Saturday, February 24, 2007

How Should We Then Give?

I've been perplexed over the past couple of weeks and I figured I would kick my question to the blogosphere to receive some dialogue with people who are far more intelligent/experienced in the area of missions than I am.

Recently, while discussing a few things with a friend of mine we began on the topic of power in missions. Namely, that sometimes, unwittingly, western missionaries will show their "power" over the people that they are working with. They can do this with technology, money and education, to name a few.

Steve Saint in his book, The Great Omission, which I mentioned in an earlier post, tells the story of how he went to Mali to work during a time of severe famine in the area. What was one of his goals? To set up radio communications in the area because there was none. The need was there for radio communication. Steve tells the story of a messenger who road his camel to the nearest road, waited a couple of days for a car to pass by and got a ride to the nearest metropolitan area. There, he informed some aid workers that there was an outbreak of cholera. Before he could return with medicines, over half the people had died. Radio communication would have helped greatly.

Someone had to pay for the radios that were given in Mali. Radios are technology that the people of Mali did not have at the time. So, was this a show of power?

Right now, at least the perception that I have, is that in several missions strategies we are moving away from introducing technologies. We are not providing much for the new churches that are being planted because they need to do it themselves. Part of me agrees. But part of me keeps asking.... "Is pulling out the best way?"

There are churches sitting on thousands of dollars in missionary funds that they use to send their people abroad. But, couldn't they just as well use it to help needs in other countries. I guess the great question is, "How should we then give?" We do not want to create dependency! That is something that I agree with. But, in doing so are we missing one of the great commands of help those who are in need (a paraphrase I know)?

Maybe I don't know enough about these things. Am I right in seeing that we are focusing more on the preaching of the gospel than providing for physical needs? Yes, the former is far more important than the latter, but when we live in the lap of luxury and don't give to our brothers in another country who are hungry I feel we are not properly obeying scripture. I feel we may be on the verge of a major misstep, missoilogically speaking. But, I may not understand the subject fully so please give me grace.

What are your thoughts?

Through Christ,

Friday, February 23, 2007

Understanding David Bosch--Part 1

Bosch, David J. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1991.

As a reader living since the advent of the Emerging Church phenomenon, it is difficult to find Bosch’s work presenting anything new. However, pick up any book on the emerging church from Eddie Gibbs to Brian McLaren and one will find that David Bosch’s “emerging” postmodern paradigm is innumerably referenced to support their radically fresh ecclesiology. Though current theologies are rife with his ideas, in 1991, Bosch’s magnum opus emerged as a voice calling out in the wilderness preparing the church for a new paradigm of missions. According to his survey of the history of mission, he argues that “in light of a fundamentally new situation and precisely so as to remain faithful to the true nature of mission—mission must be understood and undertaken in an imaginatively new manner today” (367). However, rather than being a book of the history of missions, which it certainly includes, Transforming Mission is a book of theology. He making a persuasive argument for his Emerging Postmodern Paradigm. It is unfortunate that Bosch did not live to see how his influential ideas have been brought to life.

In Transforming Mission, Bosch takes on the gargantuan task of not only surveying in-depth the five previous paradigms in mission, but also of the task of presenting a new paradigm and trying to persuade readers to participate in it. He argues that the emerging mission paradigm is “the participation of Christians in the liberating mission of Jesus, wagering on a future that verifiable experience seems to belie. It is the good news of God’s love, incarnated in the witness of a community, for the sake of the world” (519). Much as the Great Commission formed the apex of the gospel of Matthew, Bosch’s detailed historical research and critical analysis leads up to these last sentences in his work.

He divides the book into three parts: New Testament Models of Mission; Historical Paradigms of Mission; and Toward a Relevant Missiology. Bosch’s incorporation of Kuhnian paradigms forms the backbone of his discussion. Though each part is relatively equal in size, Bosch devotes more space to the Biblical Paradigm and the Emerging Paradigm. However, one must read his proposal in light of his critiques of the Enlightenment Paradigm. His sixth paradigm is emerging from the Enlightenment paradigm and will stand in sharp contrast to it. Thus, by taking the two paradigms in tandem, the majority of the discussion, comprised of chapters 9–13, takes half the book. Nonetheless, primary to Bosch’s paradigm is his understanding of Jesus, the gospels and Acts, and Paul.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

What is Missions?

