Written by Mrs. Susan Disston Monday, 06 February 2012 00:00

Ctrl-Alt-Delete has been an actual word in the English language since 1980, so says my fave website Word Spy: The Word Lover’s Guide to New Words. Webmaster Paul McFedries defines Ctrl-Alt-Delete as “a metaphoric mechanism with which one can reset, restart, or rethink something.”

Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Reset-Restart-Rethink.

In Biblical’s classrooms, there’s some Ctrl-Alt-Deleting going on. Professors and students are wrestling with the challenges of being the church in a secular society where there are a lot of systemic problems and injustices which the church gets associated with because of its longstanding identification with American culture. At Biblical’s most recent Conversations in Christianity and Culture, Dr. James Davison Hunter presented material from his latest book To Change the World. His premise is that Christians’ faithful presence in their situations should take the form of relationships and institutions that demonstrate God’s love and support the claims of the gospel message. These relationships and institutions should differ from secular or capitalistic enterprises in that their ends are in line with Scripture and God’s character. They are to be covenantal in character, that is, “fostering meaning, purpose, truth, beauty, belonging, and fairness—not just for Christians but for everyone.” To Change the World, p.263

In an earlier post, Professor Derek Cooper offered five features of a missional reading of Scripture which included this point #5: The church as an incarnation of God’s coming kingdom, its proclamation of the gospel, and its engagement with the culture. Proclamation of the gospel is a prominent feature of a missional reading [and application] of Scripture, but not the only one. Also included are “incarnation” and “engagement.” Both are to occur, along with proclamation, in missional reading and practice.

A missional reading of Scripture leads to the kind of relationships and institutional ethos that Dr. Hunter advocates for in his vision for Christians’ faithful presence. Here is a story that Dr. Hunter told to the audience of students, faculty, alumni, and ministry leaders gathered at Conversations in Christianity and Culture. It shows how one Christian business took a missional reading of Scripture and made it come alive in the work place.

“An automotive company in the Southeast has organized its business model on the basis of a rethinking of capitalism. Instead of running the business purely on the model of exchange and contract, this company actually operates...on the premise of covenant; its core question being: ‘what do we owe our customers and employees?’ The result is a very different way of doing business....” For example, “as to employees [in the inner-city dealership], the leadership recognized that lower-level wage earners would not have the same life chances as management, so the business established a scholarship fund that pays the college tuition of all children of the company. The cost of the program is high, though the benefit to the business is the loyalty of its employees. In [this] situation, the guiding question has been, what does it mean to do good to the vulnerable?” To Change the World, p. 266-7

The business in the story above values people in a way that mirrors God’s valuing of people as intrinsically of greater value “than their tangible contribution as economic actors.” To Change the World, p. 265

That is a missional reading of Scripture in action, one that is engaged with the culture, that incarnates an intrinsic value found in the Scriptures (and the Trinity), and that resounds the plausibility of the Christian message among the employees, their families, and beyond. This story and Dr. Hunter’s thoughtful challenge to our thinking is what Biblical’s faculty wants our students to discuss today and to discuss with their leadership next week.

Ctrl-Alt-Delete in action. Reset-Restart-Rethink.

Susan Disston is the assistant dean of curriculum and assessment at Biblical Seminary. She teaches project courses in the doctor of ministry program and in ESLPLUS. http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/adjunct-faculty-theology



Written by Dr. Charles Zimmerman Thursday, 02 February 2012 00:00

Where have they gone & where are they now?  

I decided that for my blog entries, I would contact founding faculty members and provide an update on what they have been doing since they left Biblical and how they spend their time these days. 

If you missed the first two blog installments – “Doc” Newman and Gary Cohen – I encourage you to scroll back through Biblical’s faculty blog and check them out.  And while you’re at it, why not attach a comment and then drop them a note of encouragement and thanks. 

Today we will hear from Dr. Bob Vannoy.  Bob was the first to hold a chaired faculty position at the seminary, the Allan A. MacRae Chair of Biblical Studies and was the favorite professor of many students. 

What years did you teach at Biblical? 

I taught at Biblical from 1971 until 2005.  I had previously taught at Faith Theological Seminary from 1965 to 1971.  This involved forty years of teaching at two theological seminaries. 

Tell a favorite memory from your Biblical days. 

As you may suspect it is difficult to choose from the many memories of a lifetime of teaching.  As I reflect on my time at Biblical I think the strongest and most satisfying memories are connected with the early years of the founding of the Seminary.  This was an exciting time, but also one filled with a lot of uncertainty about what lay ahead.  It is not an easy thing to launch a new graduate school of theological education with little or no constituency and no guarantees of financial backing. 

