The Bible and Lausanne’s Cape Town Commitment – part two

The excellent Scripture Engagement website highlighted another part of the Cape Town Commitment related to Bible and Mission.

The following is a section within PART II For the world we serve: The Cape Town Call to Action,  IV. Discerning the will of Christ for world evangelization

C)    Aim to eradicate Bible poverty in the world, for the Bible remains indispensable for evangelism. To do this we must:
(1)   Hasten the translation of the Bible into the languages of peoples who do not yet have any portion of God’s Word in their mother tongue;
(2)   Make the message of the Bible widely available by oral means. (See also Oral cultures below.)

I’ve posted before on the essential task of the continuing task set before the church of Bible Translation. Living in the West it is too easy to take this for granted. We need our conviction and passion for God’s Word, God’s world and God’s people to spur us on to action. This is an issue of justice as much as anything else. I don’t say this lightly.

D)    Aim to eradicate Bible ignorance in the Church, for the Bible remains indispensable for discipling believers into the likeness of Christ.
(1)   We long to see a fresh conviction, gripping all God’s Church, of the central necessity of Bible teaching for the Church’s growth in ministry, unity and maturity…
(2)   We must promote Bible literacy among the generation that now relates primarily to digital communication rather than books, by encouraging digital methods of studying the scriptures inductively with the depth of inquiry that at present requires paper, pens and pencils.
E)    Let us keep evangelism at the centre of the fully-integrated scope of all our mission, inasmuch as the gospel itself is the source, content and authority of all biblically-valid mission. All we do should be both an embodiment and a declaration of the love and grace of God and his saving work through Jesus Christ.

It is not enough to own a Bible (or several) in our heart language. We must know it and engage with it. We must help others do the same. On the issue of technology, how can we engage people with the Bible who ‘don’t do books’? What is interesting to me is the relationship between the ultra-technological generation, many of whom have moved beyond books (or have never engaged with them), and the vast numbers around the world for whom books are not the primary form of communication…

2. Oral cultures
The majority of the world’s population are oral communicators, who cannot or do not learn through literate means, and more than half of them are among the unreached as defined above. Among these, there are an estimated 350 million people without a single verse of Scripture in their language. In addition to the ‘primary oral learners’ there are many ‘secondary oral learners’, that is those who are technically literate but prefer now to communicate in an oral manner, with the rise of visual learning and the dominance of images in communication.
As we recognize and take action on issues of orality, let us:
A)    Make greater use of oral methodologies in discipling programmes, even among literate believers.
B)    Make available an oral format Story Bible in the heart languages of unreached and unengaged people groups as a matter of priority.
C)    Encourage mission agencies to develop oral strategies, including: the recording and distribution of oral Bible stories for evangelism, discipling and leadership training, along with appropriate orality training for pioneer evangelists and church-planters; these could use fruitful oral and visual communication methods for communicating the whole biblical story of salvation, including storytelling, dances, arts, poetry, chants and dramas.
D)    Encourage local churches in the Global South to engage with unreached people groups in their area through oral methods that are specific to their worldview.
E)    Encourage seminaries to provide curricula that will train pastors and missionaries in oral methodologies.

Dealing with the question of orality is one of the major challenges for Bible Engagement in the coming generations. (indeed, it is fair to say it always has been?). So, as the statement asks of us in the final point, what are we doing here at Redcliffe to address the issue. I’ll highlight three things:

1. In our second year Psalms course one of the assignments is to produce a creative piece that comes out of a deep reflection on a psalm. Students have done this in an amazing variety of ways – painting, drawing, sculpting, welding, video, song, sewing, blogging.

2. An new third year module we are looking to deliver (subject to validation) in the next academic year is called Story, Song and Social Networks: Bible Engagement and Oral Culture. It aims to equip students with an understanding of the thinking and practice of communicating the Bible to individuals and communities of oral learners in a variety of cultural contexts. This might be an ‘unreached’ people group who use song as the primary means of communication, or sections of UK culture whose preferred mode of communication is through web 2.0.

3. As well as a module on missional hermeneutics, our MA in Bible and Mission has a module on Bible Engagement in Intercultural Contexts delivered by some fantastic thinker-practitioners from agencies like Wycliffe Bible Translators and Bible Society.

There is more we could do and more we should do, but that is the challenge before us all.

The Bible and Lausanne’s Cape Town Commitment – part one

The recently published Cape Town Commitment is a document to come out of Lausanne, following the working groups and convention in South Africa in the Autumn 2010. It is subtitled ‘A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action’. You can read the whole thing here: The Cape Town Commitment.

There’s a tremendous amount to reflect upon within this large document. So I’ll just look at one section today.

We Love God’s Word

This section of the commitment highlights four aspects of the Bible: The Person the Bible reveals; The story the Bible tells; The truth the Bible teaches; The life the Bible requires. The second is put this way:

The story the Bible tells. The Bible tells the universal story of creation, fall, redemption in history, and new creation. This overarching narrative provides our coherent biblical worldview and shapes our theology. At the centre of this story are the climactic saving events of the cross and resurrection of Christ which constitute the heart of the gospel. It is this story (in the Old and New Testaments) that tells us who we are, what we are here for, and where we are going. This story of God’s mission defines our identity, drives our mission, and assures us the ending is in God’s hands. This story must shape the memory and hope of God’s people and govern the content of their evangelistic witness, as it is passed on from generation to generation. We must make the Bible known by all means possible, for its message is for all people on earth. We recommit ourselves, therefore, to the ongoing task of translating, disseminating and teaching the scriptures in every culture and language, including those that are predominantly oral or non-literary.

This is a very helpful overview of the missional nature of the big story of the Bible, as well as the worldview-shaping nature of the Scriptures. It also touches on the Bible as a tool of mission in the final paragraph. Could it have talked about mission in a broader sense (cf. the ‘integral mission’ or ‘mission as transformation’ discussion the document addresses elsewhere)? Nevertheless, it is excellent to see such an overarching view of the Bible as thoroughly missional.

Evangelical Review of Theology issue on The Whole World

The July 2010 issue of the Evangelical Review of Theology (Vol 34, No 3) contains a number of articles relating to the Bible and mission.

It is given over to papers and case studies to come out of the third consultation of the Lausanne Theology Working Group, chaired by Chris Wright. Here’s the contents of the issue:

Editoral – Christopher J.H. Wright

The Whole World: Statement of the Lausanne Theology Working Group, Beirut 2010 – Christopher J.H. Wright

The World in the Bible – Christopher J.H. Wright

Towards a Missiology of Caring for Creation – Peter Harris

The Global Public Square – Vinoth Ramachandra

Can Christians Belong to More than One Religious Tradition?

Case Studies:

Peacemaking amidst urban violence in Brazil – C. Rosalee Velloso Ewell (Brazil)

The gospel amidst ethnic violence in Berundi – Emmanuel Ndikumana (Berundi)

The world threat of nuclear weapons, and the church’s role – Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (USA)

eVangelism: The gospel and the world of the internet – Rob Haskell (USA)

The separation of beliefs and religion in Europe – Birger Nygaard (Denmark)