Three questions

There are three questions that are foundational to spirituality:

“Who am I, and what is the meaning of my life?” is the central question of humanity’s existence, according to Barbara Bowe in her book Biblical Foundations of Spirituality. Bowe affirms that the purpose of humanity’s existence rests in its growing relationship with God and that the Bible provides the answers to our questions about meaning. Bowe states that the Bible tells us that men and women were created in God’s image, that they find meaning in their relationships with each other and that human beings are “touched to our very core” by sin and grace (36). Because of sin, our relationship with God, each other and the earth has changed. Bowe says that the well being of humans deepens as we recognize these truths and begin to practice them.

How does God interact with creation and with us; where can God be found? Bowe states that these answers are largely dependent on our lot in life. If we are rich, we might view God as one who blesses. If we are poor, we cling to God in hope. Bowe asserts that there are many theologies from which we view God, but two—saving and blessing—are dominant and complimentary to each other. Saving theology views God’s “very name and identity … synonymous(ly) with … saving deeds” (47). Blessing theology is the view that God is the primary source of blessing and care (48). Saving theology’s goal is “liberation and freedom” and the goal of blessing theology is “the fullness of life,” a sharing in God’s work. Bowe says that by integrating the two theologies in our spiritual life we view God as one who rescues us from time to time and also as a friend who is with us constantly.

What are we to learn from the biblical stories (66)? In Chapter 5, Bowe shows readers spiritual truths that can be learned from the primary salvific event—the Exodus. From the story of God’s deliverance of the Israelites we learn about the challenges and demands of freedom, trusting in God and about the “intransigence” of evil in our hearts. We also learn about the slow struggle of deliverance.

Bowe presents a meaningful discourse on how people view God and how the basic questions of human existence are answered as we contemplate biblical stories—what it meant to the first readers and what it means to us now. I thought it was interesting that God’s “name” YHWH “preserves God’s utter freedom and namelessness” and how God will not allow himself to become “domesticated” by giving anyone his/her name (60, 61). Yet, when God came to earth in human form, his name Jesus meant the LORD is salvation ( “Through the lens of saving theology, God’s very name and identity are synonymous with these saving deeds.” In this way God becomes more tangible or knowable. God becomes the one who saves and the one who walks beside us.