Mission and the Image of God

In the latest issue of Encounters Mission Journal (December 2010 on the theme, Justice and Mission) I reviewed Andy Matheson’s recent book In His Image: Understanding and Embracing the Poor (Authentic Media).

I was reading it while Redcliffe’s MA in Bible and Mission students were taking a class in missional hermeneutics called, ‘Reading the Bible Missionally’. We agreed with Matheson when he suggests that we often neglect the first two chapters of the Bible when formulating ideas about humanity in relation to the mission of God. His book makes a timely and important contribution to the discussion.

Here’s the review:

In His Image is a popular level book written by the International Director of Oasis. Drawing particularly, though not exclusively on his extensive experience in India, Andy Matheson challenges the reader with the importance, complexity and possibilities of standing alongside the poor as a way of participating in the mission of God.

His particular angle, as the title suggests, is to view the issue of poverty (in its many guises) through the lens of all people being made in the image of God. This gives the book a welcome coherence which sets his discussion helpfully within a robust framework.

Following two introductory chapters on the meaning of the image of God and an analysis of the various dimensions of poverty, Matheson then works through a series of relatively short chapters that unpack and illustrate his discussion:
Community; Wholeness; Change; Empowerment; Compassion; Justice; Prayer; Receiving; Celebration; Prevention; and Perspective.

I appreciated the use of the image of God as a starting point, not least because it puts Genesis 1-2 more on the agenda than has often been the case. While he does not compromise on the reality of humanity’s rebellion and sin, Matheson is keen for the reader not to rush past the opening chapters of the Bible, ‘after all, Genesis 1 came before Genesis 3. People are made in the image of God before sin comes into the world. In fact, the fall in Genesis 3 is so horrendous because our creation in God’s image in Genesis 1 is so wonderful.’ (p3)

I found the book’s anecdotal material profoundly challenging, not just because of the heartbreaking stories of broken lives and desperate poverty, but also because of the way Matheson combines honesty about his own failings with a resilient hope that God is at work in the midst of seemingly overwhelming need.

Although his focus is his own experience in India he also draws helpfully on stories from elsewhere, most notably from the work of Oasis in the London area.

A number of key, up-to-date issues are dealt with well, including the difference between development and transformation, the relationship between the local/personal and the global, the need for prevention rather than just dealing with the aftermath of abuse (e.g., with people trafficking), and the importance of genuine partnership.

The book is clearly not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject of poverty, but it certainly makes a significant contribution to the discussion. More than merely discussing these matters, In His Image spurs the reader towards more informed action. A very good and readable book, on an ever-pressing issue.

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 http://www.redcliffe.org/psalmsandmission

Journal of Bible and Mission

Is it time for a journal specifically dedicated to Bible and mission? So far I’ve edited individual editions of Redcliffe’s Encounters journal on the theme of Bible and Mission:

Mission and the Old Testament – April 2007

The Bible and Mission – June 2009

The Psalms and Mission – June 2010 (due out early next month)

But is this enough for such a vast and growing area of scholarly and practical interest? There are many biblical studies journals and numerous periodicals addressing mission thinking and praxis. But, as far as I am aware, there is nothing that offers a regular, sustained treatment of mission in the Bible and the Bible in mission.

What would you want to see a ‘Journal of Bible and Mission’ do?

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

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

Encounters 26 on issues and trends in mission

Issue 26 of Encounters, the bi-monthly topical mission journal for which I serve as reviews editor, is now out. In celebration of reaching 25 issues Encounters canvassed a number of ‘mission people’ to ask how they would reflect on the journal so far and what issues had been missed or need addressing. It is an excellent analysis of current trends and issues in mission and includes contributors such as Jonathan Ingleby, Ida Glaser, Martine Lee, Jonathan Rowe, Rose Dowsett and Paul Thaxter.

In Jonathan’s editorial he mentions that two contributors note the importance of “Re-appropriating the Bible for mission”. In her contribution Ida Glaser suggests that,

Biblical interpretation is going to be increasingly important. My hobby horse is reading the Bible faithfully in the context of other faiths and of Islam in particular. There are also interesting questions about not only developing local interpretations but also teaching the Bible in different contexts…

And, of course, those different contexts raise the issue of how non-Christians read and respond to the Bible. So often we think of mission in terms of what Christians do – the Islamic context alerts us (or should do) to the importance of understanding what non-Christians are likely to be thinking about Christianity, about Christ and about the Bible before we ever meet them.

While Jonathan Rowe asks, “What about biblical issues from the NT as well as the OT? Or the influence of particular biblical books or theological themes (creation, resurrection) on our understanding of mission?”

Some interesting comments. Rowe’s point about the OT refers to the issue I edited in April 07 on Mission and the Old Testament. He is right, of course, that there are numerous possibilities for developing the theme. Watch this space…

Do check out Encounters Mission Ezine. It’s free and full of excellent stuff. Check out the Encounters tab above for a listing of all the issues or go direct to Encounters Mission Ezine.