Preparing for a lecture today I came across this from Richard Bauckham. He expresses so beautifully and succinctly how the cross doesn’t bring closure, nor does it indicate any sort of easy explanation for the devastating presence of evil in God’s good world. It is, rather, the overpowering signal of God’s coming triumph over evil.
The cross and resurrection of Jesus have sometimes been understood as an answer to the Old Testament’s question of theodicy, such that the psalms of complaint should no longer be prayed and Job’s protest becomes redundant. In that case the biblical story, at its climax in Jesus, would achieve closure, and the intractable evils of history and experience would be overcome. However, the resurrection only anticipates eschatological closure. It bursts open the constraints of nature and history, promising an overwhelming good of a kind that will not, like any immanent theodicy, leave out the dead, the victims of history whose fate can never be justified by any product of history. Closure—meaning a finally satisfactory resolution of the problem of God’s goodness in the world—is found in trust and hope, not in some explanation of the world that makes sense of evil, and still less in the claim of human power to eradicate the evil that human reason has understood.*
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Rev. 22:20).
*Richard Bauckham, “Reading Scripture as a Coherent Story,” in The Art of Reading Scripture (eds. Ellen F. Davis & Richard Hays; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), p. 51.
7 thoughts on ““and they were told to wait a little longer…””
That book has been on my Amazon Wish List for quite a while now.
Great stuff in it, Joey — a ‘must read’ (right alongside about a hundred others, unfortunately!).
What do we do then with the great psalms of lament? (Not to mention the rest of the Psalter.)
Not sure I understand your question, Bob. RB is saying that the cross does not bring closure and resolution. Biblical laments, therefore, still retain their value as creation continues to suffer. Only at the final day when God makes all things new in Christ will there be resolution. The cross is the signal that this day is assuredly approaching. While creation continues in pain, the people of God ought to lament.
His opening few sentences articulate a perspective with which he disagrees in the latter half of the paragraph.
Thanks for the reply. I was not too clear in my intent. It was a positive question meant to be open ended. I think it is more of a prod than requiring an answer. Tomorrow I will give a brief on the psalms to a group of very well educated people at the University. The laments I would make a parable – almost an alternative universe using the mythic structure of Egypt-Wilderness-Promised Land-Exile. The violence of the psalms, being part of a prayer, cannot be taken into our own hands. I also think there is present joy in the Spirit that can be supported by the psalms – but I am wondering how to integrate the whole.
I think the psalms happen if they are read with engagement in the faith of the Anointed. I think they are for individual and corporate correction and growth. I think they are to form a community of mercy – but I don’t see these things happening with any consistent frequency in the churches or in the political nations whose tradition is founded on the message of the NT and the non-violence of God implied in the outpouring of Spirit through the death of Jesus.
There is a considerable amount on the birthing of the world in the Psalms – exactly what Paul is pointing to in Romans 8. (I do enjoy Bauckham of course.)
Oops, sorry I didn’t catch your drift, Bob.
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