Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who is Waltke?

Update to my prior post: I found a bit on Waltke here.

I didn't know.
Now I know.
Now I know
from Wikipedia
who he is.

What a terrifying change has occurred in the 20th century. Waltke is in the tradition of Jim Packer and John Stott. J. Packer's book Knowing God influenced me greatly when I was in my late 20s just after 'conversion'. Knowing God is impossible. Even being known by God is a lifetime of opening one's hidden self to scrutiny. To be known is of the highest order of business. As Job himself knew to his comfort (OK repentance but not necessarily repentance), it is the reestablishment of the foundation of creation. So he will not say to us - depart from me, I never knew you.

While it is true that such knowledge embraces every response we make at every moment - from the ignoring of the homeless man sleeping outside the office, to the interaction we have with wife or husband, to the mystery of our participation in the church, to the trivial round and common task, it is also true that such knowledge is not communicated to us by the tradition but only by the One who is ultimately unknowable (in a dominant 'imposition' sense) - by definition. Knowledge puffs up - so the King James bible so poetically puts it, but love builds up. Yet our knowledge is 'in part' and is good, for then we will know as we are known. But let it be that we are known. Why does the tradition fail?

Stafford Beer begins his book 'The Brain of the Firm' with an image of the wave pounding on the seashore, the collapse into chaos of a beautifully coherent system of an oscillating mass of water. Here shall your proud waves break. So it is that the proud waves of Christendom broke over the course of the 20th century on the reality of the land of more people and more war and more greed and more dysfunction than is imaginable. The late 19th century scholars take for granted that the teachers in the church could read their Greek and Hebrew. But for generations, the text had been passed through the assumptions of empire. The knowledge of God had become a triumphant assertion of superior power at the service of the self-interest of an oligarchy. God's knowledge of us was a hell-fire and brimstone morality. Our knowledge of God was propositional and absolute, kept in the form of words, not to be questioned. And if you thought differently, your soul's secret was best kept to itself or you would find yourself being beaten for insubordination at the hands of those who, appointed (so they took Romans 13:1 as meaning) by God, were his powerful representatives on earth.

John Stott's 'The Authority of the Bible' and related tractarian publications was also an influence on me. Who's the Boss is a fundamental question. The truth of the matter is in my eldest son's early comment: you're not the boss of me. Bless the stubbornness of childhood. I have constantly taught this undermining of authority (even though I also am a boss).
Because the authorities I was brought up under
(I am not speaking of Packer or Scott)
did not know.
They did not know the power they preached.
They did not know the healing that was in the Lambkin for themselves.
They could not reveal their soul's secret even to themselves.

Whether they found a measure of healing, I cannot say, but the failure to communicate was, I fear, based on ignorance and rote learning of words that were not working in them.

I bracket that I am not speaking of Packer or Scott because my own stubbornness, resilience, and distortions were formed long before I read them. They were in some sense part of the can-opener that first pierced the metal of my defensiveness.  But though I credit them so, I do not attribute to them infallibility.

In the beginning, God let the dry land appear so that the waves of the deep might find their limitations. Their work in shaping the land is still important, but their systemic coherence is destroyed in their work.

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