Friday, November 23, 2012

Think of specific people or situations in scripture where there is a teacher and a learner.

Lay aside your preconceived ideas and make observations. What do you notice about the teacher? What do you notice about the learner?

Are there similarities? Differences?

Who learned what? Did anyone change? How? Make your observations.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Are there implications for children?

Probably many more than what you will find in this post!  Probably far more than those jumping out at me after only one quick read.

But here's one. We live in such a global, technological world. We want our message to be relevant to the children of this world. We tend to use media and images and metaphors from this world.

Are we using fewer and fewer images from scripture and looking for others because kids can't relate? Adults can't relate? Are we using fewer and fewer of the images of scripture because we are becoming less and less agrarian? less and less rural? less and less dependent on the land and as a result we have less and less interaction with the natural world that God has made? Because we live different life styles?

Or maybe kids' concentration skills are device (or non-device) specific.

Are there ways to offer children (and adults) the experiences of hands-on Biblical imagery and at the same time strengthen their connection with the greater natural (human and non-human) God-created world?

The understandings, sensibilities, know-how, wisdom, experience of someone visiting a farm or forest the first time isn't the same as a third generation full-time impassioned farmer or naturalist (or even engineer.) But if you want to go there (even for a short visit), you have to start somewhere. Every time you see and experience the same world it's different. God-given capability with the capacity to grow.

How do we balance the interdependence of man and the non-human natural world that allows us to continue to coexist - dependent, independent, interdependent. How do we apply our Biblical understandings to environmental activism? To pet and land ownership? To our interaction with the outdoors? What lines do we draw? How about the way we see livestock - not human but living creatures, nonetheless. What about man? Are we are creatures first and humans second? What if the world really doesn't revolve around just us? Or even just God? Are we an intergral part of the system or only one part of an integral system?

We have more access to the human social cultural global community than ever before and hopefully more empathy. What are those passages about what God has made? What God fills? What all belongs to Him? Ownership? What does that mean? Discipline? Responsibility? Freedom? 

Dr. Freitheim's scriptural observations are timely. Changing our thinking will take time. It's interesting to me how cultural changes open the door for us to see things in scripture we might not see had we lived in another time, and visa versa. But I suppose a Living Word is like that.

For the record! God is still God: the Beginning and the End, Creator, Father-Son-Holy Spirit. He is all that He says He is, all that the scriptures reveal. He is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow - forever. Jesus is Lord! In the greatest sense of the word. In the greatest sense of the Word and all that He's created.

Conclusion: " Implications of a Relational Theology of Creation: Human Vocation and Nonhuman Vocation" *

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

This is a really interesting chapter. It has to do with purpose. It's not uncommon for us as humans to talk about purpose. Dr. Fretheim calls it "vocation" and goes beyond human vocation to non-human vocation. He concludes this work talking about "a mutuality of human vocation and non-human vocation." An "interrelated community."  "dependence," "independence," "interdependence." All are present. (p. 269). Have you ever thought about the job God gave rocks? or birds? or trees?

Exploring the scriptures, giving language and voice to the traditionally  Unheard,  he proposes a "relational model of creation."  (p. 269-272) He applies what he's saying to the present age. At various points throughout the book looking at the interrelatedness of God, Man, the natural world, God's "chosen" and those "outside" he asks the question "who is serving whom?" (p. 273-284)

He talks about the healing capabilities of the non-human (p. 283) and sin limiting praise (p. 284).

God is present, yet independent, yet interdependent.

I'm sure if I read it again, other things will jump out at me. Read it! It might take a year or two to read but take the time to read the scriptures. See where the scriptures take you.

Chapter 8: "Nature's Praise of God"

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

In this Chapter Dr. Fretheim focuses on the Psalms.

