Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Old Testament and Missional Hermeneutics

In an article titled “Missional Pastors in Maintenance Churches," Darrell Guder writes this about missional hermeneutics:

"Missional hermeneutics” is a way of interpreting Scripture that starts from the assumption that the NT communities were all founded in order to continue the apostolic witness that brought them into being. Every NT congregation understood itself under the mandate of our Lord at his ascension: “You shall be my witnesses.” The work of apostolic witness was not only to proclaim the gospel of salvation and to establish congregations of believers. Their work was not done when there was a community of Christians now growing in their faith and moving towards its promised outcome, “the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet 1:9). Their mandate was to found congregations where their shared experience of God’s saving love equipped them to become witnesses. They were empowered by the Holy Spirit to spread the word and the evidence of the gospel of new life and hope, and they did it! To that end, the NT documents were all, in some way, written to continue the process of formation for that kind of witness. They intended the continuing conversion of these communities to their calling—and that is how the Spirit used (and still uses!) these written testimonies.

While this quotation resonates with me in many ways, I wish that Gruder would have included more on the contribution of the entire Bible for the articulation of a missional hermeneutics. I think that we can apply Gruder’s thoughts to the totality of Scripture. The Bible is the story of God’s mission. God created humanity to serve as a missional community that reflected his character to and for all Creation (Genesis 1:26-31). The infestation of sin into every human individual and institution (Genesis 3-11) changed the scope of God’s mission. The Bible tells the story of God’s work to reclaim and renew Creation from the results of sin. Humanity, however, continues to serve a key role. God calls Abraham to begin the renewal of humanity (12:1-3). The story of Abraham culminates more than a millennium later in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The Old Testament serves several key roles in the formation of a missional hermeneutic:

1) Establishes the parameters of the story: God and Creation;

2) Describes the fundamental problem: humanity and Creation have been corrupted by sin;

3) Describes the dignity and vocation of humanity: to serve as a missional community to reflect God’s character to and for Creation.

4) After the entrance of sin, God works to establish a new humanity—Israel to serve as a missional community to reflect God’s character to and for the nations. In other words, mission takes a anthrocentric turn. Creation is still within the scope of mission, but the burning issue becomes the restoration of humanity.

5) The Old Testament points to the fulfillment of God’s mission through Messiah including death and resurrection.

6) Establishes an ethos for God’s people around the holiness of God by clearly articulating holiness in terms of love for God and neighbor;

7) Provides resources to engaging the surrounding cultures without succumbing to syncretism.

What do you think? What am I missing?

If you are interested in a small group resource that introduces the entire Bible with a missional perspective, check out my recent book Invitation.

© 2015 Brian D. Russell

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