>Disruptive Grace

>Walter Brueggemann has published a new book, Disruptive Grace: Reflections on God, Scripture, and the Church. The three subtitles of this book, God, Scripture, and the Church reflect Brueggemann’s areas of interest throughout his illustrious career.

Walter Brueggemann is no stranger to students of the Old Testament. His work on Old Testament Theology has opened the doors for new approaches and new perspectives in the theological study of the Hebrew Bible. Brueggemann is a prolific writer whose works have inspired scholars, seminary students, pastors, and the laity. This new book will continue to provoke and inspire readers with his powerful approach to the text.

In his commendation of the book, Louis Stulman wrote:

Walter Brueggeman’s [sic] Disruptive Grace delivers a provocative and penetrating challenge to the powers and principalities of our contemporary world. This concentrate of ‘grace and truth’ not only exposes these forces of death but with master skill imagines a way out of the morass. One could only hope that the torrent from Brueggemann’s pen never ends…for the good of us all!”

Disruptive Grace was published by Fortress Press. Fortress Press has made the first chapter available to the public in PDF format. The following is an excerpt from the first chapter:

Summons to a Dialogic Life

The church has its life from the God of the gospel. For that reason, the wonder and character of God matters crucially for every aspect of our life, the matters about which we trust, about which we are vexed, and about which we quarrel. Thus, I will think with you in these moments about the character of that God and the endlessly unfinished business about how to articulate that God faithfully and how to respond appropriately.

As the Bible has it, the God of the gospel bursts into the world with an utterance of promise and summons. There are all kinds of evidences and scholarly strategies to indicate that the God of the gospel in the Bible has important religious antecedents in the ancient Near East. That is not how the Bible has it. The Bible—after mapping the wonder of all creation and the peoples in it—presents the God who bursts in utterance. That divine utterance, in all of its surprise, is addressed to Abram, of whom we only know that he is the son of Terah in Ur of the Chaldeans, husband of a barren woman, Sarai. None of that matters, however, as the divine burst of utterance is unencumbered. It is a word of summons, the first word: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you’ ” (Gen 12:1). Abraham and his kin are summoned to depart their comfort zone in obedience to a God they do not know, toward a zone that remains unidentified. The utterance continues as a promise: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:2-3). The speech is dominated by first-person pronouns: “I will make . . . I will bless . . . I will make . . . I will bless.” Abraham is on the receiving end, passive recipient of divine commitment. And even the last phrase, “in you,” gives Abram no agency, simply a vehicle through which the divine resolve for blessing will extend to all the peoples of Genesis 1–11.

Abraham is required to leave the old regime of his life. Abraham is promised by this divine utterer a future, an heir, a land, and a material bodily well-being in the world. This God of promise and summons defines Abraham’s life. In Genesis 15, many heirs are promised: “He brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be’ ” (Gen 15:5). And much land is promised:

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Gen 15:18-21)

The vision of “Greater Israel,” a force in our contemporary politics, is grounded in covenant: “On that day YHWH made a covenant.” It is all promise. In chapter 17, circumcision is a sign of that divine commitment. But there is no commandment. Scholars have noted that covenant began in the Old Testament with an unconditional divine promise, a commitment of divine power and divine purpose and divine fidelity to Abraham and his family.

You can see the Table of Contents here.

You can read the Introduction here.

You can read Chapter 1 here.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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