Life, Faith and Urban Farming

The life and happenings of an unconventional pastor and urban farmer living in the city with a family of five.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Davar: The Word as the Action of God

In the Hebrew language WORD is "davar". When we think of the WORD of God we usually think of scripture. I posted a bunch last summer on kind of a new take on Barth's idea of the Word as Jesus, and that's exactly what the scripture says in John 1 drawing upon the Greek word Logos, meaning WORD. In Hebrew, "Davar" is related to the action of God. When we read in the Hebrew Bible that the "Word of God spoke" or "descended" it has to do with an actual action of God in time and space. After the New Testament, Greek thought over took our ancient Hebrew roots as a church. When the early church read the Greek word "Logos", they had the word "Davar" in their minds too. They understood both the Greek and Hebrew meaning of "The Word". But as time went on there was a shift to the Greek meaning of logos, which is more static and doctrinal, more philosophical and mind oriented. Some strands of Christianity in the early centuries remained with the more Hebrew understanding of the Word of God, "Davar". From that point on two traditions carry through history, a dynamic happening of God and the more logical reflective learned tradition of wisdom. Both are good, but I think one is more captivating in our current postmodern setting.

According to my Homiletics professor 2 kinds of preaching developed out of these two traditions. The first and dominant was out of the Logos tradition of thought, which is very learned, high rhetoric. This preaching style logically lays out doctrine in church preaching. These churches built cathedrals and bought into the enlightenment. It was the epitome of scholasticism and developed a reasonable account of Christianity.

Davar developed into more of an oral folk tradition of preaching. The Dabar way of preaching is more narrative. It uses fables and stories, parables and mystical truth. You can see echo's of "Davar" preaching in monasticism and romanticism. With "davar" tradition feelings as well as actions are important.

As I looked over my old notes from Homilets I realized how much I'm attracted to the ancient notion of "Davar". I also realized how connected this is to the postmodern Christian understanding of truth that BJ talked about last week in worship. Read his most recent post, it's deep! I am much more interested in a mystical spirituality that connects me with the person of Jesus Christ than I am a spirituality that is built upon a foundation of doctrinal beliefs. Sure doctrine is important, but doctrine is not my Savior. It seems the "Davar" way of preaching will guide people into knowing Jesus, his love and the reality of his being.

What do you think? Is this stuff on target? It's really not my idea, my feelings won't be hurt it you think it's wacked!


Neatr_natr said...

I feel something coming, I don't know what, but isn't that the fun of mystical Christianity.

bj woodworth said...

As a "davar" preacher I think we need both voices in the church. I think one of the dangers of Enlightenment thinking is that things are either/or. I tend to see the benefit of the healthy tension of both/and. Are not and were not both understandings of word, logos and davar culturaly conditioned? The Greeks saw logos from a Greco-Roman workd view that was influenced by Platonic philosophy and the Hebrews saw logos in light of a more holistic Jewish perspective. I am not sure we can get back to a pure or right perspective if there every was one. I am starting to read a bit about the philosophy of critical realism which starts off by laying our presupositions on the table and if the Bible speaks somethign contraty to our perpective then we have to alter our perspective insted of trying to fit it into our preconcieved ideas. Anyway I don not know how I got her but I see there to be value in logical and doctrinal preaching. It is not my preference and it tends to be reductionistic but in God's soveriegnty I think there is still a place for it, somewhere...?

Patrick said...

John & BJ -- Yes, I think you're right to say that our generation resonates more with narrative and story. A couple questions to think about - How can we enter into our friends' lives and retell their important stories with the gospel narrative? What do our friends value most? How is that met in Jesus? I read an excellent (and short) article about this subject a few days ago.

Another thought - both with the narrative and didactic parts of scripture, there are underlying principles that help us understand reality (God, us, the kingdom, the world, etc). This is where doctrine can help us greatly. Without these principles, we'll never know how to "re-tell" our friends' stories with the gospel.

ishmael1969 said...

I think they both need to go hand in hand.Both doctrine and action.It is true that davar denotes action and also to a certain extant so does the word logos.But we must have sound doctrine to preach His Word(the Bible). But it is nothing unless it is backed up with action.Just like love isn`t love until it is given away.It is not passive in anyway.Neither is davar or Logos.Neither is passive.They both denote a certain amount of action.

John P. said...

What do you make of the fact that Jesus never wrote his lessons? Were not his teachings strictly verbal?

Greek philosophers wrote their thoughts down to a large extent. What does it mean to the development of Christianity that the "word" as logos differs so fundamentally from the "word" as davar? Is this the root of a serious problem for Christianity that troubles society more as time progresses? Kierkegaard thought so.

I think evangelical "preaching" is musical and appeals to feeling at the expense of all else and does so in the extreme. Lost in your feelings how can you ever have a personal relationship with the divine?

Nolan said...

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