A Gospel of Hope By Walter Brueggemann
A volume which gathers Brueggemann's wisdom on topics ranging from anxiety and abundance to partisanship and the role of faith in public life
A Gospel of Hope
By Walter Brueggemann
Hodder & Stoughton
Reviewer John Rackley
Hope is the deep religious conviction that God has not quit.
Such an interpretation of biblical hope arises from Walter Brueggemann’s years of immersion in the Old Testament’s story of Israel and their relationship with God.
As such a theologian in the USA he has examined that relationship principally through the Prophets and the exilic context which he believes shaped the content and shape of the Hebrew scriptures. He has put this exploration at the service of the ministers and churches in a society which is chained to the hard face of Capitalism.
He writes like a therapist. His chief tools are the forensic exploration of scripture and the exposition of an independent mind. His diagnosis is that the USA is dying of anxiety and is being escorted to its demise by desperation and fear. He believes that too many of the country’s churches will not name this and collaborate in this terminal condition.
This book is a collection of brief extracts from his many writings gathered under a dozen headings; the most adventurous being the chapters on Jesus, Newness and Hope and Faithful Practices. They justify the title.
He writes: Hope in gospel faith is not just a vague feeling that things will work out. (He could have added a stance all too common among preachers and church members). Rather hope is the conviction, against a great deal of data, that God is tenacious and persistent in over-coming the deathliness of the world. God intends joy and peace.
Where might a Christian or a church receive the strength to live by such a gospel of hope, but in Jesus? Beware, his is an uncomfortable Jesus for a society obsessed with the power of wealth, notoriety and security for Jesus was a deep disruption wherever he went. Jesus was a misfit; he did not fit anyone’s categories.
He argues that Jesus has (to) become for us the lens through which we reread power, social relations and formal policies.
In this selection from Brueggemann’s output we are left in no doubt that he writes for changing churches whose metamorphosis and future will arise from a focus on our nation’s social ethics, morality and value rather than our own survival.
Our future depends on how much we love the world as did the Saviour, and let that shape our agenda. If not, God will let the consequences of not outside the front door religion close us down.
The cost will be great. Jesus was weird: how ready are the people of the churches to be equally weird, I wonder?
As with other matters the reader will have to decide whether or not Walter Brueggemann’s studious prophecies travel well across the Atlantic. This book of sound bites might just be the answer.
John Rackley is a Baptist minister who lives in Leicestershire and blogs at www.windingquest.com