Brueggemann on Metanarrative

This will be the last installment of me posting excerpts from An Unsettling God: The Heart of the Hebrew Bible.  Overall it was a good read (as well as a quick one), though I enjoyed the first part of the book more than the latter.  I think his analysis of YHWH as a partner in a dialogue provides a helpful corrective.

Beyond that, the tendency when trying to present a theology of a particular testament or both testaments or any particular Biblical book is to leave out those little parts that don’t fit within the overall systematization.  When reading texts that take this approach (e.g. just about any Systematic Theology book I have ever read – though admittedly I have probably had a poor sampling)  I normally end up asking myself, “But what about this or that text in Ezekiel … or Job … or Jeremiah …?”  Brueggemann does a good job of not giving privilege to one stream of thought.  The picture of Old Testament theology then is a bit messy, which I think makes it more realistic.

One quibble would be that Brueggemann moves away from this messiness a bit in the last chapter.  He explicitly states that this is not what he is trying to do, but I think it is almost inevitable that things get simplified a bit too much when one starts to try to make charts or illustrations like those in his final chapter.  The picture of Israel’s life, the life of the human person, the life of the nations, etc. becomes a three or four step process.  But, I think it is to Brueggemann’s credit that he avoids this until the very end.

At any rate, I thought I would give one last excerpt from the book that I thought noteworthy.  Here is Brueggemann on metanarrative:

I am profoundly ill at ease with the use of the term metanarrative, by which I mean simply a more-or-less coherent perspective on reality.  I am ill at ease, first, because I am impressed with the plurality, diversity, and fragmented quality of the Old Testament text, and I have no wish to engage in reductionism. Second, I am ill at ease with the term because I take seriously, along with my deconstructionist friends and colleagues, Jean-Francois Lyotard’s suspicion of metanarrative with its hegemonic potential …

Me too.