Faith at the fractures of life : an examination of lament and praise in response to human suffering with special reference to the theology of Walter Brueggemann and David Ford
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This thesis explores the role of lament and praise in the respective theological approaches of Walter Brueggemann and David Ford for the purpose of examining how Christian faith transforms human response to suffering. The first three chapters trace Brueggemann’s engagement with Israel’s lament psalms, beginning with his observation that their typical dual form mirrors the collective shape of Israel’s psalter as well as all biblical faith. Influential interactions with sociology eventually lead Brueggemann to propose faith not simply as response to God’s faithfulness, but rather through rhetorical tension maintained between conflicts perceived in aspects of scripture such as praise and lament. We critique this view of irresolvable textual tension for leaving Brueggemann with an unresolved understanding of divine fidelity which obscures biblical expectation that God will respond faithfully to human lament. The fourth and fifth chapters concern David Ford’s consistent engagement with praise and subsequently, Christian joy. His early collaborative scholarship proposes praise as the result of faith in who God is through the suffering person and work of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, continued ethical concerns lead Ford to identify Christian faith as an inextricable relationship between joy and responsibility resulting from “facing” Christ’s life and suffering death. We critique Ford for failing to clarify how such “facing” is made possible through who God is in Christ, rendering faith merely the result of human expression of Christ’s example, and thus obscuring any real reason for praise amidst suffering. Beyond a synthesis of Brueggemann and Ford’s respective approaches to lament and praise, the final chapter argues that a trinitarian approach to Christ’s atonement is necessary to propose how God confronts both suffering and sin thereby producing faithful human response amidst persistent evil. We conclude by arguing that a trinitarian understanding of praise cannot be proposed apart from either who God is in Christ’s atonement or how the atoning Christ is humanly faithful in lament.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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