Friday, October 03, 2014

Reading Through Genesis with Goldingay

This year, along with my Old Testament devotional reading, I am reading through Old Testament Theology by John Goldingay. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page, but I haven’t done a blog post about it yet, so here goes. In the future I will do posts on smaller, 1 chapter, chunks of the book, but I will make one here on the first two chapters of the book which mainly deal with an introduction to OT theology and Genesis chapters 1-2. Thus, I will not be going into much detail. One thing I like very much about what Goldingay is doing in this volume is that he is really wrestling with the text as it is. He does not seem to try to force the text into his own theological system. In the Old Testament we see the story of transcendent Creator God who actually lowers himself into human relationships in order to reveal himself to his creation. Every chapter title in this book begins with the word “God.”

In chapter one he analyzes what an Old Testament theology should do, “Old Testament theology would be wise to keep closer to the Old Testament’s own categories of thought in order to give it more opportunity to speak its own insights rather than assimilating it to Christian categories.” (18) The essence of the Old Testament is that it is the (incomplete) story of God and Israel. One could make the case that much of the New Testament is a series of sermons on the old. Thus, we need to get away from telling the story of the Gospel by going straight from Genesis 1-3 to the story of Jesus and skipping all the parts in between. If we don’t understand the OT we really don’t understand the NT.

The theme of chapter 2 is the creation, “God began.” The major point is that “the world does not exist in or of or for itself, independently of God, but only because God wills it.” (42) Nevertheless, people, and creation itself, also has some sovereignty and an important role to play…

God is not a micro-manager who seeks to make every decision for the company, but the wiser kind of executive who formulates clear goals but involves the work force in determining how to implement them, and also recognizes that the failure of members of the work force will require an ongoing flexibility in pursuing these goals. (60)

Another important insight is that God created the earth as a safe home where he could enjoy relationship with all of creation, “God apparently does feel at home in the cosmos and implicitly invites humanity to do the same...The First Testament implies that the physical heavens are God's home... Perhaps that also implies that YHWH intended the earth, too, as a home to live in, not merely a place for human beings to occupy.”  (85)

The chapter continues with the discussion of “shaping” human beings and “delegating” rule to them in the temple garden which he “planted” as a place of meeting, joy, service and relationship. All human beings, male and female, in their relationships reflect the image of God and rule/serve over creation.

Only when men and women are together do we have God imaged. the two have the same metaphysical status or role. Men do not embody normal humanity, with women being a slightly deficient variant on the norm. It is humanity,not just men as well as not just kings, and not just Israelites that images God. (106)

Finally the chapter closes with the discussion of God’s rest. “God stops work not out of tiredness, but having completed the task. God's rest is not a mark of divine effeteness but of divine strength. It hints not at human insecurity, but at human security. God's home and the world's home is finished. It can now be enjoyed.” (127)

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