Christopher J.H. Wright published The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrativein 2006. It is a tome of over 500 pages.
Apparently the road to this book began when he studied Ezekiel. The phrase, “Then they shall know that I am the LORD” occurs repeatedly. For instance, Ezekiel 38:23 says, “I will exalt and magnify myself; I will reveal myself before many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord “ (NET Bible).
Wright got some pushback in evangelical circles for interpreting this as having to do with mission. So he began to try to articulate his dissatisfaction with the way words like mission, missionary, and missional are used not only in the church but in secular settings (for example, mission statements).
If you will look at the title, you will see that Wright wants to talk, not only about our mission, but about God’s mission. Instead of the usual approach to mission of trying to figure out what we are supposed to be doing, he wants to look at the “Grand Narrative” of the Bible to figure out what God is doing.
The Table of Contents divides Wright’s chapters into 4 parts:
The Bible and Mission
The God of Mission
The People of Mission
The Arena of Mission
Since this is a really long book and I want to get to the heart of it, let me deal briefly here with the first part. The Bible and Mission is really about hermeneutics, a fancy word for how we approach interpreting the Bible.
The various schools of interpretation are like maps. Every map distorts reality in some way. In spite of their distortions maps are also useful for those who want to travel in the real world. So any survey of the Bible will have to take the risk of distortion. A map helps you get above the details and see what is most important. Wright proposes that if we interrogate the Bible by asking what is the mission of God we will have the best chance of seeing what is important.
It is more complicated than that. He spends several chapters talking about it. But I said I wanted to deal with the first part briefly and I think the above statement accurately gives his view. It is what he means by a “missional hermeneutic.”