One of the members at my church, who has been a missionary overseas said that I needed to pick up the book The Great Omission by Steve Saint. I've only read a few chapters, which usually are short, and so far I have enjoyed the book. I recommend it to anyone else thinking about missions/ecclesiology. The remarkable thing that I found was its not primarily about missions. Now, those who have read it would be say, "Did he read the same book?" But, before my reading comprehension is questioned, let me explain what I mean.

The main question I believe that Steve Saint is trying to answer in this book is, "what is ecclesiology?" Now, he actually says it this way, "What is missions?" But, when we look at his answer it really comes down to ecclesiology. Missions is to him fulfilling the great commission by "making disciples and teaching them everything that Christ has commanded them." (My summation of his answer) This sounds very similar to the mission of the church. In fact, I believe that it IS the mission of the church. Therefore, it is an ecclesiological question. But, I believe that missiology is a subsection of ecclesiology, but I digress.

The question that I have is this: Is this the way that we conduct ourselves in our churches, mission trips or everyday life? When we go on short-term mission trips, how can we encourage this type of obedience? Do we encourage this in our churches? How can we?

Through Christ,

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Text or Context? Where is Theological Continuity Found?--Introduction

The Bible is by nature a multicultural work of divine and human creativity. Each book of the Bible was written, compiled or edited during different times by different authors/editors from different cultural backgrounds and situations. Some would argue that this drastically affects the meaning of the text so that one cannot understand it clearly without understanding the cultural situations behind the writing (or behind the author). More radically, some hold that one cannot understand it fully because it is trapped by those same cultural situations and cannot be meaningfully extracted. Others argue that the reinterpretation of the text by each successive generation serves as a model for interpretation of the text for all contexts (the premise being that each generation changes the meaning to fit its own cultural context and needs). Still others find the meaning greatly transferable from one age to another but choose not to obey certain commands or truths revealed from the text because those propositions relate to another (different) cultural context. Moreover, some find that to label anything from the text as out-of-date or inapplicable for the current context compromises its truthfulness and relevance as God’s Word. So one must ask: which view is correct; or, what role does culture play in Biblical interpretation?

The answer that I will seek to establish is that the Bible, though being immersed in culture, is meta-cultural (i.e., its meaning transcends all human cultures); however, sensitivity to cultural forms is necessary in translation and communication of the text. This endeavor is closely related to the theology of revelation and inspiration. The very nature of the text (and some would say Christianity) is at stake. The role of Biblical Theology (and, hence, the original languages) is instrumental for establishing this thesis. Flowing from Biblical Theology, the nature and importance of sound translation and interpretation forms the background for my argument.

The Missionary Nature of the Church--Analysis of Continuity and Discontinuity

Which view is right? Is there continuity between mission in the Old Testament and mission in the New Testament? Is there anything wrong with positing discontinuity between the Testaments? Honestly, one must assert that there is a degree of continuity and discontinuity between the Testaments. The question remains: how to resolve the differences?

Blauw sought the resolve the differences from understandings of the mission of the Jews in the Intertestamental period. For Peters, his dispensational system resolves the conflict. Israel had been put on hold until a future date. Senior and Stuhlmueller, on the other hand, did not find a resolution. They took a merely descriptive approach which results in subjective theology. Their methodology should be rejected. Kaiser does not find conflict between the testaments—God’s plan has always been missionary. Köstenberger and O’Brien, however, see the prospect of discontinuity, but uncover a consistent message throughout scripture that points to the Messiah Servant King. Finally, Wright assumes that the Bible is one continuous narrative from creation of the nations to consummation of the nations when the nations will be ingathered into the Israel.

Overall, theological discontinuity should be handled carefully. The danger is that Christianity could be considered just a heretical Jewish sect. Peters concern for the universal nature of the gospel is commendable, but, in light of the detailed analyses of Köstenberger and O’Brien, ignoring the eschatological nature the future ingathering of the nations and the restoration of Israel does not do justice to the message of the Old Testament. One might ask: What is meant by eschatological? Köstenberger and O’Brien do not make it clear if the Old Testament is speaking of a time to come or the eschaton. They seem to imply both. They see a fulfillment in the one coming and in the new heavens and the new earth. Wright also notes that the Old Testament predicts a future ingathering of the nations. If they are correct, then the reader of the Old Testament is given a taste of God’s eternal plan, but is pointed forward to the New Testament. Here theological continuity is found. It is not discontinuity, because this eschatological emphasis is the author-intended meaning.

