As part of the Bible and Mission MA programme I’m doing from Redcliffe College in the UK I’m studying how to read the Bible from a missional perspective. This involves seeing both how God’s universal mission through his particular people is advanced in and through the text of the Bible, and also how that text is part of God’s reaching out to people of all nations today.
One of our assignments is to choose a part of the Bible and to demonstrate what it would mean to read it from a missional perspective. I decided I wanted to do a passage that wasn’t one that might typically be used to teach about mission… so I’ve settled on the book of Ecclesiastes.
My experience is that Ecclesiastes isn’t often taught within the western church, and that when it is the message is often presented as “life is meaningless without God, so our lives must be centred on God to have meaning”. While I think this is generally true, the more I read the book on its own terms, the more I think this is really what we want it to say. I wonder if we have to get a bit deeper into the context, culture and purpose of the writer in order to more fully understand its message.
I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on Ecclesiastes. Why is it in the Bible? What is its purpose? Does it testify to God’s mission to the nations in any way? What (if any) role does Ecclesiastes have in mission today?
I’d be particularly interested to hear from anyone with an African or Asian perspective, as I have a suspicion that a non-western non-dominant-culture reading may hold the key to understanding the book and its role and message on its own terms.