When all but a few of the faculty members at Faith Theological Seminary resigned after the graduation exercises in May of 1965, and then announced the formation of Biblical, we were told by Faith Seminary that we needed to leave the premises of the Seminary by mid-August of that summer.   My wife, Kathe, and I and our three children lived in an apartment on the Seminary grounds.  Kathe was due to give birth to our fourth child in October.  My wife's parents from The Netherlands were planning to visit us there in September.  We did not know where the new Seminary was to be located because a search for a suitable location was just beginning.   Various sites were considered including one in the New Hope area and one in Hatfield.  My wife and I explored the surrounding communities and on a Saturday afternoon we happened to drive by Penn View Christian School then on Cowpath Road in Souderton. 

We had never heard of this Christian school and stopped in because they were having their spring country fair and auction, and we wanted to learn something about it.  We were impressed with what we saw and came back to speak further with school officials the next week.  Being committed to Christian education for our children we made the decision to look for a suitable home in the vicinity of Penn View Christian School.  Our decision was that we would locate near the school for our children and I could then commute to wherever the Seminary was finally located. (As it later turned out the Seminary was three miles down the road in Hatfield). 

We had noticed some realtor signs in the area with the name Lapp and Alderfer.  We knew nothing about this realtor, but stopped at the office and were introduced to Wilbur Lapp, a fine Christian gentleman who was very helpful to us in our search for a suitable and affordable home.  We looked a number of properties, over the next week or so but did not find anything that we were comfortable with.  One afternoon we drove along West Walnut St. in Souderton, and commented to each other that it would be great if a home on that street was for sale.  But there were no "for sale" signs. 

The next day Wilbur Lapp phoned us and said a property had come on the market that he thought we might be interested in.  We drove up to Souderton and Mr. Lapp took us to a very nice home on West Walnut St.  It was about five years old, had been built for the pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Souderton, and included an office/library room in the smallest of the four bedrooms in the house.  The price appeared to be reasonable and we were excited about having found a place less than a 1/2 mile from Penn View School.  We told Mr. Lapp that we were interested in buying the house but that we needed to be able to move in the house by mid-August.  We were disappointed when he told us that it would not be available until late October, because the owner’s daughter was being married in mid- October, the invitations etc. had been printed and they did not want to move until after the wedding.   We needed to be out of Faith Seminary by mid-August, Kathe's parents were arriving for a visit in September, so this was a serious disappointment.  We told Mr. Lapp that we would pay the listed price for the house if they would vacate by mid-August.  He said he doubted they would accept that offer but would see if it could be done. 

To make a long story short, the owners of the home agreed to move by mid-August and we found ourselves in a very nice home by the end of the summer.  This was just one of many indications to us that God was guiding in the establishment of Biblical and that He would provide for the needs of the institution and the faculty.  This was seen time and time again in remarkable ways in the early years of the Seminary. 

It has been a great blessing to see how God has used that humble beginning to train a host of students who are now spreading the good news of the kingdom of God, not only in the USA, but in countries around the globe.  Praise be to God! 

I might add: We have lived in the same house (with two additions to its size) for the past 40 years and all four of our children graduated from Penn View Christian School and subsequently from Christopher Dock Mennonite High School.  All three of our local grandchildren are now attending Penn View and Christopher Dock as well.

What have you been doing since leaving Biblical? 

Since retirement I have been able to finish a commentary on 1, 2 Samuel that I had been working on for many years. It was published by Tyndale House Publishers, in the Cornerstone Commentary Series in December of 2009.  Through contacts with former students at BTS who are now ministering in Singapore, Kathe and I have had the opportunity to visit Asia two times on teaching ministries, in both Singapore itself  as well as in Malaysia and the Philippines.   A third trip is in the planning stage that will involve teaching in three seminaries in India along with other engagements in Singapore.  These travels have been very enriching to us as we are exposed to the dynamic ministry of several Singapore churches that have extensive missionary outreaches to many of the more impoverished countries in South East Asia.  Also on the drawing board is a book on the Theology of 1, 2 Samuel that I have been asked to write for a series of books on Biblical Theology being published by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.  Not all of our time is taken by ministry opportunities.  We try to keep connected with our four children and their families that are spread from Maine to Pennsylvania to Georgia and Florida.  We now have the joy of fifteen grandchildren ranging in age from 18 to less than 1 year old.  

