*from God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology by Terence E. Fretheim
He focuses on Genesis 3-11
I still think books like this would make great guides for two-year community Bible studies! But you'd have let the questions and observations that ruffle your thinking send you back to the scriptures! You'd have to focus on the scriptures, not the book. You may read and focus on different thoughts, but here are the ideas that jumped out at me.
What God did was risky, "...genuine relationships always entail risks (at least pre-eschaton)". The author sees God's creation in a "constant state of revision" and notes that God shares that process, especially with us. The creatures God has made are finite and able to "fail in the fulfillment of their tasks and responsibilities, of course, and that can have negative effects on the entire created order" - deep and far-reaching. (pg 69) "Moral evil had cosmic effects." (pg 70)
"For God to have forced compliance to the divine will and not allowed creatures the freedom to fail would have been to deny any genuine relationship." (pg 70)
Regarding "the fall" (and the author explores this concept at length) "The issue is not the use of the mind or the gathering of experience, but the mistrust of God that the human move assumes." ( p.75) All of creation is affected when Adam and Eve chose not to believe God but God didn't start over and God didn't stop interacting with mankind.
"More generally, humans wanted control over their own lives; they now have control in grievously distorted and unevenly distributed forms. They wanted to transcend creaturely limits; they have found newly intensified forms of limitation. They now have the knowledge they desired, but not the perspective to handle it well. . . Even in the wake of these effects, God remains in relationship with the creatures and hopeful signs for the future emerge, though expulsion from the garden becomes necessary." (pg 76) Sound like parenting?
The story of Cain and Abel. "This story is important for the theme of creation not least because it reflects God's involvement with a family apart from the ministrations of the community of faith." (p.77)
Man's sin didn't make God's creation evil. "God continues to be effectively at work for good across the created order and people are responsive to that divine activity among them." The author says that Israel had a "strong sense of God's continuing creative work apart from the chosen community."(p. 78)
The Flood: "...while flood imagery may be used to depict [difficulty, suffering, catastrophe] , God's promise at the end of the flood story indicates that the flood was an event that would not be repeated. Hence, the flood should never be used as a type of illustration of divine judgement" but rather the certainty of God's promise that it would never happen again. (p. 81) God saved a righteous man and his family. The world wasn't totally corrupt. He saved enough of His original creation to start over. (He remembered the animals)
After the flood, God changed some things. He still gave humans responsibilities "[b]ut sinful human beings do not possess sufficient resources for the responsibilities they have been given; only God can assure the creation's future." (p. 85) Do we not possess sufficient resources to reliably handle the responsibilities God gives us? Something to ponder. More the issue is God's ultimate influence on the outcome.
It's a scary thing to think that God has given humankind the freedom and responsibility He's given us. It also takes Him off the hook when we want to blame Him for everything that goes wrong.
God makes a covenant. He makes an unconditional, public, promise to His creation. God's promise here is not dependent on us. Our choices can still bode badly for us and have far-reaching effects but God will keep His covenant. (p. 85) This "covenant of peace" was made to the entire natural order. (p.86)
"God's absolute commitment to the creation is used to ground God's commitment to Israel." The rainbow will remind Him."This divine restraint in dealing with evil set the direction for a different approach to dealing with sin and evil and to the redemption of the world." (p 87) The author's focus, remember, is on God's relational presence and ongoing interaction with what He's made.
Families become nations. (p 87) "Problems and possibilities of various sorts - both good and evil- take on a communal aspect." (p 88) "The move from individual behaviors to systemic forms of evil is remarkably in tune with reality and will perdure as an ongoing pattern adversely affecting God's good creation. God will work against such human developments, but not in a way that will destroy the creation or compromise the divine promise." (p. 88) God is awesome and remarkable - is he not?!
As this chapter draws to a close, the author makes observations about the story of the Tower of Babel and begins the story of Abraham.