Come and study Bible and Mission with us at Redcliffe College

Redcliffe's MA in Bible and Mission enables students to explore mission in the Bible and the Bible in mission thinking and practice.

So today I thought I’d go for some subliminal advertising 😉

Joking aside, we love our MA in Bible and Mission because it gives students an opportunity to dig deep roots into the missional nature of the Bible, reflecting on mission in the Bible and the Bible in mission. Compulsory modules include: Method and content in missiological study; Reading the Bible missionally; and Bible engagement in intercultural contexts. You then get to choose an optional module from some of Redcliffe’s other MA programmes, which may concentrate on a particular context or theme in mission. These might include: The mission of the Church in the context of post-colonialism and globalisation; Crucial issues in Asian mission and theology; Crucial Issues in European mission and theology; An introduction to global leadership; Theology of religions; Just mission – justice issues in intercultural contexts.

Students come for a variety of reasons and from a variety of backgrounds. It’s a privilege to lead and teach on the course. Not only do I get to share my passion and learning from my PhD research on missional hermeneutics, but I also get to work with some very talented colleagues who teach on the programme, both from within the faculty at Redcliffe, but also from partner organisations such as Wycliffe Bible Translators and Bible Society. Each student brings something unique to the group and whether they go on to mission training, Bible teaching, organisational roles, local church work, student ministry, etc, etc, it’s a genuine privilege to see how they take and apply what they have been learning.

If you are interested to know more, why not visit the MA in Bible and Mission page on Redcliffe’s website or drop me a line at

In living by God we live for humanity

A Light to the Nations - Martin-AchardOne of the options available to final year students on Redcliffe’s applied theology degree is a module called ‘Missional Texts: Isaiah’. As well as getting into contemporary scholarship on the book I encourage them to consider how ‘Bible and Mission’ scholars have engaged with Isaiah over the years.

Here’s an interesting quote from Robert Martin-Achard’s 1962 book, A Light to the Nations (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd):

‘In preaching consolation to his brethren, Deutero-Isaiah is also declaring that their triumphant return testifies to the incomparable greatness of Yahweh. The miracle by which Israel lives extols its God’s greatness before the whole universe. The ultimate destiny of the world depends on the existence of Israel in the midst of the nations; in living by Yahweh the Chosen People lives for mankind. Such is the missionary outlook that emerges from the oracles of Deutero-Isaiah.‘ (his italics)

What struck me about this quote was the phrase, ‘in living by Yahweh the Chosen People lives for mankind‘. The issue of continuity and discontinuity between OT, NT and now is complex. But I think here we get a glimpse of the connection between the identity of God’s people in relation to the purpose of God’s people. We find our life in God so that we might serve the world by inviting them (implicitly or explicitly) to share in that life.

What do you think?

John Piper and Walter Brueggemann on the Psalms

This morning I showed a couple of clips on the Psalms to the Missional Introduction to the Old Testament class here at Redcliffe. John Piper and Walter Brueggemann would disagree about a lot of things but, each in their own way, they both highlight in these clips the compelling and necessary richness of the Psalter for our own experience of life together with God in a world of pain.

Reading the Bible missionally – getting into the authors – part 2

I recently posted about the module, ‘Reading the Bible Missionally’ on Redcliffe’s MA in Bible and Mission programme and how we are seeking to complement our reading of Chris Wright’s The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative by engaging with six other key authors on missional hermeneutics. I then gave links for three of them: Michael Goheen, Richard Bauckham and Dan Beeby to give a flavour of their writing (you can read that blog post here: Reading the Bible missionally – getting into the authors – part 1).

The other three writers we have been dealing with are Michael Barram, James Brownson and Darrell Guder. Here are some samples of their work:

Barram, M. ‘‘Located’ Questions for a Missional Hermeneutic‘, unpublished paper on GOCN website.

Brownson, J.V. Speaking the Truth in Love: New Testament Resources for a Missional Hermeneutic (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1998).

Guder, D. ‘Missional Hermeneutics: The Missional Authority of Scripture‘, Mission Focus, Annual Review, 15 (2007), 106-121.

You can find more links to writing on missional hermeneutics and more general studies on the Bible and mission in our Bible and Mission books and articles page.

Reading the Bible missionally – getting into the authors – part 1

The ‘Reading the Bible Missionally’ module on Redcliffe’s MA in Bible and Mission is now in full swing. Having surveyed the development of the approach, we have discussed George Hunsberger’s article , ’Proposals for a Missional Hermeneutic: Mapping a Conversation‘. We then spent last week getting to grips with Chris Wright’s methodology, as laid out in part one of his The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. In later sessions we will follow the structure of Wright’s book as we unpack what a missional reading of the Bible will look like. However, it will be important for us to be drawing our discussions from a wider context and so this week and next students are coming prepared to present on and chew over the work of six other writers in the field of missional hermeneutics.

