Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

First Day is Goldingay

It’s May first, and the first day of the month is Golding-day — the day we examine another chapter of John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology: 1. Israel’s Gospel. We are on chp 2, “God Began: Creation,” and it is a majestic and edgy and earthy description of the God of the Creation Narratives of the “First Testament.”
If the rest of this book is like this we are in store for outside-the-box thinking, thoroughly OT-ish ideas, solid and clever and fun prose, along with theological insight that will set the wheels in motion. (But, John — if you are reading this — pass on to your editor that I’d like to go on record saying that 90+ page chapters are too long.) I can’t possibly sum it all up, but here are some comments … make your own observations.
Here is what the God of the creation narratives looks like: God Began …
Big question: Before you read on, ask yourself this: When I think of the “God” of the Creation account, what do I think about? What characteristics of God do I think of? And, now we turn to Goldingay with this: Do we see the richness of what this text does say about God?
1. God thought: Some creation accounts in the Bible — Proverbs and Job — the Hebrew “hokma” is translated as Insight and that means that we have Ms. Insight in Proverbs 8. God thought before he created; Insight sets it all in motion. It gives confidence to us to know that God knows what to do.
2. God spoke: God’s speech brings things into life — the command that mysteriously generates what it says. Creation from God’s speech is also God’s faithful commitment to creation. God works out his plan in this world in interaction with the world … “God is not a micromanager.” “Our security lies not in the world’s actual story being the outworking of God’s plan … but in its unfolding within the control of an executive who will go to any lengths to see that the vision gets fulfilled — even dying for it” (60).
3. God birthed
4. God prevailed: a treat of this book is reading Genesis 1–3 over against Babylonian myths about creation and one clear theme he develops is that God prevailed over chaos in creation. Creation is also liberation from chaos. Lots of texts here, but one thinks of Psalm 93.
5. God created:Israel’s story begins with creation, not Abraham and not Moses and not David. Creation is not about “out of nothing” but on the sovereignty of what God achieves. Stability and benevolence is the point. That is, “empty void into meaningful whole” (81).
6. God built: a significant theme of OT scholars today: “God is like a lordly sheik, spreading out the heavens like a tent to live in” (84). The earth is the suspended floor — “the clouds are Yhwh’s limousine, the winds its means of propulsion, both the winds and the lightning Yhwh’s aides and officers” (85). The physical heavens are God’s actual home (85).
7. God arranged: sun, moon, stars etc put in place. In passing: “I am tempted to comment that there are only two things wrong with the idea of a creation covenant of works: It was not a covenant and it was not based on works” (93). Score one for John for giving in to the temptation. “History is not just one darned thing after another. God brought temporal order to a collection of disparate, unrelated elements, the raw material of creation, and this provides a paradigm for understanding experience” (95). And God changes his mind: “God’s word is not like the law of the Medes and Persians, which is unchangeable even when stupid. When there is a good reason, within the terms of other aspects of God’s purpose for the world, God can have a change of mind” (98).
8. God shaped: Israel’s place — “Does the world exist for Israel’s sake or does Israel exist for the world’s sake?” (101). He suggests “image of God” refers to bodiliness. Women are designed for childbearing — Song of Songs reveals the relationality of male-female. Genesis 1-2 focuses on childbearing and working together.
9. God delegated: Westminster says man’s chief end is to glorify God. Goldingay says “Genesis 1-2 imply that humanity’s chief and highest end is to work for God in the world” (110). Humans are to help hold animals back from the dog eat dog world. We are called to make peace in this world by procreation.
10. God planted.
11. God relaxed. God finished his work of creation and then hands it over to humans. Sabbath is a day when we stop and give honor to God

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posted May 1, 2007 at 6:15 am

I haven’t read the book but it sounds interesting. With God often reduced to “Jewish Zeus on a throne” or “Father” it’s good to be reminded of God’s complexity. A few thoughts:
God as executive? I cringe, as always, at that designation. Too conformed to this culture. Why not use “king?”
8. “Women are designed for childbearing.” Yes, absolutely … but for so much more. I hope he touches on that. Women are able to bear children only half of their lives … and in a more just society (few wars, low infant mortality, few plagues) women only need to bear 2-3 children … meaning 2/3rd to 3/4s of a life set aside for other things. Female chimps, I read recently, are fertile all their lives, so God obviously had something more in mind for women.
9. “Humans are to help hold animals back from the dog eat dog world.” I like that.
9. “We are called to make peace in this world by procreation.” Don’t understand that. Do we literally make peace by having more children? Or is he speaking metaphorically?

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Scot McKnight

posted May 1, 2007 at 7:31 am

Goldingay uses lots of images and clever expressions. So, you just have to get used to him invading the dictionary — like “sheikh.”
He does touch on the “more” for women, but he says what he thinks Genesis 1-3 was about and leaves it at that for now.
The whole thing about procreation is about expanding — God’s order is to subdue the earth and he needs humans to produce and to work in order to do that. That’s the sort of thing he’s saying.
When this guy writes you never quite know what he’ll say — and I love it.

