It is not my intent in this last blog on Christopher Wright’s amazing book to exhaustively analyze all aspects of the book. I doubt that is really necessary and, anyway, that’s already been done.
If you are interested in a thorough evaluation of this book, I recommend the review on the “9 Marks” website by Mike GilbartSmith: http://www.9marks.org/books/book-review-mission-god. I especially appreciate the questions GilbartSmith raises concerning Wright’s methodology and theological presuppositions.
A fair analysis of any book must examine perceived weaknesses as well as obvious strengths. From my perspective, these perceived weaknesses deserve analysis and yet they don’t undermine my basic contention that “The Mission of God” is a quintessential resource for anyone who wishes to seriously mine the unsearchable riches of Scripture for God’s story about his mission to make his Son famous in a fallen world.
Here are four things that I especially like about Wright’s approach:
1. Wright is persuasive in developing the principle that a missiology without a strong Old Testament foundation will be a weak missiology. Though Wright has been criticized for his heavy emphasis on the Old Testament in the development of his theology, hermeneutics, and missiology, I personally find this the most attractive aspect of Wright’s work.
In working with churches as a missions mobilizer, I have recognized a deficiency in good teaching and in the Old Testament. On more than one occasion I have asked students in a class to give me an Old Testament verse on missions, only to be met with blank stares.
Of the roughly 2,000 (!) Scripture references listed in the “Scripture Index” at the back of the book, almost 2/3 are from the Old Testament. This may be expected due to Wright’s expertise as an OT scholar, but it is nevertheless refreshing to see the OT being used to establish the foundation for an undertaking (i.e., missions) that is normally assumed by most believers to be a New Testament innovation. (I sometimes wonder if we don’t think the Great Commission was an afterthought of Jesus…as if as he was preparing to ascend to heaven he suddenly paused, turned to his disciples, and said: “Oh guys. By the way, I almost forgot to tell you…Go and make disciples…”)
2. I appreciate the thoroughness and painstaking efforts Wright demonstrates in laying his foundation by beginning with hermeneutics. His discussions of hermeneutics in the earlier part of the book are extremely valuable, both for his conclusions but also for his methodology.
3. I love Wright’s ability to integrate God’s heart, missions, and a respect for the environment. He ably demonstrates this integration in his analysis of OT texts. This is sorely needed, not just an emphasis on good environmental practices, but a rigorous, robust theo-ecology based on a serious examination of the Scriptures.
4. I appreciate the fact that Wright continually emphasizes the role of the people of God as an elect community in carrying out God’s mission. This is so important to his missiology that he has produced a companion book, “The Mission of God’s People,” to highlight the priority of God’s people in carrying out his mission.
Well, there you have it. Go and buy this book if you want to ground your missiology in Scripture! – Dave