Brueggemann on the Unsettledness of the Covenant God

In Walter Brueggemann’s most recent volume, An Unsettling God: The Heart of the Hebrew Bible (Fortress, 2009), he discusses God as a dialogic character.  I found the following paragraph particularly interesting . . . regular readers of this blog will likely hear hints of my own thought here as well . . .

“Given these several dimensions of mutation, we may judge that the distinctiveness of ‘God’ in Old Testament tradition concerns YHWH’s deep resolve to be a God in relation–in relation to Israel, in relation to creation, in relation to members of Israelite society and of the human community more generally.  The power and sovereignty of YHWH is a given in the Old Testament that is rarely called into question.  What is readily and often called into question in the text is the character of this God in relation, a defining mark of YHWH that requires a radical revision of our notion of God.  The overriding indicator of God in relationship is covenant, which sometimes is understood as a unilateral imosition on the part of YHWH and at other times as a bilateral agreement.  It is precisely because the covenant is articulated in so many variations that we are able to conclude that covenantal relatedness makes it impossible for this God to be settled, static, or fixed.  This God is always emerging in new ways in response to the requirements of the relationship at hand.  This God is fully engaged in interaction with several partners and is variously impinged upon and evoked to new responses and–we may believe–to new dimensions of awareness and resolve.  Because so much of the faith of Israel is ‘talking faith’ in liturgy, oracle, and narrative we may say that YHWH is a party to a dialogic exchange that never reaches closure.  Rather, like any good dialogue, YHWH is engaged in an interaction with YHWH’s partners that always pushes to a new possibility, that makes demands upon both parties, and that opens up fresh possibilities for the relationship.  To be sure, in any particular utterance from  YHWH’s side, there may be an accent of finalit.  The wonder, however, is that after any such cadence of finality, there is always another text, another utterance, and another engagement” (4-5)



3 thoughts on “Brueggemann on the Unsettledness of the Covenant God

  1. John Anderson says:


    It is a very fine volume that piggy-backs — indeed, develops or recasts part of his earlier OT theology (I don’t recall which part off hand at the moment, and I don’t have the volume handy). I plan to review it soon, when time gets a bit more sane. Right now I am continuing dissertation work and about to be snowed in under about 180 pages of undergrad writing!

    Do check it out though!

  2. says:

    i love brueggemann . . . except when he makes these sorts of moves which are so akin to open theism (i’m the same way with fretheim). i appreciate that God is not bound in his theology, but this sort changing, morphing, evolving, and growing (or being “evoked . . . to new dimensions of awareness”) God just doesn’t seem to jive with the biblical portrayal(s) of God (from my perspective).

    there is a responsive, attentive, relational dimension of God in the Bible, but there seem to be some static, eternal, fixed qualities as well. one might counter that i’m putting God in the box or not letting God be God, but i would counter back that i view the Bible as revelation – or, God has revealed who God is.

    that said, i’m glad he revs up the relational qualities of God in the Bible. it’s something missing from many christian perspectives today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s