Epistles of Thomas

September 18, 2009

Bible and Mission review

Filed under: Review — Thomas @ 17:12
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bibmissRichard Bauckham, Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. 0801027713, 9780801027710 (Paternoster 184227242X, 9781842272428).

Today’s book is comprised of a lecture series give by Richard Bauckham in England and Ethiopia. He begins the book with a hermeneutic for the Kingdom of God out of which he will develop further thoughts on mission. The key of this is concentrating on “how to read the Bible in a way that takes seriously its missionary direction” (11). Bauckham has several valuable things to say. He mentions that God is a narrative God who works within a story. Coincidentally Andrew and I structured the new Roots theology program around God’s story, instead of merely thematically. He also makes the note that “The church in its missionary vocation is not so much the agent of the process as the product of the process on the way to its God-given goal” (17). “The results of mission are always the gift of God” (19). Thank God that those before us spread the gospel to our language, culture, and location!

Bauckham’s second lecture is on the movement from the many to the one. This reflects that God consistently chose one (Abraham, Israel, and David) with the intention of moving to the many. We see that God always intended for all people to be blessed through Abraham. This promise is repeated four more times, in Genesis 18:18; 22:18; 26:4 to Isaac; and in 28:14 to Jacob. The expectation for the reader of Genesis would be that future events would see the nations blessed through Abraham’s descendents. However, this theme is only repeated a few more times in the Old Testament: Psalm 72:17; Isaiah 19:24-25; Jeremiah 4:2; Zechariah 8:13. It is clear from Jeremiah 4:1-2 that “It is Israel’s fulfilment of her covenant obligations that will bring blessing to the nations. In order for the nations to be blessed Israel need only be faithful to YHWH. Her life with YHWH will itself draw the nations to YHWH so that they too may experience his blessing” (31). Unfortunately this did not always work out the way it was intended to.

There are other passages where it is clear that God intended Israel to be the agent of blessing. Pastor John Piper has preached twice on Psalm 67 and God’s design to “Let the Nations Be Glad.” You can read or listen to this sermon online here.

Bauckham concludes the book with a chapter on being a witness for truth in the postmodern age. He defends the Christian “metanarrative” as being a non-modern narrative (and thus ok). He is convinced that the Christian narrative is essential to countering the destructive narratives that control much of our world. He states that “when Christians find their metanarrative in confrontation with an alternative, aggressive metanarrative–whether that of globalization or Islam, or something else–nothing is more important than telling the biblical stories, especially that of Jesus, again and again” (101). He concludes with addressing issues such as globalising power and cultural diversity and shows that the Christian narrative is a positive influence.

On the whole this is a valuable book for those looking for an introduction to a missional hermeneutic or for those wishing to go deeper in their understanding of how to connect the Bible to mission in our contemporary world.

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