Give a brief update you your family

Kathe continues to work part time at Dock Woods Community as a Care Coordinator and Infection Preventionist.  Her income helps to keep us afloat financially.  In addition she is active in a number of church functions, and keeps in touch with the extended family.  She has recently returned from her own trip to Malaysia, where she volunteered for doing child care at a regional missionary conference sponsored by Mission to the World (the PCA missions organization) for their many missionaries in Asia. She was also able to spend a couple of days with our acquaintances in Singapore before returning home.

Our oldest child, Anna, lives close by in Morwood, PA.  She and her husband, Bob, attend Covenant Presbyterian Church in Harleysville, where Kathe and I also attend.  Bob is the sales manager for EDS a local water and smoke damage restoration business.  They have three children, Wes, a senior at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, Seth, a sophomore at Christopher Dock, and Kate, who is in the 5th grade at Penn View Christian School.

Rob, our oldest son, lives in Lookout Mountain, GA, with his wife, Liza and four children: Allison, Katherine, Bobby, and Kamp.  Rob is the owner of a construction firm that builds very high end houses.  He has been quite successful in business even during the economic downturn of the past few years. 

Mark our middle son, lives in Waldoboro, Maine with his wife Esther.  They have five children: Jane, Arie, Annie, Finley and Eva.  After graduating from the Naval Academy, Mark spent his required payback time on active duty in the Navy, but felt that he needed to return to the private sector in order to meet his family responsibilities.   He remains in the Naval Reserve.   Mark now works as a civil engineer with a Maine engineering firm although most of his work is for the Nestle Corporation and their many bottled water operations in various parts of the country.  Poland Springs water takes a lot of his time in Maine but he has also done work for Nestle in Colorado, Florida and other places.   Mark is an elder at the Lakeview Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Rockport, Maine.

Jonathan, our youngest son, lives with his wife Debby in Niceville, Florida.  They have three children: Sarah, Cora, and Andrew.   Jon is presently working in highway construction while completing a degree in civil engineering that he had begun while in college but not completed.  The completion of his degree will open up many opportunities for advancement with the large firm for which he is now working.   

As a family we have been blessed with the opportunity to gather as a whole family in Tenants Harbor, Maine, every summer for the past 35 years.  Coming together as a family in this beautiful spot has been a gift of God to our family, and has become one of the highlights of our year.

Contact information: jrobertvannoy@hotmail.com

Charles Zimmerman is the Thomas V. Taylor Professor of Practical Theology.  He also serves as Teaching Pastor at Calvary Church in Souderton.  He is married to Kim and they have two daughters, Ashley and Megan.  See alsohttp://biblical.edu/index.php/charles-zimmerman


Written by Professor Steve Taylor Wednesday, 01 February 2012 00:00

Note to the reader: This is the third in a series of blogs on reading the Bible as a biblical theological unity. For context, readers should consult the prior posts.

The corny pun in the title (and you thought it was a typo!) is in honor of the man who almost single-handedly led the Church out of the biblical bafflement of the second century, Origen of Alexandria (185-254 CE). Although a card-carrying member of the suffering church—his father was martyred when Origen was but a youth and Origen himself died as a result of the bloody Decian persecution--, his achievements and impact mark him as one of the most brilliant men of antiquity. (Origen had the distinction, shared belatedly by Einstein, of being attended around the clock by a team of paid stenographers who were charged with preserving any pearls of wisdom that fell from his lips.)

An Inheritance Guarded

Origen inherited from the second-century church the twin commitment to the Bible (now clearly comprised of an Old and New Testament) and to the Rule of Faith (a summary of basic beliefs). Origen also understood the complex relationship of that Rule to the Bible and its reading: the Rule was not only derived from the Bible but was also the final arbiter of what the Bible could mean-proper reading of the Bible had to be a ruled reading. Origen also took it as axiomatic, that often the scriptures bore witness to the Rule of Faith only symbolically or by some kind of figurative reading.

A Faith Attacked

But Origen received this inheritance in perilous times. In the course of the second century, Jews had forcefully argued that Christians were unable to take the literal meaning of the Old Testament, which overwhelmingly focuses on Israel, seriously. Pagan authorities, on the other hand, noting the Christian movement’s permanent break with Judaism and its alarming growth among gentiles, instituted several waves of repression against Church; and pagan intellectuals launched increasingly informed and sophisticated attacks against the veracity and coherence of the Bible and the philosophical integrity of the Christian faith.