Ultimately, theological continuity has to be found in the inspired words of Scripture. Since the message of the Old and New Testaments points to the mission of the Messiah, then any theologies that point to mission elsewhere are suspect. Given Kaiser’s good intentions, he still falls short. He argues for continuity between the Abrahamic Covenant and the Great Commission, for he believes Israel was equally responsible as the church to go to the nations, but mission is not possible unless it is inline with the mission of the Messiah. The message of the Abrahamic covenant was to point to the “seed” (singular) in whom all the nations would be blessed (Gen 12:3).[1] Though Kaiser, Köstenberger and O’Brien, and Wright all note the relationship between the covenants, Kaiser set himself on proving his thesis that the Great Commission was given in 2000 BC. Had he not been trying to prove this point, perhaps he would have found continuity in the singular Servant, not the corporate identity.[2] In order to move toward a solution, a fresh look at the Davidic Covenant is needed. It will be my thesis that the mission of God in the Old Testament and in the New Testament finds continuity in the coming Davidic Servant King. Primary to my thesis will be the theology of the Old Testament prophets that confirm that God's plan for Israel and the nations is consummated in the Messiah King.

[1]T. D. Alexander, “Further Observations on the Term ‘Seed’ in Genesis,” Tyndale Bulletin 48 (1997): 363–7.

[2]Kaiser may have been influenced by the concept of “corporate solidarity” in which the individual can represent the group or visa versa. See Richard D. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 93. I am indebted to Dougald W. McLaurin III for this reference cf. McLaurin, Is Paul Doing Fuzzy Hermeneutical Math? A Dialogue Between New Testament Scholars and an Old Testament Enthusiast Concerning Galatians 3:16 and Paul’s Interpretation of the Abrahamic Covenant (Wake Forest: by the author, 2006).

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Blogging and Time

As I have posted on my other blogs, the time I have for blogging is little. So, to give blogging the full time that I needs I have decided that I will not start posting regularly until April 1st. I may post here two or three times during this period because I'll be teaching on a biblical theology of missions at my church, but other than that I probably won't post.

So, I hope that my compadres will pick up the pace (at least one of them perhaps). I will stop by and comment from time to time.

Through Christ,

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Missionary Nature of the Church--Continuity Between the Testaments

Having discussed the progress of missionary theology, particularly those finding discontinuity between the mission of Israel and the mission of the church, this question remains: Can the mission of Israel be squared with the mission of the Church? Three authors, in particular, within the last decade have presented comprehensive biblical theologies of mission. In other words, they all seek to find continuity between what God was doing with Israel in the Old Testament and what God is doing now with the Church. These three authors are: Kaiser, Köstenberger and O’Brien, and Wright.[1]

Of the three works to be considered, Walt Kaiser is the more well-known Old Testament theologian. Kaiser’s thesis is that the Great Commission was first mandated in the Abrahamic Covenant.[2] God’s promise to bless all the nations through the seed of Abraham is God’s universal mission to all the nations.[3] Thus, Israel had the responsibility to carry out that mission in the same way Jesus would later put that responsibility on the church—“The whole purpose of God was to bless one people so that they might be the channel through which all the nations on the earth might receive a blessing. Israel was to be God’s missionaries to the world.”[4]

In order to prove his thesis, Kaiser illuminates passages that describe Israel’s election, calling and ministry in light of their relationship to the nations (Exod 19:4–6; 2 Sam 7; Pss 67; 96; 117; Servant Songs; Jonah). Each scripture, he says, points to the centrifugal nature of Israel’s missionary calling. From Exodus, Kaiser argues that “the people of God” were to be agents of God’s blessing to the nations.[5] In 2 Samuel 7, Kaiser notes that the promised Seed through David is a reiteration of the Abrahamic covenant; thus, the blessing of the nations is in view. From the Psalms, Kaiser argues that the “praise of God preceded preaching, but both were part and parcel of Israel’s witness to the nations. The point is that there was a call for an active witness (i.e., it was to be centrifugal in its effect, reaching out from the center to others) by Israel to the Gentiles.”[6]