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John W Frye

posted May 1, 2007 at 7:32 am

You quoted Goldingay: “God is not a micromanager.” “Our security lies not in the world’s actual story being the outworking of God’s plan … but in its unfolding within the control of an executive who will go to any lengths to see that the vision gets fulfilled — even dying for it” (60).
Wow. I will get a copy soon and read along with you.

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posted May 1, 2007 at 8:24 am

Hey Scot~ I’m going to pick up this book of Goldingay’s. It sounds really interesting. I’m not familiar with his work, but have been hearing good things about him. I do have a question though.
Would Goldingay be considered an “open theist?” I ask because I saw a guide to studying the OT he wrote for Fuller (it’s on Fuller’s website) that includes this line: “God does not know everything (because God gets surprised and asks questions and goes to find things out).” Whether he is or isn’t doesn’t negate the value of his work for me; I’m just trying to get a fix on his theological perspective.

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posted May 1, 2007 at 9:24 am

Thanks for this delightful posting.
For a sample of John Goldingay (i hope to read this book) there’s a piece posted at — (under Jubilee Congregations, faith resources) “Jubilee Tithe”
so much in the first three chapters of Genesis!
as a creation/creation theo junkie, i pray from seven days of creation… thanking God for each of the days (which may also be aeons…) and what God speaks forth each day)… asking fulfillment in some form of thy kingdom come
expanding on some of what Diane raises — dominion (as w perhaps each word…?) can be heard in many ways… admitting strong probability of most preferable and less preferable… still, there are many shades of legit meaning
the first commandment to people (leaving aside for now the question of whether each of God’s spoken words is in fact a primal commandment…?) is be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the fish…(1:28) there is no word of permissioning re eating fish (or eating meat) til after the flood… (fly fishing, catch and release only, in the garden…seems strongly implicit)…
Fruitfulness, similarly, does not seem merely biological… esp in light of ch 3 and the links w suffering and pain in childbirth… but this is certainly a mystery that can take lifetimes to begin to understand…
against a primarily biological understanding (not against inclusive of bio of course) — i am reading John’s gospel as (among other things) a new creation theology that mimics the first three days (john 1 — count the light refs) day 1… john 1-4 (the JC above and JB below refs…) day 2… john 2, 15 (be fruitful) day 3…
i think probably the johannine letters and acts fill in days 4-6 somehow, tho i wouldnt trust my own eyes on this… may be all there in John’s gospel… day 7 has to be all God’s doing, like first Sabbath… of which Jesus is Lord, as he is Lord of Jubilee, and Kingdom come…
sorry if this is borderline ‘on message’?… i have way too much to say on this and this severely clipped (is that the word for edited?)
Every word in the creation and fall story carries so much meaning and history and ….i fear hasty readings!
grace and peace,

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posted May 1, 2007 at 10:19 am

Are you sure “Be fruitful and multiply” is a command? Maybe it is the expression of God’s blessing as we might say in the expression “Be happy and blessed!”

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Bryan L

posted May 1, 2007 at 10:41 am

Goldingay doesn’t identify himself as an Open Theist (after all that is pretty much academic suicide in the evangelical world) although he does believe that what they have to say is in the Bible and can’t be explained away by appealing to anthropomorphisms.
This book is great. It’s the best “devotional” reading I’ve had in a long, long time. I often find myself praying some of the things he says about God or finding comfort in them when I’m reminded of them later.
Scot is right when he says “When this guy writes you never quite know what he’ll say — and I love it.” That’s what I love about it too. I constantly find myself saying “I can’t believe he actually said that!”, and admiring his courage to call it how he sees it and not feeling the need to explain things away.
I do have a few concerns though (more like questions) from this chapter that I want to bring up later (when I get home), especially how he sees the NT’s application of the Old.
Bryan L

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Dan Reid

posted May 1, 2007 at 10:56 am

I don’t know if John is reading this, but his editor is! Ninety-page chapters too long? I just finished reading Barth’s CD IV.1 last night. Chapter XIV was 623 pages long and took me about three months to read! Treat Goldingay’s “chapters” as “parts” if you need to, and the sections (e.g., 2.1 through 2.11) as “chapters.” You’re just sore since you had to read so much for one blog!
Is Goldingay an open theist? Well, as he tells it, he didn’t know what an open theist was until he was lecturing in this vein and a student asked him if he was. He says he was just reading the OT and taking it seriously.

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posted May 1, 2007 at 11:28 pm

9. …Goldingay says “Genesis 1-2 imply that humanity’s chief and highest end is to work for God in the world” (110)…
I really like this statement! This is so much clearer, and IMHO more helpful, than saying “to glorify God.” Because when humans work for God in the world, the result will be to glorify God!
Oh for time to read any of the books you discuss, Scot…even ones with 90 page chapters 😉 ….

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