These external attacks simply emboldened the Gnostic wing of the Christian movement. On the one hand, the Gnostics conceded that pagan intellectuals had a point: Christian theology did need to be revised and systematized in ways more consistent with the philosophical (i.e., Neo-Platonic) givens of the day. On the other hand, the Gnostics argued, the Jews should be ceded both their scriptures and their commitment to literal meaning. The Christian faith was a spiritual movement and only needed those writings which communicated spiritual things. And of course it was the Apostle Paul who insisted that “the letter kills, but the spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6) and that he was “explaining spiritual things to spiritual people” (1 Cor 2:13).

A Rule of Faith Strengthen and Systematized

Origen realized that a two-pronged approach was needed. The Gnostics could be silenced and the external critics answered only if both the Rule of Faith and the Christian use of the Bible could be better articulated, with a more systematic rationale. This is precisely what Origen set out to do in his magnum opus, On First Principles. As inherited, the Rule of Faith was little more than a hodge-podge of reflections on the high points of the biblical story. There were so many ethical, logical, eternal, and spiritual questions left unanswered: how precisely was Jesus related to the Father, where did other spiritual being come from, what are human beings made for , what happens after death, and what is the ultimate end of all things—in short, what eternal truths did the time-bound biblical story point to. For all these questions and many more, Origen worked out answers he thought were both intellectually coherent and consistent with the apostolic faith. Origen now had a Rule of Faith that defined orthodox faith and practice over against the false theology of the Gnostic. He could now claim with confidence, “If however they interpret spiritually, even with this very spiritual understanding they do not hold to the rule of apostolic truth” [1](Homily on Psalm 36, 4.1).

Christian Biblical Interpretation Explained

Bound as he was to the entire Bible of his day, Origen now turned to the challenge of demonstrating just how that Bible bore a consistent and coherent witness to this Rule of Faith which now, in its improved form, addressed a rich range of important questions. Here, too, Origen sought to improve on what he had inherited. He explained that God’s word to human beings, who by God design were composed of body, soul, and spirit, had an analogous structure: 1) the meaning of a biblical text that was obvious to the casual reader, e.g., the actual story narrated or the literal meaning of a command, comprised the Body of the Bible; 2) the meaning that pointed to a fairly obvious application to the Christian reader (and Origen was very sketchy here) is the Soul of the Bible (e.g., the application of the law against muzzling working oxen to Christian workers [see 1 Cor 9:9-10]); and 3) the meaning that God himself had in mind and which simultaneously nurtures the Christian life and anchors the deepest theology of the church (i.e., the Rule of Faith) was the Spirit of the Bible.

In articulating this very first version of the three-fold interpretation of Scripture, Origen was not suggesting that one should generally go with the literal “bodily” meaning and only when necessary resort to the figurative “spiritual” meaning. No, a primary commitment to the literal meaning was a mark of Jewish interpretation, not Christian. Rather, Origen was claiming that, at every point, God had revealed the spiritual meaning to the inspired authors but had willed them to clothe, and sometimes disguise, that meaning in coarser stuff. The spiritual meaning was at every point primary and therefore the ultimate object of every true interpretation. This spiritual meaning could be discovered by intelligent and resourceful believers using allegorical interpretation, a method we will illustrate in the next post.

Biblical Bafflement Banished?

But why would God do it this way? Why would he inspire any obscurity in his revelation? Throughout his voluminous work (and most of it was devoted to scriptural exposition!), Origen offered many reasons: to protect Christian mysteries from hostile readers, to confound the unbelieving, to speak to all levels of Christian readers, and to illustrate the depth and riches of the Bible and of Christian truth. In the final analysis, the mysterious, spiritual meaning of the text was simply the necessary correlate of the Creator-creature distinction. How could divine revelation of the deepest and most sublime mysteries in the universe be anything but a stretch for sinful and finite human beings?

Thus Origen’s antidote for biblical bafflement wasn’t a doctrine of perspicuity (i.e., that the central message of the Bible is plain to the humblest reader) but rather the necessity of a strong theology and an unwavering and creative commitment to reading the Bible in a way consistent with it. Are you ok with this? If not, where did Origen (and the second century church?) go wrong?

[1] Translation by Peter Martens, Origen and Scripture: The Contours of the Exegetical Life (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 114.

Stephen Taylor is Associate Professor of New Testament. He is a missionary kid fascinated with the question of the relationship between culture and understanding the Bible. Steve is married to Terri, and together they have five kids. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/stephen-taylor. 


