issues 17 and 29 of Encounters on the themes of Mission and the Old Testament and The Bible and Mission.


Editorial:  The Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission. (Tim Davy, 761 words)

Article 1:  The Nations in the Psalms. (Prof Gordon Wenham, 5513 words

Article 2:  The Nations in the Psalms and the Psalms in the Nations – a response. (Tim Davy, 912 words)

Article 3:  Psalms 1-2 as an Introduction to Reading the Psalms Missionally. (Dr Brian Russell, 2083 words)

Article 4:  Reflections on the Nations in the Psalms. (Eddie Arthur, 485 words)

Article 5:  The Nations in Isaiah 40-55. (Rev Dr David Spriggs, 1218 words)

Article 6:  Missionary Attrition and the Psalms of Lament. (Name withheld, 1041 words)

Article 7:  A Missional Reading of Psalm 47. (Tony Hughes, 1664 words)

Article 8:  Praying the Psalms. (Rev Dr Ian Stackhouse, 2598 words)

Book Review 1:  Transformation after Lausanne: Radical Evangelical Mission in Global-local Perspective. (by Al Tizon; Regnum Books)

Book Review 2:  Understanding and Using the Bible. (edited by Christopher J.H. Wright and Jonathan Lamb; SPCK)

The url for the issue is

Calling all Bible and mission bloggers!

How many people out there are blogging on the Bible and mission? According to WordPress, they provide space for 290,188 bloggers and just today there has been the following activity on

258,217 new posts
60,395,829 words

A while ago I wrote about two of my favourite Bible and mission blogs, Brian Russell’s realmealministries and Eddie Arthur’s kouya chronicle. But how many others are there writing consistently on the dynamic interplay between the Bible and mission?

A further question: how might we define a blog as being ‘about Bible and mission’? Does it have to be exclusively looking at Bible and mission or should it just make regular contributions on the subject?

So what do you think? Drop me a line with any suggestions for Bible and mission blogs. Let’s broaden the conversation…

Encounters Mission Journal on the Bible and Mission

Encounters issue 29 - The Bible and MissionThe Encounters Mission Journal issue based on Chris Wright’s Redcliffe lecture on The Bible and Mission (and specifically, his missional reading of Jeremiah) is finally here! It’s been a lot of work to put together in a short space of time, but all concerned have done a great job. As well as the transcript of the lecture and a link to a downloadable audio file, it features eight response articles from a wide range of people with a lot of interesting things to say.

Here is part of my editorial:

This issue of Encounters revolves around Dr Wright’s excellent lecture and explores the idea of a missional reading of the Bible, in theory and practice. As well as the lecture and question and answer session transcribed in full, the edition also includes a number of responses from a variety of contexts. It has been a truly global venture with contributions from Malaysia, India, Colombia, Asia, the US and the UK.

John Risbridger and Krish Kandiah consider missional hermeneutics in the setting of the UK Church. David Spriggs writes on the relationship between the Bible and missional engagement in the ‘public square’. Eddie Arthur reflects on what a ‘missional hermeneutic has to say to those who translate and desseminate the Scriptures’. Brian Russell and Milton Acosta discuss missional hermeneutics as a method of reading the Bible. Finally, Anthony Loke and Rabbi and Chitra Jayakaran share what a missional hermeneutic might mean for their own contexts of Malaysia and India, respectively.

And these are the articles:

Lecture:  “Prophet to the Nations”: Missional Reflections on the Book of Jeremiah.
(Revd Dr Chris Wright)

Q and A:  Lecture question and answer session.

Response 1:  A UK pastor’s perspective.
(John Risbridger)

Response 2:  A missional hermeneutic and Scripture engagement.
(Eddie Arthur)

Response 3:  Jeremiah and mission in the public square.
(Revd Dr David Spriggs)

Response 4:  What does mission in exile really look like?
(Dr Krish Kandiah)

Response 5:  Breaking open the text.
(Dr Brian Russell)

Response 6:  Missional hermeneutics: some opportunities and questions.
(Dr Milton Acosta)

Response 7:  Missional hermeneutics in a Malaysian context.
(Revd Anthony Loke)

Response 8:  Missional hermeneutics in an Indian context.
(Rabbi and Chitra Jayakaran)

Over the coming weeks I’ll be reflecting on some of the points made in the issue. To read the articles or listen to the lecture, follow this link:

Go to The Bible and Mission – Issue 29 of Encounters Mission Journal

Bible and Mission talks at Mission-Net

mission-net: congress 2009Mission-Net, the pan-European mission youth congress, takes place next week in Oldenberg, Germany.

One of the seminar streams is entitled, ‘Is Mission Really in the Bible?’. I will be giving two talks on mission and the Old Testament (‘Do you understand the Old Testament? A journey into God’s missionary heart’) on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12, both at 1.45pm to 3pm.

Other speakers on this seminar track include:

  • Eddie Arthur (Wycliffe UK) – ‘A missionary God for a missionary people’
  • Dr Matthias Radloff (Institut Biblique et Missionnaire Emmaüs) ‘For heaven’s sake: An interview with Moses Abraham, and a few other guests’ and ‘Highway to Heaven – from nowhere to somewhere’
  • Dr. Detlef Blöcher (Deutsche Missionsgemeinschaft) – ‘Putting feet on your faith! Integral mission and the Micah-Initiative’
  • Dr. Volker Rabens (Theologisches Seminar Adelshofen) – ‘Missional life in the power of the Holy Spirit: How the Spirit  transforms and empowers us’
  • Dr. Peter Kuzmic (Evangelical Theological Seminary, Osijek, Croatia) – ‘The Holy Spirit: He will change you, if you let him!’
  • Lauro Castelli (WEC International) – ‘It’s war!! Spiritual warfare and missions’

I’ll also be on the Redcliffe College stand in the exhibition area. If you will be at Mission-Net, do come and say hello!