Toward a Missional Hermeneutic

It’s hard to say when the study of mission began in earnest in modern western theology.  It’s clear, though, that about forty years ago, the study of mission was given a place in some theological academies.  Often, the study of mission was an appendage to practical theology (Christian practices) or ecclesiology (the study of the church).  In the most prominant situations, Schools of Missiology were opened.  For instance, the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission & Evangelism was opened in 1983.

As you can tell by the title, the ESJ School of WORLD Mission & Evangelism (and most other mission departments) focused exclusively on the study of international missions and the equipping of missionaries fro the west to go into the world.  This focus on sending out missionaries to pagan tribes in underdeveloped areas made sense in the Age of Christendom.  As Christianity loses its position as the dominant culture in the west, many are calling for missiology to take a greater priority in theological education.  The “missional church” movement is the result of this stream of thought.

As missiology gains influence, many are calling the broader theological world to understand mission as the basis for all of theology.  Since the Enlightenment, theology has been viewed through the lens of “truth.”  The argument is that if mission is a the heart of who God is then it should be at the heart of our theology.

One of the pieces of this assumption that is underdeveloped is a systematica way to read the Bible through the lens of mission, a missional hermeneutic.  Over the past decade, literature about a missional hermeneutic has been building.  Scholars, such as Michael Goheen and Richard Baukham, have been instrumental in biblical studies with a missional hermeneutic.

The definitive work on the missional hermeneutic is Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God.  This 581 page treatment provides an extensive explanation for the missional hermeneutic.  Wright suggests that the God’s purpose is implanted in the first verses of the Bible and that his mission is consistently at the heart of the biblical story.

In the coming days, I will cover a few of the basics of reading the Bible through a missional hermeneutic.  We’ll look at a few examples from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The challenge for us is to recognize that the faith of all Christians has been born out of this mission.  Therefore, understanding and lving out that mission is a faithful response to God’s work in our lives.