Sunday, August 30, 2015

Conclusion to Goldingay’s Theology

Goldingay3Today is my final post on Old Testament Theology, by John Goldingay. We have worked through all three volumes: Israel’s Gospel, Israel’s Faith and Israel’s Life. Though I don’t always agree with all his conclusions, I have enjoyed very much working through these volumes. What I most appreciate about Goldingay is that he seems to let the text set the direction of his thinking rather than trying to fit the text into his theology. I also appreciate the humility in his conclusions highlighted by the frequent use of the word “perhaps” to introduce them. Thinking through the Old Testament with him  has been a good growth experience for me in both my personal theology and Christian faith and walk. I hope you have been blessed too. Next year I will be working through various and different Old Testament commentaries and a New Testament theology.

Goldingay sees the Old Testament as a story that reveals who God is, and who humanity (through the representation of Israel) is in response. Its gospel is the story that provides the framework for self and God-understanding. Placing it in narrative form “provides it with a way of discussing tricky theological questions.” Israel’s faith deals with how the natures of Yhwh, Israel, the world and all humanity fit together. Israel’s life is how about how this is lived out in practice, pattern and performance. Goldingay then discusses several New Testament passages that discuss the nature of the Old Testament.

2 Timothy 3.16-17 says that the OT is Useful for Teaching. Though this statement is true for the entire Bible, its original context was directed at the OT. The New Testament was never designed to be complete in itself and, in fact, I would say that the NT cannot be fully or sufficiently understood without the background and context of the OT. Many issues are dealt with in the OT and don’t need to be touched in the NT. The disciples and Jesus assume a knowledge of the OT when they teach. To not understand the OT is to not understand the NT.

From the beginning the New Testament was designed to be a supplement to the First Testament that took the First Testament for granted. It was not designed to be a balanced account of the Christian faith. So the perspective of the New Testament in isolation from the First Testament is bound to be skewed. And this is reflected in the skewed nature of Christians' usual perspective on Christian faith, based as it is merely on a reading of the New Testament, and a selective one at that. (2 Timothy 3.16-17), 833

Hebrews 1.1 says that God spoke in the OT In Many Ways but in Jesus Through a Son. The point is not so much that Jesus provided new revelation but that he fully embodied in human form everything that God is and that God had revealed about Himself in the Old Testament. The purpose of the OT is not to just give us a bare history, but it is theological; to reveal God in the events of that day, the ways people thought about those events and responded to those events.

But, (Hebrews implies) the content of what God said through the prophets and through Christ is the same. There is consistency between God's speaking in the Scriptures, though there is also sequence and story. 834

Romans 4.3, 22-23 tells us that the OT was Written For Us. It was not written to us. It was written to people of a different language, culture and time and we have to interpret and apply it to our time accordingly. However, this does not mean we need “update” its truths to our time. We need to understand our personal story/self assessment/worldview according to the story of God that it tells, not the other way around. The big revelation of the OT is that life is about God, not about us.

The irony is that many evangelicals have come unconsciously to share in modernity's assumptions about the relationship of Scripture's story and our story. Whereas once the principle was to understand our story in light of the scriptural story, now that order is reversed. Whereas once the principle was that the scriptural story is true and my experience needs to be interpreted in its light, now the principle is that my experience is true and the scriptural story needs to be interpreted (which often means "evaluated") in its light. 835

Key to the achievement of God's purpose in the world is acts God undertook once and for all. That is integral to the notion of Christian faith being a gospel, a piece of news about something God has done. 836

Matthew 5.17 says that Jesus has come as the culminating revelation of God Not To Abolish, But To Fulfill. “when Jesus fulfills prophecies, commonly he does not merely do what the prophet encouraged people to expect; he “fills” the prophecies, fills them up, or fills them out, overfills them.” Jesus provides the example in the flesh and empowers through the Spirit of what the gospel community should look like. Israel’s commission in the OT was expanded to the whole world by Jesus, as God always intended.

God was realistic about the fact that the people of God remained one characterized by hardness of heart, by stubborn attitudes, by closed minds, and made allowance for that, but God also held a vision before it and sought to win it to commitment, with the prospect of the blessing that would issue from following God. It was designed to be an alternative community. In practice the church is often simply an alternative version of the same old godless community, an embodiment of that community with nominal reference to God tagged on. 838

Finally Ephesians 5.18-20 command us Be Filled With the Spirit. The Old Testament gives us a tremendous amount of guidance as to what this looks like, but it is largely ignored by the church. The OT shows us how to live in the world and enjoy God’s creation, while at the same time being that alternative gospel community through whom the Spirit convicts of sin and draws people to the love of Christ. It has a lot to sat about how to look like Jesus.

In the twenty-first century, what might be the structure of a life shaped by the First Testament? Here is a Decalogue. You can choose which you obey. But do some of them.

  • Praise God at dusk and at dawn.
  • Relax and sleep for the time in between.
  • Grow things to eat.
  • Tithe what you grow.
  • Keep out of department stores and shopping malls (beware the Internet too).
  • On Thursdays pray laments for people who are suffering.
  • On Fridays think about the fact that you are going to die.
  • On Saturdays, have a day's rest (you can tend your garden if it's not your regular work).
  • On Sundays, talk with your friends or family about scripture.
  • Three times a year, hold a week-long holiday with your friends or family, and celebrate what God has done for us in nature and in delivering us. 839

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