Articles

January 28, 2009
A couple of meetings ago, I began to notice what seemed to me to be some sharp differences emerging between the various proposals being made about what a missional hermeneutic is. We had not achieved a uniform definition, it seemed to me, and perhaps not even a uniform way to pose the question. Now some of the proposals were beginning to speak to and about each other, cordially, but with some degree of candor, as well. Even where the proposals did not present themselves in that way, distinctions of approach and nuance and accent and aim were becoming more apparent, at least to me. All of this, I believed, and continue to believe, is a sign of maturation in this emerging field of hermeneutical reference. My aim here is to tease out what I believe to be four different streams of thought about what a missional hermeneutic is and how it affects biblical interpretation. I do this in order to explore how each of the foci relates to the others, and test whether these differences represent alternative and incommensurate paths, or complementary and synergistic ones. Or maybe both!?!
January 28, 2009
I find George’s thesis about the four-part synergy to be both helpful and fairly persuasive. My main questions have to do with implementation, particularly in light of the “important corollary” to his thesis, namely that “none of these is sufficient on its own to provide a robust hermeneutic.” Implementation becomes even more of an intriguing question given the implicit scaffolding—dare I say hierarchy—seemingly at work in George’s articulation of the four streams. At the simplest level, I wonder about what this corollary would mean when we actually sit down to engage with biblical texts. I agree that “a robust hermeneutic” would require attention to more than one—and perhaps all—of the “streams” George discerns. But is a fully “robust hermeneutic” necessary in each interpretive exercise in order for a reading to be considered missional? If an interpreter fails to attend to all four “streams” in a particular reading, is his or her analysis somehow less representative of a missional hermeneutic? I’m still wondering, I guess, how concrete exegetical methodology relates to the notion of a larger, “robust hermeneutic.”
January 28, 2009
I want to inject one other note into the conversation, which is not explicitly addressed by George, but seems to me to be important. I begin with the simple observation that missional encounters between people are, almost by definition, cross-cultural encounters. To the extent that this is true, then it follows that a missional hermeneutic is one that sees this cross-cultural encounter as the central context out of which interpretation takes place. This is most closely addressed in George’s 3rd category, which focuses on the location of the reader. A hermeneutic that is explicitly missional is one that sees interpretation as taking place in a three-sided conversation: not merely a conversation between the text and the reader, as in traditional western hermeneutics. Instead, a missional hermeneutic envisions a three-way conversation between the reader, an “other” who hears the text differently, and the text itself. It is this notion of otherness, implicit in reading the text in the midst of cross-cultural encounters, which is vital to a missional hermeneutic.
November 15, 2008
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The emerging church. What is it? Who is it? And what exactly do they mean by church? In other words, what is the ecclesiology of the emerging church? It seems like “the church” should be easy to define. Yet throughout time and across various Christian movements people’s definitions of church – what it is, what it is for, who makes it up – have varied widely. How does the emerging church fit into this varied tradition? Is this a movement that defines church differently than it has ever been defined before? Or is the emerging church something old packaged in something new?
November 15, 2008
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We have probably all seen the famous painting of Jesus standing at a vine-covered door, knocking. It is a door without a doorknob, one that must be opened from the inside. It is said that the door is to the human heart. Clearly the idea for the painting is taken from this passage in Revelation. Surely there is something true about the painting. But in this passage we just read, Jesus is not knocking on the individual human heart but at the door of a church--a congregation--the faithful gathered in Laodicea. And that makes an enormous difference in the interpretation of the passage.
November 26, 2006
Notes of a paper offered at the Bible and Mission: Toward a Missional Hermeneutic seminar at AAR/SBL in November 2006.
November 1, 2006
We are interested in exploring a missional hermeneutics, a forum that is heartening for those of us who have become convinced (1) that truly critical hermeneutical engagement with the Bible must incorporate missional questions and (2) that solid biblical work plays a crucial role in healthy missiological research.
August 1, 2006
When the Hartford Institute for Religion Research invited me to join 35 others at a consultation on the theme "Theology in Congregational Life," it set me to thinking about the variety of ways in which the accents of the Gospel and Our Culture Network conversations over the years have touched on that very thing. The conveners, particularly Carl Dudley, knew that about the network, and the invitation was a deliberate choice on their part to bring the fruit of those conversations to bear on the theme. What follows is the written response I submitted to the aspects of the theme upon which we all had been asked to reflect.
March 1, 1999
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Real estate agents who know the Atlanta market will tell you that the single most stable middle-income neighborhood inside the perimeter is Toco Hills. Over the years shopping centers and road widenings have nibbled at the edges of this residential community but its quiet streets and modest homes have remained virtually undisturbed. Nor is there much turnover here.
January 1, 1999
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As we talk about the powers, we need to be careful about calling anything and anyone that wields power one of the "powers." In the New Testament, the powers have a character beyond individual human beings. They have a collective nature, or an institutional nature, or a political nature as well as a spiritual nature, an ethos, a continuity beyond particular individuals.