I have begun re-reading Walter Brueggemann’s delightful little book on the wisdom tradition in Israel, In Man We Trust: the Neglected Side of Biblical Faith (John Knox Press, 1972). Brueggemann’s usual prescient insight into scripture is present as he describes the cultural shift that takes place during the United Monarchy under Kings David and Solomon.
The shift was from cultic religion to secularized society. The wisdom tradition that resulted relocated accountability and responsibility away from God and toward human beings in community.
The old traditions no longer made sense or fit as explanations for behaviors in the contemporary world. What to do in order to “get through to those who had ‘escaped the gods,’ and so avert the suicidal course of avarice and pride” on which course the nation seemed to have locked its auto-pilot? Abandon the old? Stick to and reinforce the old? No, those options were not chosen. Instead a “radical transformation of the old” was called for. “But Israel under Solomon was so busy that she could not listen in time.”
Brueggemann’s insights could be applied to our culture today. Our society, at large, has been telling us for years that the old traditions of Christianity in America are no longer working. Some of us have doggedly stuck with the old, reinforced their passion for the old, and told the rest of us that we are going to Hell because of our non-Christian beliefs. Others have simply abandoned the old traditions. They are the “NONEs” and the “DONEs.”
I happen to belong to a small group of Christians who are seeking within ourselves a radical transformation of the old. I am not ready to jettison Christianity or the church (although my lover’s quarrel with the church leads me to criticize it vociferously).
“Out of wisdom quite another approach to the gospel is possible. Jesus Christ may ne presented not simply as savior form sin, but also as fulfillment of the summons to Adam in Genesis.” Christianity faith understands that Yeshua opens the possibility of an intimate connection with God we serve, whose summons is experienced within, not from the outside. Furthermore, Yeshua defines what we mean when we talk about genuine human life — connection with God in and through service to others and nature. Why? Simply because human life floats on gratuity — theologically this simply means the the cosmos trusts human beings to be fully human.
Is American society so busy with our own brand of arrogance and pride that we, much like Israelite society under Solomon, will not listen in time?