The Prophetic Imagination – Royal Consciousness, pt.1

This week we are reading through Chapter 2 “Royal Consciousness: Countering the Counterculture” of Walter Brueggemann’s book The Prophetic Imagination. I thought we had a great discussion last week.


Brueggemann begins his discussion of the “royal consciousness” by stressing that prophetic imagination is not primarily concerned with social change, political action, or even worship. Rather, prophetic imagination is primarily concerned with a change of consciousness. Its concern is with how we say things, how we know things, and how we see and interact with the world. When we imagine the world the way God sees the world and when our consciousness is aligned with God’s consciousness, then we might be led to concrete social changes because we simply cannot allow the injustice that we now see to continue. But then it becomes not us acting, but the spirit of the prophetic imagination acting through us. The issue is who is in charge.

God’s Freedom:

In developing this counter-consciousness, Brueggemann continues to go back to God’s freedom to act. Think about the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. The Pharisee saw God as belonging to him and of God as being in the Pharisee’s debt because the Pharisee was such a good person. God, however, has the freedom to act outside of our established religion and to justify the Publican.

Brueggemann raises the question of whether any religious movement can maintain a prophetic consciousness of God’s freedom to act outside the established culture. He asks whether only a minority community of slaves and mid-wives can affirm God’s freedom because there is no other way to counter the established religion of the day. If the purpose of a truly transcendent God is to have a court of appeal against the order of society, can those of us who benefit from the order understand a truly free God as necessary, desirable, or even possible? How can we avoid becoming the Pharisee and remain the Publican? This is our quandary and the topic of our discussion this week.

Our Royal Order:

Beginning with this chapter, Brueggemann juxtaposes the prophetic imagination of Moses with the royal consciousness of Solomon. If you have time, read 1 Kings 2-12 to understand Solomon’s reign. Also, read 1 Samuel 8 to better understand Israel’s transition from the Mosaic era to the Royal era of Israel’s existence. Brueggemann calls this transition the “paganization of Israel.” Israel gets a king like the other nations. Israel’s god gets a temple with a temple priesthood like the other nations. The politics and the religion of Israel become well-ordered. But this transition is not towards a God-ordered society but a royal-ordered society. In our consciousness, like Israel, we do not want God’s order, we want our order with ourselves in control.

The reordering is readily apparent by simply reading through the paragraph headings in your Bibles. The first thing Solomon does is establish administrative officers. 1 Kings 4. Solomon builds his temple and administrative offices. 1 Kings 5-9. He engages foreign dignitaries and engages in political marriages. 1 Kings 10-11. Solomon has become Pharoah.

The result of this transition is seen in the Solomon’s succession in 1 Kings 12. Rehoboam was Solomon’s successor. The ten northern tribes of Israel came to him and said, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” He responded, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.” This caused the split between Israel and Judah which never healed. Ultimately, our well-ordered world ends in chaos and division.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is lentil stew with sausage and mushrooms. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here. 

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26

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