Thursday, October 14, 2004

Water Buffalo Theology: Chapter 2

Water Buffalo Theology by Kosuke Koyama on Amazon

Chapter 2: Will the Monsoon Rain Make God Wet? An Ascending Spiral View of History

water buffalo theology coverRegarding Chapter 2, Marian, our moderator observed:
"...I think our biblical understanding of God is deeply shaped by anxiety about climate and nature, by law and a sacrificial cult meant to 'keep things right' between the people and God. …in a totally different climate - a monsoon climate, with no worries about water, and with frogs and water buffalo instead of sheep and goats - how different would the biblical understanding of God have been?"
A couple of comments: In the biblical witness, physical, natural and weather phenomena don't become unimportant or peripheral; instead, every time God encounters people (until Jesus) something other than God stands in place of God - usually a natural sign or symbol: mountain, fire, earthquake, storm, other diverse types of "weather," cloud, rainbow, though at times a person - like a prophet - appears and speaks as a sign of God's present Word! Early in the Bible's testimony Yahweh discloses himself as God of history, but Yahweh always condescends to the people's needs, always accommodates his sovereignty and power to the people's humanity and vulnerability, meeting the people with novelty and surprise, but the newness and revelation is virtually always embedded within the more familiar and mundane. I've previously mentioned what wonderful models for God's activities in the world and in each of our lives the sacraments are - the Risen Christ concealed and yet revealed in ordinary, everyday - natural - things - as common as water, bread and wine!

As Christians we acknowledge Jesus Christ as God's final Word - but we also affirm our God still-speaks in the interface between the biblical text itself and the reader of that text; we celebrate the Christ, God's living Word in proclamation during our liturgies in our church sanctuaries; we celebrate God's presence and God's voice in the Church as the Body of the Risen Christ and in our societal and personal actions and interactions. In many and various ways God is a "Still Speaking" God! Since the Bible's God is God of history (and, let's not forget, the Bible's God also is God of nature), because human history continues, logic says God must still be acting within history. And I think for each culture and each community as well as for each of us as individual Christians, the journey by faith remains the usual 3 steps forward followed by 1 or 2 steps backwards.

Marian asked:
Do you think the God of the bible - our living and still-speaking God - is any more tied to a Mediterranean climate than a monsoon one? I.e. any more tied to an ancient, middle-eastern semitic tribal experience than an ancient Asian rice-farmer experience? Because we met that God in the one context, does that mean we forever carry that original context as part-and-parcel of the gospel message?
This question is especially interesting , in particular since this book we're reading is liberation theology and it's also ecological theology. The liberationists claim God indeed is partial, not to a particular people, nation or tribe but rather to a particular class and type of person: those who are altogether marginalized, estranged and "not-like-us." But your question of our God and "ancient, middle-eastern semitic tribal experience than an ancient Asian rice-farmer experience," reminds me of the massive hermeneutical task always set before us when we interpret the Bible, a witness to God's activity in an extremely not-like-ours culture and world...when we undertaking preaching and teaching those texts, we do so acknowledging them as a Word to us and for us, despite cultural disparities. IOW, yes God is equally tied to, God is equally active in those different cultures.

Looks as if I've almost gotten into a new discussion, but in passing I'll comment I'll agree God definitely has a preference for the exploited and hungry and abused because of the vulnerability of their situations, but it's not a greater love for them as individuals nor is it a greater passion for their freedom and potential. Right now I won't try to say any more about that!

I also believe it's inevitable we'll take some of that original context into the next setting. Earlier I wrote about our need to become at least as aware of the symbols of our own culture as we are of the symbols of the new culture. Easier said than done, but with careful awareness it is possible to interpret ancient texts as God's living Word for today in a social and cultural setting new to us - just as we always attempt to do here at home.

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