Eddie and Sue Arthur

A Whole Bible for Holistic Mission

… where do we find any justification for imagining that by rightly under taking what the New Testament commands us to do, we are absolved from doing what the Old Testament commands? Why should we imagine that doing evangelism in obedience to the New Testament excludes doing justice in obedience to the Old? Why have we allowed what we call the Great Commission to obscure the twin challenge (endorsed by Jesus himself) of the Great Commandment?

How can it be suggested that evangelistic proclamation is the only essential mission of the church? It seems impossible to me to justify such reductionism if we intend to sustain any claim to be taking the whole Bible seriously as our authority for mission and as that which defines the content and scope of our mission. Mission belongs to God – the biblical God. The message of mission is to be drawn from the whole of God’s biblical revelation. So we cannot simply relegate the powerful message of events such as the exodus or institutions like the jubilee to a bygone era. They are an integral part of the biblical definition of God’s idea of redemption and of God’s requirement for his redeemed people. We pay no compliments to the New Testament and the new and urgent mission of evangelistic mission it entrusts to us in the light of Christ by relegating the Old Testament and the foundations of mission that it had already laid and that Jesus emphatically endorsed. Whole Christian mission is built on the whole Christian Bible.

From The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative pages 304 and 306.

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7 Comments on “A Whole Bible for Holistic Mission

  1. There is a problem with the argument in the first sentence quoted here, in that the NT clearly does absolve Christians from some OT commands, such as the sacrificial and food laws. I agree with the conclusion that “we cannot simply relegate the powerful message of events such as the exodus or institutions like the jubilee to a bygone era”. But this conclusion needs to be based on a careful analysis of how the principles in the OT should be applied by Christian believers today, not on a simplistic argument that OT commands apply directly.

  2. Thanks for this Peter, I fully agree and had I quoted the full two pages from Wright, you would have seen his careful unpacking of the argument. I just copied out what I saw as the highlights.

  3. I was choking on the same beef. 😉

    While I value the OT as background to the NT, when it comes to Bible translation I very much think along the lines of Hebrews 1. God has now revealed himself to us in his son. We all tacitly see a primacy of certain texts and as Peter says the notion that certain texts have been superseded. However there are two problems with translating everything from the OT. First, it’s too much work. Second, because African culture has more affinities with OT culture than NT culture you end up doing damage control when people over emphasize the legalistic commands of the OT. I’m just blabbing before coffee so feel free to tell me I’m crazy…

    • That sounds like a great reason to stop most Western Christians having any access to the book of Revelation, David.

  4. The OT is not too much work to translate. It only took us nine years. The real problem is that it is too much work to understand and apply. That will take me more than a lifetime.

  5. I really worry about the sort of thinking that says we shouldn’t translate the OT because it is too much work. Yes, it is a lot of work – even ‘only nine years’ is still a long time – but that is not a good reason for leaving large slices of God’s word untranslated. If we can’t translate all of Scripture, then our reasons need to be better founded than the amount of work it will take. (See these two posts for a discussion of the issues: https://www.kouya.net/?p=281, https://www.kouya.net/?p=283).

  6. Eddie, you wrote: Why have we allowed what we call the Great Commission to obscure the twin challenge (endorsed by Jesus himself) of the Great Commandment?
    Me: The Great Commission and the Great Commandment are both vital to Christians. I am currently working with others to try to promote 24/7 prayer until all the peoples and languages on earth have clear access to the Scriptures (the Bible). A friend who is currently engaged in 24/7 prayer work himself has said basically that we cannot sustain Great Commission work without the nurturing focus on the Great Commandment. When we spend time with our Father, focus on the great love He has for us, and pause in prayer to enjoy His love for us and the love we have for Him, we can get up from our knees and float through the work things He has given us to do. That has been my experience.
    So, yes we surely do need both ‘Greats’.

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