by Christopher J. H. Wright
Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God unpacks a much more audacious proposal: that mission is the basis of the entire Bible.
InterVarsity Press. P.O. Box 1400, Downer’s Grove, IL 60515-1426, 2006, 282 pages, $30.00.
—Reviewed by Steve Strauss, US director for SIM (Serving in Mission).
If you are reading EMQ, you certainly believe that the Bible is the basis of missions. Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God unpacks a much more audacious proposal: that mission is the basis of the entire Bible. Blending cutting edge biblical scholarship with a sensitive missiological awareness and passion, Wright demonstrates that the Bible—from beginning to end—is a missionary book.
Wright’s goal is to read the whole Bible through a missiological lens. By “mission” he is not talking just about human efforts to carry the gospel cross-culturally. He convincingly demonstrates that the central theme of scripture is God’s mission, and that “all mission or missions which we initiate…flow from the prior and larger reality of the mission of God.”
Wright deeply roots his theology of mission in the Old Testament. Mission begins with YHWH’s passion to be known among the nations. He chose Abraham and Israel precisely to “be a blessing” by making him known to the entire world. The core Old Testament themes of Israel’s election, redemption from Egypt, covenants and the ethical demands of the Law are all infused with missiological purpose.
God’s revelation of himself through his people has wide-ranging implications for the earth itself, for human beings created in God’s image but fallen and for human nations and cultures. The global mission’s message of Jesus and the apostles was built directly on this Old Testament foundation. In reading the Bible with a missional hermeneutic, Wright both demonstrates the unity of scripture around God’s mission and provides a thoroughly evangelical, comprehensive Old Testament theology of mission.
Wright’s thinking will challenge just about every reader at some point. For example, he believes that “Israel was not mandated by God to send missionaries to the nations”; he claims that the Old Testament affirms that “the nations will be included in Israel’s identity”; he identifies the excesses of capitalism as a target of mission; and he emphasizes holistic mission that includes a robust care of God’s creation. But he consistently builds his theology on broad, deep exegesis that deserves careful consideration.
This is a big book (over five hundred pages) that may appear too daunting for a casual read or even for use as a textbook. But do not let the length scare you off. Wright writes well; the book is warm, edifying, well-organized and easy to read. It is well worth the investment of energy for serious study of missions or simply to embrace the heart of God.
Check these titles:
Kaiser, Walter. 2000. Mission in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.
Köstenberger, Andreas J. and Peter T. O’Brien. 2001. Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
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