A Review of “The Mission of God” by Christopher Wright

wrightMuch has been written on the comprehensive picture of missions as found in the Bible. It’s not a particularly novel or new idea to write about a Biblical theology of missions anymore, and yet Christopher Wright has observed a gap that is worth exploring. While the Bible surely supports, through various texts, the notion of Christian missions, Wright sees the Bible itself as a “missional phenomenon.” Wright’s unique approach to a Biblical theology of missions makes this book a valuable addition to any ministry library.

The books four parts cover somewhat familiar terrain. Part 1 discusses the Bible and Mission and is, in my opinion, the most unique. Part 2 turns attention to the God of Mission, exploring how God reveals himself in revelation, redemption, and judgment to Israel, to the world, and ultimately through Jesus Christ. Part 3 shifts to the People of the Mission, exploring the history of God’s election and calling of people across the Old and New Testament. Here he explores major events in the Old Testament to demonstrate how they set the stage and serve as a paradigm for later events in the New, and then beyond that to our own day and our own lives. Part 4 concludes, then, with a look at the Arena of Mission. Wright broadens the mission of God beyond the basics of evangelism, to a more broad lens approach to care for the whole of creation.

Part one sets the tone for the book, however, in its approach to develop a “missional hermeneutic” for the Bible. Wright suggests that much of contemporary Evangelical theology has settled for a reductionist theology of missions, reducing the whole of it to one text: Matthew 28:18-20. Our theology of missions is not, however, built upon simple proof texts. Rather the Bible itself is missional, and the whole of the way we read it needs to take into consideration this missional bent. The Bible is God’s missionary activity to reveal Himself and His gospel. The concept of mission, then, becomes key to accurately reading and interpreting the narrative of Scripture.

This was a unique perspective for me. Wright makes a compelling case, looking at the way Jesus interprets Scripture in Luke 24:45-47. His argument holds weight because of the weak and anemic support that has all too often accompanied the call to missionary work. Wright’s work is truly a breath of fresh air, breathing greater confidence and support into the missionary work of the Christian church. It was, of course, not really in question, but its support was not a strong as it should have been. To see, however, that our God is a missionary God and His Word is, in part, His missionary activity is to find a tremendous amount of support for our own work.

The book is well-written, and rich in theological and Scriptural development. Part four introduces readers to a methodology of missions that is worthy of consideration, even if it has some shortcomings. Wright’s own scholarship in the Old Testament and in missions is evident throughout the book and so it stands as a top-notch scholarly treatment. It is thick and well-developed but not dense. I was surprised by the writers ability to keep this reader engaged with the topic across multiple layers of development.

The book does have some shortcomings. The overemphasis on the Old Testament is obvious, though surprising since this is a book on missions. Wright acknowledges this weakness, but it remains a flaw of the book. He also tends to flatten out the Scriptures too much, failing to acknowledge the diversity between the testaments and particularly among the messages proclaimed by each. The missional task of the church is different from the missional task of Israel. He acknowledges this at points throughout the work but not with much significant detail and clarification. This is a huge oversight in a work on Biblical Theology!

Nonetheless, despite these shortcomings this is a tremendous work that will add a wealth of knowledge, insight, and even practical encouragement to the ministry of the church. I highly recommend The Mission of God to pastors, missionaries, and lay leaders as they seek to understand the mission they are called to. Our mission stems from our missionary God, the more we understand this the better we will be in service.

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