Here’s a Good Explanation of “Missional Hermeneutics”

Here’s a Good Explanation of “Missional Hermeneutics” June 25, 2017

I occasionally hear the term, “missional hermeneutics.” It’s a mouthful, and it requires a little unpacking.

 Duccio di Buoninsegna via WikiCommons, cropped (Public Domain)
Duccio di Buoninsegna via WikiCommons, cropped (Public Domain)

Darrell Guder gives a good explanation of the term in a chapter in his book Called To Witness: Doing Missional Theology:

The New Testament documents are addressed to communities of believers. They are living in the light of the resurrection and confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord. The diverse testimonies written to and for them serve their continuing formation for their distinctive vocation, which is to be witnesses to Jesus Christ. The Gospels, in particular, are not merely passion stories with long introductions. The narratives of the earthly ministry of Jesus focus primarily upon the calling and formation of the disciples. The communities for which they were written have responded to the gospel of God’s love made concrete in the suffering, death, and raising of Christ. Now, as they carry out their own missional formation, they join the original disciples in the process of formation for that vocation. They “go to school with Jesus,” in order to be sent out by him. Discipleship leads to apostolate, just as the gathered church must become the scattered, sent-out church. And apostolate is nourished and enabled by the continuing discipling of the Christian community that is primarily the work of the scriptural witness in its midst (58).

The gist is that missional hermeneutics is the name for an interpretive approach to the Bible–and perhaps especially the New Testament. I’d add that this is an approach which:

(1) Recognizes the original “missionary” context in which the oral stories and written documents were shaped and disseminated.

(2) Acknowledges the missional content of the Gospels and epistles–noting that the “gospel” is inextricably tied to the entirety of the Gospels and therefore can’t be defined in isolation from those larger stories. In other words, the life, actions, and teachings of Jesus determine how we should understand the death and resurrection of Jesus (passion).

(3) Reads the Biblical texts with an awareness that their contextually-specific, missionary, community-shaping function means that systematic theologies that neglect those dimensions, and that try to abstract a definition of God apart from the particularities (and pluralities) of context, miss the mark.

(4) Furthermore, approaches which abstract a definition of the Bible itself apart from the actual content and context-specific nature of the individual texts (i.e. inerrancy), turn the Bible into something it is not nor was ever intended to be.






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