Friday, January 12, 2007

rabbinical yoke?


recently in another conversation, a friend of mine figuratively mentioned "following the advice of a rabbi..."

which reminded me of an msn convo i had awhile back with societyVS about the people to whose teaching we subscribe and are most likely to readily cite. i know that, apart from musicians and poets who package human interpersonal and intrapersonal insights into soundbites that i can subliminally feed upon while driving in my car, there are a couple of writers whom i regularly go to for a word of truth. i'm sure many of us have these: it is probably telling to simply click on one's online profile for further details there...

anyway, something i read recently in velvet elvis by rob bell...

(discussed briefly and cross-linked in one of my favourite websites:
www.churchmarketingsucks.com/archives/2005/06/churches_are_li.html)

... about the traditional role of the rabbi seems to be relevant:

Now the ancient rabbis understood that the Bible is open-ended and has to be interpreted. And they understood that their role in the community was to study and mediate and discuss and pray and then make those decisions. Rabbis are like interpreters, helping people understand what God is saying to them through the text and what it means to live out the text...

Different rabbis had different sets of rules, which were really different lists of what they forbade and what they permitted. A rabbi's set of rules and lists, which was really that rabbi's interpretation of how to live the Torah, was called that rabbi's yoke. When you followed a certain rabbi, you were following him because you believed that rabbi's set of interpretations were the closest to what God intended through the Scriptures. And when you followed that rabbi, you were taking up that rabbi's yoke.

One rabbi even said his yoke was easy.

The intent then of a rabbi having a yoke wasn't just to interpret the words correctly; it was to live them out. In the jewish context, action was always the goal. It still is.

Rabbis would spend hours discussing with their students what it meant to live out a certain text. If a student made a suggestion about what a certain text meant and the rabbi thought that the student had totally missed the point, the rabbi would say, "You have abolished the Torah," which meant that in the rabbi's opinion, the student wasn't anywhere near what God wanted. But if the student got it right, if the rabbi thought the student had grasped God's intention in the text, the rabbi would say, "You have fulfilled the Torah."

Notice what Jesus says in one of his first messages: "I have not come to abolish [the Torah] but to fulfill [it]. He was essentially saying, "I didn't come to do away with the words of God; I came to show people what it looks like when the Torah is lived out perfectly, right down to the smallest punctuation marks."

"I'm here to put flesh and blood on the words."

Most rabbis taught the yoke of a well respected rabbi who had come before them. So if you visited a synogogue and the local rabbi (Torah teacher) was going to teach, you might hear that this rabbi teaches in the name of Rabbi So-and-So. If you were familiar with the yoke of Rabbi So-and-So, then you would know what to expect from this rabbi.

Every once in a while, a rabbi would come along who was teaching a new yoke, a new way of interpreting the Torah. This was rare and extraordinary.


Bell goes on to point out that, contained in all the talk about binding and loosing and keys to the kingdom, the yoke of Christ is to give his followers permission and the authority to debate and interpret scripture responsibly...

And not only is he giving them authority, but he is saying that when they do debate and discuss and pray and wrestle and then make decisions about the Bible, somehow God in heaven will be involved...
(rob bell, velvet elvis, exerpted pp 46-48, 2005)

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27 Comments:

Blogger SocietyVs said...

"Bell goes on to point out that, contained in all the talk about binding and loosing and keys to the kingdom, the yoke of Christ is to give his followers permission and the authority to debate and interpret scripture responsibly..." (Jolly Beggar)

I think this is essentially the point of the faith - to deal with scripture responsibly - and as Bell has pointed out from the rabbi's - action. But it is almost as if the two go hand in hand for the believer - which we find in a lot of communities. One would agree the klan, jim jones, and others have disrespected the meaning of the words - leading to vulgar actions. This happens on a more smaller scale too - in local churches (or at least it can happen).

I was part of a few churches that had some weird teachings and likely still do. I noticed the respect for the word (s) of Jesus were there but the intent of the words was not always there. An example would be salvation - what is the extent of that word mean? Most churches I attended used it to justify a 'us and them' system (believers and unbelievers) - obviously the believers have it better. I found this very pigeon-holing and I found evangelism efforts forced at best (and sunk down to a single prayer). I think some of these issue drove me out of the churches arms in the late 90's. I just couldn't reconcile the attitude with scriptural integrity - reading a Jesus who hung out with people not of the faith.

"And not only is he giving them authority, but he is saying that when they do debate and discuss and pray and wrestle and then make decisions about the Bible, somehow God in heaven will be involved..." (Jolly Beggar)

I always have to ask 'on what level is God involved?'. I check some of those interpretations and people missing the mark - one has to question the validity of that statement. Is it God is involved and we are stuck in 'religion's dogma' and never find a way out - so the interpretation takes on 'boxed in' mentality? I almost think God is involved in the experience of life - my idea's all changed and challenged structure through living (experiential) - it was then I saw some of the mistakes - never through elongated study did I come to the conclusion of the 'action' as the meaning of the scripture - it was something I saw while living daily life.