This week will be the turn of Michael Goheen, Richard Bauckham and Dan Beeby. As a sampler of what we are reading here is a link for each of them of articles or previews freely available on the web:

Goheen, M.W. ‘Continuing Steps Towards a Missional Hermeneutic’, Fideles, Volume 3 (2008), pp.49-99.

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

Beeby, H.D. Canon and Mission (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1999).

The Bible, justice, advocacy and reconciliation

jusTice initiative at Redcliffe CollegeOne of the many exciting things going on at Redcliffe is the new jusTice initiative.

Part of the initiative is the development of a new MA in Justice, Advocacy and Reconciliation in Intercultural Contexts.

Some info about the course is available below. First, though, here is what Joel Edwards says about it:

Justice is still the ugly sister in theological education. This is an awful tragedy because it remains one of the most pervasive ideas and convictions in the Bible. Our reluctance to go beyond acts of kindness to explore and respond to systemic injustices has a great deal to do with a distinct lack of theological reflection. This new MA, and the jusTice Initiative is attempting to put that right and deserves our support. A more robust biblical reflection on this critical issue will produce a generation of men and women who are truly able to show the whole council of God, make a substantial difference to our biblical advocacy and in turn, make a material difference to the 1.4 billion people who still live in abject poverty. (Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge)

Justice, advocacy and reconciliation are key biblical themes which frame our Christian witness and contribute to creating a world where people and the environment can flourish and become all that God wants them to be.

In an increasingly complex and globalised world, there is a critical need for us to identify and understand how the structures of society can facilitate or obstruct the flow of justice and how the Church can act in ways which promote justice, advocacy and reconciliation.

Redcliffe’s exciting new MA in Justice, Advocacy and Reconciliation in Intercultural Contexts seeks to equip the rapidly-growing number of people involved in justice and mission-related activity. Students will explore Biblical frameworks, mission thinking and practice and explore a number of key issues in areas of socio-political, economic and environmental (in)justice.

The course is being developed in consultation with Christian Aid, International Justice Mission, Micah Challenge, CARE and Coventry Cathedral’s Reconciliation ministry, along with others who will be involved in the ongoing development and delivery of the course. It is subject to validation by the University of Gloucestershire and the planned start date is September 2012

Who is the course for?

  • Mission agencies who require their members to develop biblical, theological and missiological frameworks in preparation for justice, advocacy or reconciliation-related work
  • Partner agencies with members who wish to develop theological and missiological perspectives to undergird their justice-related expertise
  • Those already engaged in mission who want to reflect biblically and missiologically on their role and activity
  • Members of para-church agencies and non-governmental organisations working in related areas who wish to develop biblical and theological frameworks for reflective critique
  • Missionaries on home leave, looking to reflect and engage with such issues, relevant to their mission context
  • Church leaders and the wider Christian community engaged in justice-related ministry and who wish to add a theological/missiological framework

Course structure
Subject to validation, students complete three compulsory modules* and choose one further module from the options below.

  • Method and content in missiological study*
  • Just Mission – justice issues in intercultural contexts*
  • Advocacy, Reconciliation and Peace-building in intercultural contexts*
  • The mission of the Church in the context of post-colonialism and globalisation
  • Theology of religions
  • The Greening of mission
  • Crucial issues in Asian mission and theology
  • Crucial Issues in European mission and theology
  • An introduction to global leadership
  • Independent study module

The MA is available in full-time, part-time and flexible learning modes. 

2012 lecture in Bible and Mission – Steve Walton on the book of Acts as the mission of God

Each year we host an Annual Lecture in Bible and Mission at Redcliffe. Following previous lectures by Chris Wright, Gordon Wenham and Eddie Arthur, Prof Steve Walton from LST will be speaking on Tuesday 15 May on ‘The Book of Acts as the Mission of God’.

Here are some further details taken from the main Redcliffe website:

The Acts of the Apostles as the Mission of God

Tuesday 15 May 2012  7.30pm-9.30pm

Delivered by Prof Steve Walton, Professor of New Testament at London School of Theology

Steve WaltonAction plans for mission are widely used today: but are they right? Who really drives mission? In the Acts of the Apostles, the church is frequently slow to recognise and get on board with what God is doing. Mission among the Gentiles happens slowly and is a result of God’s initiative, not the church’s plans – and this reflects the wider point that it is God who drives the story of Acts forward, not the believing community. This challenges some modern emphases on the role of the church in mission.In this lecture, Steve Walton will explore the work of God in Acts, and reflect on this key feature of Acts in the light of the emphasis on missio Dei (the ‘mission of God’) in contemporary missiological thinking.
Prof. Walton has taught at LST since 1999 and has a special interest in Luke-Acts, Paul and New Testament Greek. Among other publications, he is the co-author of a popular textbook on the Gospels and Acts (in SPCK’s Exploring the New Testamentseries) and is currently working on the Acts volume in the Word Biblical Commentary series.  He is a retired international volleyball referee and now works in training and developing other referees, which takes him around the world from time to time.
The Lecture is free but pre-booking is required. Please visit Redcliffe’s website for more details on the 2012 lecture in Bible and Mission
For more details on previous annual lectures, visit the Public Lecture page.

