According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future
aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater
Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma
It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds
assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Eulogy to Terrence Freitheim by Walter Brueggemann


Theologian Terrence Fretheim


Eulogy to Terrence Freitheim

by Walter Brueggemann
November 30, 2020

Upon the death of Terry Fretheim, Old Testament study has lost a great force. Terry was a powerful, influential shaper of our discipline. For a generation, since the publication of his ground-breaking book, The Suffering of God (1984), he has led the way in our work. In his death, theological education has lost a great teacher, for Terry had a way of engaging students without imposing conclusions on them. And the church has lost a great pastor, for Terry’s pastoral sensibility was always apparent to those around him.

Beyond all of that, I have lost a great friend. Terry was my longest-running conversation partner in Old Testament study. He and I, both rooted in the best traditions of German pietism, were twinned together in much of our work. Early on in the commentary series, Interpretation, Terry wrote Exodus and I wrote Genesis. Later on in The New Interpreter’s Bible, we reversed the work; he wrote Genesis, and I wrote Exodus. Over time, enough difference between us emerged to evoke an ongoing conversation about the ways in which the Old Testament bears witness to the action of God in the world.

Through his focus on creation themes, Terry drew the conclusion that God’s work in the world was a part of an ongoing process; thus he was attracted to the categories of Process Theology. He judged, moreover, that in the governance of history God’s action was characteristically in and through historical agents, and not directly. Thus, for example, mighty Assyria could be “the rod of my anger” (Isaiah 10:5), and Cyrus the Persian king could be the “messiah” (Isaiah 45:1).

Conversely, my attention was especially drawn to the emancipation narratives of the Old Testament that I have read through a liberation hermeneutic. Through that lens, God is portrayed as being the help of the helpless when “other helpers fail and comforts flee.” Consequently, as in the Exodus narrative, God is seen to act through direct agency.

Terry’s judgment was that I had been excessively influenced by the “strong God” of John Calvin whom he thought had overstated the direct agency of God. Conversely, I thought Terry, in his embrace of a process hermeneutic, had given away too much of the direct agency of God as sovereign. Surely there are enough biblical texts to argue in either direction, and so our exchange was left without resolution. It is likely, moreover, that our different interpretive stances were complexly formed by our theological upbringing, by our personalities, and by our social locations.

It is likely that Terry had the better of that argument, given how it is that God is known in the world. However our shared wonderment might have been resolved, I am glad to add the following as a tribute and a salute to my dear friend. I want to consider the remarkable characterization of God in Deuteronomy 10:14-18. These verses in the mouth of Moses articulate the glorious mystery of God whom Israel knows in majesty and in mercy. At the outset of this doxology it is affirmed that all of heaven, all of earth, and all of earth’s creatures belong to God (v. 14). The arresting “yet” of verse 15 reverses field and affirms God’s peculiar singular commitment to Israel alone, both its ancestors and its descendants. The interface of cosmic governance in verse 14 and singular love in verse 15 marks the wonder of biblical faith. That same move from majesty to mercy is reiterated in verses 17 and 18. In verse 17, the majestic sovereignty of YHWH is affirmed in a striking doxology. But then in verse 18, the attentive reach of YHWH’s rule concerns widows, orphans, and strangers for whom the necessities of life (food and clothing) are provided by YHWH. Moses readily affirms that the majestic rule of God pivots in attentive care for the forgotten and the excluded.

We, Terry and I, may ask, “How is it that God gives bread?” We know of course about the manna narrative in which God’s bread simply appears for Israel in the wilderness as the dew lifts in the morning:

When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground (Exodus 16:14). 

When Moses is queried about the wondrous bread, he answered:

It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat (v. 15; see Psalms 78:20, 105:40).

The affirmation explains nothing, because God’s gift of bread is beyond explanation. We know, moreover, of the doxological exuberance of Isaiah concerning the faithfulness of God:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater... (Isaiah 55:10). 

