Theological Wisdom

I’ve unintentionally but consistently been thinking and blogging about theological virtues the past few days. It occurred to me just now that the summation of what I’ve been trying to describe, whether it’s in relation to reading a source accurately, or to loving those with whom we disagree, or to refraining from pugilism in our theologizing, is wisdom. The question we need to ask ourselves methodologically is whether or not we are exercising wisdom as we do theology. Some distinctions that come to mind include:

The foolish theologian –

  • cannot discern between foolish myths and matters of utmost importance;
  • cannot discern between matters of friendly disagreement between Christian sisters and brothers and matters that threaten the integrity of the faith once delivered;
  • cannot discern when to speak softly and circumspectly and when to speak forcefully;
  • cannot discern between flattering language and arguments of substance;
  • cannot discern between proof-texting a source, whether historical or contemporary, and reading it rightly in context;
  • etc.

The wise theologian, on the other hand, exercises discernment in all these areas. They are slow to anger, quick to hear, slow to speak. They measure their words carefully. They know how to adjust the volume, so to speak, depending on the topic. They can distinguish between matters of utmost importance that require forceful argument and matters about which we can disagree and remain within the bounds of orthodoxy. They can refer to others’ arguments and positions without twisting their words or ideas.

May the Lord give us wisdom when we speak about him and his works.

Proverbs, Wisdom, and the Land

Let me begin by saying that I’m not a Proverbs scholar, and so what I’m about to say probably has already been said many times. But I thought I’d bring it up anyway.

I’m reading through Proverbs both for devotional purposes and because I’m currently teaching a class on the Latter Prophets and Writings. I’m through chapter 11 at this point, and I continue to notice language about wisdom as it relates to the land and exile, all couched in eschatological terms.

Positively, Prov. 3:1-4, 6:20-23, all seem to refer to 7:1-5 the promises of Deuteronomy (and especially ch. 6) concerning the wisdom of obeying the commandments of the Law and the corresponding result of long life and living in the land. They also, though, appear to reference the new covenant, as each of these sections not only promises long life and dwelling in the land through obedience but obedience through the giving of God’s spirit.

Negatively 2:20-22, and especially v. 22 (“cut off from the land”) implies exile for the foolish (or wicked), and this exile is related to following the adulteress in 2:16-19. This section immediately precedes 3:1-4 and warnings against the adulteress are found in the other two positive promises of 6:20-23 and 7:1-, thus linking those sections with exile as well as the new covenant.

Exile further appears to be in view in 1:24-27, as the promise of God to laugh at the calamity of foolish Israel sounds like the prophets and Lamentations. Lady Folly and her call to adultery is also reminiscent of the prophets and especially their language of idolatry and the resulting exile.

What I’m concluding from this, at least for now, is that the instruction in Proverbs is not just about wise living, but wisdom through the eschatological promises of God to pour out his Spirit (e.g. 1:23) in the new covenant. Historical Israel is used as a negative example of idolatry and adultery (cf. also 10:30), resulting in exile, while future Israel and the land are used as promises and figurative imagery.

I also think that there is quite a bit of creation language here – Prov. 8 is obvious, of course, but I’m really thinking more about the ability to discern good and evil, the resulting blessings and cursings, and the use of “tree of life” (3:18; 11:30). These are also put in an escahtological light by reminding the reader not only of what happened originally to Adam and Israel through these allusions but also what will happen in eternity (e.g. 11:4, 6-10, 19-21, 23).

Thoughts?