January 25, 2010
David H. Kelsey is the Luther A. Weigle Professor of Theology Emeritus at Yale Divinity School. Last year he published a book in two volumes that represents something of a ‘Life Work’. It is a systematic, densely argued, “theological anthropology” called Eccentric Existence (WJK, 2009). He intersperses theological reflection with the inevitable methodological justification. (These days most serious theological books seem to have 100 pages of methodology for every 10 pages of theology.) The book is slow going but worth it with nuggets on every page.
I have just enjoyed a section (Chapter 4A) arguing that a good basis for a theology of creation is found in Wisdom Literature (Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes,--many would include Psalms in the list as well.). He points out that while creation theology is implicit except for Proverbs 8:21-32 and Job, and while it is interested more in God’s providential governance of the world, it is a theology that is entirely governed by the logic of God’s creative activity. This is in contrast to the stories of Genesis 1-3 or sections of Isaiah that tend to be governed by stories of reconciliation or the end of history. In Wisdom creation is our “proximate context but our ultimate context as creatures is the active creativity of God.” (Vol. 1 p. 162) He concludes the section by asking again how we shall characterize the triune Creator’s active relating to creation. His answer is a kind of dense shorthand that has been developed in the preceding chapter. “As a free relating that in attentive delight constitutes creatures in being, each and all—as delighting in each and all, a delighting in which Gods commits Godself to creation and its well-being in orderly proximate contexts. This is the ultimate context in to which we are born: God’s hospitable generosity, creatively relating, to us, free of creatures in creating and attentively delighting in them in their otherness to God, self-committed to that which is created.”
What I like and respond to in this is a kind of givenness that does not reduce creation or our purpose in life to one story in particular. We are not defined as fundamentally fallen sinners in need of some kind of redemption. While that may be true, the Wisdom theology of creation neither requires nor limits us to that story. Kelsey has written a difficult book but rich.