And in YHWH’s commitment to Zion it is promised:

I will abundantly bless its provisions; I will satisfy its poor with bread (Psalm 132:15).

Israel is not reluctant in its recognition that God gives bread, just as Moses had declared.

These affirmations, however, tell us nothing about how bread from the creator God is given in the earth. In my conversations with Terry, I had been content to let those claims of bread from God stand as they are, without further explanation. Terry, however, would readily press the point to ask, how that bread is to be delivered. He would likely call attention to the next verse in Deuteronomy 10:19. After Moses makes his sweeping claim for God, the next verse moves, as covenantal faith always does, to an imperative:

You (plural) shall also love the stranger (v. 19).

Israel had been a stranger (immigrant) in Egypt; and should therefore be attentive to the needs of other strangers (immigrants). And from that single mandate, we can freely extrapolate other mandates I take to be tacit in the utterance of Moses:

You shall also love the widow;

You shall also love the orphan;

You shall be sure to execute justice;

You shall provide clothing;

You shall provide bread.

Terry would surely conclude that God’s gift of bread is given through human agency.

So how is God’s bread given in the world?

§  Bread is given through governmental policy. In the ancient world, the king had an obligation to provide food for the hungry (see II Kings 6:16). In current U.S. policy, food is provided through the food stamp program of the Department of Agriculture. Many persons rely on that provision, even if Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Purdue, is parsimonious in his fear that someone will “become dependent” on such food. Imagine becoming dependent on a reliable food supply! Perdue’s gut fear no doubt is that someone will get something for free, alas!

§  Bread is given through a host of NGOs. We may be grateful for the lobbying efforts of such agencies as Bread for the World that relentlessly pursue good food policy in its address to widespread hunger, on which see Hunger: the Oldest Problem by Martin Caparros.

§  Bread is given through the efforts of a myriad of volunteers, often organized through the church, to provide food for the food deprived. In my community, an organization of volunteers provides a daily truck circuit to pick up large amounts of surplus food for distribution in a variety of local venues. Among the many diligent, committed, hard-working volunteers in such enterprises is the indefatigable Mary Brown who presides over this blog platform.

On all these counts — government policy, action organizations, and local volunteers — the bread given by God is made available through human agency. Terry would have no doubt that it is God who gives bread. But Terry would also insist that bread from God is not magical or supernatural. It is rather the faithful, proper functioning of the human community that makes bread available; it is a human performance of mercy, compassion, and generosity that constitute the delivery system for God’s good bread. Thus, as we pray for “daily bread,” we may also be grateful for the actions of human governments, human organizations, and human volunteers who function to deliver that daily bread, most especially among those who possess no bread supply of their own.

For good reason I am glad to recognize that Terry, in his honed theological sensibility, is surely right about God’s gift via human agency. Such a recognition on my part simply adds to the awareness we all have that Terry has been among us a shrewd and discerning interpreter. He understood that bread is an important, indispensable part of the ongoing process whereby creation is sustained and fed. Terry for good reason made a great deal out of the creation hymn of Psalm 104 that sings out:

You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart (vv. 14-15).

Terry was endlessly my teacher who would not let me get by with anything, and certainly not with careless thinking about texts I had overlooked. His great legacy will continue to teach us for many years. And we, in his wake, will be alert to the processive power and beauty of creation. He has vigorously reminded us of our vocation in creation that has been entrusted to us:

God’s way into the future with this creation is dependent at least in part on what human beings do and say. This state of affairs brings human responsibility to the forefront of the conversation. Many of us would just as soon leave everything up to God, and God can then be blamed when things go wrong, tragically or otherwise. A way between pessimism in the face of the difficulties on the one hand and a Messiah complex on the other will not always be easy to locate. But God calls human beings to take up these God-given tasks with insight and energy—for the sake of God’s world and all its creatures, indeed for God’s sake (God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology, 277-278).

Of course I do not know what Terry’s vocation is to be in “the age to come.” But I do know that he will perform faithfully, through his assignment, the rule of the God of justice whom he knew to be the God of mercy.

