A Missional Hermeneutic Pt. #3 ~ Three Worlds Converging: Finding a Hermeneutical Practice in Context, Cultures, and the Gospel

upside-down-world.jpg

Over the course of reading and taking into the accounts of the strengths in each of the past approaches, I recognized a convergence of viewing scripture within the worlds of Context, Culture, and the Gospel as their movements interacted with one another. Finding a hermeneutical understanding to the scriptures could not be separated from any of these elements and through them, God would speak timelessly to all people. Context

As Miroslav Volf recognizes, “In addition to having been written in the past, the Bible, to a great extent, tells stories about concrete events from the past.[1] We cannot dismiss the importance of recognizing the historical placement of these great narratives as well as the characters involved, the environments they take place in, the larger text to which they are a part of, and the time to which they take place.

Mark Love describes its importance as it, “bears the potentiality of bringing deeper and richer theological understanding, and, in turn, broadening our understanding of what God is doing in the world.[2]

Of course this understanding cannot dismiss the contextual account of relational placement today. Nor the reality that contexts are diverse and uniquely coexistent with a multitude of axis points to which the text speaks. Still, as James Brownson writes, “All of humanity is called to glorify God, not by suppressing diversity and particularity, but by sanctifying it.[3]

We are all uniquely part of a grand metanarrative to which God speaks. In this way we can take into account the context of scripture and find relational markers that build relevance to our understandings today.

Culture

Brownson points us in the direction that, “Each culture’s apprehension of God in scripture may be accurate but is always provisional, and that God is most fully known and glorified through a diversity of cultures and cultural perspectives.[4] It is in the understanding of traditions, rituals, politics, metaphors, anthropology, and language that the Biblical text can share a rich voice of God’s meaning and desire to communicate with his creation both in history and today.

Yet as Michael Gogheen points out, there is a danger in not taking into account the Biblical context of culture first before relationally tying it to today’s. He writes, “In the West, it is our culture’s story and its images, which have too often dominated the church’s sense of itself and informed its life. If the church is to recover its God-given identity and role in the world, it needs to be intentional about recovering the biblical story and its images.[5] If we solely base our understanding of scripture through the eyes of our cultural practices today, we run the risk of placing these images into an ideological pattern which eventually could lead to a idolatrous perpetuation, dismissing the role of God at the blinded arrogance of human religious control.

Taking into account the Biblical understanding of culture can lead us to an understanding of the root meaning and therefore allow God to speak diversely and creatively throughout all cultures. In James Brownson’s words, “The reality of God’s presence is at least potentially available within the symbolic world projected by any specific culture.[6]

Gospel

Bridging the first two worlds into a paradigmatic relationship within itself, the gospel allows God’s Word to speak through first a Christological framework of authority as Hunsberger states, “It summons to allegiance and decision. (It makes a claim.) It presupposes a public horizon and universal scope. (It presents itself as world news.) It regards death and resurrection as paradigmatic. (It opens up a way.)[7]

Paul’s words in Philippians 2 come to mind as he writes, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.[8] We must ask ourselves where we see the text as a whole being enfleshed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. By this understanding we can move towards an understanding of Missiology.

Missiology is a recognition to the “sentness” each community and person has as being part of the mission of God in a particular place and a particular time. Brownson articulates that, “the gospel functions to bring about a fundamental transformation in a way people in a specific situation interpret the Christian tradition, understand themselves, and situate themselves in the world as a whole.[9] We must be drawn to action by the scripture as we see God’s desire for His people and world. As Jesus calls us, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.[10]

[1] Miroslav Volf, Captive to the Word: Engaging the Scriptures for Contemporary Theological Reflection. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 16.

[2] Mark Love, "Missional Interpretation: The Encounter of a Holy God through a Living Text," (Paper presented at Rochester College, Rochester, MI., 5.

[3] James V. Brownson, Speaking the Truth in Love: New Testament Resources for a Missional Hermeneutic (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1998), 21.

[4] Ibid., 23.

[5] Michael W. Goheen, A Light To The Nations: The Missional Church And The Biblical Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 6.

[6] James V. Brownson, Speaking the Truth in Love: New Testament Resources for a Missional Hermeneutic (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1998), 22-23.

[7] George R. Hunsberger, "Proposal for a Missional Hermeneutic: Mapping a Conversation,", 317.

[8]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Php 2:5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9] James V. Brownson, Speaking the Truth in Love: New Testament Resources for a Missional Hermeneutic (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1998), 54.

[10]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Mt 6:33). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.