Posted by: michaelhanegan | October 28, 2008

Christopher Wright on a Missional Hermeneutic

A missional hermeneutic, then, is not content simply to call for obedience to the Great Commission (though it will assuredly include that as a matter of nonnegotiable importance), nor even to reflect on the missional implications of the Great Commandment. For behind both it will find the Great Communication—the revelation of the identity of God, of God’s action in the world and God’s saving purpose for all creation. And for the fullness of the communication we need the whole Bible in all its parts and genres, for God has given us no less. A missional hermeneutic takes the indicative and the imperative of the biblical revelation with equal seriousness, and interprets each in the light of the other. …

A missional hermeneutic, then, cannot read biblical indicatives without their implied imperatives. Nor can it isolate biblical imperatives from the totality of the biblical indicative. It seeks a holistic understanding of mission from a holistic reading of the biblical texts. (pgs. 60-61)

The Biblical Theocentric Worldview and the Mission of God

The appropriateness of speaking of “a missional basis of the Bible” becomes apparent only when we shift our paradigm of mission from

·         our human agency to the ultimate purposes of God

·         mission as “missions” that we undertake, to mission as that which God has been purposing and accomplishing from eternity to eternity

·         an anthropocentric (or ecclesiocentric) conception to a radically theocentric worldview

Mission is not ours; mission is God’s. Certainly, the mission of God is the prior reality out of which flows any mission that we get involved in. Or, as has been nicely put, it is not so much the case that god has a mission for his church in the world but that God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission—God’s mission.

A mission of hermeneutic of the Bible, then, begins there—with the mission of God—and traces the flow of all other dimensions of mission as they affect human history from that center and starting point. (pg. 62)

God with a mission

…mission is grounded in an intratrinitarian movement of God himself and that it expresses the power of God over history, to which the only appropriate response is obedience. … All human mission, in this perspective, is seen as a participation in and extension of this divine sending.

The Bible presents itself to us fundamentally as a narrative, a historical narrative at one level, but a grand metanarrative at another.

·         It begins with the god of purpose in creation

·         moves on to the conflict and problem generated by human rebellion against that purpose

·         spends most of its narrative journey in the story of God’s redemptive purposes being worked out on the stage of human history

·         finishes beyond the horizon of its own history with the eschatological hope of a new creation

To read the whole Bible in the light of this great overarching perspective of the mission of God, then, is to read with the grain of this whole collection of texts that constitute our canon of Scripture. In my view this is the key assumption of a missional hermeneutic of the Bible. It is nothing more than to accept the biblical worldview locates us in the midst of a narrative of the universe behind which stands the mission of the living God. (pgs. 63-64)

Humanity with a mission

To be human is to have a purposeful role in God’s creation. (pg. 65)

Israel with a mission

Israel came into existence as a people with a mission entrusted to them from God for the sake of God’s wider purpose or blessing the nations. (pg. 65)

Jesus with a mission

The mission of the Servant was both to restore Israel to YHWH and also to be the agent of God’s salvation reaching to the ends of the earth (Is. 49:6). …

God’s mission determined [Jesus’] mission. In Jesus the radically theocentric nature of biblical mission is most clearly focused and modeled. In the obedience of Jesus, even to death, the mission of God reached its climax. For “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:19). (pg. 66)

The church with a mission

As Luke 24:45-47 indicates, Jesus entrusted to the church a mission that is directly rooted in his own identity, passion and victory as the crucified and risen Messiah. (pg. 66)

The church’s mission flows from the identity of God and his Christ. (pg. 66)

Mission, then, in biblical terms, while it inescapably involves us in planning and action, is not primarily a matter of our activity or our initiative. Mission, from the point of view of our human endeavor, means the committed participation of God’s people in the purposes of God for the redemption of the whole creation. The mission is God’s. The marvel is that God invites us to join him.

Mission arises from the heart of God himself and is communicated from his heart to ours. Mission is the global outreach of the global people of a global God.

Putting these perspectives together, a missional hermeneutic means that we seek to read any part of the Bible in the light of

·         God’s purpose for his whole creation, including the redemption of humanity and the creation of the new heavens and new earth

·         God’s purpose for human life in general on the planet and of all the Bible teaches about human culture, relationships, ethics and behavior

·         God’s historical election of Israel, their identity and role in relation to the nations, and the demands he made on their worship, social ethics, and total value system

·         the centrality of Jesus of Nazareth, his messianic identity and mission in relation to Israel and the nations, his cross and resurrection

·         God’s calling of the church, the community of believing Jews and Gentiles who constitute the extended people of the Abraham covenant, to be the agent of God’s blessing to the nations in the name and for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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