Syncretism After The Exile And Malachi’s Missional Response -- By: Jerry Hwang

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 20:3 (Fall 2016)
Article: Syncretism After The Exile And Malachi’s Missional Response
Author: Jerry Hwang


Syncretism After The Exile And Malachi’s Missional Response

Jerry Hwang

Jerry Hwang is Associate Professor of Old Testament at the Singapore Bible College, Singapore, where he has taught since 2010. He received his PhD in Old Testament from Wheaton College. As a missionary in theological education, his publications and ongoing work aim to build bridges between the Old Testament and mission studies.

Introduction

“The chief enemy of faith in the Old Testament is magic.”1 With this statement Edwin Good’s begins an exploration of magic in Israel, not as the craft of the illusionist but rather the desire to control unseen powers for one’s own benefit. More than being a set of occult practices, magic is the superstitious worldview that “the right deed at the right moment, or the wrong deed at the right moment, will inexorably be followed by results good or bad.”2 This idea of retribution as magic resembles at first glance the covenants of the OT which proffer rewards for obedience and punishment for disobedience. The blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28, for example, show how the faith of Israel reflects part of “the common theology of the ancient Near East”3 with its belief in the principle of divine recompense for human behavior.

Israelite faith is nevertheless distinct in its cultural context for its denial that morality is primarily a transactional matter of seeking rewards and avoiding punishment.4 Or stated in terms of comparative religion, the dynamism of relating to a personal God cannot be reduced to the impersonal notion of karma, here understood in its philosophical sense as the moral causality that “each person makes his own fate, and all suffering happens for a reason.

There is no arbitrary or meaningless suffering in the world.”5 The universal desire for justice in the face of evil and suffering means that the concept of retribution is part of every system of thought to varying degrees. Karma in this broader perspective is not unique to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, the three major Eastern religious systems that originated on the Indian subcontinent. What then are the differences between the OT’s creational theology of sowing sins and reaping consequences (e.g., Hos 8:7; Prov 22:8), and the notion o...

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