Week 3: Conventional Wisdom

Make Option 02:

In the lecture “Wisdom,” I suggest that the book of Ecclesiastes frequently “sets the bait” of conventional wisdom (Eccles 3:1–8; 7:1–13) in order to “spring the trap,” confronting the reader with a dissenting wisdom that subverts that conventional wisdom (Eccles 3:1–8 is surrounded by 2:1–26; 3:9–22; Eccles 7:1–14a is followed by 7:14b–29). Write an original composition that uses modern examples of conventional wisdom to “set the trap” for a dissenting perspective that subverts the conventional wisdom. Some examples of conventional wisdom that may prove useful:

Remember, your goal is to “fool” your reader (at least briefly) into assenting to such conventional wisdom, before surprising the reader by subverting the conventional wisdom with a dissenting perspective.

In a few follow-up paragraphs, explain to your reader how the biblical examples serve as templates for you. Describe briefly, citing course materials, the ways that conventional and dissenting wisdom function (sometimes called “speculative wisdom”) in the books of Job and Ecclesiastes.

“This is all in God’s Plan; God will take care of you”

Recently, I spoke with someone who had just lost her husband of 40 years. She and I spoke and she explained to me that she is angry with God. I asked her why and she said “because he took my husband from me!” Obviously, my response to her was “This is all in God’s plan; God will take care of you!” This made her feel visibly better and she was finally able to accept her husband’s death and move on. We also sang all five stanzas of “God will take care of you.”

WRONG!!

As a Christian American, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone utter this phrase at funerals, deathbeds, when someone has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or any time a negative life event happens. We are often reminded of scripture that says: God’s will is good, pleasing, and perfect (Romans 12:2). Cancer does not fall into any of those categories. Losing a loved one does not fall into any of those categories. All of these things we “blame” God for do not fall into the categories of good, pleasing, and perfect. However, we like to blame God when things do not go the way we hope, expect, or plan.

I once read a book that explained that Heaven is a place of “no more.” What the author meant in this statement is that Heaven is a place of no more (fill in the blank). For example, No more suffering.

When I look at this through the lens of the book of Job, it makes sense. Job’s desire was to blame God, however, the adversary was the one who was testing Job. Also, Job was allowed to be mad at God and question God. His friends challenged them on this… they felt his actions were wrong. God is silent for time, and then lays out the account of why God is blameless and the strong one. In this, Job was able to be wise by grappling with the harsh reality of what God had “allowed” and he was restored. The friends were punished. Bandstra discusses this in the reading for this week. He states that Job is one who has a hard time and could not perceive the things that had happened to him. Once God speaks to Job, Job never gets a full explanation of why the events occurred, however he is given a new family and more wealth than he had ever had. Bandstra discusses this concept and speaks about the idea that this could be a metaphor for the suffering one encounters when they sin and the retribution God has on the person. However, Bandstra also discusses that the story could have been using Job to reference the nation of Israel and narrate the story they were going through (he refers to Habel for this). However, ultimately Bandstra explains that this text is an excellent example of the theology of retribution. He looks at the idea behind the theology in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, as well as Job and makes the statement that retribution is not the only nor most important factor in human-divine relations.

In summary, how did I respond to the freshly widowed woman? I told her that it is acceptable to be angry and wrestle with God. It is Ok to not be OK. I told her to look at the Book of Job; someone who has had everything taken away from him and at the end is rewarded for his loyalty and faith in God. I explained to her that sometimes our faithfulness is rewarded and sometimes it is not, and we as Christians have to be okay with that. And lastly, by questioning God, we gain wisdom, peace, and restoration about whatever is troubling us.

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Week One. My Own Lament

This week, one of the options for my class was to write a lament based on Psalms. Here is my attempt at a lament.

O Lord, hear my feeble cry!
I cry to You from the rural, country church,
Where I feel like Ezekiel wondering if these bones can again have new life,
Yet I feel my cries are in vain
Then, alas O Lord I feel like you deliver me as I drive 90 miles an hour to the sister church, Where I preach
It feels as if I have been delivered into sunlit fields of life, as King David would say
But alas, my cries are in vain,
For the next Sunday when I pull into the parking lot, the church is still there
O Lord hear my feeble cries; O Lord hear my weakness.
The administrative chair harps on me, the old ladies wear too much perfume,
O Lord how much more can I take
They tell me that I am young, I remind them of their grandchild, in reality, Lord I know it’s their great-grandchild.
O Lord hear my pleas!
If I get moved in June, Lord I will know that You delivered me
I will know that You delivered me to the land of milk and honey and have not left me or forsaken me to perish.

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OOTLE Week One- Out of the cave.

I am doing this part of seminary backwards. This is my last class that I need before graduation/commissioning in the UMC. I am taking this course as a “visiting student” at Garrett (My home institution is the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA). I am currently a local pastor in the UMC who is serving two congregations in the middle Tennessee area.

During my time as a pastor of two country churches, I have discovered one common theme: people do not know the bible. Even the ones who do “know” the bible, reject anything that is not in line with what they have always been taught. Now of course, I am making a generalization (which is not appropriate when being a good student of the Hebrew Bible).

Within the weekly reading, the main thing that stuck out to me was section 3.2 (Spoken Word to Written Text). I love to be reminded that the HB/OT was once oral tradition and was eventually written down. This is a hard concept for many of my parishioners to understand… when I share this with them, many times, they say things like “No, Moses wrote all of the Torah and that is that,” I then get alarmed. When I read Deuteronomy 34, I discover that Moses died… HE WAS WRITING AFTER DEATH!!! AHHH!!! MOSES WAS THE WALKING DEAD!!!!

Within the lectures, I enjoyed hearing once again about the problem with “Old” and “Hebrew,” specifically the fact that most of us read the bible in English, not in Hebrew. The English translations that we often use are just that, translations. Within my ministerial setting, I have tried to convey this before, however, at one of the congregations that I once served, I was using the NRSV for preaching. I was one day approached by a elderly man in the congregation who informed me that the original bible was the KJV and that it was written by God. I informed him that I wasn’t aware of God physically walking on earth in 1611.

I share this because I know that for myself and others, we often get caught up in thinking that what we have been taught is the truth. At times, this might be the case, but we should always be willing to evaluate what the authentic truth is. This is a journey, but we must not be afraid to step into the light and see true dog and not the shadow. If you are not sure what I mean by the true dog and not the shadow, check out this link about the Allegory of the Cave.

Blessings on this journey!!!

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About Me

My name is Jonathan Tolbert. I live in Manchester, TN and have a wonderful wife and foster children. I am a United Methodist pastor currently serving two congregations in the middle Tennessee area.

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