- Walter Brueggemann

From Church Anew - https://churchanew.org/brueggemann/for-terry-fretheim?fbclid=IwAR1iGmjlmNjUku1jfGDrNMBdV2_zjRPsbw-uVaLlQlktD0CX3IitzVFmFMo





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Walter Brueggemann and Terry Fretheim Conversation
Streamed live on Sep 23, 2014


Comments: I quite enjoyed the back-and-forth between
Terry and Walter. It was humorous, questioning,
searchingly deep and overall spiritually enlightening
to how we think of God and the world. - R.E. Slater



ORT on Fretheim w/ Tom Oord and Tripp Fuller
Feb 22, 2019


Comment: I have listened to Tripp and Tom's
podcast and found it easy to listen too, humorous
at times, and very information on the beloved
theologian Terence Fretheim. - R.E. Slater


* * * * * * * *


Obituary: Rev. Dr. Terence Fretheim
Posted on November 20, 2020

Rev. Dr. Terence Erling Fretheim
January 27, 1936 – November 16, 2020

Terry, 84, died at home on what would have been his mother’s 113th birthday. He had been diagnosed with plasma cell leukemia. Terry is survived by his wife of 64 years, Faith; daughters Tanya Fretheim and Andrea Fretheim; grandchildren Kelly, Shannon, and Emre; his youngest brother, Stephen; sister-in-law Judy; four nieces and nephews; as well as many extended family and friends. He is preceded in death by his parents Erling and Marie, brothers Gary and Mark, sister-in-law LaVila, aunt Ada, and uncle Phil.

Terry was the oldest of four boys—his father was a Lutheran pastor, his mother, a nurse. In addition to his dad, his uncle and his grandfather were also Lutheran pastors. His first steps on the Luther Seminary campus came in 1939 when he was three years old, and his dad was attending Luther Seminary. As a high school student, Terry attended Augustana Academy in Canton, SD, and went on to Luther College in Decorah, IA, where he sang in the Nordic Choir under Weston Noble, earned his BA in 1956, and met his soon-to-be bride, Faith. They were married in August 1956, and shortly thereafter, Terry and Faith moved to the Twin Cities, where Terry took his next steps on the Luther Seminary campus—this time as a student himself. In addition to being a student, he was a teaching fellow in Greek in 1958–60 and earned his MDiv in 1960. Terry received a Fulbright Scholarship and studied at the University of Durham, England, from 1960–61. He was an instructor in Old Testament at Augsburg College and Seminary, Minneapolis, from 1961–63 and assistant professor of religion at Augsburg College from 1967–68. In between those years, Terry studied at Princeton Theological Seminary, taught Old Testament from 1965-67 as a student, and earned his ThD in 1967.

During his 1967–68 year at Augsburg, Terry received a call from Luther Seminary to teach Old Testament. He accepted and was ordained in June 1968—the same day his daughter was baptized. He served the Dennison and Vang Parishes in Dennison, MN, while simultaneously stepping onto Luther Seminary’s campus as an assistant professor, wrote his first two books, and became a dad, twice. In 1971, Terry and Faith and their two daughters, Tanya and Andrea, moved to St. Paul a stone’s throw from the Luther Seminary campus. During his 45-year career at Luther Seminary, he taught Old Testament theology, had a 10-year stint as Dean of Academic Affairs, and team-taught a class with Dr. Paul Sponheim (lovingly dubbed “the Heim Brothers”) for 20 years titled, “God, Evil, Suffering.” He took sabbaticals in 1975–76, associated with Heidelberg University, Germany, and wrote The Message of Jonah. In 1982–83, he associated with Mansfield College, Oxford University, England, during which time he wrote The Suffering of God, and in 1988–89 associated with University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, where he wrote Exodus: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Starting in 1988, Terry spent weekdays in St. Paul and weekends in Chicago when Faith took a job with the Women of the ELCA at the Churchwide office in Chicago. Terry was rostered in the Southwestern Washington synod and was a member of the candidacy selection committee for more than 20 years. During the summers of 2003 and 2004, Terry associated with Tyndale House research library, Cambridge University, England, where he wrote God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation. In total, Terry wrote more than 25 books on Old Testament theology—including Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters and his most recent book published in August 2020, God So Enters Into Relationships That…—and countless articles which have helped shape pastoral students over the last 50 years and counting. Terry officially retired from Luther Seminary in 2013 after 45 years of service.