The crux of Kaiser’s argument is his treatment of the Servant Songs in Isaiah. The key to his interpretation is his identification of the Servant. He argues that the “single idea of this corporate figure represents a collective term that points to an individual as wall as to the whole group that the individual represents.”[7] In other words, the “servant” both points to the Messiah and the people of Israel at the same time. However, he has to admit that the references to the servant who “gathers” and “brings back” the nation of Israel cannot refer to Israel.[8] This fact is a weakness in his argument. It is fallacious to assume that a word carries the same meaning in every context it is given. Several references to “servant” in the book of Isaiah refer to slaves or laborers, but Kaiser may be looking only at Isaiah 40–55 where there are no references to slaves or laborers using the word. Nonetheless, Isaiah 49:6 states the servant is to be “a light unto the nations.” Kaiser argues that New Testament was reading this passage when giving the commission to the “ends of the earth.”[9] His conclusion is that Yahweh would lead the “remnant” in the power of the Spirit to witness to the nations unto “the ends of the earth.”[10]

The continuity with the New Testament is obvious. Kaiser is arguing that the expressions of the Great Commission in the New Testament were exactly what God has always expected. At this point, the mission of Israel is identical with the mission of the Church.

Whereas Kaiser was solely concerned with an Old Testament theology of mission, Köstenberger and O’Brien represent two New Testament scholars with a deep concern for a biblical theology that spans both Testaments. Given their particular specializations, their treatment of the Old Testament is fair, they do not try to read the New Testament back into the Old, and scholarly, though much shorter than their treatment of the New Testament. Nonetheless, their contribution to the discussion is helpful.

Köstenberger and O’Brien begin with the biblical discussion of creation. They note that the implication of Genesis 1 is “God’s lordship…over the whole creation including all humankind.”[11] The next event that affects all humanity is the fall. They argue that the remainder of Genesis 1–11 relates the pervasive influence of sin upon all mankind, though they note the promise of the seed in 3:15 and God’s continued covenant with creation after the flood in 9:9–13. From this point forward, they argue, there is an eschatological expectation of an ingathering of the gentiles, but Israel’s mission was to be one of holy dedication to God.[12] Thus, in their discussion of the Davidic covenant, they see the King as representative of the people. It will be through him that the nations are ruled. The eschatological gathering of the gentiles will be to this Davidic king on Zion[13] and will be concurrent with the eschatological restoration of Israel.[14] In regards to the Servant of the LORD in Isaiah, Köstenberger and O’Brien make it clear that the ministry of the Servant will have profound implications for both Israel and the nations. However, they claim there is a “paradox concerning the identity of the Servant” and that “Israel’s role of world mission…was forfeited through disobedience.”[15] However, these statements are inconsistent with their argument. They are arguing that God’s mission for Israel and the nations is tied to the Servant. If they mean by paradox that the exact identity is unclear until an eschatological revelation, then they assuage some inconsistency. If they mean by Israel forfeiting its role in world mission that the nation was not holy, but found itself deserving of judgment, but that God’s plan for the restoration of Israel is subsumed in the mission of the Servant, then they would have been clearer. Other than this concluding paragraph on the Servant Songs, Köstenberger and O’Brien’s argument has been consistent—the mission of Israel is to point to the God whom at a later time will send His Messiah Servant King to bless Israel and the nations.[16] How then do they find continuity with the New Testament?

Those finding discontinuity between the mission of Israel and the mission of the Church argue that God had a particularistic modus operandi concerning Israel in the Old Testament, but a universalistic method concerning the nations in the New Testament. Though Köstenberger and O’Brien are arguing that the mission of Israel was not centrifugal, they argue that God’s intention for the nations and Israel’s understanding, via Scripture, of God’s intention remained consistently universalistic. Israel’s concern for the nations was eschatological, when the Messiah Servant King would come. Thus, both the Old and New Testament mission is to point to that Messiah Servant King and His ministry. This is unlike Peters who argues that Israel failed in its mission, and thus God went to plan B—the mission of the Church.[17] Therefore, Köstenberger and O’Brien present a biblical-theological continuity between the mission of the Old Testament and the mission of the New Testament.

