Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World

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Baker Publishing Group, Jan 1, 2004 - Religion - 126 pages
This engaging study provides a new way of looking at Scripture--one that takes seriously the biblical idea of mission. Richard Bauckham shows how God identifies himself with particular individuals or people in human history in order to be known by all. He is the God of Abraham, Israel, and David and, finally, the one who acts through Jesus Christ.

Bauckham applies these insights to the contemporary scene, encouraging those involved in mission to be sensitive to postmodern concerns about globalization while at the same time emphasizing the uniqueness of Christian faith. In doing so, he demonstrates the diversity of Christian faith around the world. This book will be rewarding reading for pastors, lay readers, and students of Scripture, mission, and postmodernism.

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Bible and Mission, which was originally a series of lectures in All Nations Christian College (2001), and in Ethiopia (2002), is a hermeneutic of the biblical narrative that shows how the Bible "embodies a kind of movement from the particular to the universal" (11). It is not "an account of what the Bible says about mission or a biblical theology of mission" (11), but a book that seeks to encourage "those who feel a lack of confidence in the whole mission enterprise" (viii). Richard Bauckham argues that the biblical story, which moves from the particular towards the universal, is a metanarrative that could be an alternative to other metanarratives of which postmodern critics are suspicious. In Bauckham's view, the biblical story is a non-coercive truth that accepts diversity and can be shared through non-oppressive witnessing.
Chapter 1 addresses the problem of particular and universal truths in the context of the events of September 11, 2001. Bauckham cites Jonathan Sacks who claims that "9/11" is the result of the clash of two metanarratives, that of Islam and Global Capitalism, because they claim to possess universal truth. Bauckham defines what a metanarrative is and explains that postmodernity rejects all stories that try to universalize others because "they are necessarily authoritarian or oppressive" (6). But, Bauckham asks, "Where does Christianity stand in all this? Where does Christianity stand between the universalist ambitions of McWorld and Jihad?" (8). Unlike Sack who claims that God is universal and religion is particular, therefore religious plurality should be upheld, Bauckham argues that the God of Abraham is both universal and particular, thus universality and particularity are to be kept. He explains that the Bible has a kind of movement from particularity to universality in "all three dimensions of time, space, and human society" (15). Additionally, the New Testament uses hyperbolic language that suggests a movement which gives the idea of an anticipated closure and permanent narrative openness. The universal goal has almost or has already been achieved.
Chapter 2 shows the movement from the particular to the universal using four biblical narrative examples. Bauckham starts with three examples in which God singles out one particular person, one people, and one place in order to bring universal blessing, revelation, and kingdom, respectively. God does not despise the particular but uses it to bring universality. This exemplifies the positive movement of particularity to universality in the biblical story. All of the Old Testament examples are also echoed in the New Testament: Jesus is the individual through whom all are blessed, the revelation of Christ is testified by the apostles sent to the ends of the earth, and Jesus is the new King who exercises God's universal rule. The fourth trajectory is where God singles out the poor. Here Bauckham adds that it is through the poor and the abolition of social status that the universal kingdom comes, having in mind the cross.
In Chapter 3, Bauckham argues that "the idea of representative geography is helpful in enabling us to read the universalism of Old Testament prophecy correctly" (63). He emphasizes how geography in the Bible moves from the particular to the universal. Geographically, the Old Testament pictures Jerusalem as its center with concentric circles going outwards to other nations until the ends of the earth. The New Testament differs slightly from the Old because the movement is both centripetal and centrifugal, towards Jerusalem, and out of Jerusalem; while in the Old the expectation is only centripetal, the nations will worship in Jerusalem. Furthermore, taken symbolically, this geography implies that those movements are not tied up in any one place. God communicates his message from one community to another. This has been the case in the Diaspora of God's people. Bauckham warns the church that "this image will come into its own again as
 

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About the author (2004)

Richard Bauckham, (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is professor of New Testament studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. He is the author of numerous volumes, including The Theology of the Book of Revelation, God Crucified, and God and the Crisis of Freedom.

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