Written by Dr. Bryan Maier Tuesday, 31 January 2012 00:00

2 Corinthians is purported to be one of Paul’s most personal books and if the first few chapters are any indication, this assessment fits. As I began to read and study the book again recently, I was struck with the depth of Paul’s self-disclosure right away in the first chapter where he admits that he feels “burdened beyond our strength” to the degree that  he was  “despairing even of life” (8). Scholars vary in their interpretations all the way from claiming that Paul was suffering deep discouragement to some even wondering if he was almost suicidal. Whatever the case, I for one, am glad Paul allowed us to see his discouragement for if the apostle Paul can feel this melancholy, it normalizes these feelings for those of us.

Whatever Paul was feeling in chapter one, he seems to shift quite significantly by the beginning of chapter four where he states, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart (italics added). Paul goes on in the following chapters to write some of the most profound teaching on the topic of suffering and remaining steadfast in the midst of it. To what can we attribute this change in Paul’s demeanor? Did Paul just decide to snap himself out of it? Was he tired of feeling sad? Did he practice some kind of cognitive reframe to make himself feel better? Maybe. The topics addressed in the early chapters of the book are indeed very encouraging. Reflection on God’s power in ministry, the Holy Spirit’s work and God’s ultimate victory could surely counter feelings of hopelessness. But what brought these topics to the apostle’s mind?

Could it be the occasion for the book itself that sparked the change? Paul had written at least one (probably two) hard letters to the Corinthian church. He had even postponed visits because he did not want to show up only to have to confront them again. Finally, he had sent Titus to see and report on the situation. In the meantime Paul is run out of Ephesus because of the riot over the goddess Diana cult (Acts 20:1). He gets impatient and cannot even wait for Titus to rendezvous at Troas (2 Cor. 2:12-13).  Everything seems to be unwinding for the apostle. Finally, Titus catches up with Paul and is able to share the good news that the church at Corinth was finally turning the corner. It seems like this news perks Paul up and he is suddenly able to remember his theology.

Should Paul have been able to snap himself out of discouragement regardless of the news of Corinth?  Probably. Do we have here a formula that encouraging words are the remedy for despair? Probably not, at least not fully.  It was not the encouraging words themselves (as wonderful as they were) but it was what the encouraging words prompted Paul to reflect on that brought about the change. But the words did play a role.

So in our conversations with one another, do we spark each other to remember what we believe?  

Bryan Maier, Psy. D.  is an Associate Professor of Counseling & Psychology in the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates.


Written by Dan LaValla Monday, 30 January 2012 00:00

After a four-year hiatus, I have had the privilege of being involved with the restart of Breakfast with Biblical (BWB). The focus of the teachings for the past two series was to expound the missional nature of God. Last spring’s theme looked at the missional aspects in “Hearing God’s Call” on the lives of individuals in the Old and New Testaments and what it means for us as Christians today. This past fall, the overarching theme, “Hearing the Gospel Again for the First Time,” emphasized the importance of breaking from the ways we have reduced the Gospel in attempts to better understand and describe it. Instead, emphasis was placed on examining the fullness of the Gospel through various aspects of Christ’s mission and contemplating it as if one was hearing the Gospel for the first time. 

Personally, each week I have been most blessed by the attendees of BWB, watching their enthusiastic reactions to the morning teachings and listening as discussions unfold amongst and with them. As they wrestle with the impact a missional perspective has on their comprehension of Jesus, His Gospel, the Church, and one’s personal call and purpose as a Christian, they have directed questions towards me that fall under two overarching questions, “What does being missional mean for you?” and “How has thinking missionally changed you?”

 At the risk of being reductionistic in answering these questions, being missional forces one to be less egocentric about the Gospel. Thinking less about the personal benefits of the Gospel and spending more effort discerning what God is expecting of me daily as His child engaged in His mission. Thinking less about what I want to ask God to give me and thinking more about relating to Him out of a desire to love and serve Him for who He is. Thinking less about the things I lack and noticing more of my neighbors’ needs and discerning what I am called to do today that enables me to actually live out the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). Finally, realizing that being missional involves thinking less about asking God to help me complete my daily plans (even those that are noble, such as ministry) and conscientiously discerning when, where, and how God wants to interrupt my plans so that I am willing and able to engage in His plan via personal acts of service and sacrifice.

 Please note that Breakfast with Biblical will be starting up again in March, more information about the upcoming series will soon be posted on our Website at http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/upcoming-events-at-biblical-seminary/breakfast-with-biblical.


