Ashford, Bruce Riley and Thomas, Heath A. The Gospel of Our King: Bible, Worldview, and the Mission of Every Christian. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2019. 208 pp.
Everyone has a worldview whether they know it or not, and this worldview shapes one’s behavior, decision making, and interactions in all of life. Those claiming Christianity as a belief system are no different. We are claiming allegiance to King Jesus and his kingdom. This allegiance should affect each aspect of how Christians interpret and live in the world according to Bruce Ashford and Heath Thomas. In The Gospel of Our King: Bible, Worldview, and the Mission of Every Christian, Ashford and Thomas unpack just how allegiance to King Jesus and his kingdom shapes all of life and gives it purpose.
Ashford and Thomas open the book with a very firm and clear statement regarding its direction. They state “that the world exists, you and I exist, for the King. This answer draws us to identify both the purpose of humanity and what counts as responsible action in the world” (1). Therefore, if humanity wants to understand its purpose and right action in the world it must understand the King. The rest of the work follows from this foundation.
Ashford and Thomas divide the work into two parts with one chapter serving as an interlude seeking to clarify and emphasize the importance of worldview. The first part of the book establishes the kingship of Jesus by developing the biblical narrative through the four act delineation of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Through this delineation they show that the Bible is about King Jesus and that humanity had, has, and will have its place in this Christocentric narrative. The last four chapters of the book explore the Christian mission in light of living for the purpose of the King and his kingdom. The authors divide the Christian mission into the four broad categories of theological, social, cultural, and global mission, and they demonstrate how the gospel of King Jesus dictates and directs Christians’ purpose and action in each of these realms.
Ashford and Thomas should be lauded for this work. They are able to succinctly and clearly establish a biblical theology and compellingly demonstrate why good biblical theology matters for the everyday life of the believer. There are a few things of note that they do especially well.
First, in the chapter entitled “Creation”, the authors’ exposition and application of the meaning of the imago Dei is outstanding. Their description of the image of God in terms of being structural, functional, and relational is immensely helpful in demonstrating that humanity had a purpose from the very beginning and that, by our very nature, humans function best when we are fulfilling our created role as image bearers. An important note made in this context is that image bearing is not something humans do; rather, it is who humans are. Hence, humans function properly only when living in light of the truth of who we are as image bearers.
Second, in chapter eight, “ A Cultural Mission,” Ashford and Thomas do well in showing the false dichotomy of sacred and secular vocational roles. They highlight that fact that Christian are to serve the purpose of King Jesus in all vocational spheres. Christians should work to see the purposes of the King and his kingdom accomplished in any arena of culture, whether that cultural arena be politics, the arts, higher education, or the sciences. The Christian mission should be, and must be, taken into these different kinds of culture. The King came to redeem and restore each and everyone; thus, Christians should work freely in each arena with this redemptive purpose in mind.
Third, in their final chapter, “A Global Mission,” Ashford and Thomas make an important connection that shows the unity of the Bible and the consistency of God. They show how God’s global mission did not begin with the incarnation and earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. God had a desire to reach, bless, and redeem the nations from the very beginning of the Scriptures. In fact, as they point out, one of the purposes for the nation of Israel was to be a light to the nations. This one connection elegantly ties the Christian mission to the entirety of the biblical narrative, which only serves to deepen its meaning, urgency, and confidence.
In the end, Ashford and Thomas accomplish the task for which they set out. Through the lens of the biblical narrative, they demonstrate that the Christian mission is to bring the restorative truth of the gospel to bear through words and deeds in every sphere of life. The Christian mission is not merely something Christians do; it is who we are as citizens of King Jesus’ Kingdom. Hence, the greatest way to ensure the success of the Christian mission is for the King’s citizens to be who we were created and redeemed to be in all spheres of life.