A People Called: Narrative Transportation and Missional Identity in 1 Peter
Shaw, David Michael
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Conversations concerning the missional posture of 1 Peter have been dictated largely by the now (in)famous debate between David Balch’s assimilationist position over and against John Elliott’s more sectarian position. More recent work has sought to bridge the gap between Balch and Elliott with a variety of more nuanced positions such as Miroslav Volf’s “Soft Difference”. Most of the discussion revolves around the practicalities of cultural engagement and what it might mean for church members to interact with the world as “Christians” in an increasingly hostile environment. The present thesis takes a step back from the coal face of missional engagement to focus on how that mission is shaped. More particularly, I am concerned with how 1 Peter utilises the language of divine calling (καλέω) that appears in five specific instances (1:13–21; 2:4–10; 2:18–25; 3:8–17; 5:6–14), alongside central events and motifs from the Old Testament, to cultivate a narrative that forges a distinct Christian identity and mission, that has its basis in Israel’s history and the life of Christ. Our concern with narrative and cultural interaction leads us to consider the relevant Petrine texts, through the dual lenses of Social Identity and Narrative Transportation theories which reveal how various groups interact, and how narratives shape actions and beliefs respectively. I argue that through the language of calling, and with the assistance of key OT motifs, 1 Peter seeks to develop a Christian identity that might be best described as “elect sojourners”; that believers are those who are elect of God and yet rejected by the world. This identity manifests itself in a life of “resident-alien-ness”—in the world, yet no longer of the world—that consequently leads to various forms of suffering. Amid such suffering, 1 Peter calls the church to a priestly ministry—representing God to the people, and the people to God—through a life geared towards blessing, even when such a life leads to suffering. This is the life to which the Anatolian believers have been called: a life of holiness as a priestly community, committed to the gracious endurance of suffering, and of blessing those who would oppose them.
University of Exeter, College of Humanities International Student Doctoral Award
PhD in Theology