Elephants in the Bible and Mission room

Just a brief thought. The Bible is a very big book with lots to say about mission. It is easy to focus on the ‘obvious’  passages and play down or ignore other texts that seem to be either challenging or irrelevant to the mission of God.

The contention of those who employ a missional hermeneutic is that, by definition, any text of the Bible could be read from the perspective of God’s mission. This sounds good but we then have to acknowledge the elephants in the room. How do we read geneaolgies ‘missionally’? How do we read texts like the destruction of the Canaanites ‘missionally’? How do we read Song of Songs ‘missionally’.

I am not saying these things can’t be done. My point is to ask, ‘When will we get round to the more tricky texts?’

What would you say are the five texts of the Bible that present the most problems for a missional reading?

GOCN forum on missional hermeneutics

If you are at the meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature or the American Academy of Religion later this month in San Francisco, check out the GOCN forum on missional hermeneutics. This forum has been critical for the development and dissemination of thinking in the whole area of reading the Bible through the lens of mission (see, for example, the 2009 issue of their enewsletter on missional hermeneutics).

Here is the info on the meetings from the GOCN website:

The annual GOCN forum on missional hermeneutics will be held in San Francisco at the annual meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion. We will host two sessions.

Session 1
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
11/19/2011–Golden Gate 6

Reading the Parables of Jesus Missionally

George Hunsberger, Western Theological Seminary, Presiding

Jason S. Sexton, University of St. Andrews
Reading the Parables Theologically to Read them Missionally: A Missional Reading of the Early Galilean Parables in Luke’s Gospel

Lois Barrett, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary
Reading Matthew 13 Missionally: Training for the Reign of God

Colin H. Yuckman, United Presbyterian Church of New Kensington
A Shadow of a Magnitude: Reading Luke’s ‘Parables of the Lost’ Missionally

Klyne Snodgrass, North Park University, Respondent
Session 2
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
11/20/2011– Golden Gate 8

Panel Discussion of Michael J. Gorman’s Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation (Cascade Books, 2011)

Michael Barram, Saint Mary’s College of California, Presiding

Darrell Guder, Princeton Theological Seminary, Panelist
John R. Franke, First Presbyterian Church, Allentown, PA, Panelist
James Brownson, Western Theological Seminary, Panelist
Sylvia Keesmaat, Trinity College – Toronto, Panelist

Michael Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Respondent

Missional hermeneutics reading part 1

Today we had the first two sessions of the Reading the Bible Missionally module on Redcliffe’s MA in Bible and Mission. The course itself takes its structure from Chris Wright’s The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. By the end of the course we have read the whole thing. But fantastic though Wright’s book is, it is also important for students to have a good grasp of other writers in the field.

So today we had an introduction to the development and legitimacy of a missional hermeneutic, alongside discussions of the methodologies of Chris Wright and Richard Bauckham.

To get a flavour of some of the literature have a look at this microsite’s Bible and Mission books and articles page. In the meantime, here is a selection of the things we’ve been looking at today:

Bauckham, R. ‘Mission as Hermeneutic for Scriptural Interpretation‘, Currents in World Christianity Position Paper, Number 106 (1999).

Bauckham, R. The Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2004).

Goheen, M.W.  ‘A Critical Examination of David Bosch’s Missional Reading of Luke’ in C.G. Bartholomew, J.B. Green and A.C. Thiselton (eds.), Reading Luke: Interpretation, Reflection, Formation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), pp.229-264.

Hunsberger, G. ‘Proposals for a Missional Hermeneutic: Mapping a Conversation‘, Gospel and Our Culture Newsletter eSeries, 2 (January 2009). Subsequently published as G. ‘Proposals for a Missional Hermeneutic: Mapping a Conversation’, Missiology, 39:3 (July 2011).

Wright, C.J.H. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2006).

Wright, C.J.H. Truth with a Mission: Reading All Scripture MissiologicallySouthern Baptist Journal of Theology, 15.2 (2011), pp.4-15.

Tomorrow we turn our attention to Dan Beeby, James Brownson, Michael Goheen and Darrell Guder.

Free access to reviews of Chris Wright’s The Mission of God

Chris Wright's The Mission of GodI’ve noticed in the last few days that we have had a lot of hits on a post a I wrote back in February giving links for reviews of Chris Wright’s 2006 work, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Grand Narrative of Scripture.

All the links given there are for freely available, online reviews of the book.

I am inferring from this recent trend that a lot of classes in Bible Colleges, seminaries and other training programmes are starting around now and they have Wright’s important book on the curriculum. This is great news!

While there is a growing body of literature on the missional interpretation (see our Bible and Mission resources section for details), Wright’s The Mission of God is still, I think, the most significant work on the subject and, as such, is essential reading. It is on the reading lists for undergrads and postgrads at Redcliffe and is a core text in the ‘Reading the Bible Missionally’ module on our MA in Bible and Mission programme (indeed we read it cover to cover, alongside other important works).

So, if you are reading The Mission of God in a class this year, whether here at Redcliffe or anywhere else in the world, may you be informed, inspired and changed as a result. May you be more encouraged and engaged in your participation in the mission of God.

P.S. I’d love to know what type of courses are using Wright’s book in different places. Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Free access to Richard Bauckham on Mission as Hermeneutic for Scriptural Interpretation

Noted New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham has written two important works on the Bible and Mission. The most developed is his 2003 book Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World, which I posted about last week: Mission by way of the least in Luke. But prior to this he wrote a short essay entitled ‘Mission as Hermeneutic for Scriptural Interpretation‘, which he has made available on his website, along with a number of other Accessible lectures and essays.

The 1999 essay was presented in Cambridge as a Currents in World Christianity Position Paper. There are some very interesting points, which he expands on in the later book. I ask my students on the Reading the Bible Missionally module of Redcliffe’s MA in Bible and Mission to read both. At some points he differs from people such as Chris Wright, though at others he compliments them well.

Here are a couple of quotes to give you a flavour:

The title that was suggested to me for this lecture could be read in at least two ways, which are certainly not mutually exclusive. One could take it to mean that the church’s practice of mission is a form of scriptural interpretation. The Bible is the sort of text that calls for interpretation not only by means of more text but also by the practice of what it preaches. Could anyone really understand what it means to love enemies without doing it, or at least seeing it done? That the church’s mission in and to the world is the practice of the biblical text in which the text is constantly being interpreted is important, and we shall return to it at the end of the lecture. But it depends, I think, on the other possible meaning of my title. In this case the title refers to a missionary hermeneutic of Scripture, in other words a way of reading the Bible for which mission is the hermeneutical key, much as, for example, liberation is the hermeneutical key for the way of reading the Bible that liberation theology advocates. A missionary hermeneutic of this kind would not be simply a study of the theme of mission in the biblical writings, but a way of reading the whole of Scripture with mission as its central interest and goal. Of course, such a missionary hermeneutic could and should only be one way of reading Scripture among others, since mission itself is not the comprehensive subject of the whole Bible. But a missionary hermeneutic would be a way of reading Scripture which sought to understand what the church’s mission really is in the world as Scripture depicts it and thereby to inspire and to inform the church’s missionary praxis. Such a hermeneutic that reads the Bible with a view to mission should properly be developed in reciprocal relationship with the practice of mission as itself a practice of interpreting Scripture…

The biblical particularity of God’s own narrative identity is non-negotiable. But the effect of its encounter with other narratives is not uniform or predictable since they each have their own particularity. This is where the element of contextualization in a missionary hermeneutic is required. It is also the point at which missionary praxis turns out to be itself a necessary part of a missionary hermeneutic.