"An Unsettling God" by Walter Brueggemann

Walter Brueggemann, An Unsettling God: The Heart of the Hebrew Bible. Fortress Press, 2009. 192 Pages. 

Here, then, is the third book I mentioned when I reviewed Eric Siebert's book last week. 

"It is an exciting time to be studying the Old Testament... In some ways the Old Testament strikes us as ancient, odd, and remote from us. But in other ways it is clear that the Old Testament offers categories of interpretation and guidelines for life that are rich and contemporary in their force. The present volume is an attempt to articulate some of the categories of interpretation and guidelines for life that could make a difference in our present social context."

Thus begins An Unsettling God. This book is largely drawn from Brueggemann's previous volume, Theology of the Old Testament (available here, among other places). The focus of this book is on the relational, or dialogical, nature of God. This is the subject of the first chapter. From there, we see YHWH in conjunction with four partners: Israel, the human person, the nations, and creation. The final section sums up the drama revealed in this portrait of God. 

This book is both well written and provoking. In each instance, Brueggemann demonstrates how the character of these entities is best understood within the context of partnership with YHWH. For Israel, the most characteristic and distinctive part of their life and vocation is "the remarkable equation of love of God with love of neighbor, which is enacted through the exercise of distributive justice of social goods, social power, and social access to those without leverage; those without social leverage are entitled to such treatment simply by the fact of their membership in the community." (29)

Meanwhile, to be fully human, Brueggemann argues, "is to have a profound, unshakable, elemental trust in YHWH as reliable, present, strong, concerned, engaged for; and... to live and act on the basis of that confidence, even when YHWH is not visible and circumstance attests to the contrary." (74)

Such observations are typical of this volume, and a large part of what makes it worth reading. The book is not even 200 pages and so Brueggemann is incomplete in his presentation of all that we might learn from the OT while focusing on the relational nature of YHWH and what that reveals about Israel, Humanity, the nations, and creation. One such stunning example of absence is any discussion of sacrifice and atonement. However, Brueggemann has succeeded admirably in presenting a model of reading the OT, and an exciting picture of who God is within this text. 

Conclusion: 4.5 of 5 Stars. Recommended. This book will open your eyes to the OT in unexpected ways. It is well worth reading.  


Dana Ouellette said...

I haven't read much from him. I remember enjoying David's truth. About the 4 different David's in the bible. It's a good book if you haven't ever read it.

Andrew said...

I haven't read it; I will grab it the next time I am at the library. Thanks for the recommendation.