Lloyd Pietersen – Reading the Bible After Christendom [Featured Review]

May 8, 2012


Page 3 – Lloyd Pietersen – Reading the Bible After Christendom

In Acts we find a church on mission that adapts its message to each new context it enters. This supports the underlying premise of the book that we need to read the Bible with an openness to how our own unique setting might influence our view of Scripture. For example, the cross is central to discipleship but the call to follow Christ’s example as a servant is easily misplaced when the church identifies itself instead with wealth and power.

The strongest point of this section is where Pietersen highlights specific passages that demonstrate how our biblical interpretation is impacted by our changing contexts. His point may have been diluted by attempting to trace his theme through the entire Bible in a book of this size. Focusing on smaller portions of Scripture might have allowed him to more clearly establish his line of reasoning.

The third part of the book examines reading the Bible for spirituality and for mission as two contemporary applications of its premise. Three particular approaches are recommended for spirituality. A transformative reading of the Bible looks for its direct application to our lives. A second approach is to learn from the lives of the Scripture’s leading characters. Last a canonical approach combined with a spirituality lens traces the applicational themes that connect various passages of Scripture.

Reading the Bible for mission involves learning from our analogous situation to that of the early church that our most effective impact will take place within our social relationships. “Effective mission involves a combination of social networks and attractive, but challenging, lifestyle.” The gospel message must be framed to challenge the idols faced in each cultural context and then lived out by the church to show a better way.

Pietersen’s challenge is that we must use our changing circumstances as a catalyst to reevaluate our traditional interpretations of Scripture. His critique of our “insiders” view of the Scripture from the vantage point of power and affluence is timely and poignant. Interpretive challenges will continue to spring from the global expansion of the church into parts of the world that lack the societal support for Christianity that we have enjoyed in the West. We must not allow the lingering effects of Christendom to cause us to ignore the more radical aspects of the gospel. Lloyd Pietersen has provided key insights that in changing times will help us to evaluate the way we read the Bible and understand its message to our communities after Christendom.