He notes the praise of human and non-human and says "According to H Paul Santmire, nature's praise of God is 'one of the least understood themes in old testament'." ( p. 249) He looks at Psalm 148 and Isa 44:23.  (p. 250)

This is where he raises a question worth pondering. Ok. The whole book is full of questions worth pondering but this one is particularly interesting. He says that historically how we understand these passages is largely influenced by "a preoccupation with the human as the center of the universe." (p. 250) Does our praise mean more to God because we're human or was all of creation made with the capability to praise our maker and our praise is a fulfillment of purpose and God is thrilled when we choose to realize our purpose. He doesn't exactly say that but if you're reading this you are bearing with me as I ponder.

He says, "This anthropocentrism is evident in a salvation history that is focused on human beings, or an existentialism that sees all of reality from the perspective of human existence, or a political theology centered on the liberation of the human or a theology of the word that includes only human beings within its purview. In  such views, nature has often come to be seen as having only an instrumental value, to be used for the enhancement of human life." (p. 250) There's also a perspective that holds to an understanding of God that "has tended to remove God from too close a brush with the world." (p. 251)

"No human history is independent of the history of nature, and this for both good and ill." (p 264)

The author emphasizes that though God and His creation are separate, He created all that He created with relational capability - God, Man, Nature (living and non-living) - all interconnected. Not secular, not profane, not divided. (p. 251)

"Francis of Assisi stands out because his sensitivities are comparatively rare; he belongs to a very thin tradition." (p. 252) He stands out to me as a champion for appreciating and respecting the world that God made. I didn't realize that his thinking is rare.

Some scholars interpret Psalm 148 as an expression of the final freeing of Creation to praise God when the sons of God are revealed. Some understand it as ever-present reality. (p. 253-4)

The author says, "What are gods elsewhere are here reduced to elements of the natural order in praise of Yahweh; these entities praise God, they are not themselves objects of worship." (p. 254)

He addresses the concept of what some call "psychic affinity." You'll have to read the whole discussion yourself but he says that moderns see the natural world as more of an "It". Ancients regarded the elements of the natural world (even the ancient Hebrews) as having life, will, character. The author moves on without drawing conclusions saying, "the possibilities for an internal relationship between God and all created things must be left open. This issue deserves further exploration." (p. 255)

He notes that for some interpreters, the "exuberance" and "extravagance" of metaphor and worship language as they reference creation bear "little, if any, correspondence to reality". (Makes me think of TV!) He explores the nature of language, specifically worship language. (p. 256-7)

He says, "God's transcendence is given a special lift by the use of such natural metaphors...they evoke wonder and awe in human beings; God's strength and majesty are commonly emphasized, the use of natural metaphors for God opens up the entire created order as a resource for depth and variety in our God language." (p.257) He further explores that.

He looks at Tradition.

He talks about God's presence. "If one says that God is truly present in , with, and under every aspect of the created order, what does it mean to speak of the presence of God? Is it only external...? The The texts suggest that God is able really to relate to every creature.  . . Given the relationships that human beings often have to pets...and other natural elements, we dare not suggest that God is incapable of such relationships." (p. 263)

"The symbiosis of human and non human in the praise of God is intended to fill the universe with the knowledge of God, with the knowledge of God's love and faithfulness" (p. 256) Contrast this with the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. God's creatures show forth their praise by being what they are. Men and women show forth His praise by being who we are ("the redeemed people of God") (p. 266) And together? Can you imagine the earth filled with the glory of God?

Lots of food for thought! His concluding reflections are profound. (p. 263-266)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pondering Chapters 8 & 9

Finished reading all but the Notes. Probably won't read them, actually.

Pondering. When I have more time to sit and write...

Dog people have challenged the dominance model in dog training, parents and society have rejected heavy-handed parenting, as Dr. Freitheim searches and studies the Old Testament he sees an interdependence between God Creator, Man, and all that God has made. He challenges our traditional thinking.

God is still God - separate from what he's made and yet He fills. He is still all that He says he is - Powerful, Benevolent, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Metaphors from nature tell us things about Him that comparing God to man don't.

God, Man, all that God has set in motion are interdependent in more ways than we think about.

Dr Freitheim challenges our thinking that man is the center of God's thinking and all that God creates exists to serve man.  O, Man - life is not just about you!! A humbling thought?

