Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Fresh Word on Theology

You just knew theology was going to come into it somewhere.

There is a use of the term 'theology' which has to do with arranging and analysing themes and topics related to God, perhaps using Scripture as a proof text, but not being tied to the patterns of Scripture. This is not how Dale Ralph Davis uses the term in his third chapter. Theology can be a study of how to live together with God. In Scripture we see the great God of the Bible involving himself in the lives of his people. It is this 'practical' theology that we need to help our preaching and interpretation of all texts, including Old Testament texts.

Davis takes the example of the Abraham narratives, Gen 12 following and identifies the four-fold promise of Gen 12:1-3 as the theological centre of the complex of narratives.

Gen 12:10-20: Abram lies to Pharaoh about Sarai being his sister. This lie puts the covenant promise of descendants at risk. Abram's major defect here is not lying (this is not a Victorian morality tale), but a failure to trust Yahweh the promise making God. Protection should be entrusted to Yahweh and his promise.
Or what about Gen 23, a sad tale of death and burial arrangements. The point is not that we should all have pre-paid funeral plans and all the arrangments made in advance. No, the promise of the land, Gen 12:1-3, is beginning to be fulfilled - even if only in a cemetery! This small beginning can be over looked if we are not watching for the theology at work in the narratives.

What a contrast to a commentator like say Brueggemann, whose insights are often very helpful. However, a great weakness in Brueggemann is his insistence that each of the OT narratives is independant from every other OT narrative. Even to the point where Gen 12 does not relate to Gen 13 or Gen 14!

Although Davis ends his chapter with a comment on the OT scholars search for 'the centre' his use of theology as a category for studying OT narrative texts does not depend upon resolving this riddle. Rather theology provides a coherent, whole bible framework within which each text can be held together. We can't be simple bible readers if we want to be biblical preachers, we need a robust, whole bible theology.

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