Tuesday, November 13, 2012
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)