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.

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