walter brueggemann on God’s unpredictability

From Walter Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament:

The tension, oddness, incongruity, contradiction, and lack of settlement are to be understood, not in terms of literature or history, but as the central data of the character of Yahweh. This suggests that Yahweh, as evidenced in and by Israel, has available as a character a range of inclinations, a repertoire of possible responses, a conundrum of loyalties, commitments, and expectations that are being endlessly adjudicated. While certain tendencies, propensities, and inclinations have some stability, being more or less constant, Israel and Israel’s rhetoricians never know beforehand what will eventuate in the life of Yahweh. Thus it is not known whether:

• the judge will sentence or pardon,
• the warrior will fight for or against,
• the king will banish or invite to the table,
• the potter will work attentively or smash,
• the gardener will cultivate and protect or pluck up,
• the shepherd will lead and feed or judge between sheep and sheep,
• the doctor will heal or pronounce the patient terminally ill.

Such a conclusion is not contextless. We do not say these things concerning Yahweh as though every occasion of response were an arbitrary flip of the coin. No, of course not. Yahweh is deeply enmeshed in a tradition of textuality, is committed to what has been previously claimed, and is held accountable for the chance for life together (between Yahweh and Israel). Thus the offer of Yahweh is not sheer capriciousness. But even so, one may ask: Does life with this God not entail anxiety? Even if there is a tendency in a certain reliable direction, there is always a chance of a response in another direction, for Yahweh has a vast repertoire of possible responses. Yes, the faith of Israel is not without anxiety.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
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