Another author seeking biblical-theological continuity between the Testaments is Christopher J. H. Wright in The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. While Köstenberger and O’Brien took a diachronic approach, Wright is undoubtedly synchronic in his presentation. This is not to say that Wright employs the categories of Systematic Theology, but he discussed different motifs in the mission of the Bible. This systematic treatment is what makes him unique among the major works on the biblical theology of mission. However, he considers the same biblical data as Kaiser or Köstenberger and O’Brien, though in much more depth. Nonetheless, his chapter entitled “God and the Nations in Old Testament Vision”[18] provides the meat for the following discussion.

Wright interprets the Biblical Narrative between “the primal and ultimate states of the nations” (Gen 1–11 and Rev 22).[19] He argues that not only did God create the nations, but they served as witnesses of God’s dealing with Israel. Furthermore, the nations could be sovereignly judged or blessed, but the message of the Old Testament is that the nations would enjoy the blessings of Israel by being eschatologically joined with God’s people. Wright does not see a division between Israel and the nations, but “one people belonging to God.”[20] Therefore, both Israel and the nations will be united as one people in the worship of YHWH. So for Wright, “the distinction [between Israel and the nations] would ultimately be dissolved as the nations flowed into unity and identity with Israel. Only the New Testament gospel would show how that could happen. And only New Testament missions would show how it did and will continue to happen.”[21] Wright finds continuity in the mission of God between the Testaments, but he, like Köstenberger and O’Brien, saw the Old Testament pointing to a future gathering and restoration.

[1]A fourth author could be considered. David Filbeck exclaims, “To me, of course, the overall meaning of the biblical text—that “ordered progression”—is missions, the flaming center” in the universal Gospel of hope (Carl E. Braaten 1977), the missing dimension in theological interpretation. Indeed, it is this missionary dimension, so often neglected in modern theological interpretation, that unifies both Old and New Testaments and coordinates their various themes into a single motif.” David Filbeck, Yes, God of the Gentiles, Too: The Missionary Message of the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: The Billy Graham Center, 1994), 10. His work is excellent; however, Kaiser notes a hint of discontinuity in his findings between the universal mission of God in Genesis 1–11 and the particular mission of Israel in the rest of the Old Testament. Cf. Filbeck, God of the Gentiles, 75; Kaiser, Mission in the Old Testament, 28.

[2]Kaiser, Mission in the Old Testament, 13.

[3] Note that “promise” is one of the central motifs of Kaiser’s Old Testament Theology.

[4]Ibid., 20.

[5]Ibid., 24.

[6]Ibid., 35. Original emphasis.

[7]Ibid., 56.

[8]Ibid., 57.

[9]Ibid., 60–2.

[10]Ibid., 63.

[11]Köstenberger and O’Brien, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth, 27.

[12]Ibid., 36–7.

[13]Ibid., 40–2.

[14]Ibid., 42–4.

[15]Ibid., 49–50.

[16]Ibid., 52.

[17]Interestingly, Köstenberger and O’Brien accuse Kaiser of this same discontinuity. Ibid., 35, n. 18. This critique may hold some merit, but Kaiser is arguing that the mission of the New Testament is the same as the mission of the Old. The fact that Israel does not keep its end of the bargain does not necessarily imply that Kaiser viewed the New Testament as plan B. I think he is pointing, like Köstenberger and O’Brien, to the one through whom the nations will be blessed—the coming Messiah Servant King. Nonetheless, Köstenberger and O’Brien may be lumping Kaiser into a dispensational mold he would not be comfortable with. Cf. Kaiser, “An Epangelical Response” in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church: The Search for Definition, ed., Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 360–76; Kaiser, “The Davidic Promise and the Inclusion of the Gentiles (Amos 9:9–15 and Acts 15:13–18): A Test Passage for Theological Systems.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 20 no. 2 (Jun 1977): 97–111.

[18]Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2006), 454ff.

[19]Ibid., 455.

[20]Ibid., 498.

[21]Ibid., 500.