Dan LaValla is Director of Library Services and Development Associate for Institutional Advancement at Biblical. He is Chair of the Endowment Committee for the American Theological Library Association and is very active in his church and community, coaching youth baseball and football and has served on several community boards. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/daniel-lavalla.


Written by Dr. David Lamb Thursday, 26 January 2012 00:00

John the Baptist had given him a big build up, testifying that the Spirit had descended on him and that he was the Lamb of God and the Son of God.  So two of John’s followers decided to ditch John, and follow the new guy that John kept talking about.  

They’re not following for long before he turns around, sees them, and says, “What are you looking for?” 

 Jesus’ first words in John’s gospel are a question (John 1:38).  We discussed this in class yesterday, and the students were surprised that Jesus start out by making a big announcement about his identity or his purpose.  Why start with a question? 

A question is an invitation to relationship.  And while their response isn’t profound, “Where are you staying?” it’s an acknowledgement that they want to be around Jesus some more.  Jesus invites them to “Come and see.”  They came and saw and learned what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. 

 Not suprisingly, Jesus’ final words in John’s gospel are also a question, as he asks Peter that if John the disciple were to remain until Jesus comes back, “What is that to you?” (John 21:22, 23). 

 In this final vignette in the book, both John and Peter are recorded as asking Jesus questions (John 21:20, 21).  Throughout his ministry, Jesus had modeled the importance of asking questions (e.g., John 1:50; 2:4; 3:12; 4:35; 5:6) and as Jesus’ disciples they followed his example.  Disciples of Jesus ask questions. 

 Unfortunately, in the church it seems like we’d rather give answers than ask questions.  And when people ask questions, we feel threatened.  A recent Non Sequitur comic (Jan 1, 2011) includes three prehistoric people (they are wearing animal skins).  One is in charge and he say, “OK, here’s how it works.  First you NEVER question anything I tell you…”  It’s titled “The Invention of Religion.”

What am I looking for?  Jesus definitely…and hopefully a few more questions from Christians.

How can we make asking questions more a part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus? 

David Lamb is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Biblical.  He’s the husband of Shannon, father of Nathan and Noah, and the author of God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? He blogs regularly at http://davidtlamb.com/.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/david-lamb. 


Written by Dr. Derek Cooper Wednesday, 25 January 2012 00:00

One of the recurring issues I encounter as one who teaches biblical interpretation is how to explain in simple terms what a “missional” reading of Scripture entails and how to answer a whole host of important questions that relate to a missional interpretation of the Bible: How do you define a missional hermeneutic? How do you read the Bible missionally? What are the biblical foundations for doing so? What are the implications of a missional reading of the Bible in the everyday life of the church? And how is a missional reading of Scripture different from any other reading?

Although seemingly uncomplicated, these are not necessarily easy questions to answer.  This is because the term missional carries various nuances and meanings that different people emphasize in different ways. For some, the term refers to social ministry; for others, it refers to an interest in missions. Due to the different (and competing) emphases as well as the general ambiguity of the term missional in contemporary discussions, you may reasonably ask whether it is possible to accurately describe what a missional reading of Scripture is. Although there are risks involved in defining the term so concretely, I would like to suggest the following definition: 

A missional interpretation of Scripture reads the Bible as a unified narrative that records God’s intention to reconcile the world to himself. This narrative reveals that God accomplishes this intention by commissioning the nation of Israel to reflect God’s image to the world; by sending God the Son to restore Israel and inaugurate God’s universal blessing to the Gentiles; by sending God the Spirit to form the church into a holy people who embody God’s coming kingdom; and by sending the church into the world to proclaim the gospel and engage the culture..   

This definition, though cumbersome, reflects what I believe to be the most basic features of a missional reading of Scripture, which are: 

  1. The Bible as a unified and coherent narrative
  2. God’s universal mission to reconcile the world to himself
  3. Israel as the nation chosen to bless the world by reflecting God’s image
  4. Jesus as the climax of the biblical narrative who restored Israel and inaugurated God’s blessing to the entire world
  5. The church as an incarnation of God’s coming kingdom, its proclamation of the gospel, and its engagement with the culture

 Is this definition perfect? Certainly not, but it’s a start—and hopefully not a bad one.

Derek Cooper is assistant professor of biblical studies and historical theology at Biblical, where he directs the LEAD MDiv program and co-directs the DMin program. His most recent book is entitled Thomas Manton: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Pastor: See his faculty page at: http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/derek-cooper


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