2. Outlines of a hermeneutic for the kingdom of God
Bauckham explains that he is not doing a biblical theology of mission. Rather he aims to outline an approach to reading Scripture that ‘takes seriously its missionary direction’. The Bible story is about ‘a project aimed at the kingdom of God’, i.e. the arrival of God’s universal purpose for the creation. However it always starts off with particulars, with individuals and communities. This movement out from the particular to the universal is …mission.
This hermetic will need to view the bible as a whole story, or metanarrative, with an awareness of the powerful potential such a story will have on our lives. It will focus on the way this story moves from the particular to the universal. This movement corresponds to God’s identity as the one who is God of Israel so that he may be Lord of all creation.
This outward movement has three dimensions:
The temporal movement from the old and particular into the new and universal future of God. From Jesus’ sending by his Father, to his return in God’s kingdom.
The spatial/geographical movement from one place to every place, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
The social/numerical movement from the one to the many, from Abraham to many nations, from Jesus to all people.
God’s people are caught up in each of these movements, and this means mission.
The Bible’s story is full of instances of movement of these three kinds. Each story is unique and yet orientated towards the ‘universal horizon’ of God’s coming kingdom. I.e. they all fit into the big story. Jesus describes the final goal of the metanarrative using various narrative imagery: the seed that grows by itself (temporal movement), the mustard seed (spatial), the catch of fish (social/numerical). Each these stories is about mysterious growth – for the church’s mission is not something she can achieve herself. Nor is it a continuous movement. Rather mission is a collection of stories each one starting from the particular and growing outwards and into the future.
In this section Bauckham lays the groundwork for his project in the whole book: he wants to show us how to read the Bible in a way that exposes its missional dimensions, so often overlooked. And he does this at the broadest possible level: he’s talking narrative deep-structure and everything above it, here. This little section does a lot of work: it provides us with a powerful analytic framework for grasping how mission functions in the Bible’s story. It’s not just Matthew 28! I reckon readers equipped with this 3-fold movement model are going to be reading in a much deeper and more sophisticated way than they were before. And therefore thinking mission in a much more thorough-going way too. Once again, Bauckham comes up with the goods!
I like it that this is Biblical theology he’s doing. It often bothers me how much theological discussion goes on without much reference to Scripture. Bauckham brings us back to the biblical narratives again and again, supremely to the gospel narrative of Jesus. His use of the parables and stories of Jesus is particularly enjoyable and insightful. So nice to be able to read Scripture along with a great exegete/interpreter like RB.
As I’ve mentioned, this would have been better as its own chapter, rather than a section in a larger one. It’s a big shift of gears from the previous section. And it’s enough for my little brain to chew on in one bite!
In summary: GOLD!