Friday, October 26, 2012

This is a book searching the scriptures, making observations, and drawing conclusions but what I'm posting are my feeble attempts to sift through someone else's thoughts. How we understand the scriptures (broad or narrow, deep or shallow, big or small) affects how we think, how we live, how we teach, how we understand God. Do we need to spend more time thinking about our God Creator?

Put the book away but search the scriptures the author references. He's looking for and finding reference after reference to creation and Creator. He's saying, "Look! See?!"

Apart from the battles over creation and evolution do you think about God Creator more when you're a child or as an adult? As you became an adult, what changed? How does it affect your understanding of Father, Son, Holy Spirit and the Word He's given us? How does it affect your understanding of salvation and redemption. Is one more important than another or are they all interrelated and dependent on one another to accomplish God's purpose?

Chapter 6: "Creation, Judgment, and Salvation in the Prophets"*

 *from God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology by Terence E. Fretheim

Three chapters left. The last third of the book is notes.  Philosophizing without application isn't worth much, is it. Here is chapter 6 "Creation, Judgment, and Salvation in the Prophets." Not sure I'm understanding of how relational creation theology differs from the way most of the church thinks. Not sure I understand how the application of such thinking would differ from the way live now.

I'm reading, reading, reading and I say, "He keeps saying the same things over and over."

Then I realize that he (the author) is systematically examining creation and relational theology in the Old Testament section by section. If he's finding the same basic understandings over and over as he goes book by book (or section by section) then we probably need to pay attention.

In this section he looks at the prophets (especially Isaiah, Jeremiah and Amos).

He asks if natural disaster is linked to God's judgement. He looks at different definitions or understandings about judgement.

This is interesting: He says, "If, for example judgement is only or primarily a spiritual matter, then the healing of the body or the environment will tend not to be comprehended within the understanding of salvation." (p. 159) He suggests that salvation includes the healing of body and land. To me this adds to the meaning of Jesus' healing men and women as He forgave them, but that's NT.

"God's judgement is never simply justice." He reminds us that  "God is much too lenient. God is patient, forbearing, and 'slow to anger' (e.g.,Jonah 4:2), and open to changing the divine mind-- both before and after (!) the judgement has been exercised. (e.g., Jonah 3:8-10)." (p. 159)  Rethink your understanding of God as judge.

He speaks of judgement when a relationship is at stake. (p. 159) He draws our attention to the fact that God is not an independent, objective observer or representative. He is bound to what He has made. He grieves, He gets angry, He expresses remorse and anguish. The author says, "When thinking of God as judge remember that the judge behind the bench is the spouse of the accused in the dock." (p. 160)

"The world of nature is also caught up in divine judgement through no fault of its own. . .a further testimony to the interconnectedness of life...moral order affects the cosmic order..." (p. 160)

God used Nebuchadnezzar to judge and Cyrus to deliver - neither was a member of His chosen people. God used the Red Sea, natural phenomena (plagues) and foreign armies. (p. 161)

The author talks about sin and consequence.  He says history teaches us about consequence but  "God's salvific will remains intact in everything, and God's gracious concern is always for the best; but in a given situation the best that God may be able to offer is burning the chaff to fertilize the field for a new crop." (p. 165)

"God's creation is at stake in Israel's behaviors, not simply their more specific relationship with God." (p. 165) It's not just about me & God. It's not just about God and Israel - God's redemptive, salvific intent is much bigger.

Our purpose, the consequences of our actions are more far-reaching than we realize - past, present, and future. 

The author references "oracles against the nations" again reminding us that God is Creator. He is the God of all flesh. (Jeremiah 32:27)

The author draws our attention to "creation language . . . used to interpret redemptive events and not the other way around" and relational language as it pertains to God, Man, Israel, nations, (all of our actions), and the Living and Non-living natural world  - all inter-related, inter-dependent (more Hebraic than Greco-Roman)

He ends the chapter "It is important to be clear, however , that this text does not speak of a return to Eden. The most fundamental difference from Eden is that this new covenant does not have the possibility of being undercut by human failure; that cycle will never be repeated." He references Isaiah 32:15-18, 20. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Are rules and law the same?

Do you see God's Ten Commandments (or even Jesus' two commandments) as restorative? Redemptive? How do they affect the web of  relationships between God and man and all that God has created and our stewardship? How do they affect children?