The Lord is my Blackberry – contextualising metaphors in the Psalms

As part of our Psalms course at Redcliffe we were looking at Psalms of trust and lament today. One of the preparation tasks was to rewrite Psalm 23 using contemporary imagery. This is a really hard thing to do as metaphors are so vibrant, complex and loaded. What would be a contemporary way of expressing all that the psalmist wanted to convey when he said, ‘The Lord is my shepherd’? In a pure sense it can’t be done; no other term will employ the same language organism of emphasis, downplaying, and evocation.

Still, at least if we try we might dig deeper into what the psalmist was trying to get across. Metaphors get to the guts of the matter in a way that connects with the hearer-in-the-know in a way that ‘mere’ description cannot do (and by the way, try to describe something without using any metaphors – it’s harder than you would think!).

Here is what 2nd year degree student Emma-Louise brought this morning (she kindly gave me permission to use it here):

The Lord is my Blackberry, I lack nothing,
He makes me listen to easy listening music,
He helps me communicate with family,
and read my daily Bible…

Metaphors arrest us and sometimes shock us. They place alongside each other things that normally have no business being seen together. After the initial surprise, they force us to resolve the tension that has been lodged in our minds: ‘how can A be like B’? They open us up to imagine old, precious truths in fresh ways.

Is this a new metaphor for the digital generation? What do you think?

Making a Biblical Studies programme missional, part 3

This is the third in a series of posts exploring the Biblical Studies side of the new curriculum at Redcliffe College. Specifically, I’m aiming to inform and excite you about the way we are trying to make our teaching of Biblical Studies a thoroughly missional activity. Check out part 1 and part 2 of the series for an overview and introduction.

Having established a missional approach to the Bible and a foundational survey of the books of the Old and New Testaments in the first year, we then focus on some key texts in year two. By this stage we want students to be deepening their understanding of the content, interpretation and application of biblical texts.

As well as a biblical language, students have the option to take the following modules:

Missional texts: Psalms and Genesis 1-11

The module aims to enable students to analyse important aspects of these two key Old Testament texts and consider how they relate to the thinking and practice of the church’s involvement in the mission of God.

This module covers:

  1. The function of the book of Psalms and Genesis 1-11 as part of a missional reading of the Bible;
  2. Key issues in understanding and interpreting Psalms and Genesis 1-11, including historical and cultural contexts, genre, structure, literary features and theological themes;
  3. Case-studies in exegeting Psalms and passages from Genesis 1-11;
  4. The contemporary application of Psalms and Genesis 1-11, especially in relation to the thinking and practice of mission.
For me, it is so important that students leave Redcliffe equipped with the Psalms. More than any other part of Scripture, the Psalms articulate life and give us a liturgy for all the experiences we may go through. We encourage the students to pray through the Psalms – a habit I hope they will adopt, enjoy and be shaped by. There are also some important and intriguing missiological questions in the Psalms, not least the role of the nations and the great eschatological visions of nations gladly worshipping the LORD.
Genesis 1-11 has often been treated as the background to God’s mission. In this module we explore the content of the text in depth and try to see how it can function missionally.

Missional Texts: Luke and Acts

The module aims to enable students to analyse important aspects of Luke’s contribution to the New Testament and consider how it relates to the thinking and practice of the church’s involvement in the mission of God.

This module covers:

1. The function of Luke-Acts as part of a missional reading of the Bible;

2. Key issues in understanding and interpreting Luke-Acts, including historical and cultural contexts, genre, structure, literary features and theological themes;

3. Case-studies in exegeting passages from Luke-Acts;

4. The contemporary application of Luke-Acts, especially in relation to the thinking and practice of mission.
The language of the descriptor is clearly very similar to the Psalms and Genesis 1-11 module. Luke and Acts was an obvious choice in that it spans at least two different genre, and is often referred to in the literature on mission.
Finally, in addition to these book-specific modules, we offer a hermeneutics module:
Interpreting the Bible in Intercultural Contexts

The module aims to enable students to analyse important aspects of historical and contemporary interpretation of the Bible, and consider biblical hermeneutics in relation to a variety of Western and non-Western cultural contexts.

