Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

The New Exodus: A Narrative Paradigm for Understanding Soul Care

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

The New Exodus: A Narrative Paradigm for Understanding Soul Care

Article excerpt

A consensus exists among biblical scholars that the original Exodus event became paradigmatic for Israel's later self-identity. Isaiah, among other Old Testament writers, made extensive use of Exodus language re-framed for his context. In the New Testament, Jesus is the New Joshua who breaks the chains of slavery once and for all. St. Paul makes it quite clear that this is nothing less than a New Exodus. However, this narrative may be faithfully appropriated in a contemporary context, and with particular relevance to soul care. With rising interest in narrative theology, as well as narrative approaches to psychotherapy, it is worth considering whether a kind of master narrative--The New Exodus--might provide conceptual space in which theologians and psychologists can explore the enduring question of how people change.

The Exodus as an Ongoing Biblical Paradigm

For some time, biblical scholars have been intrigued by the recurrence of Exodus language in Scripture. The theme of "New Exodus" has been the subject of a number of scholarly works (Holland, 2004; Watts, 1997; Wright, 1992). A scholarly consensus exists around the idea that the first Exodus was paradigmatic for God-followers of future generations. Throughout Scripture, one can hear the echoes of the first Exodus in recurrent ideas, themes, and thought patterns. It is difficult, in fact, to read the Bible without seeing this language on every page.

Of course, the original Exodus might have been the only Exodus if it were not for the painfully stubborn hearts of the rescued Israelites. The Jewish rabbi and scholar Kushner (2006) writes, "The journey from the confinement of Egypt to the fulfillment of reaching the Promised Land could have been completed in a matter of months. But the evolution of a people from the mindset of slavery to being comfortable with the obligations and uncertainties of freedom would take much longer" (p. 23). This "evolution," of sorts, has continued for the people of God throughout the ages. What is clear is that the generation that reached the Promised Land quickly fell into the same old patterns learned by their fathers in Egypt. The people of God, it seems, would need a larger Exodus vision. Thus, the Exodus journey becomes for the prophets eschatological and cosmic in scope, with fulfillment in the Promised Land of a new heavens and a new earth. This larger vision would become the New Exodus.

For this reason, the original Exodus story became foundational not only for Isaiah and the prophets, but for the Psalmists, for the chroniclers of Israel's history, for the Gospel authors, for Peter and John, and not least for the Apostle Paul. The Exodus narrative became a map, of sorts, which has been used repeatedly throughout Scripture and church history to guide pilgrims in their journey to the eschatological Garden City. Therefore, it is critical for contemporary pilgrims to be immersed in the original Exodus story and its biblical appropriations in order to learn how to live and love faithfully today.

The New Exodus as a Paradigm for Soul Care

In today's complex ministry milieu, many pastors feel prepared to pass ordination exams but inadequately prepared for the complexities of spiritual formation, soul care, and counseling (DeGroat, 2008). Counselors, on the other hand, often lack adequate biblical/theological moorings, with the unfortunate result of Scripture being used to proof-text or baptize psychological theory. Pastors, counselors, mentors, spiritual directors, discipleship leaders, and others in the field of soul care often wrestle with divergent and sometimes competing paradigms and practices. Anderson and Reese (1999) have shown the need for both coherency and distinction. A New Exodus model of soul care roots a coherent soul care perspective in the narrative of Scripture, yet provides conceptual space for variations which may be appropriated faithfully within the different vocations of soul care. …

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