Monday, January 08, 2018

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #8

BrueggemannThis post continues my reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. Chapters 8-9 begin the second section of the Theology which deals with Israel's "counter-testimony" or "cross examination" of the its core testimony about God discussed in the first section. That is, Israel's core testimony is that God is sovereign and faithful to His loving covenant and yet the Old Testament is brutally honest that many times Israel's experience seems to contradict this. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

Chapter 8, Cross-Examining Israel’s Core Testimony, introduces this second section of the Theology which deals with Israel's "counter-testimony" or "cross examination" of the its core testimony about God. Events, such as the exile and destruction of the temple, make it seem like God does not act in love or according to covenant or perhaps does not have things under control. Sometimes God seems hidden or absent, His promises seems ambiguous or God is even acting in a negative way toward His commitment to Israel. The text itself questions God asking, "How long?" "Why?" "Is God's arm shortened (unable to save)?" or "Has He abandoned us?" The writers of the OT struggle with these very real faith issues. This is not a rejection of faith, but an acknowledgement that the plan of God is still incomplete and we look to the future with faith, not objective certainty. We must be careful to not think our view of God is absolute and eliminate this countertestimony from our meditations upon God and His word, because in doing so we create an idol that is less than Yahweh, the Holy Trinity. The Bible reveals the truth about God that we need to know, but God is more than the Bible. 

A reader of the Old Testament, I suggest, must accept cross-examination as a crucial part of the way in which Israel makes its presentation of disputatious testimony concerning Yahweh. It does not know any other way to speak. As a result, it is evident that Israel’s countertestimony is not an act of unfaith. It is rather a characteristic way in which faith is practiced. 318

The questions arise when Israel faces situations of desperate need, as in the case of unbearable injustice...These questions arise not in an act of unfaith, but out of deep confidence that the God of the core testimony, when active in power and fidelity, can prevent and overcome such intolerable life experiences. The questions arise with such urgency because Israel finds that life without the active force of Yahweh is not good. 321

Christian faith is centered on Good Friday and on the crucifixion, in which we speak of “the Crucified God.” Friday is of course linked to Sunday, and death is tailed by the eruption of new life. But the scar tissue of Friday lingers in the body of Christ, and it protests against every totalizing, triumphalist, and absolutizing ambition. 332

Chapter 9, The Hiddenness of Yahweh, focuses on the "counter-testimony" about God's governance, mainly in wisdom literature, that God does not always act dramatically and openly in Israel's experience, but often is working behind the scenes, invisibly to bring about His good plan for the nation and for the world. In fact, the entire creation is permeated by God's wisdom and guarantees an order which provides for the needs of all creation, an "ethical dimension" which rewards behavior which recognizes the boundaries God has placed in creation and an "aesthetic dimension" of beauty to which we should respond with wonder and praise. But God has not just created a good system and then left it to itself. He continues to be an active agent, planning, providing and working with people and the rest of creation (the natural and supernatural) to bring about His ultimate plan.

Yahweh is the hidden guarantor of an order that makes life in the world possible. The operational word is order, and Israel marvels at, ponders, sings about, and counts on that good order without which life would not be possible. 336

Proverbs 8 already wants to say, under the aegis of wisdom, that the whole of creation is shot through with the rationality and intentionality of Yahweh, a rationality and intentionality that need not be visible and intrusive because they are inherent in the very character and structure and fabric of creation itself. It is this intrinsic quality of intentionality that God has embedded in the working of creation to which John 1:1–18 bears witness, and to which the church testifies in Jesus of Nazareth. 345

Yahweh in indirectness and invisibility is no less decisive. Indeed, in its countertestimony, Israel used the occasion of Yahweh’s hiddenness to magnify its claims for the generous, creative, and faithful governance of Yahweh. Yahweh is, in the face of hard evidence, said to be a practitioner and guarantor of joyous, life-giving coherence, the cause of all good and evil, the one with durable intentions for well-being in Israel. 357

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