About Providence, Divine Action and the Church

In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Remythologizing Theology [3]

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Remythologizing Theology: Divine Action, Passion, and Authorship. Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)

I am grateful to Cambridge University Press for the review copy.

Chapter 1, part 1

The first half of Chapter 1 examines a number of biblical texts in which God’s communicative action is centre stage. In fact, Vanhoozer claims that these texts represent a variety of dialogue-based interactions between God and humanity. His point is that ‘theology must think God according to God’s self-presentation, which effectively means attending to what God does, not least by means of speaking.’ (p. 36). In what follows, I offer brief summaries of Vanhoozer’s analysis of each text, sometimes quoting him.

Genesis 1:1-3
Summary: The Creator–creature distinction is depicted in terms of a dramatic, communicative relation.

Genesis 18:22-23
Summary: Can ‘human communicative acts make a difference to God?’ (p. 40). How do humans participate rightly in God’s plans?

Exodus 3:13-15
Summary: God is not pure or abstract being but rather active being in covenant relationship with Israel

Exodus 33:7-17
Summary: Moses and God are depicted in covenantal friendship with one another.

Exodus 34:5-7
Summary: God’s is ‘merciful’ and ‘gracious’, showing ‘steadfast love’ and ‘faithfulness’; these are all relational adjectives that stand in contrast to the ‘omni’ attributes of classical theology. God’s self-presentation provides more content for the name of God revealed in Exodus 3:14.

Job 38:1-4
Summary: Job learns wisdom through conversing with God.

Hosea 11:8-9
Summary: ‘What must God be in order faithfully to be represented as repenting, grieving, compassionate?’ (p. 50, original emphasis).

Hebrews 1:1-3
Summary: Jesus is the ultimate form and content of God’s self-presentation.

John 1:14
Summary: The incarnate Word is God’s ultimate self-communication.

John 12:27-30
Summary: ‘As the creative and covenantal Word of God, Jesus is both the name and nature of God as dramatized in human speech, action, and passion: the mythos of God made flesh.’ (p. 55, original emphasis).

Mark 15:33-34, 37
Summary: Jesus cries out to his Father in heaven, but there is no response. This time, it is humanity, and not God, whose voice is loudest.

Romans 8:15-16
Summary: ‘To be “in Christ” is to be the vanguard of a new creation animated by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of realizing – communicating – the image of God in and to the world.’ (p. 57). The Christian’s life with God entails participating in the communicative life of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Taken together, Vanhoozer argues, these texts constitute a ‘theodramatic metaphysic’ (p. 36). In my next post on Remythologizing Theology, I dare say that I'll have opportunity further to elaborate on this idea.

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