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Some Thoughts about the Brueggemann Interview

10 April 2010

I am by no means a Biblical scholar, but there are some things about Walt Brueggemann’s (‘WB’, for short) interview (posted on April 7) that stand out for me. 

First, I am unsure of some of the terms that WB uses.  I understand that he implicates “the god of the Bible” as intrinsically violent, and that violence (social, political, economic – to use their terms) is wrong, but I am unsure what he means by this word   (I understand violence to mean something that happens on a battlefield, or a playground, and that it is sometimes wrong)

And second, I am unsure what WB means when he talks about Jesus and Hosea as mutations

Without more concrete definitions to these terms, there’s really nowhere to go on these fronts. 

On the other hand, WB is quite clear in asserting his beliefs about the intrinsic qualities of each of the members of the Trinity, so I’ll comment on that:

think that the Old Testament (to some extent the New Testament) but the Old Testament is saturated with violence and I believe that the God of the Bible is deeply implicated in this inheritance of violence and therefore people who appeal to that are .. they are reading the Bible. I believe that the God of the Bible is a recovering agent of violence, and as in all programs of recovery, you never get over it..

In other words, WB believes that violence (which the interviewer has established as something that is wrong, at the beginning of the interview) is intrinsic to God, but the standard of good is not. 

This assertion is contrary to what Jesus has to say on the subject:

And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.  
Luke 18:18-19  (ESV)

Note the slight rebuke that Jesus gives the ruler, before answering the question. 

Now, there is really nothing extraordinary about the expression, “good teacher,” to indicate that the person conforms to a higher ideal;  just as there is nothing extraordinary about the expression, “wet grass.”  This is because grass is not intrinsically wet.  Later in the summer, as our lawns start to dry out, we would not assert that grass is intrinsically dry, either.  The relative wetness or dryness of grass changes depends on the seasons, and temperature, and the time of the day, to name but a few variables. 

But while it is reasonable to speak of the dryness or wetness of grass, it would be absurd to speak of the wetness or dryness of water.  This is because wetness is a characteristic that is intrinsic to water.  Even when water is frozen into ice, we do not speak of the “dry frozen-water”  (granted, there is “Dry Ice,” however technically this is not water but rather a solid form of Carbon Dioxide).

In the same vein, Jesus’ rebuke to the ruler doesn’t make sense if we flesh out the presuppositions within the phrase, “Good Teacher.”  Fleshed out, it means what it would mean if we said this of a human teacher:  “This teacher conforms to a higher standard.”  When Christ asserts that this usage is absurd when applied to Him, He is (1) hinting at his divinity, and (2) hinting that God -is- the standard for good, rather than something that can be compared to a Platonic Form of goodness. 

Enter Brueggemann.  Brueggemann not only claims that wrong is intrinsic to God, but that there is an impersonal standard of Good, alien to the character of God, which God will never obtain. 

Think about that, for a minute. 

And now that the minute is over, I offer miscellaneous observations about WB’s view of the Trinity:

1))  In WB’s view, the first two members of the Holy Trinity are (a) mutable, and (b) not perfect, and (c) will never be perfect.
2)  In WB’s view, the third member of the Holy Trinity constantly moves the first two members in a good direction. 

If we take Brueggemann’s views to their logical conclusions, then Goodness is an intrinsic quality to the Holy Spirit, but not to God the Father and not to God the Son..  To be sure, a very strange take on the doctrine of the Trinity.  And most certainly heretical. 

Finally, I’m pretty sure that WB has denied the Fall, in asserting that mankind has inherited wrong, from God. 

– Elder

Categories: Fisks, Theology
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