It’s a quirk, I know, but I’m actually one of those who like reading festschriften. I confess, part of the attraction relates to the “insider” nature of the contributions as well as the unevenness that can characterize this kind of multi-author work. In this sense, festschriften are the “kinder surprise” eggs of the publishing world. Although you may have some particular hope and expectation, what you end up with in your hand simply isn’t guaranteed. All this to say, that in turning to Breath and Bone: Living out the Mission of God in the World (Langham Global Library, 2017) a festschrift for Christopher J. H. Wright edited by Riad A Kassis, Pieter J. Kwant, and Paul Windsor, I found myself in possession of a “good egg”—a pleasurable and helpful collection of essays authored in celebration of Anglican clergyman and Old Testament scholar, Chris Wright’s 70th birthday.
While Chris Wright is well known and his many published works (both academic and popular) have been well received, many readers of Wright are likely to miss (or forego) reading this festschrift. To my mind, that is a shame. Indeed, I see at least three reasons why regular readers of Wright ought to consider taking up this particular publication.
(1) The two forewords, eighteen chapters, one afterword, and bibliography of the works of Chris Wright represent a rich repository of reflection on anticipated themes. Frequently, to read Chris Wright is to be introduced to the expansion and need of the global church; to a wholistic gospel that compels a comprehensive mission; and to a deep commitment to the faithful, clear, relevant preaching of the Bible (with particular contextual awareness). Contributors to this volume—from Western and Central Europe; from Central, South, and Southeast Asia; from the Middle East; from East and South Africa; and from North and South America—wonderfully convey such central themes even as they range farther afield. Examples of essays I especially enjoyed include those from Collium Banda (Zimbabwe) on engagement with public life; Frew Tamrat (Ethiopia) on loving the people of God; Las Newman (Jamaica) on Creation Care; Paul Swarup (India) on election, ethics, and mission; Andrea Stephanous (Egypt) on challenging poverty; Dwi Handayani (Indonesia) on the place of the psalms of lament; and so on.
(2) Beyond reflecting back those themes that have long found prominence in Chris’s own writings, one of the chief values and delights of this collection of essays is the way in which the fruitfulness of Chris’s writing and teaching ministry is confirmed. In addition to the generous geographical spread of the contributors, it is evident that Wright’s magnum opus, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative, and his advocacy of a missional hermeneutic have had and are having an extraordinary impact globally. Reading the various essays that make up this book bears ample witness to the acceptance of Wright’s missional paradigm and project. It bears witness as well to that paradigm’s ability to facilitate and enhance biblical understanding and theological reflection in various contexts. Far beyond the stereotype of “faddishness,” Chris Wright’s understanding of God as a missional God and his efforts to inculcate a missional approach to reading the Bible are bearing rich fruit that will abide and inform generations still to come.
(3) As well as its thematic and locational richness, and its evident fruitfulness, this volume manages to celebrate not only the gifts that God has given Chris Wright as an author, educator, pastor, and missioner, but also the gifts that God pours out across the entire church. In this volume the diversity of today’s church is on full display! Here, those of us situated in the West are introduced to a growing number of biblical and theological scholars from across the globe. Here, those of us who say we are unsure of where to begin in terms of exposing ourselves to the rich perspectives of the worldwide church could hardly do better than start with this volume. Here, indigenous leaders take us by the hand and, in the space of a few pages each, share with us the beauty and the brokenness of their cultures and offer insight into the meaning of various Scripture portions and the progress of the biblical gospel in relation to their settings and struggles.
In truth, there are many good reasons to invest time in reading this volume. If you are already a Chris Wright reader, then you probably don’t need me to say a whole lot more. For my part—and here I am thinking especially of friends at Covenant Theological Seminary and the Missional Training Center–Phoenix—I hope this volume achieves some level of prominence in our midst. While not easily deployed as a text book, it does deserve a place on one’s bookshelf as it is a fine compliment to Chris Wright’s writings, especially staple texts such as The Mission of God, The Mission of God’s People, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, and others.
Finally, and as a nod to the excellent work of Langham Partnership, who published this work and whose vision is “to facilitate the growth of the church in maturity and Christ-likeness through raising the standard of biblical preaching and teaching,” I am thankful not only to have read this volume but also to pronounce that it serves to make wonderfully concrete their espoused vision.
Prof. Mark Ryan is Director of the Francis Schaeffer Institute and Adjunct Professor of Religion and Culture at Covenant Seminary.