The Missionary Nature of the Church--Discontinuity between the Testaments

The modern missionary movement began with William Carey’s An Enquiry in to the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen (1792). He argued that the Great Commission had not been fulfilled by the apostles and urged Christians to be active in converting unchristian peoples. Thus Carey inaugurated a movement of not just missionaries, but of theologians looking to the scripture to validate their practices. As time progressed, theologies of missions matured. Initial attempts at theologies of mission were apologetics for the practice of missions. Later theologies began to look at the Bible as a whole to define mission more holistically—as God revealed His mission from Old to New Testaments. Though defenses of Christian missions did not ignore the Old Testament, it would not be until the 20th century that systematic expressions of biblical Christian missions would be published. As they began to be published, theologies of mission found great discontinuity between the plan of the Old Testament and the plan of the New Testament, especially given the advent of Dispensationalism and higher criticism.

In 1962, Johannes Blauw, in response to an assignment by the International Missionary Council, published The Missionary Nature of the Church. By his own admission, his work presented the missionary theology of the decades leading up to his day.[1] In penning three short chapters on the message of universalism in the Old Testament, Blauw admits that missionary scholarship had shamelessly prooftexted the Old Testament to support the missionary enterprise. He points out that theologians had pointed to a few Gentiles who follow YHWH, to the Servant Songs of Isaiah, and to Jonah as passages supporting the mission of the Old Testament. Blauw desires an Old Testament theology that is more comprehensive in nature, however, rather than developing such a theology, and rather than calling his work prooftexting, he points to the same passages and calls them the “highlights” of an Old Testament theology of mission.[2] Nonetheless, Blauw finds an inherent eschatology in the message of the Old Testament. This eschatology points to a Messianic figure to whom all the nations will be given.[3]

Given Blauw’s concern for a united universal message of the Old Testament, he posits a large amount of discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments. Granted, his concern is not to write a theology of mission, but to expose the thinking of his day, he does not find a centrifugal mission commanded or expected within the Old Testament. And though he questions the resulting lack of unity created by the theology he reveals,[4] he argues that the centripetal nature of the Old Testament is trumped by the centrifugal nature of mission in Judaism during the “inter-testamental period.”[5] In other words, the practice of Judaism after the Old Testament canon is closed is discontinuous with the theology of the Old Testament, though continuous with the practice of the New Testament.

George W. Peters, in discussing the particulars of his Old Testament theology of missions, finds that the Old Testament expects Israel’s mission to be intimately tied to the salvation of the nations. However, Peters overtly states the centripetal nature of mission in the Old Testament: “Never was there a time when the nations did not have access to God, although God mediated His revelation through Israel. It was the responsibility of the nations to inquire and to seek God.”[6] Self-admittedly, Peters takes a “Christocentric” approach to theology.[7] Everything, including the Old Testament, is interpreted through the final revelation—the New Testament. Therefore, his findings concerning the Old Testament theology of missions are incomplete, yet foundational, for the complete revelation in Jesus Christ: “Jesus…did not contradict or destroy but modified, enriched, expanded, and in many ways transformed and glorified the Old Testament.”[8]

Peters’ examination of the Old Testament is more thorough than Blauw’s. Thus, by 1972 missionary theology begins showing signs of maturity. Peters begins by noting the universal nature of the primeval history. God created all mankind, all mankind sinned in Adam, and God promised a savior to all mankind in the protoevangelium (Gen 3:15).[9] When God calls out Abraham and creates the nation Israel, Peters argues that God was being particularistic in method, but remaining universalistic in promise.[10] Furthermore, while “[t]he Abrahamic covenant makes Israel the people of God…the Mosaic covenant makes Israel a nation and servant of God.”[11] In other words, Peters argues that Israel had divine privilege as God’s servant which they fail to accomplish. Thus, the mission of Israel as God’s servant (Isa 40-55) is left unfinished. God’s universal promise had not failed, only the special privilege of Israel is lost, but the mission of Israel will be restored at a future time of grace and repentance.[12]

Ultimately, for Peters, the missionary message is of the Old Testament is found in the universal implications of the promise to Abraham, and through him the nations with Israel, and of the psalmody and prophets focus on the nations. Israel was to serve God as a model for the nations, but Israel gave way to the ideal Servant—the Messiah.

