Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World Reprint Edition
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Bauckham identifies the missionary movement of the Bible in three dimensions: TIME ("from a particular past towards the universal future"), SPACE ("from one place to every place"), and SOCIAL ("from the one to the many"). In addition to these dimensions, Bauckham also introduces three missionary themes: BLESSING (God's choice of Abraham emphasizes the theme of blessing from a particular person to all people), REVELATION (God's choice of Israel emphasizes the theme of God's revelation to one nation, and thereby to all nations), SOVEREIGNTY (God's choice of David/Zion emphasizes the theme of God's universal sovereignty).
Bauckham's notion of "representative geography" is a nice mechanism to explain why Israel conceived of itself as the very center of God's creation, all the while refusing to mythologize distant lands or peoples. Whereas ancient Israel waited for the nations to arrive in Jerusalem, the novel Christian development was its view of the community as the place of God's presence.
Bauckham considers the charge that his reading of Scripture might be coercive, a "totalizing framework." In response he suggests that the Christian mission is not a mission of mastery or control. "The image the Bible itself often suggests for the way its truth is to be claimed is that of witness." A witness is neither judge (with final say) nor lawyer (responsible, primarily, for persuasive rhetoric) but one who reports (lived) experience. Ultimately, the cross of Christ is the essential key that prevents Christian witness from being asssimilated with the will to power. Overall, a high-spirited, energizing, and compassionate call to mission.
Once in a while a book comes along that falls into the middle. It cannot be classified as good or bad. In this case, the content is outstanding, and I wish every pastor would read the book. Then again, maybe not. The language is academic and periodically quite dry. But if you can get past that, Richard Bauckham's Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World is an outstanding, challenging work.
A few quotes stood out to me as I read through it. Here is one:
The New Testament gives the church in every age its missionary identity by plunging it into the midst of the biblical story where the words of the great commission still ring in its ears. (p. 25)
But I was grabbed by the particular points. He confronts the failure of "postmodern" ideas and properly identifies it as a variant on Christian eschatology as well as a miserable failure. (p. 88) It maintains its place by power and domination. In addition, he sets up the principle that hanging onto this approach.
Consistent with this he separates the church from the progressive ideals of liberalism. (p. 20) He sees no place for the dialectical approach within Christian missiology. That's a point which makes the work stand out - it expresses a proper Chrisitan militancy against the ways of the world.
Unfortunately it also exposes the singular weakness of the book. When he discusses the church's involvement in human need, his analysis of the situation does not employ the Biblical standards of sin and abuse, but of comparative value. He uses a dialectical approach to describe the abuse. Bummer.
But that's just one point. I find the book to be an excellent framework for finding your church's place when it seeks to confront this lost world with the redeeming gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not a strategy book. It is a book of principles that will be useful for anyone wishing to maintain focus on being Biblical.