Discussing the Grand Narrative of Scripture

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More than 700 people from 16 different countries attended the Calvin Theological Seminary-sponsored conference “A Missional Reading of Scripture” in late November.

So what’s “missional,” and why all the buzz? Over the past several decades, a number of scholars have recognized that mission is not simply a peripheral theme in the biblical story. Rather, it is a central thread in the biblical writings and central to the identity of the church.

Thus a missional hermeneutic is a way of reading Scripture in which mission is a central interpretive key that unlocks the whole narrative of Scripture.

That was the focus of this conference, explored by plenary speakers including Christopher Wright, Calvin Seminary missiologist Michael Goheen, Darrell Guder, and N. T. Wright. There were also nine different workshop options from which participants could choose three sessions.

As part of the conference lineup, N. T. Wright gave a free public lecture: “The Big Picture: The New Testament and the Mission of God.” Held at Mar Hills Bible Church, this West Michigan event drew an audience of over 2,500, many of whom came with books in hand to be signed.

One conference participant commented, “N. T. Wright is so helpful in interacting with particular issues from his encyclopedic understanding of the New Testament. What a treasure!”

Wright expressed his own words of appreciation, praising CTS for being a vocation-shaping place that “holds up before people the larger picture of the world and the Bible,” a critical need in contemporary culture, which is largely illiterate when it comes to theology and Scripture.

When asked for feedback on the conference, conference-goers had many good things to say. One commented, “Embracing the nature of how we fit into the grand narrative of God is always helpful in my missional context. It is the most compelling and effective paradigm in my context.” Another remarked, “I am a missionary working in Asia. This conference touched on topics relevant to building churches healthy in their cultural identity as individual and interdependent parts of the Global Body of Christ.”

This conference was organized through the Seminary’s Institute for Global Church Planting and Renewal, which hopes to convene conferences in the future that address other missional issues for the church.

Podcasts of the lectures and a video of the public lecture by N. T. Wright are available on the CTS web page.

Related Article:
A Missional Reading of Scripture (crcna.org)

About the Author

Alena De Young, Calvin Theological Seminary

See comments (1)


Can someone offer a Comment length rendition of what "missional" means in this context (a "missional reading of scripture").  I find lots of seminars in the GR area about this, but can't go to them, and conversely, I find little in print.  From what I do read, my sense is that this is new language for roughly the very old concept that Kuyper understood well and talked about when he said that Calvinism wasn't merely a theology but a worldview (including also but not limited to his "not one square inch ..." comment).

I realize every generation may need to express old concepts in new ways but I'm finding some of this "missional stuff" to involve lots of code words with little straightforward definition or explanation.  And when someone says something like: "Thus a missional hermeneutic is a way of reading Scripture in which mission is a central interpretive key that unlocks the whole narrative of Scripture," one has to wonder whether no one had an interpretive key to unlock scripture for two thousand years before now, or this is merely new language for something that is in fact not truly "new under the sun."