Reading the Bible Missionally.
The book Reading the Bible Missionally is a fruit of the 2013 conference on "A Missional Reading of Scripture" at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The authors of the book have reworked the keynote addresses of the conference and some of the workshops into chapters of this 343-page volume, published in the Gospel and Our Culture Series. The 13 contributors to this book are experts from the fields of biblical and mission studies. They explore the meaning and importance of "missional hermeneutics" in contemporary biblical scholarship and in the life of the church.
Reading the Bible Missionally has five sections: A Missional Hermeneutic, A Missional Reading of the Old Testament, A Missional Reading of the New Testament, A Missional Reading of Scripture and Preaching, and A Missional Reading of Scripture and Theological Education. The first section serves as a prolegomenon to the book and to missional hermeneutic. It introduces the missional hermeneutic project from the perspectives of five contributors. Michael W. Goheen writes on "A History and Introduction to a Missional Reading of the Bible." Richard Bauckham focuses on "Mission as Hermeneutic for Scriptural Interpretation," followed by "Mapping the Missional Hermeneutic Conversation" by Giorge R. Hunsberger. Craig G. Bartholomew writes on "Theological Interpretation and a Missional Hermeneutic," while the last chapter, on "Intercultural Hermeneutics and the Shape of Missional Theology," is by John R. Franke. The second section includes three chapters aiming at the missional reading of the Old Testament. Christopher J. H. Wright has written the introductory chapter, while Mark Glanville and Carl J. Bosma show how the missional hermeneutic applies to the book of Deuteronomy and Psalms 67 and 96. Section three has a similar structure, but with the focus on the New Testament. The introductory chapter is by N. T. Wright, and Joel B. Green and Dean Flemming look at how to read the Letter of James and St Paul's Letter to the Colossians missionally. Michael W. Goheen, Timothy M. Sheridan, and Darrell L. Guder contributed to the two subsequent sections that focus on missional reading of scripture with reference to preaching and theological education. The book offers a detailed bibliography for studies in Missional Hermeneutics as a concluding chapter.
The goal of this book is to probe "a missional hermeneutic." It seeks to achieve this by highlighting the centrality of mission in biblical studies, pointing out that mission played an indisputable role in the formation of the Bible. This makes mission an imperative key to biblical interpretation. It argues that mission is a major interpretative lens for contemporary biblical hermeneutics. As this is a book of various authors, this argument is presented from different perspectives. This adds value to the book, but at the same time it is challenging for the arguments to be even.
Reading the Bible Missionally seeks to bring biblical and missiological studies to a common project. According to Michael W. Goheen, it challenges the fact that "[m]any biblical scholars go on about their business paying little attention to the insight of their missiological colleagues: that mission is a central category in the Bible that needs to be taken seriously if our interpretation is to be faithful" (p. 3). This common project challenges not only biblical studies but also the understanding of mission (p. 7). Though it is difficult to pick a specific definition of mission from the book, one can see that the authors agree that mission goes beyond taking the gospel message from the West to the rest. Mission should be a participation of all in the work of the triune God for the service of creation and humanity. This book presents missional hermeneutics as the interpretative method at the service of the "new evangelization" context of contemporary Western societies.
One major point of criticism is the book's lack of perspectives that are non-Western and the lack of female perspectives, given that all the authors are male and from the West. A further discussion on missional hermeneutics should involve voices from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Pacific. It will be important to see how missional hermeneutics resonates with people who live in multi-religious and multicultural contexts, particularly those who live as religious minorities in their world.
Second, the book's presentation seems to imply that everything is missional hermeneutics, and missional hermeneutics is everything. From the point of view of biblical studies, missional hermeneutics will be a cross-border approach, embracing both diachronic and synchronic methods. It will take into account historical criticism, narrative criticism, canonical criticism, theological and intercultural criticisms, etc. This could be a great contribution of missional hermeneutics to biblical studies, if successful, but at the moment it seems to be simply seeing and attaching the label of missional hermeneutics to every method and approach, and sometimes in an unconvincing manner. The passion and conviction of the authors about missional hermeneutics can be felt reading through the chapters of this book, but I tend to see a risk of imposing on the biblical text what does not belong to it.
I will conclude by addressing a question of whether this book is worth spending your money on. My answer is "yes." Beyond serving as an introduction to the field of missional hermeneutics, one will find in this book many thought-provoking issues raised for biblical and mission scholars; for pastors and preachers; for theological educators; and for simple Christians who seek to live out their calling in everyday life.
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|Publication:||International Review of Mission|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2017|
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