Redeeming Judgment by Dale Patrick

Wipf and Stock (June 2012)

Dale Patrick earned his Th.D. in 1971 from the Graduate Theological Union. He was appointed to the faculty at Drake University in 1985 and remained until retirement in 2008. Since then he, with his wife, have been teaching at United Theological College, Harare, Zimbabwe, as volunteers in mission.

Book summary (by the author):

When the average churchgoer hears the expression, “divine judgment,” the idea of the last judgment probably pops to mind.  To be sure, fundamentalist preachers may speak of HIV/Aids as judgment for homosexuality, but the vindictiveness of such an idea is repulsive to most of us.  If we can’t take these fundamentalist ideas seriously, we fall back on the idea of something that happens after death.

Divine judgment is just about as welcome as death.  Like death, it is an unavoidable fact of life if one is living out the Biblical story of redemption.  Actually, death is a fact of life no matter what one’s faith, whereas divine judgment is a fact only for those who believe in God, recognize his commandments and aim to please him.

In my view, the last judgment is the culmination of all the judgments passed by God on his human creatures.  Final judgment is not even on the horizon of consciousness until the prophets of judgment made their appearance in the 8th through the 6th centuries BCE.  Before that time, Israelites and their neighbors alike were aware that their actions could be interrupted or boomerang, and their world could be turned upside down due to the wrath of deity.  Israel differed from her neighbors as to whether there was one or many gods that had to be answered to, but everyone was aware of supernatural interventions that overturned human purposes.  Some of Israel’s neighbors also expected a divine judgment at death, but for Biblical Israel the final judgment came at the end of history.  For those who died before the end, the end would come right after death.

Redeeming Judgment traces the story of divine judgment in Biblical history, particularly Israel’s history.  In and after the exile, Israelites became conscious of a “final” judgment on the horizon of all human endeavor.  Once that happened, all historical judgments became intimations of the eschatological denouement.  The latter not only brought perdition, it brought salvation as well.  Historical judgments were also redemptive as well as retributive.

The word “redeem” was added to the title to indicate that I am proposing to reclaim the theological teaching of divine judgment. It is also intended to characterize judgment as an essential component of redemption. Judgment, in particular, initiates a transformation of character from bondage to sin to a penitent, reformed person and community.

Review by the author

Lecture based on the book