A few weeks ago, I finished Living Countertestimony: Conversations with Walter Brueggemann. This is a bit of an odd volume. Walter Brueggemann is listed as the author with Caroline Sharp listed as a contributor, but I got the sense she serves more as the editor of a volume in which Brueggemann is the subject of inquiry. Literally, the volume is a series of transcribed conversations between Brueggemann and several of his colleagues and students.
Walter Brueggemann is one of my favorite biblical scholars. One of his greatest gifts to the church is the way he narrates and translates Israel’s story in such a way that the church, as the continuing people of God, is charged to find itself within the story of the Hebrew Scriptures.
In addition to his scholarly work – his Old Testament Theology and his commentaries (I’m particularly indebted to his work on Genesis, Psalms, Jeremiah and Isaiah and I loved his work on Elijah and Elisha) – his pastoral and popular works have had a profound impact on me. The Prophetic Imagination and Finally Comes the Poet. And his collection of prayers and poems, don’t forget those! And if you’re more inclined to listen to a podcast, check out his interview from Krista Tippet’s On Being.
Anyway, Living Countertestimony provides a bit of an inside look at the head and heart of this world-class scholar. Most surprising to me was his admissions of feeling inadequate as a scholar. Most encouraging to me was his desire to keep his scholarship and teaching connected to the workings of the church.
Here are a few quotes I loved from this volume:
I think a lot of our despair is situated sociopolitically in a context that makes serious theological claims impossible. (Kindle location 1052)
What we yearn for is fidelity, which is a relational category, not a cognitive category. I think this is so clear from Jesus’ statement, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
The truth is not the Chalcedonian formula about Jesus, it is the faithful presence of Jesus. So I have come, slowly and not very far, to see that what really is important to me are people upon whom I can rely who image the God upon whom I can rely. (Kindle location 1160)
I don’t think I want to take back anything about the main trajectory of my work, but I could have thought more or listened to more people or other people, or given better nuance to a lot of things. I suspect I am so much a child of the Church that I didn’t push beyond that. I do think that the people who are extraordinarily skeptical and angry with the tradition are also children of the Church, they’re just wounded children of the church and I have not been [so] wounded by the Church. (Kindle location 1590)
When I come to church on Sunday morning, I don’t abandon my critical capacity, but for the most part, I’m a guy who needs to hear the gospel. If you witness to the gospel, I’ll take it! (Kindle location 2223)