Not Being Content With God: Contestation and Contradiction in Communities under Duress

  • Juliana Claassens Professor of Old Testament Department Old and New Testament Faculty of Theology Stellenbosch University Stellenbosch, South Africa 0729175535 (cell) 021 8089246 (w)
Keywords: Jeremiah, Feminist criticism, God-language, Trauma hermeneutics, Holocaust, Forced Removals

Abstract

The title of this paper is derived from John Caputo’s recent book The Folly of God: A Theology of the Unconditional (Polebridge Press, 2016). In this book, Caputo makes the claim that it is “in the best interest of theology not to be content with God” (p1). He shows the importance of challenging what he calls “weak theology that gives words to God, to what is going on in the name (of) God (p53).” This ironically is done in terms of the “weakness of God” – something that he calls the unconditional, undeconstrutable tenants of a type of proto-religion rooted in faith, hope, love and justice (p35). With this contemplation on new quests for God in mind, this paper proposes that it is exactly in communities under duress that new language for God emerges that forms an essential aspect of survival.

This paper seeks to investigate the contradictory images for God found in the story of Jeremiah in prison (Jeremiah 20), which reflects the deep paradox of faith experienced by the prophet that quite likely also belonged to the people in exile. So Jeremiah the one moment can say in so many words that he hates God, that God has violated him (20:7). But in the same breath, he can confess God to be the Liberator-Warrior God who delivers the needy from the hands of evildoers (20:11, 13).

Bringing the portrayal of God in Jeremiah 20 into conversation with other compelling images of God in communities experiencing severe trauma such as during the Holocaust as well as the Forced removals in Apartheid South Africa, I propose that new images for God that are marked by contradiction serves as a mean of challenging traditional, often simplistic understandings of God. Such images that are not content with God are vital if God is going to survive together with the people.

Author Biography

Juliana Claassens, Professor of Old Testament Department Old and New Testament Faculty of Theology Stellenbosch University Stellenbosch, South Africa 0729175535 (cell) 021 8089246 (w)

Professor of Old Testament
Chair Department Old and New Testament
Head of Gender Unit
Faculty of Theology
Stellenbosch University
Stellenbosch, South Africa
0729175535 (cell)
021 8089246 (w)

Published
2017-12-20