Saturday, February 10, 2018

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #13

BrueggemannThis post continues my reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. Chapter 19 begins the 4th section of the theology, Israel's Embodied Testimony. This section discusses how God, a "totally other" Being beyond the understanding of humans, communicates or "mediates" His presence in a way that can be understood and practiced in Israel’s experience. 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 19, Mediating The Presence of YHWH, serves as an introduction to the section. I think Brueggemann's main point is that what we have in the text of the Old Testament is a "mediation" of an immediate God in the experience and religious practices of Israel. This originates from God through his "originary" theophanies (direct manifestations of God's glory in history), especially the theophanies at Sinai to the whole nation and to Abraham, Moses and Elijah. These were rare and provide the basis for the parameters and authority of the rest of the revelation which was mainly mediated through Torah, prophets, the history of the kings, the religious practices and wisdom literature of Israel. Thus, the OT message about Who God is and what are His purposes for His people are not only communicated in words but embodied in the history and actions of His people.

It is impossible to provide a theological critique of theophany, and we must say that it is a primary theological datum itself—that is, a premise of all that follows. In the mode of theophany, Yahweh relates as Yahweh chooses, without condition, reservation, qualification, or explanation. Israel is on the receiving end of holy intrusion, left to characterize in human speech, as best it can, what is unutterable in the sublimity of Yahweh. 569

While the “experience” of Yahweh is valued, what matters in the narrative testimony of Israel is a vocation of obedience that is given, undertaken at great risk, and with weighty implications for the community...These encounters with individual persons are characteristically not ends in themselves, but concern Yahweh’s larger purposes. Individual persons are recruited for great risks. 572

Old Testament theology is not simply an intellectual exercise. Wherever this testimony has been taken seriously, in ancient time or in any time since then, it has been taken seriously in practice...the day-to-day disciplines and practices of the community are indeed theological activities, for such activities are the modes and arenas in which the utterances and gestures of Yahweh can be nurtured. These activities are received as reliable disclosures of the partner in relationship. 575–576

Chapter 20, The Torah as Mediator, discusses the central way YHWH is revealed in Israel's testimony. The revelation of Torah to Moses is originates and defines Israel as a nation. It calls Israel into covenant with God and defines the parameters of that relationship. Torah is much more than a law code. It does provide many commands which Israel is to obey uncompromisingly and establishes authority for the nation. It also, however, provides means for succession of authority, calling new generations into the covenant and updating its regulations to fit new situations. Torah is based on God's character and so provides instruction about how to live before God, with God, and like God. Meditation on Torah becomes worship as it connects the worshipper to God. The Psalms, 1 and 119 for example, focus on the benefits of meditating on Torah. Torah describes the reality of creation, and living within it makes one wise.

Torah means also guidance, instruction, and nurture—a process of exploration and imagination that cannot be flatly subsumed under obedience...Whereas Torah as command is focused on the ethical dimension of existence, Torah as instruction, guidance, and nurture is preoccupied with the aesthetic and artistic, a realm that comes to be expressed as the mystical and sacramental. That is, Torah is as much concerned with the inscrutable mystery of presence as it is with the nonnegotiability of neighborly obedience. 582

Christians who seek to understand what is intended in Torah will have to move beyond conventional, polemical caricatures of legalism, in order to ponder an interpretive practice that is (a) intransigently normative and yet enormously open to adaptation; and (b) has an uncompromising sovereign at its center, but with a capacity to attend in delicate ways to the detail of daily existence. 595

The freedom of the Torah is a freedom in obedience. This freedom is not autonomy, for autonomy is in any case an illusion. It is freedom of living with and for and in the presence of the One whose power is seen in creation, whose passion is evident in Exodus, and whose requirements are known in Sinai. 599

No comments: