Chapter 1 : The Cry of the Oppressed
Rob Bell/Don Golden Jesus Wants to Save Christians cont.
The authors move into Exodus at this point discussing Egypt, Sinai, Jerusalem and Babylon.
The first section is Egypt. One of the good sentences in this chapter is “…an entire civilization at odds with God.” Right on. And then following this establishment of sin, the authors puruse the idea of God’s kingdom that God’s kingdom is “… the peace, the shalom, the good that God intends for all things.” Thusly, “Egypt is what happens when sin builds up a head of steam…when sin becomes structured and embedded in society.”
The authors are driving home the implication that people are oppressed when sin takes this preeminence in society so that “exodus is about a people…being rescued from slavery…it’s aobut liberation from occupation…the insurgent power of redemption from empire.” And this is where this book start to go east for me slightly. In this next section in dealing with Sinai, the authors suggest that the Ten Commandments are delivered to the people in “…the long process of teaching them how to be human again...” in contrast to their slavery. Also that these 10 Commandments are “…vital truths about what it means to live in authentic human community.” Well yes and most definitely no. While the 10 C’s deal with how to live with each other they first and foremost inform us how to live in relationship to God which then informs how the Israelites/we should live. Forgetting numbers 1-5, in my view, make 6-10 make a lot less sense. While the second half of the commandments deal with living together, from reading Exodus 20 the point is not just authentic human community but authentic human community.
The next section of Chpt. 1 deals with Sinai. The authors deal really well with this section in emphasizing the Israelites as a kingdom of priests and people to demonstrate to “…the world who this God is and what this God is like.” However this really excellent section leads to a really just bad statement on the bottom of page 31. Here it is: “God needs a body. God needs flesh and blood. God needs bones and skin so that Pharaoh will know just who this God is he’s dealing with and how this God acts in the world.” This idea highlights my main issue with the Rob Bell school of theology. I can’t tell sometimes if this type of thinking is designed to be hip/trendy or if it is actually trying to get to the heart of thinking about Christianity. Because while God has designated people throughout history to be ‘His’, I shudder at the idea that God needs something. Really? I’m not sure where this is supported Scripturally. What seems to lend credence to 'hip school of theology' is that this rather radical idea isn't endnoted or footnoted with additional backing.
Moving on, in B/G's exploration of the 10 Commandments they focus on, and rightly so, on the consistent reminder to treat other people well bc they were once slaves. They reference Exodus 22:21-26, this idea of being kind to those people moving through the land. However this is then extrapolated out by B/G that for the Israelites "God's desire is that they would bring exodus to the weak in the same way God brought them exodus in their weakness." (P. 35) My question is are these commands, in context, bringing exodus to these people or is it a demonstration of proper community. Not charging someone interest seems not to be a matter of exodus as it is a matter of living well together. So we move from Sinai, at this point, to Jerusalem. My question here of the authors does the leitmotif of Solomon and the temple really focus on the oppression of the people. B/G make the point that in I Kings 9:15 Solomon uses forced labor to build the temple as well as his own house and thus "...Solomon isn't maintaining justice." (p. 39) If this was wrong, would God have blessed him and covenanted with Solomon in I Kings 9. In 9:3, the Lord says "...I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever." (ESV) Thus is this perceived issue of oppression really that important if God consecrates the finished work. At the end of God's conversation with Solomon he says don't go after other gods. I Kings 11:9-10 indicates God's anger is because of him chasing after other gods.
The other aspect to this is that the forced labor is people outside of the Israelite nation. (I Kings 9:20-21) It is people whom they have conquered which does cause the Israelites issues. The only reason these people are alive is that these are "...the people that the people of Israel were unable to devote to destruction." (I Kings 9:21 ESV) Forget oppression, the Israelites did not bring peace, they brought a sword to the land.
I think the authors are attempting to read the NT into the Torah. Yes, Christ will bring a grace that is extended to all people but at this point in time this sytem of exodus and sacrifice is specifically for the nation of Israel. One could join the nation but the goal of the commandments does not seem to be proselyzation but rather to obey God which would result in health and correct relationship with the land.
The authors go on to deal with Babylon and the failure of Israel to obey which is pretty good for the most part. It is this focus on oppression as the main cause of downfall that raises some doubts in my mind.
On to Chpt. 2.