Richard Bauckham. Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World. Baker Academic, 2003.
This is a useful little book. Richard Bauckham is a British New Testament scholar with a strong background in theology (he did his Ph.D. with Jürgen Moltmann in Germany) and a deep commitment to social ethics and Christian mission. All of these elements come together in a concise but solid summary of the biblical vision of God’s healing intentions for creation.
Bauckham considers the entire Bible’s witness to the gospel of God (he sees Genesis 12:1-3 as a crucial text for reading the Bible as a whole)–and looks at this witness in the context of our contemporary world. I especially appreciate his perceptive analysis of the Bible’s “metanarrative”–not a authoritarian narrative such as been created in Western culture with Christendom and its successor, the Enlightenment. Rather, the Bible’s “metanarrative” is a story, a story of God’s persevering love expressed in a particular community with the intention of speaking of universal access to God’s healing love.
This is how Bauckham concludes his argument: “The biblical story is not only critical of other stories but also hospitable to other stories. On its way to the kingdom of God it does not abolish all other stories, but brings them all into relationship to itself and its way to the kingdom. It becomes the story of all stories, taking with it into the kingdom all that can be positively related to the God of Israel and Jesus. The presence of so many little stories within the biblical metanarrative, so many fragments and glimpses of other stories, within Scripture itself, is surely a sign and an earnest of that. The universal that is the kingdom of God is no dreary uniformity or oppressive denial of difference, but the milieu in which every particular reaches its true destiny in relation to the God who is the God of all because he is the God of Jesus. We may recall the Bible’s final book, where Babylon, the ruler of the kings of the earth, comes to nothing, destroyed by its clash with the narrative of God’s kingdom, but where the nations bring their glory and honor into the new Jerusalem, that is, they bring all they have to offer as glory and praise given to God (Revelation 21:24-26)” (page 110).
I recommend this book especially as (1) an inspiring portrayal of the big picture of the Bible, a coherent message of healing love, and (2) an important grappling with the tension between particularity and universality in the biblical message–helping with understanding the biblical message of “chosenness” as a call to loving service and not selfish hegemony.