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. 

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