Tuesday, January 6, 2009
The familiar rumination on life’s inevitable duplicity found in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 serves as a meaningful heuristic for developing a practical theology grounded in human experience. Often misinterpreted as a divine sanction of war and peace (militarism and pacifism), the passage rounds out Qoheleth’s observation of humanity’s inability to make sense of life. By carefully articulating the multiple, often contradictory, elements of existence, the subversive author proclaims: agnosticism proves most robust in the face of theodical concerns. Our experience of the world undermines traditional biblical justifications for suffering as divine retribution for past sins. Instead, the author of Ecclesiastes accepts the fact that goodness is not always rewarded and that wickedness is not always punished. Ultimately, humanity possesses neither the faculties nor the wisdom to discern divine intentions and affect the course of historical events. Thus, Qoheleth submits a simple platitude: “Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart” (Eccl 9:7). In other words, make community; revel in relationships; achieve redemption around a table of friends.