could mission be the key to reading (and applying) the Bible?

I read Richard Bauckham’s new — and as-yet-unpublished — paper on ‘Mission as Hermeneutic for Scriptural Interpretation’ last night (h/t Mike W). I loved his treatment of the ‘theological geography’ of Christian mission in terms of:

  1. The centrifugal movement of individuals ‘sent out’ from the gathering of believers,
  2. The centripetal pull of a community that God is powerfully present in, and
  3. The exilic scattering/dispersion of churches such that our identity is detached from any one physical centre.

You can get hold of the whole thing HERE. But I want to share this brilliant quote:

[T]he church’s mission takes place between its commissioning by God and the coming of the kingdom of God. It lives from the God who gives and sends and towards the God who gives and comes. We can see how the world of possibilities the biblical narratives create for their readers is not simply a different way of seeing the world, though it is that, nor are the possibilities such as the church’s mission itself can achieve. The missionary church’s “passion for the possible” (Ernst Bloch) is a passion for what is possible with God, for what the church, living faithfully and expectantly, receives as divine gift in every anticipation of the coming kingdom.

Much hunch is that only something like this can break the deadlock between the advocates of Christianity-as-world-transformation and those (like David VanDrunen) who are concerned that this emphasis threatens to unhitch redemption from God’s decisive action in Christ, attaching it instead to God’s continuing presence in Christian engagement with culture…


    1. Hi Matt,

      No I haven’t read it. Sounds like I probably should — although I’ve got a million thoughts racing through my head already! (And an ever growing stack of summer reading.)

  1. hi chris

    just catching up on blogs now it’s holidays, hence the lateness

    from an historical perspective, it’s interesting that mission, tho dependent on an hermeneutic, seems to flow out of every hermeneutic.

    so linked to your previous post, whether you link creation and redemption or sever them, historically mission has still been key either because the world is ending, or to bring about the return of Jesus. (What are we waiting for? Christian Hope and Contemporary Culture (Paternoster) by Rook & Holmes has a good chapter on it)

    1. Great thoughts, Doug. I’ll definitely check out that chapter.

      I’d be interested to hear whether you think the shape or understanding of mission is the same within both frameworks?

  2. from the outside i feel like Christianity-as-world-transformation is perhaps a little selfish in its reasons for mission; at its worst mission is a means to an end, that of pre-empting the return of Jesus when the world is sufficiently transformed.
    there’s perhaps more mercy motivation in other frameworks – there but for the grace of God go i.

    it could be that, regardless of the framework, there is something so intrinsically missional about the gospel of Jesus that needs must shine through, transcend the framework – the rubber-hits-the-road stuff – the response to the question ‘why should i care?’

    1. Doug, your hunch about the intrinsically missional character of the gospel certainly resonates with me. Maybe if we took this seriously it would reconfigure the challenge along the lines of: How can we elaborate a framework that ‘gets out of the way’ of mission best?

      On the other hand, my sense is that a lot of the heat in this debate is tangled up with politics, Christendom, etc.

      I guess this touches on how we pursue mission. And it’s an unavoidable issue — not only because of our history and where our culture’s ‘at’ but also because of the way say 1st Peter keeps drawing our behaviour (and our relationships beyond the household of faith, as citizens of the Empire, spouses of non-Christian partners, slaves of hostile masters) into the story of Christian mission.

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