Action verbs: The real stuff of theology

The Bible full of information about God and creation right?

God IS this way. THIS is how everything works.

This is the ontology of God. He’s three and one in this particular way.

This is the epistemology of the human race. His mind works THIS way (not THAT way).

This is the comprehensive aesthetics of the Lord’s creation. This is beautiful and that isn’t and here’s WHY.

Is that what’s really in the Bible?

No. It’s full of stories about what God DID. Stories about some people whose paths crossed with God’s and what happened. Sentences with verbs in them, as Wright points out below. God spoke to Abraham and he followed the instructions. God called his people out of Egypt. He fed them in the desert. Because the people burned incense to idols, God allowed the Babylonians to take over the country. A remnant of his people remained faithful to him. Some turned back. Jesus walked down the road to Jerusalem. John is exiled on an island, writing down what God showed him in a dream. He has trouble finding the right words to describe some of what he is shown.

Some of the New Testament letters actually are explanations of some of the stuff in the Bible. Hebrews is nice this way. But most of the special revelation is action. It’s the real stuff of theology.

The phrase “monotheism and election” does not refer to two abstracted entities existing outside space and time. It is a way of summoning into the mind’s eye an entire worldview. It is a way of summoning into the mind’s eye an entire worldview. In this, as we shall describe presently, Israel told and retold the story of how there was one god, the creator, and of how he had chosen Israel to be his special possession, and of how therefore he would eventually restore her fortunes and thereby bring his whole creation to its intended fulfillment. To provide the whole explanation each time would be impossibly wordy. It would also, in any case, be unnecessary – provided one remembers that, like so many theological terms, words like “monotheism” are late constructs, convenient shorthands for sentences with verbs in them, and that sentences with verbs in them are the real stuff of theology, not mere childish expression of a ‘purer’ abstract truth.

-N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God. p.78

Remember your grammar? Is, was, are, has, seems, will be – those are linking verbs, not action verbs.

The Lord is merciful. That’s nice. Why? Because he LOVES us.