But God is there - faithful! Caring, nurturing, holding us to high standards, relating, watching, protecting, intervening sometimes but not always, teaching ... intimately acquainted with all that He's created and how it all works together. Back and forth, give and take...Fascinating!

The scriptures stand. God is who He says He is. Worthy of our praise. In it's fullness, all creation praises Him and God says, "It is good!"

As I say, still pondering. When I have time to sit and write more...

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Chapter 7: "Wisdom and Creation"*

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

Forgive me for seeing the veins in the leaves and missing the forest when I read books like this.

Chapter Seven: Wisdom and Creation. This is my favorite chapter (only two left). The author's focus in this chapter is on the lady Wisdom of Proverbs and Job.

How often do we talk or hear talk about wisdom?  "The heart of wisdom is what is done with that knowledge in the daily round, the discernment of the appropriate relationship between what individuals have come to know and how they live." (p. 199)

He reminds us that not only does wisdom come from the Lord and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but that it is only the beginning of wisdom.  He sees creation as the most basic source of wisdom. (p. 200) He sees creation as the "ground" on which lady Wisdom builds her house. (p 201)

He talks about the "Universality of Wisdom," the "Secularity" of Wisdom, the "Interrelationality of Wisdom". (p. 202-204) But he caught my attention when he asked why is Wisdom female. Wisdom was with God when He first created the world - created by God independent from the rest of creation. She is not dependent on the created world but is shaped by it. (p. 206)

She is the female " co-creator" perhaps because a woman bears fruit and is changed by those she bears in ways a man isn't. (p. 208-216). Maybe she is the example to women (wives in particular) - which would deserve a re-reading of the wisdom chapters in the beginning of Proverbs and a look again at Proverbs 31.

Job! (p 219-246) Job is full of creation imagery. I hadn't really thought about how Job's conversations with his friends are like someone who is hurting - really hurting- getting pat answers from his very religious (though well-meaning) friends.

Job wants to call God to task, bring Him before a judge. "God, why?"

The author draws attention to God's responses.  The author says, "Job has been right in his basic claim about a disorderly world, but Job draws the wrong conclusion." (p. 237) The author believes that though God is faithful to that which He has made and the systems He's brought into being, God is also faithful to man. Sometimes there's conflict. God made the world in such a way that sometimes the unexpected happens, seemingly random disorder, the unpredictable.  He didn't create a machine. He could have, he didn't. (p. 237)

The author looks at some of the different approaches to understanding this dialogue between God and Job. At the end of the chapter he notes all the things that Job would have no way of knowing, things that people in our world know. Scientific observations. (p. 243)

When Job compares himself to isolated creatures in the wilderness, the author says, "If all the wild animals of the wilderness are embraced by God's care and nurture, then so also is Job embraced in his disconnectedness from friends and family." (p. 245)

The author concludes, "In the end God is more honored by the impatient probing of Job than by the friends who place certain questions off limits. Job gives voice to those who dare not raise unconventional questions for fear of treading on existing orthodoxies, or being shushed up by those who think it improper to explore the edges of the faith. Job gives voice to those who have indeed experienced great suffering, but who cannot find their voices in the midst of a clamor that suggests that such questions are impertinent. Job gives voice to those who do not have the courage or the theological moxie or the articulateness to raise their deepest questions. Job gives hope that rest and healing may come, but perhaps only on the far side of the probing and the questions, but then the healing will have touched some of the deepest recesses of minds and hearts." He ends with thoughts about God's "infinite resourcefulness." (p. 247)

Dr. Fretheim keeps returning to evidence in scripture to remind us of how big God is, how great his influence yet not as a tyrant or as a micro-manager. He continually focuses on relationships. We get caught up in our theological boxes and in the end make our God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit - the God of all creation) so very very small. This thinking (Dr. Fretheim is more precise with his defenses than I'm being), remembering God as Creator, gives meaning to passages that don't make sense when we fail to remember and acknowledge God in this way. There's a complexity about all this. There's also a stark simplicity. God is like that. All that He's created is like that. This is a book to read with your Bible open.