Friday, August 10, 2012
*from God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology by Terence E. Fretheim
Processing Chapter 1. FINALLY!
I decided not to dissect it. I'm not a scholar or a teacher. I'll tell you what I brought away from it. Chapter 1 is twenty eight pages. I scratch the surface here. You might come away with something different.
My general understanding of this introductory chapter is that, the language of creation and the language of the scriptures tell us that God is relational. (p. 1) God's relational capabilities extend beyond redemption and salvation. (p. 10-13)
I've always taken God's cosmic involvement, His role as Creator - once and ongoing- for granted. ( p. 5-9) I've taken his momentary personal intervention in the lives of men and creation (p. 8) for granted, even God's involvement in the lives of peoples who don't worship Him. (p. 19-22)
To whatever degree science confirms ecological interrelationships, I assume God designed it intentionally. (p. 19-20) I expect that creating life systems that work and keep working, systems that keep creating, save God the headaches of micro-management. But we'll never really know. God didn't have to give mankind a will - "Choose this day whom you will serve!" But He did. Eve made the first choice.
Dr. Fretheim shows us that the scriptures open with our God calling Creation into being and the scriptures end in Revelation with God calling a New Creation into being. ( p. 9) He places the people Israel and their history in the context of Creator and creation. (p. 18) Note: The author considers creation more than just the natural world ( p. 4). Israel lives and has their being (as do we) in the context of all that God created. Perhaps their pastoral lives kept them more acutely aware than most of us are today.
God walked with Adam in the cool of the day, He dwelt with Israel in the tabernacle. He filled the sanctuary with His glory all indicative of His desire was to walk with man, to dwell in the midst of Israel and all that He made. And Emmanuel, of course - but that's New Testament. (p.22-27)
Faith communities who focus on God as Redeemer and on His work of salvation might take issue that the author sees redemption and salvation as only parts of God's greater work, not the end all. But he says, ". . .God's work as Redeemer does not stand at odds with what He is about in creation." ( p.10) Freitham says we are redeemed, saved, bought back, to become all that God created us to become and do." (p. 10) Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to restore us to God, Creator, Father. All of creation groans for the revealing of the sons of man, to be set free from the consequences that came when we first broke trust with our God Creator - but that's New Testament and this is about the Old Testament.
The seeds for thinking like this, the foundations for my seeing God first and always as Creator God, the God who made me and everything in and around me, began growing in me as a child - maybe because I grew up on a farm around animals and preferred outside to inside. As I grow I come to know Him by other names: Shepherd, Redeemer, Lord, Friend. For all of my questioning over the years whether or not God is relational was never one of them but thinking like that can make us egotistical. God - Creator - is much much bigger than that.
All through the Old Testament, God draws metaphor after metaphor from His creation to help us understand. (p.1-3) Successful human understanding requires that we are familiar with those same concrete realities in real life.
His basic claim "about the Old Testament understanding of creation, is that it has a fundamental relational character." God is relational! (p. 13) Of course God is relational! But the author is saying that all of the Old Testament gives us a relational understanding of God. Some people say, Of course. He is the God of Covenant. Freitheim explores evidence that, as revealed in the scriptures, God's relationships with Israel (and all that he's made) is more: "The inadequacy of covenant language in specifying the nature and range of the God-human or God-Israel relationship is [also] evident in the prophets' sharply reduced use of it." (p 15)
How we understand the scriptures influence how we see God, how we know God and how we perceive His influence, how we understand His Word. How we know God effects how we understand the scriptures, how we live and how we see and respond to the rest of the world around us. (p. 14)
We understand that those who recorded the holy scriptures were "pre-scientific" yet they lived in the midst of life realities that, today, scientists explore and study. (p. 27-28) From my perspective, scientists exploring and studying various and sundry aspects of creation does not make what they study less what God created it to be. When I look as all that we discover through scientific inquiry, I see just a glimmer of how amazing God is. Our theories, assumptions, and speculation are just that: human theories, assumptions and speculation. Thirty years from now those will change. But I begin with the assumption that God, my God, is Creator and all trails of scientific inquiry lead back to Him.
My comments won't do this book justice. Be forewarned: it's going to take me forever to wade through and process this book. Not a quick, easy read but interesting thoughts about how the scriptures reveal how very relational our God is and always has been.