Thursday, July 23, 2009

How do you read your Bible?

This is not a question about the practical way in which you read, in a comfortable chair, before going to bed, systematically from Genesis to Revelation. It's a question about the principles and prejudices that you bring to the text. It's what theologians call hermeneutics. We all have at least one framework or hermeneutic into which we fit the text of scripture. It's nothing of which to be fearful, but it's quite important that we realise it's what we do.

The current vocabulary of missional church has given or will give rise to a missional hermeneutic, but what does it look like? I came across this definition via my Google alert for missional church.

A missional interpretation of Scripture reads the Bible as a unified narrative that records God’s intention to reconcile the world to himself. This narrative reveals that God accomplishes this intention by commissioning the nation of Israel to reflect God’s image to the world; by sending God the Son to restore Israel and inaugurate God’s universal blessing to the Gentiles; by sending God the Spirit to form the church into a holy people who embody God’s coming kingdom; and by sending the church into the world to proclaim the gospel and engage the culture.

I think this is a good working definition. What I particularly like is the idea of a unified narrative about God's mission of reconciliation. This naturally puts the cross at the heart of the mission because this is how we understand God to have achieved the means for this reconciliation. In other words you can't avoid the gospel. Perhaps I'd make that more explicit in a definition. The key here is that one can adopt the label "missional" but you need to know what that means when it comes to reading and applying the Bible.

When I say that I believe that God is on a mission to bless the world he created and for which his Son gave his life to rescue and redeem, I read my Bible differently than if I say I believe that God sent his Son to save the elect and bless the church. I'm not sure anyone says that, but you get the point.

When I read the Bible as this unified narrative I see time and again instances when God works beyond the confines of the people of God. He heals foreigners, speaks through external sources and touches the "unclean".

Anyway, I thought this definition was helpful. You can read the whole post here.

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