I’m currently reading Stephen Neil and N.T. Wright’s excellent book, The Interpretation of the New Testament: 1861-1986. It provides a fascinating narrative overview of the history of New Testament interpretation. One of the more interesting sections describes the history behind the use of the Apostolic Fathers, especially Ignatius, in churches. Neil says, “If you approved of episcopacy, Ignatius was just your man; if you disapproved of episcopacy, Ignatius just would not do.” Well, John Milton was one man who definitely disapproved of Ignatius and the episcopacy. He says,
It seems that Milton had a way with words and no doubt would have been a provocative blogger in our day.
“[Paul himself] spent years of his life on the road, carrying (presumably on pack animals) his tent, clothing and tools — not many scrolls, if any. he carried the Bible safely tucked away in his head, where it belongs. As an apostle, he often supported himself by plying his trade. he was busy, traveling, working with his hands, winning people for Christ, shepherding or coping with his converts, responding to questions and problems. And he was very human; he knew not only fighting without but also fears within (2 Cor. 7:5). Paul the completely confident academic and systematic theologian — sitting at his desk, studying the Bible, working out a system, perfect and consistent in all its parts, unchaining over a period of thirty years, no matter how many new experiences he and his churches and — is an almost inhuman character, either a thinking machine or the fourth person of the Trinity. The real Paul knew anger, joy, depression, triumph, and anguish; he reacted, he overreacted, he repented, he apologized, he flattered and cajoled, he rebuked and threatened, he argued this way and that way: he did everything he could think of in order to win some.”
Quoted in NT Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, p. 354 from E.P. Sanders, “Did Paul’s Theology Develop” in The Word Leaps the Gap: Essays on Scripture and Theology in Honor of Richard B. Hays, p. 347,
Chris Wright’s book “The Mission of God’s People” is the one of the best books I have read on the mission of the church. His work is a refreshing oasis in a area of study that is wrought with false dichotomies and primacy in “social justice” over “evangelism” and vice versa. This book is a holistic approach to the mission of God’s people. His approach is a biblical theology of “why the people of God exist and what it is they are to do in the world…what is the mission of God’s people?” and he does this by wading through an ocean of biblical texts pulling from both testaments to present a biblical theology of the purpose of the church. His focus ranges from asking what is the gospel to presenting a case for the place of ecological care in the church. The range of topics is done in a succinct but thorough manner throughout the book. Wright successfully answers the opening question, “who are we and what are we here for?”
A biblical theological approach to understanding the mission of the church. Rather than starting with the Great Commission passages Wright follows the story of the Bible showing the mission of the church
A Christian approach to ecological care. This is the best argument I have read on the Christian importance of ecological care. Part of his argument involves Psalm 148 and he argues that if all of God’s creation is to give praise to God and humans destroy his creation then we are taking praise from God.
A holistic view of the gospel against an individualistic approach. Wright beautifully states, “Thus, in what is arguably Paul’s most eloquent summary of the identity of Christ and the scope of the gospel, he proclaims that all things in the universe have been created by Christ, are being sustained by Christ, and will be reconciled to God by Christ through the blood of his cross. That is the breathtakingly universal scope of the reign of God through Christ. And that, says Paul, is the gospel (Col. 1:15 – 23 – read and relish this great passage again!). And only after the survey of the cosmic significance of Christ, his church, and his cross does Paul move to the personal reconciliation of believers“
Overall the church should have a holistic approach to missions. The idea of primacy of evangelism or social justice is not seen in the bible rather both are weaved together. Just as a table needs legs and a top the mission of the church is caring for physicial needs along with spiritual needs.