Eating a Hard Breakfast with Walter Brueggemann
Walter Bruegemann is an Old Testament scholar who has interacted with the Old Testament in a deeply honest way. The result is fresh and prophetic (read troubling and unsettling). In a podcast interview with Marc van Bulck I discovered recently, he deals with messy themes of the Old Testament as unflinchingly as a triage doctor on a civil war battlefront. You can not denny as you read the Bible that “God is implicated in violence” says Bruegemann. He rejects the cliche misconception of the two dimensional mean God of the Old Testament being in disjunction with the two dimensionally nice God of the New Testament.
Why is the Bible so difficult? Why is life? If the universe permitted I’d order up something different entirely…a different Bible in which God was predictable and nice on every page…a world where problems didn’t come to me or my children and if they did they would be solved as easily as a misunderstanding in a kids’ chapter book. Perplexity and pain would give way quickly to clarity and comfort.
Theodicy is a fancy word for the attempt to justify God and clear him from implications of involvement in the evil of the world or the problem of evil. How can there be so much wrong if God is so right and capable? Here is Brueggemann again: “Theodicy is a wrong way of framing the problem of evil because it turns a practical relational problem into an abstract theoretical problem that seeks theoretical solutions…I think that in the Old Testament…the final poem of Job is a dismissal of theodicy questions. Job and his friends were having exactly this conversation…and God in the whirlwind speech simply blows it all away and says ‘I’m not going to have a discussion about that.’ So I think that the Jewish Old Testament answer to the question of theodicy is lament. Its not a reasoned argument it is a passionate cry and faithful people cry out for justice or for resolution when there is no chance of it, there is no chance of healing in certain…there is no chance of it. The cries of Israel are an attempt to mobilize God’s fidelity and if you cry out and there is no answers then what you do is you cry out louder.”