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Seminary Symposium: Waters, Whisper, Thunder

Nov 3, 2023 | Events, News, Theological Seminary

OTTERBURNE, MB – Once each semester, the Seminary’s Biblical and Theological Studies faculty holds an event at Providence to feature some of their own research and teaching interests. The fall edition of their Symposium took place this past Thursday, October 26th in the Student Life Centre and was attended by approximately 30 in-person guests, with more who joined online via Zoom. The presentation was open to the public, and participants included current Seminary students, alumni, pastors, faculty and staff.

The speaker was Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Nate Wall-Bowering, who began working at Providence in July 2023. “Waters, Whisper, Thunder: What God’s Voice Sounds Like” was the name of his talk, in which he sought to explore the expansive range of meaning preserved in Scripture as it pertains to certain expressions, concepts, and images. For instance, the Hebrew word qōl can be rendered as “voice,” “sound,” and “thunder,” and is not collapsible into one sense of the term; translation is context-specific.

Highlighted throughout was the idea of ambiguity. However, instead of seeking to “pair down, zero-in, declutter and reduce” the voice of God that one finds in the biblical text, the encouragement offered by Wall-Bowering was to make space for more instead of less. “God sounds like the whole Bible all at once,” said the professor. “What God sounds like is a question of style. God’s voice has range. It thunders AND whispers. It’s a ‘more’ that overtakes us. And this ‘more’ does something; it moves somewhere…it veers towards mercy.”

Drawing from select passages of the Hebrew Bible (e.g. Exodus 19, Psalm 29, 1 Kings 19, Ezekiel 43) and various works of the English poet John Donne, Wall-Bowering emphasized that the Bible is, “a book designed for reaching, not grasping,” and that the process of discovering the voice of God is a matter of “unruly abundance” where “opposites coincide,” of “moreness,” and of a “sensory overload that is revelatory.”

For more, watch for details about the next Seminary Symposium in 2024 (date TBA).

“Thou art…a God in whose words there is such a height of figures, such voyages, such peregrinations to fetch remote and precious metaphors, such extensions, such spreadings, such curtains of allegories, such third heavens of hyperboles, so harmonious elocutions, so retired and so reserved expressions, so commanding persuasions, so persuading commandments, such sinews even in thy milk, and such things in thy words, as all profane authors seem of the seed of the serpent that creeps, thou art the Dove that flies”(Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions by John Donne, XIX. Expostulation).