This module covers:

1. Key periods and events in the history of Biblical interpretation (e.g. Jewish, early Christian, and Medieval exegesis; the hermeneutical impact of the Reformation and of the Enlightenment;

2. Major topics in contemporary hermeneutics (e.g. literary approaches and  the role of the reader;

3. Biblical interpretation in different cultural contexts (e.g. Latin American, Asian and African);

This is an opportunity for students to look at the bigger picture of biblical interpretation, but also explore issues of intercultural reading and contextualisation.

So, by the end of the second of their three-year bachelor’s degree in Applied Theology in Intercultural Contexts, students are delving deeply into some crucial biblical texts and becoming more sensitive and globally aware interpreters. Stay tuned for the final year…

The Bible and European mission

Redcliffe has just hosted the annual European Consultation, organised jointly by ourselves, Global Connections and ECM.

This year the focus of the 24-hour event was on three trends in Europe, which were covered in three sessions yesterday: Islam, Migration, and Urbanisation. This morning then comprised of three responses: one from a church perspective, one from a mission agency perspective, and finally, a biblical reflection, which I was asked to do.

I won’t replicate the talk here just yet as it will be available soon on the Global Connections website as an audio file.

My brief was to reflect biblically on the conversations that had gone on throughout the event. I chose three parts of the Bible to do this. To whet your appetite, here is the basic structure. I’ll post again when all the talks are available.

2012 European Consultation

Biblical Reflections on Encountering the Other

Whether it has been in the context of talking about Islam, Migration or Urbanisation, a recurring theme over the course of this consultation has been an exploration of encountering those unlike ourselves. In the case of those of other faiths or none, how do we engage with them, love them, and reach them with the good news of Jesus? In the case of those who already share our faith, how do we join together with them in fruitful ways?


A migrant’s story (2 Kings 5)

Here is someone who has migrated but not of her will. We can only imagine the trauma of her situation. Yet still she seeks shalom for her captor; she still trusted in the power of Yahweh, as well as his ability and willingness to heal this pagan enemy.

I think the story here in 2 Kings 5 can move us to remember that God’s people are often the disempowered in every worldy sense, yet even here (especially here?) God can and does do some extraordinary things to further his purposes.


Applying Wisdom to a European context (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes)

One rather neglected part of the Bible when it comes to mission thinking and practice is the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament: Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes.

In his book, The Mission of God Chris Wright addresses the WL in several ways which I would like to draw on here:

1. Wisdom as ‘international bridge’.

Israel’s WL is part of an international body of WL, the type of which was common across the ANE. Israel was aware of this and was often complimentary of the wisdom of other nations. So, lots of contact between Israel’s wisdom thinkers and those of other cultures.

Wright, p.443: ‘The Wisdom literature is undoubtedly the most overtly international of all materials in the Bible’

This is seen in 2 ways: deals with issues common elsewhere; 2. but Israel did not absorb the nations’ wisdom uncritically

Wright: ‘some missiologists and cross-cultural practitioners suggest that the Wisdom literature provides one of the best bridges for biblical faith to establish meaningful contact and engagement with widely different human cultures around the world.’

‘Israel had no monopoly on all things wise and good and true. Neither, of course, have Christians. Nothing is to be gained from denying, and much missional benefit accrues from affirming, those aspects of any human cultural tradition that are compatible with biblical truth and moral standards.’

‘Missional engagement then may well build a bridge with other cultures through the common international quality of biblical Wisdom, but the bridge in itself is not salvific. Eventually, something must cross the bridge. And that can only be the message of the biblical gospel, of the identity of YHWH and the fill biblical story of his redemption of the world through Jesus Christ.’

2. Wisdom often uses a ‘struggling voice’, which acknowledges uncertainty and promotes honesty.

‘not a safe intramural exercise for Israel. They are issues with which Israel struggles or the sake of the world.’ (Brueggemann, quoted in Wright)


From, ‘I embrace you’ to, ‘I need you’ (Rev. 7)

The heart language you speak will reflect and shape the way you see the world around you, in a way that only that language can do. So, there will be ways of understanding and praising God through Swahili that English just can’t do. And vice versa. There are aspects of God that a French or Hungarian speaker might more readily or fully understand that wouldn’t come so easily to an Albanian. And so it goes on.

‘Christianity seems unique in being the only world religion that is transmitted without the language or originating culture of its founder.’ Lamin Sanneh

That is to say, the Christian faith cannot be contained within one language or culture. It is too big, too wonderful and too gloriously complex to be fully contained and expressed through one language or one cultural expression.

This is not just an issue of how benevolent, accommodating or curious a host culture church should be in relation to the migrant individuals, communities or churches. The very nature of the Gospel, of the incarnation, and of passages like Rev. 7 teach us that we need each other to more fully understand and express our worship to God.