The Profound Tension Between Mercy and Sacrifice

As you make plans for next summer let me put something on your calender. This year, June 18-20, at Rochester College's Streaming: Biblical Conversations from the Missional Frontier, Walter Brueggemann and I will be in conversation on the conference theme "I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice."

Yesterday, I got a very nice and complementary email from Walter upon his finishing Unclean. Given how much I've been influenced by Walter's work, professionally and personally, it's going to be an huge honor to discuss Unclean with him at Streaming. In fact, some of Dr. Brueggemann's own work was catalytic in my own thinking regarding the tensions between mercy and sacrifice. This quote from his Theology of the Old Testament proved very important:

[The purity and justice] trajectories of command serve very different sensibilities and live in profound tension with each other. The tradition of justice concerns the political-economic life of the community and urges drastic transformative and rehabilitative activity. The tradition of holiness focuses on the cultic life of the community and seeks a restoration of a lost holiness, whereby the presence of God can again be counted on and enjoyed.
As I pondered this quote many years ago I wondered: How are purity and justice "very different sensibilities"? More, why do these sensibilities "live in profound tension with each other"?

Unclean was my attempt to answer those questions. I'd encourage you to think through your own set of answers.

Looking forward to seeing you, along with Walter Brueggemann, this coming June at Streaming.

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15 thoughts on “The Profound Tension Between Mercy and Sacrifice”

  1. Whoa!  Congrats, Richard!  I have no idea if I'll be able to go to that, but I'd like to think that I'll be there.  Brueggemann has definitely been one of "those guys" for me ever since I read "The Prophetic Imagination".  I really enjoyed your book as well, so much so that I got a Presbyterian (PCUSA) pastor-friend to buy it because his church is really struggling with some of the denominational developments/changes in the past months.

    Nice work - what an honor!

  2. Richard, thank you for the gifts you give us through your writing. I work with many people who have been hurt when these trajectories are twisted and unbalanced. (Who hasn't been?) Your authenticity in asking hard questions (and sometimes just living with them) is an encouragement in my work as a priest. I am also a huge fan of Walter's. I am always excited to hear him speak. Sharing a forum with him  or having him be complimentary of my work would reveal my giddy rock star admiration of him. Good for you. 

  3. You must be flying! Such an honor, indeed.

    Now, back to chopping wood and carrying water: You have changed blog template. Where is the TOC listing archive titles? I am lost! And where is your carousel environment? I am bereft. Well, maybe not quite bereft, but regretful.

    Still...Brueggemann! Wow.

  4. I did change templates. I think everything is back where you last left it. It's just missing the carousel and roller coaster images/intros. But all the content/links should be there.

  5. Wow! This is fantastic.

    I'm just getting into some Bruggemann stuff myself. What strikes me about his work is the way he manages to transcend good scholarship and actually speak *wisdom*. The scholarship seems great and sensible, but the insight, often found in his hermeneutics, is just unbelievably profound.

  6. Sounds scarily exciting (I'll need to put Bruggemann on my Christmas present book list).......but like Nan I'm missing the bit on the side bar that used to show the latest comments posted from all blog entries (I can see the rest of the sidebar).

  7. If it doesn't stream I'll be blogging about it. But I do think some video will be taken and put online. I'll need to start a series prior to Streaming called "What Would You Like Me to Ask Walter Brueggemann?"

    My leading question: What's up with the ending of Job?

  8. WOW!! I am so excited for you and I know that this will be such a meaningful experience! As a Breuggemann fan largely because of your influence I can't wait to watch on line or read about it from your blog!! Yay!

  9. Here's one:  "Given your well considered commitment to the vast multivocality of the Old Testament, to what extent would you be inclined to adapt a theory of the Old Testament's `authority' - that is, as a warrant for Christian praxis - that follows the same basic contours as N. T. Wright's `sixth-act improvisation' theory for the New Testament?  In other words, for your Christian brothers and sisters and the sake of their practical hermeneutics, where does your theory of OT authority intersect with Wright's theory of NT authority, and where do your respective theories diverge?"

  10. Maybe this instead:  "How would you summarize your view of the Old Testament's `authority' for Christian discipleship?  In what sense is it `authoritative?'  Can you locate it on a continuum between `prescriptive' and `improvisational,' and why?"

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