The goal of the survey thus far has been to show how the biblical story informs our missional philosophy of cultural engagement. By distinguishing between times of theocracy and pilgrimage we find differing principles for life and mission among the people of God.
In this regard, hopefully the point has been sufficiently made that as a New Covenant people we are no longer under a land-principle, but instead under a pilgrim-principle. This means that our philosophy of cultural engagement stands in stark contrast to that of the Old Covenant community as they dwelt in the land of Canaan.
Israel, under a time of theocracy, were called to be physically separate from the world. While this period would indeed serve the purposes of mission, it did so in such a manner that anticipated further and final fulfilment of the Abrahamic Promise. I.e., Israel’s theocratic rule would show forth the glory of God’s foreshadowed kingdom to all the surrounding peoples, bringing them to marvel in awe at its splendour (e.g., those such as the Queen of Sheba, who would stand amazed, and give glory to God).
Israel’s missional philosophy, then, was ‘come and see’, rather than a ‘go and tell’. To have the required effect, they were not to allow any devision between sacred and secular. They were not to participate in any common grace interactions. They were to picture a time that both echoed the garden paradise, and looked forward to the final consummated kingdom.
Of course, all of this would change at the end of this theocracy and at the inauguration of New Covenant. If we summarise Israel’s missional model as: “Closed hand. Closed hand. Stay”. Then the church’s model is this: “Closed hand. Opened Hand. Go!“. That is to say, on the one hand, we stand in complete alignment with Israel in terms of our ironclad grip upon all that God requires in the realm of the sacred (keeping watch over our life and doctrine). But on the other hand, where the Old Covenant people were restricted from participation in common grace activity, this is no longer the case for us in the New Covenant. No longer do we have a closed hand on cultural engagement. If anything, as per my previous post, the very idea behind mission now requires that we open this hand as widely as possible, and that we go into the world (not merely the Christian ghettos).
This point, I believe, has two massive implications for the mission of the church. We’ll talk about those in the next post.