Terry was an advocate and leader in some key changes within the Lutheran church. As a biblical scholar he participated on the theological team that made the ordination of women possible in the ELCA. He was one of the first to help make distance learning a possibility for students who could not attend Luther Seminary in the traditional way (long before Zoom and remote learning was commonplace). And, Terry worked with the ELCA Task Force on Sexuality which opened the way for the full participation of people who identify as GLBTQ, including marriage and ordination.

In addition to receiving a Fulbright Scholarship, Terry was the recipient of the Lutheran Brotherhood Seminary Graduate Scholarship, the Martin Luther Scholarship, the Fredrik A. Schiotz Fellowship Award, and the ATS Scholarship for Theological Research. He became the first recipient of the Elva B. Lovell Chair of Old Testament in 1978. As a Luther College alumnus, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 1995. In 2006, Terry was honored with his Festschrift.

He had been visiting professor at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and both visiting professor and lecturer at the University of Chicago Divinity School. In addition, he had been a visiting professor at Sabah Theological Seminary in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia; Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia, PA; Lutheran Theological Seminary Tai Wai in Hong Kong (twice); Trinity Seminary in Columbus, OH; Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt; and Candler Theological Seminary at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. The list is long where Terry was also a guest professor or had a lectureship. He particularly enjoyed his guest lecturing and stays in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Christikon, MT, and Holden Village, WA.

Joining in 1972 and continuing until this day, Terry and Faith have enjoyed reading and discussing books monthly with a group of Seminary professors and their spouses with whom they have forged life-long friendships.

Terry’s family will remember the sweet smell of his pipe tobacco wafting through his office, classical music playing in the background, and the clacking of his typewriter keys and later computer keyboard as he wrote, and wrote, and wrote…

The family requests any memorial gifts be sent to:

Terence E. and Faith L. Fretheim Scholarship for
Environmental Studies and The Care of Creation
Development Office – Loyalty Hall
700 College Drive
Decorah, IA 52101

There will be a virtual live-streaming Celebration of Life ceremony on December 5, 2020, at 11 am CST. More info can be found at luthersem.edu/news/2020/11/19/fretheim.

Please share your memories of Rev. Dr. Fretheim in the comments section below, which we are using as a guestbook.


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YouTube Videos by/of
Theologian Terrence Freitheim

This video is about 2014_10_14_Prentice A Meador Jr. Lecture_Terence E. Fretheim.
Failing, Falling and Flying: Genesis Stories of Original Grace -- Week 4: "That Darned Flood: Fall #3" featuring Skype guest ...
CC
Dr. Terence Fretheim delivers the chapel talk at Augsburg College (now Augsburg University) on 1968 February 16. This chapel ...
Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary This presentation will consider ...
A conversation between Walter Brueggemann and Terry Fretheim.
Pastor Dave discusses the text we're using in Backyard Bible Study, and both how it approaches scriptures as well as questions ...
Terry Fretheim, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament Portions of this service are streamed with permission using OneLicense.net ...
"Abraham: Trials of Family and Faith" by Terence E Fretheim, narrated by Tim Lundeen. Available for purchase at Audible.com ...
This Thketch attempts to visualize Dr. Terence Fretheim's article entitle "Something to Say -- About God, Suffering, and Evil.
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Pastor Dave kicks off his Backyard Bible Study with some initial information, including how to get involved with the live class.
CC
Dr. Dennis Olson (Charles Haley Professor of Old Testament Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary) delivers the 2016 ...