Monday, April 11, 2011

Thesis 5: Church's Mission as Scripture's Trajectory

Thesis 5: The Bible is given for the sake of the Church’s mission, including individual and communal formation, worship, and proclamation.

Lewis Ayers has recently offered his own “thesis” on biblical interpretation, in which he argues that

The scriptures are a providentially ordered resource for the shaping and reformation of the Church’s imagination and desire. The reformation of imagination is a reformation of the human soul – the soul that finds its mission and true end as imago Dei within the Body of Christ. The human person finds this mission and true end through a credally normed meditation on the text of scripture within the church.(12)

As the very form of the codex in which Early Christians collected the New Testament shows, Scripture’s main place in the life of the Church is for public reading, especially in worship.(13) In Christ, God has opened the covenant people of Israel and the blessings of creation to all nations and peoples. Both God’s calling of Israel and the Church, as well as the kind of life to which God calls them, are for the sake of witnessing God’s covenant love to all creation; thus, the main plot of the story of God with God’s people can be said to be that not only of salvation, but also mission. Scripture’s primary use within the Christian community is thus missionary, and this constitutes the central trajectory of its continued use.(14) Christ’s mission is a kenotic, self-emptying one (see Phil. 2.6f), and so too, Christ’s people must have their desires, imaginations and actions formed accordingly. Scripture is used in prayer, in worship, in proclamation, both by individuals and the community, for the sake of forming a communal life which itself is a sacrament and word that proclaims the Good News of God’s action in Jesus Christ. The Christian community, and thus its worship and all of its readings of Scripture, must therefore be a public community, where individual devotions and formations must be tested against the Christological and missional trajectories of the Church’s reading of Scripture. The Church herself can only recognize such readings if she herself is engaged contemplatively in seeking to be formed, reformed and conformed Christologically, for the sake of her mission to reflect and proclaim Christ’s Lordship in all she does. Put differently, Scripture is the Holy Spirit's instrument for the creation of the Church, her faithfulness, her holiness, her catholicity, her unity, and her apostolicity.

12 Lewis Ayres, “The Soul and the Reading of Scripture: A Note on Henri de Lubac.” (Scottish Journal of Theology 61 no. 2, 2008, 173-190), 189.
13 Peterson lecture 12.01.10.
14 Here I am imagining mission functioning in a similar manner as the trajectories of “justice” and “justification by faith” in Craig Nessan’s “The Authority of Scripture” (2006, available at, 17. As will become apparent in Part II of this paper, within the single trajectory of the mission of the Church in proclaiming the restoration of the blessings of creation, a similar tension will arise as in Nessan, though in this instance, between new creation as transforming the gender roles established in creation, and the more conservative trajectory that seeks to preserve kephale-subordinationism. See Part II below.

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