In his outline of theology proper in Christian Dogmatics, Volume 1, Jenson describes the “usual god” of ancient religion:
“The usual God, whose eternity is persistence of the beginning, has as his very honor among us that in him we are secure against the threats of the future. Ancient imperial peoples poignantly experienced the fragility of their achievement. . . .
“The situation in which seedtime and harvest return each year had barely been secured, and the barbarian destroyer was each year at the door. The gods of the ancient civilizations were the certainty of return, the guarantee of continuance. Marduk, for example, was the one who back at the beginning divided the Mesopotamian swamps into irrigated land and channeled water, and in that he was always still there the people could transcend the ever-renewed threat of relapse into the precreation disorder.” Gods of ancient religions are all about continuation of the same. The usual gods provided security against surprise.
The will of the gods is identical to natural necessity. Creation and establishment of a people were simultaneous. Jenson again: “The great myths of other peoples tell of a primeval event which set the pattern of time and is therefore above time, which never really ceases to happen – as Marduk’s primeval separation of water and land recurred at each yearly inundation and draining.” “Normal gods” transcended time “by immunity to it.”
Of course, Jenson is setting up for the punch line: the God of Abraham and Jesus is not normal.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 5:05 am
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