Brueggemann: Israelite Hope vs Enlightenment Despair

The following quote is well worth reading through carefully. Enjoy!

“At the culmination of Israel’s portrayal of reality is a certitude and a vision of newness, a full restoration to well-being that runs beyond any old well-being.  This culmination in well-being, assured by the resolve of Yahweh, is articulated in the conclusion of most psalms of complaint and in prophetic promises that eventuate in messianic and apocalyptic expectations.  Israel’s speech witnesses to profound hope, based in the promise-maker and promise-keeper for whom all things are possible.”

“Israel refuses to accept that any context of nullity – exile, death, chaos – is a permanent conclusion to reality.  Israel, in such circumstance, articulated hope rooted, not in any discernable signs in the circumstance, but in the character of Yahweh (based on old experience), who was not a prisoner of circumstance, but was able to override circumstance in order to implement promises.  This hope is not incidental in Israel’s life; it is a bedrock, identity-giving conviction, nurtured in nullity, that Yahweh’s good intentions have not and will not be defeated.  As a consequence, complainers anticipate well-being and praise.  Israel awaits homecoming, the dead look to new life, creation expects reordering.”

“All of this requires confidence in an agent outside the system of defeat.  Enlightenment liberalism, which sets the liberated, self-sufficient human agent at the center of reality, can entertain or credit no such agent outside the system.  Without such an agent who exists in and through Israel’s core testimony, there are no new gifts to be given and no new possibilities to be received.  Thus, put simply the alternative to Israelite hope is Enlightenment despair.  In such a  metanarrative, when human capacity is exhausted, all is exhausted.  Ultimate trust is placed in human capacity, human ingenuity, and human technology.”

“It is self-evident that such a trust cannot deliver, and so ends in despair, for self-sufficiency is only a whisker away from despair.  Such a reading of reality engenders fear and hate, self-hate, and brutality.  But Israel, inside its peculiar testimony, refuses such a reading.”

From Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 561-2.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

3 Replies to “Brueggemann: Israelite Hope vs Enlightenment Despair”

  1. Timothy, Brueggemann is a real love/hate type of thing. You’ll find absolutely beautiful gems like this scattered throughout some real pepper-corns that’ll make you want to rip your hair out! {grin}

    Seriously though, you’ll greatly benefit from the different perspective, even as you filter out some real dingers! My appreciation of the text has been deepened by many of Brueggemann’s insights!


  2. Thanks Andrew for the insight. I heard DA Carson discussing Brueggemann in similar fashion.

    I will definitely look for such kernels when I begin reading him!


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