Saturday, February 24, 2018

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #16

BrueggemannThis post moves into the concluding section as we read through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. The final section of the theology, Prospects for Theological Interpretation, discusses the question of where Old Testament theology is or should be going in the future. 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 26, Interpretation in a Pluralistic World, focuses on how OT theology should develop in a world no longer dominated by a Western Enlightenment worldview, but instead presents many different possible metanarratives (though most are not presented openly or honestly) to us that could be appropriated. The Old Testament (and I would say the whole Bible), with its approach to present God without resolving all the tensions that its presentation produces, speaks well into a pluralistic world. First, one must start with the text, and try to understand it, as much as possible, within its original contexts. We must understand that interpretive schemes or theological systems (including our own) are greatly influenced by other contexts and should be reviewed and reevaluated periodically. We need to apply new applications of the text, to new situations, with new questions. This does not mean we start over. We read the text WITH our traditions, not UNDER them. As Christians, we recognize that the Holy Spirit has worked in the past, with people from very different traditions who ask the Bible very different questions, and we need to listen to and honor that testimony. As a missionary, I got to hear interpretations, theologies and applications of scripture from people of other cultures that the Spirit used greatly in my life. I think this kind of "pluralism" can only strengthen the church.

Because different interpretations in different contexts—driven by different hopes, fears, and hurts—ask different questions from the ground up, it is clear that there will be no widely accepted “canon within the canon,” which is itself a function of hegemonic interpretation. As a consequence, we are now able to see that every interpretation is context-driven and interest-driven to some large extent. 711

I anticipate that Old Testament theology, in its attempts to honor the plurality of the text, will have to reckon with the cruciality of speech as the mode of Yahweh’s actuality, the disputatious quality of truth, and the lived, bodied form of testimonial communities. 716

I am content to have theological interpretation stay inside the text—to refrain from either historical or ontological claim extrinsic to the text—but to take the text seriously as testimony and to let it have its say alongside other testimonies. 718

In chapter 27, The Constitutive Power of Israel's Testimony, Brueggemann makes his point again that Old Testament theology must be concerned with the OT text that we have. We should not be looking at the research into the history behind the text which leads to theological skepticism or for anything beyond the text. The text itself was what made Israel the community that it was. The testimony of the text to the God Israel worshiped should be what constitutes our theology. We must not remove the tensions in the text to conform them to our own theologies, nor should we add anything. In my opinion, Christians must understand the OT in its own context before we apply Jesus' hermeneutic to it. Yes, all the OT scriptures speak of Jesus (Luke 24.44) but we must understand the OT as Israel's testimony to rightly see how the New Testament writers used it.

Israel’s testimony about a world with Yahweh at its center intends to debunk and nullify all other proposed worlds that do not have Yahweh at their center. This testimony undertaken persistently by Israel is not neutral or descriptive, but it is thoroughly and pervasively partisan advocacy. This partisan advocacy, moreover, is generative and constitutive of a new world, when “recruits” sign on to this world of utterance. In signing on, such recruits and members at the same time depart other worlds that are based in other normative utterances (Joshua 24:23). 723

It may be simply that the issue of ideology and elusiveness is the very marking of constancy that belongs to Yahweh who is endlessly responsive and available and at the same time intransigently sovereign. That unresolved, and perhaps unresolvable, issue is precisely what is so compelling and so maddening about Old Testament theology. 724

My argument is an insistence that utterance is all we have—utterance as testimony—and that utterance as testimony is enough, as it was for the community of Israel. 725

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