Thursday, August 27, 2015

I (Still) Believe: John Goldingay

If it comes out on schedule, the book will be available next week! Here is the seventh post on John Byron and Joel Lohr's, I (Still) Believe. I probably won't do every person from here on out. You can buy the book and read them yourself!

Previous posts include:

Richard Bauckham
Walter Brueggemann
Ellen Davis
James Dunn
Gordon Fee
Beverly Roberts Gaventa

1. Today is John Goldingay. I enjoyed this chapter. I don't know Goldingay personally, but I can see that he is probably, as he implies of himself, a little eccentric. He is English, and he notes early in the book that people think of England as a nation known for eccentrics. But he claims that even the English thought him weird. He's obviously a kindred spirit. :-)

I was reminded of Ellen Davis' chapter when Goldingay suggests that he doesn't know why he believed and others didn't. He just did and does. He mentions the notion of election whimsically (94).

I knew a former Wesleyan who ended up Calvinist for similar reasons. He couldn't explain why he ended up believing while his friends around him didn't. I obviously find it hard to subscribe to such constructs, although I certainly am appreciative of them. There's a line in a Woody Allen movie where a Jewish woman says something along those lines: "Faith is a gift. Either you have it or you don't."

2. "I haven't really questioned God's reality" (98). The questions that Goldingay has faced about faith have not come from biblical studies, but from his wife's some forty plus years of struggling with MS, if I read him correctly. She died in 2009. I have a friend with MS, so I felt not a little empathy for him in these pages. It is clear that he struggled, especially since it affected her mind from early on.

He had some very interesting musings here and I hope you'll buy the book to read them. One of his most striking lines is this one: "The world does not revolve around me" (96).

He also has some difficult lines to say about God's plan for our lives. I completely agree with him, although it is not at all popular to say these days. "There is no indication in Scripture that God has a plan for the life of each individual. God has a plan that we should come to maturity in Christ and to holiness... It isn't surprising; wise and loving fathers don't have plans for their children" (99). Good theology in that section.

3. Goldingay's struggle with his wife led him to a robust view of resurrection. Interestingly, he wasn't initially concerned in the 70s whether it was literal or not. Most of the OT has no sense of a future resurrection. But Jesus' resurrection demonstrates it and it became important for him to believe that, one day, his wife's body would be restored to her.

I thought his advice and comments on higher critical issues were helpful. He sees the possibility of "believing criticism." "One doesn't accept theories that seem simply based on unfaith--e.g., that prophecy is impossible. But neither does one accept theories that seem simply based on tradition--e.g., that Moses wrote the Pentateuch or that all of Isaiah must have been written by Isaiah" (96).

Here again we see that British evangelicalism is more balanced than American evangelicalism. Indeed, Fuller seems to have it right, from Goldingay's description: "Fuller is an interdenominational seminary but it has a clear theological ethos in its commitment to the kind of Christian faith that in England we call open evangelicalism: it maintains evangelicalism's traditional stress on the death and resurrection of Christ, the centrality of scripture, and a commitment to evangelism, but combines these emphases with an interest in learning from people of other theological beliefs, a comfort with biblical criticism, and a commitment to social and cultural involvement" (100).

Sounds about right to me.

4. Buy the book to hear more. Find out what happened his first July 4th when he put up a Union Jack for fun. Did he ever get remarried? Has he pastored any here in the States?

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