Peters, in his “Christocentric” interpretation of the Old Testament, finds great discontinuity between the mission of Israel and the mission of the Church. Prima facie, his argument appears to be for continuity between the two, that God’s mission to the nations has never changed. This may be true, but in dividing the methodology of the Old and New Testaments, Peters is arguing for discontinuity. He seems to be arguing that God’s plan was always for the ideal Servant, but he cannot help from ascribing the servant songs to Israel initially. However, could the mission of Israel ever bring salvation to the nations? Peters thinks so: “Thus universality of salvation pervades the entire Old Testament. It is not peripheral but rather constitutes the intent of the Old Testament revelation because it constitutes the dominant purpose of the call, life and ministry of Israel.”[13] Yet, in the same concluding section he argues that [in Christ] “man can now find perfect satisfaction for his spiritual and moral needs and fulfillment of his potentialities.”[14] Both of these statements cannot be true unless there is discontinuity between the mission of Israel and the mission of the Church.

Whereas Peters represents an evangelical theology of mission purporting discontinuity between the mission of Israel and the mission of the Church, Donald Senior and Carroll Stuhlmueller represent a post-Vatican II theology of mission. Furthermore, whereas Peters and Blauw argued from a scriptural perspective, though not denying scripture, Senior and Stuhlmueller take a primarily historical approach to a biblical theology of mission. In other words, Stuhlmueller, who authored “Part I, The Foundations for Mission in the Old Testament,” defines the historical religion of Israel in order to see how they formed their theology in response to their situation.[15] Therefore, he finds discontinuity even within the Old Testament, pitting Yahwist against the Deuteronomist, Isaiah against Ezekiel. For Stuhlmueller, the foundations for mission in the Old Testament stem from a common commitment to Yahweh.[16]
What one finds is Senior and Stuhlmueller is not so much a biblical theology but a theology of history.[17] The implications of God’s interaction with Israel, and later through Christ, lead to a theology of mission that is ecumenical, focusing on personal and social transformation. Thus, Israel serves as “the exemplary role of God’s people among the nations [which] was a vocation that the church received from Judaism and one that would be thoroughly transformed by the missionary consciousness of the New Testament.”[18] Therefore, these authors posit large amounts of discontinuity between the mission of Israel (even within its own mission) and the mission of the Church.

Neither Blauw nor Peters nor Senior and Stuhlmueller are making the same distinction between the mission of Israel and the mission of the Church. However, they reveal a tendency to see discontinuity between how God desired his people to carry out his mission in either Testament. We will refrain from judging this discontinuity as either good or bad at this time. However, with Blauw, and especially Peters, one finds a desire to reconcile the message of the Old Testament with the practice of New Testament missions. One might argue that Senior and Stuhlmueller have the same end in mind, but they do not approach the text with integrity, by trying to understand a unified message within scripture; rather, they come to the text with an agenda. They place the historical events over the words of scripture in trying to defend post-Vatican II ecumenical and liberation agendas.[19] Thus, the best representative of those finding discontinuity between the Mission of Israel and the Church is Peters.

[1]Blauw, The Missionary Nature of the Church, 11–5.

[2]Ibid., 29–34.

[3]Ibid., 52.

[4]“The question still remains whether one does not fall short of the unity of the Bible if one does not, with the ancient Church, acknowledge that the New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament, and that the Old Testament is opened up in the New.” Ibid., 53.

[5]Ibid., 55ff. Cf. Roger Hedlund’s monograph followed through with a more detailed analysis of the Old Testament. His primary texts are almost the same as Blauw’s (he titles one of his chapters “High Points in Isaiah”), yet Hedlund was able to incorporate the scholarship of George W. Peters on the Psalms. Nonetheless, Hedlund’s conclusion on the Old Testament was the same as Blauw’s—the intertestamental period served as a foundation for New Testament missions. Up to that time, Israel’s mission had been centripetal in nature. Roger E. Hedlund, The Mission of the Church in the World: A Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), 141–8.

[6]Peters, Biblical Theology of Missions, 23.

[7]Ibid., 30–1.

[8]Ibid., 83.

[9]Ibid., 83–7.

[10]Ibid., 89–101.

[11]Ibid., 112.

[12]Ibid., 113.

[13]Ibid., 129.

[14]Ibid., 130.

[15]Donald Senior and Carroll Stuhlmueller, The Biblical Foundations for Mission (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1983), 16–32.

[16]Ibid., 80.

[17]Ibid., 326

[18]Ibid., 338.

[19]See their “Introduction.” Ibid., 3–4.