A book I read more than a decade ago has had a profound influence on me. It is R. Kendall Soulen’s The God of Israel and Christian Theology. However, I loaned my copy to somebody or somehow left it behind in one of my moves from interim ministry to interim ministry. Anyway my copy has been missing for a long time.
I have watched to see if it would come out in Kindle format. I have been trying to declutter my house by getting books in electronic format whenever possible. But I have finally given up and ordered a new dead-tree copy.
Some years ago I blogged through the first tome of Soulen’s work on the names of God, beginning here. My mind is more oriented toward the concrete than the abstract, so I often have a hard time with theoretical theology. I struggled to grasp Soulen’s trinitarian thought in that book.
But I do not remember being so much out of my depth in the other book. My next reading project is to revisit The God of Israel and Christian Theology. The book presents an alternative to the displacement of Israel in so much Christian theology–what is sometimes called supersessionism.
Without yet drawing on Soulen, let me give you a few paragraphs about why this seems so important to me.
Most of us gentiles have a Christian heritage that goes back so far that we forget that our ethnic forbears were pagan. In my case, most of them were northern European. Odin was their high god and in the spring they had a festival to the goddess Ostera (Easter). They believed their lives were ruled by fate and capricious deities. But they tried to assert some control through ceremonies and sacrifices, including bloody sacrifices of prisoners of war, according to the Greco/Roman, Strabo.
But all gentile Christians are like the biblical character, Ruth. She turned away from her Moabite worship of Chemosh and told the Hebrew, Naomi, “your God will become my God” (Ruth 1:16).
All Christians, in effect, tell the Jewish people what Ruth told Naomi. But often we have not come to terms with it. You can see this in the many cases where Christians disparage “the God of the Old Testament” as though a different deity than the God of Jesus.
So, like all gentile Christians, I have turned away from my own heritage and adopted one that is very foreign and that arose in a place and culture very far from my own.
In order to avoid a superficial and watered down version of Christianity, I think it is important to struggle with how dependent my faith is on Judaism.
It may take me a few days to get far enough into rereading Soulen to begin writing.