Goldingay OT Theology Day – 4 of 5
One aspect of the books stands out, even though they are a lot of other things. Namely, Goldingay seems to enjoy challenging traditional Christian readings of scripture, turning over the tables in our most holy places of prayer, making our holy cows into mere hamburgers. It is a lot of fun!
Here is a gloriously controversial one for your consideration:
In discussing the way God asks questions in the first chapters of Genesis, Goldingay asks if God, according to the text, is really portrayed as knowing everything automatically, or whether things are different. Why does Genesis portray God as asking question to find things out? Doesn't God already know the answer?
'Sometimes God manifests supernatural knowledge, and no doubt God could know everything, including everything about us, whether we are willing for this or not (cf. 1 Chron 28:9; 1 Jn 3:20). But even God's supernatural knowledge of us comes about through discovery, through "searching out", rather than because God possesses this knowledge automatically (e.g., Ps 33:15; 139:1-6). Stories about Babel and about Abraham (Gen 11; 18; 22) will concretely show God taking steps to come to know things. They will again show that God has extraordinary knowledge, but will incorporate no declaration that Yhwh is omniscient, and preclude that by the way they portray God acting so as to discover things: "I will go down to see whether they have acted altogether in accordance with the cry that came to me. If not, I will know" (Gen 18:21). "Now I know that you are one who reveals God" (Gen 22:12) ... Talk of God acting to find something out is anthropomorphism, but like talk of God having a change of mind or loving or speaking, such anthropomorphisms presumably tell us something true about God's relationship with the world' (Old Testament Theology. Volume 1: Israel's Gospel. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP, 2003, p. 137)
So what do you make of that? Utter bunk? Heresy? Gospel Truth? Scripture turning over our prized theological notions?
I know the matter is hugely complicated, and 'open theism' is banded around like a dirty ping-pong ball, blog authors scoring points by saying how much nonsense it is, others simply brushing it aside as faddism because theological heavyweights see things differently. But Goldingay's whole project is to write a narrative theology of the OT, the God-breathed text, as 'Paul' claimed in 2 Tim. 3:16. This makes for some 'messy' and unconventional theology, but it is at this level his critics will have to engage Goldingay if they are to engage him at all.