In just over a week from now, the Biblical and Theological Studies Faculty at North Park University will be hosting the annual Kermit Zarley Lectures. This year we are pleased have Chris Wright as our speaker. The date of the lectures is November 2 and 3, 2009 at 3:30-5:00 PM in Anderson Chapel on the campus of NPU. The Lectures are free to attend and open to all. If you are in Chicagoland please make plans to attend.
The title of his lectures is: “The Bible and the Mission of God."
The subtitle: "What Justification is there for Christian Mission to the World?" (or, "Can Christian Mission to the World be Justified?")
Title of Lecture 1: The Bible and the Scandal of Universality
Lecture 1 will show how our understanding of the validity of Christian mission flows from the world view presented to us in Scripture as a whole. This of course will require some definition of 'worldview', and defense of seeing the overarching biblical narrative as constitutive for Christian understanding of God, the universe, history, etc. We would look at some key themes in OT theology, that flow into the emergence of NT mission - especially the universality of the Abrahamic calling and God's ultimate purposes for the nations. We will also try to distinguish the theology and ideals of biblical mission from the sad and acknowledged failures and abuses that the church has perpetrated through the ages.
Lecture 2: Jesus Christ and the Scandal of Particularity.
Lecture 2 will basically be asking, What makes Jesus unique, such that the Christian mission of bearing witness to him is unavoidable for those who choose to follow him. And again, we will distinguish humble witness to Christ from Christendom pretensions, imperialism, cultural superiorities, etc.
Chris of course is well known as an OT scholar and missionary. His works are numerous, but he recently published perhaps his most significant work The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative. In this work he seeks to defend what he calls the “missional hermeneutic”. Essentially he argues that the Bible is a missional document from cover to cover. He clarifies that he doesn’t think it is a missionary document, as he sees no missionary mandate in the OT. However, from the very beginning of the Bible, Wright argues, that God is on mission. And he invites humanity to join him in his mission.
There are so many interesting points he discusses in over 581 pages including indexes that it would be impossible to even scratch the surface. I would like to comment on just one point that I have found important in biblical theology, but that, as Wright states, is not often addressed: the conflict with idolatry. He avers: “It has long seemed to me that the biblical category of idolatry is in danger of shallow understanding and simplistic responses. Yet surely it is a fundamental, if negative, aspect of a fully biblical monotheism” (137). Implicitly, if not explicitly, Wright shows that the whole mission of God has set as its goal the removal of idolatry from the earth. He provides a quite in-depth discussion of the nature of idolatry in Scripture. Wright observes that the overwhelmingly clear idea about idolatry is that it is a product of human creativity, although more rarely it is tied to demonic activity. As such, the primary implication is idolatry is the pinnacle of the human quest of autonomy from its Creator. He remarks: “Since God’s mission is to restore creation to its full original purpose of bringing all glory to God himself and thereby to enable all creation to enjoy the fullness of blessing that he desires for it, God battles against all forms of idolatry and calls us to join him in that conflict (188).