“And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.
And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” (Exod. 34:5-7)
It has beem increasingly common for modern theologians, especially those of the “open-ish” kind, in their haste to deconstruct all things “classical” in theology, even words like “Omniscience” and other default or “intutive” assumptions about God, to employ constructs that are synonomous with “finite godism”.
A case in point is the Old Testament Scholar Walter Brueggemann. He has a number of blog articles at The Center of Biblica Studies, one of which is entitled, “God in Recovery.” God has “anger issues” and via interaction which chose partners is “In Recovery” from a overwhelming vindictive sense of righteous judgement. Moses and Abraham are supposed to have challenged YHWH to new levels of righteous.
Such a dissonent exegesis from YHWH’s creed as cited above. “…merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,…”. One has to wonder what Bible Brueggemann is reading to conclude that God needs to “recover” from the “issues” he says He has. The following is taken from the afore mentioned blog by Brueggemann.
God in Recovery in the Old Testament
“My take on it is that the God of the Bible is “in recovery” from a propensity to violence, a recovery that requires, on God’s part, intentionality and resolve against an easy reactive treatment of any opposition. Such a view permits us to see that the character of God in the Bible is a real character, with a real internal life, and an on-going resolve to be faithfully God.
On the one hand, we can see texts where God is challenged for God’s propensity to violence. In the narrative of Exodus 32, God in God’s anger is about to assault the recalcitrant Israelites. Except that Moses intervenes and intercedes on behalf of Israel. Moses urges God to reconsider for the sake of God’s own reputation (Exodus 32:11-13). In response to that intercession, it is reported:
And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people (v. 14).
Later on, in Numbers 14, Moses again intercedes to change God’s mind about God’s proposed wrath. This time, in verse 18, Moses quotes God back to God from God’s statement in Exodus 34:6-7), and urges God to act in forgiveness. The exchange goes like this:
Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you pardoned this people, from Egypt even until now. Then the Lord said, “I do forgive, just as you have asked… (vv. 19-20).
In both cases, God’s new reach depends upon urging from God’s human partner. Thus YHWH’s “recovery” depends on bold human agents who will dare to challenge God’s intent and summon God to alternative behavior.”
One can only come to such a dull and pejorative exegesis of these passages if one starts out with a God, “like one of us, just slob like one of us” or some other projection of the human psyche onto a larger screen. Only the “fobiles” in man are much larger in YHWH. It certainly has similarities to Process philosophy’s “God-Word” description of His ontological relation to the world. In that view, God is “becoming” in ever larger appropriations of His experience with man,
One might be tempted to relegate such a description of God to the less tended heaps of Old Testament Theology, but Brueggemann’s reach extends to the New Testament as well.
God in Recovery in the New Testament
From the same blog article:
“And EVEN JESUS needed to be instructed! In his confrontation in Mark 7:24-30, Jesus contrasts the entitled “children” (Jews) with the contemptible “dogs” (Syrians). He is still thinking in tribal categories.” [emphasis mine]
That is, Jesus while in pursuit of the very highest objective still needed to shed the “tribal” bias of Judaism. He too recovered from old standards of righteousness to a new and higher level by interaction with this woman.
While that is a possible interpretation, it is bizarre in the extreme, and shows gross ignorance of the moral purity of Christ. Brueggemann’s “Partner in passion” representation of Israel’s core testimony (see partners in recovering from violence) is the controlling hermeneutic of interpretation whereby he runs roughshod over the Person of Christ.
As a scholar of Biblica languages it is expected that Brueggemann knows, (or at least should) that Jesus did not use “κύων” which is used by Jesus earlier as a figurative referencee of reproach for persons regatded as nholy and impure, e.g., ” …do not give to κύων (i.e. dogs) that which is holy …” but rather in this instance Jesus used the word “κυναρίοις” used of a little dog, permitted in the house and even a lap dog, which carried none of the moral denigration of the former.
It was the woman’s humility and faith in the Character of God as He had been expounding it (Jn 1:18) that cut through the hustle and bustle of the crowd. At times Jesus was so crowded that some who possessed the same humility and faith of this woman touched his garment and virtue flowed out of Him and healed her. She too stopped Jesus in his tracks. He did not know who it was, but wanted to see their face!
The truth is, Jesus’ own heart was transparent in humility, purity and passionate benevolence that it was ever listening for the voice of faith, and on occassion found it to exceed that of any found in Israel!
What a contrast between this view and the “earthy” smear of Brueggemann.
God’s Recovery Plan for Mankind
From these few samplyings of Brueggemann’s remarks about “God In Recovery” it is certain that he failed to hear Moses recouting of YHWH’s decent in a cloud to stand by him and delcare Who He is. It is even more certain that Brueggemann could not see the paralell in the New Testament in Christ’s High Priestly prayer on the night of His betrayal.
“For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me …
O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.
And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (Jn. 17:8, 25-26 KJV)
God In Recovery | The Center for Biblical Studies