How does God model them for us?  How do we model them for children?

How does it affect the rest of creation and communities around us when we keep God's law? When we keep those two commandments?

Why do you have the rules you have? (Safety? To win obedience kudos? So a child can grow to be all he can be?) So things will go well with you and you will live long in the land God gives you?

Do the rules we have redeem and restore in the context of all that God has created?

Think about God, creation, law, kids. What stories in the scriptures influence how we think about these relationships?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chapter 5: "Creation and Law"*

 *from God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology by Terence E. Fretheim

Chapter 5  was harder for me to read than the others. Probably because I'm not really into all the academic theological nuances and debates.

He talks a lot about references to law in the scriptures before the Ten Commandments. The author believes that the existence of a universal natural "right" and "wrong" so to speak helps bring understanding to passages that might otherwise be hard to understand.

Here are some of the quotes I found most interesting.

"By building the law into the created order, the point is made that every human being, not simply the chosen people, is to attend to the law for the sake of the creation and all it's creatures." (p. 133) 

He believes that the laws of God are not "static...Given by God... never to be changed" but "that the texts themselves understand the law in dynamic terms and as most fundamentally related to creation." (p. 133)

"...many laws articulate Israel's deep concern for justice for the less advantaged; by neglecting these law texts we lose so much grist for consideration of these issues. More generally, these laws, both individually and in their entirety, are a gracious gift of God for the sake of the life, health, and well-being of individuals in community." (Deut. 5:33) (p. 134)

"God gives the law in the service of life." (p. 134)

"The laws that God gives Israel are understood basically in terms of creation and vocation ...its understanding of law is dynamic and is fundamentally creational in its orientation." (p. 134)

"God gives the law not only for the sake of the life of those who receive it but also for the sake of the life of the neighbor, indeed all of creation, whom they are called to serve."

When I think of the law I think of hard, non-negotiable, not caring about individuals or motivation. What the authors paints for me is a side of God as Lawgiver different than that. God gives us His law as a gift - "for the sake of the life of those who receive it...the life of the neighbor, indeed all of creation, whom they are called to serve." Creational & relational.

So that's what this chapter is about: the author's belief that Israel's laws are grounded in God's work in creation..."Israel's creation-faith." (p. 135)

He talks about worship and ritual and obedience as a reminder of our participation redeeming and restoring what God created and as do things God's way, we affect the process. "The law is given to be of service in the ongoing divine task of reclamation of creation. In the obedience of the law, Israel in effect becomes a 'created co-reclaimer' of God's intentions for creation." (p.145)

He talks about the wilderness as context and makes interesting comments about the law as more fluid than I tend to see it. "The book of Deuteronomy, whether viewed canonically (forty years after Sinai) or historically (the seventh century B.C.E), is a major expemplar of law emerging in view of changing circumstances." (p. 147)

He goes on to say, "Law for Israel is always intersecting with life as it is lived - filled with contingency and change, complexity and ambiguity." (p. 147). That causes me to reconsider Christ Jesus and the New Testament and references to law there in new light.

He says, "...the basic shape for a life lived in obedience to law is drawn most basically from Israel's narrative experience with God rather than from abstract ethical argument or even divine imperative." He quotes Deut 10:18-19, Luke 6:36, Deut 24:19-22. Yet it doesn't limit us, or God. (p. 149)

He ends the chapter talking bout Law and Spirit and New Testament patterns.

I'm not an academic. I'm not a scholar. I care about living in a way that accurately reflects my understanding of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as revealed in the scriptures and the way He made me. I care about stewarding what I've been given. If nothing else, pondering Creation themes and God's relational activity in the scriptures reinforces my belief that God is bigger - not non-Biblically bigger, just bigger than we often allow Him to be and that He is very involved in a Life that is much bigger than my own.

Monday, October 08, 2012

I discovered a book, written about 10 years ago, that you may have already seen. It was written for writers, storytellers, and other professionals working with people who may have difficult stories to tell. It's called INVITING THE WOLF IN by Loren Niemi and Elizabeth Ellis. Worth the read.

Interesting to think about how the scriptures tell difficult stories. I don't think of them as difficult stories but in many cases if the original story was my story (and it wasn't scripture), I might think differently...