1/12/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"I noticed the respect for the word (s) of Jesus were there but the intent of the words was not always there."

well said. that's what makes this whole business of our acceptance of Jesus' yoke so tricky, in that the implications of its misuse have already been chronicled throughout history... this is, however, a cool breeze compared to the business of God's offering it in the first place. what to do with the multitude of misinterpretations that have led to atrocities galore in the name of Jesus and in strange adherence to the misused and misinterpreted revelations of God?

we can rise up and counter them with actions that are opposite in direction but equal in vulgarity (great word choice, by the way.)

we can rise to the side of the 'weak and downtrodden' and walk through the park at night with those who are regularly molested there (figurative language or literal? you decide and then live the decision)

'on what level is God involved' through our involvement?

just as the rabbis dialogue and debate with words, knowing that the implications of those words are lived out, do we debate with actions that postulate a contrary position/ interpretation? or is the Torah (not trying to be glib- i just REALLY resonate with the idea that the law of God is an articulation of what it means to live a life of God) to be debated by condemnatory statements and punitive actions delivered piously to the 'infidel.'

when (if ever) does the debate become a fistfight? obviously (or not) the transduction of ideologies and dogma into social or military action is a sobering undertaking, and accepting the yoke of Jesus requires thoughtful consideration of these things- especially as we hear of plans for a 'surge' of 20000 american troops into iraq, and the promise of a 'violent and bloody' year.

1/12/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

"is the Torah (not trying to be glib - i just REALLY resonate with the idea that the law of God is an articulation of what it means to live a life of God) to be debated by condemnatory statements and punitive actions delivered piously to the 'infidel.'" (JB)

I think each person has to approach these scriptures seperately and study them for themselves - or else it's all such a waste of time. People can only be told about the 'rules' and told to love in them for so long - before they either catch a whiff of hypocrisy in the 'sayer' or leave the faith due to the regiment. The writings are there for our benefit, not for our making of laws, and that falls squarely on each person's shoulders - it is our responsibility to read and make sense of this in our lives. If this doesn't happen - spoken word will only have minimal effect (and sometimes none - we have some bad memories these days).

As for literal fighting - well I can't find a call to this so I am not clear as to why a 'Christ-ian' would even veer into that mentality...only unless we simply mix our politics and faith - then, just maybe, we have the right to take up the gun and run. A good look at history and the Christ-ian faith and politics idea has become synonamous with hypocrisy for this faith - crusades, reformation, colonialism, and the current USA thing. Hypocritical in that we talk about the 'gospel of peace' yet advocate war - which to me, by defintion, is the exact opposite. So by no means neccesary are we called to 'fist-fight' - I mean, we'd have to 'piss' people off first to get there - and that again is not a moral in the gospel.

1/12/2007  
Blogger curious servant said...

That was something I didn't know. Thank you!

1/12/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"A good look at history and the Christ-ian faith and politics idea has become synonamous with hypocrisy for this faith - crusades, reformation, colonialism, and the current USA thing. Hypocritical in that we talk about the 'gospel of peace' yet advocate war - which to me, by defintion, is the exact opposite..." (societyVS)

it doesn't even take a good look at history to lock in on this one!
***

(from 'monty python at the hollywood bowl'... "world forum" gameshow sketch)
Eric Idle:

Yes, it was indeed! Very well challenged. Well, now we come on to our third round.
Our contestant tonight is Karl Marx and our special prize is this beautiful lounge suite! Uh, Karl has elected to answer questions on workers' control of factories, so here we go with question number one. You, nervous, Karl? Just a little. Well, never mind pal, have a go! The development of the industrial proletariat is conditioned by what other development?


Karl Marx:

The development of the industrial bourgeoisie.

Eric Idle:

Good! Yes, it is indeed! Well done, Karl! You're on your way to a lounge suite! Now Karl, number two. The struggle of class against class is a what struggle?

Karl Marx:

A political struggle.

Eric Idle:

Good! Yes, it is indeed. Well done, Karl! One final question, and that beautiful non-materialistic lounge suite will be yours! Ready, Karl? You're a brave man. Your final question: Who won the English Football Cup in 1949?

Karl Marx:

Uhuh, the workers' control of means of production? The-the struggle of the urban proletariat?

Eric Idle:

Uh, no, it was Wolverhampton Wanderers who beat Lester 3-1.

Karl Marx:

Oh, shit!

1/15/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

I loved that skit - I saw it not too long ago and I had a great laugh - since the 3rd question was so absurd as compared to the last 2.

'Call no man rabbi' - why do you suppose this is the case with one particular teaching of Jesus in Matthew's writings?

1/16/2007  
Blogger BrotherKen said...

some good insight into the jewish faith here. being more conservative i relate more to them then some of the newer "rah rah sis boom bah" christian churches. i attended a seventh day adventist church for about a year and they do a better job of teaching the old testament than most others.

i may be off topic here, but one thing they teach has always resonated with me about the laws of god. that is; the the laws of god paint a picture of him. each law of the ten commandments (and the mosaical laws to some degree) gives us a better understanding of him. you know that god loves truth because he said "thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor". you know that god honors the sanctity of marriage because he said "thou shalt not commit adultery". and so on. this viewpoint put a more positive spin on his laws for me.

also it is the laws that make us aware of sin which bring us to repentance and salvation, so again they are a good thing.

1/16/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

Its with a certain amount of trepidation that I see my words introducing a post dealing with Jewish thought and tradition (as a clarification, it was a literal reference to an actual rabbi, I'll try and find the name which eludes me at present). To be honest this post makes me fairly uncomfortable so I'm trying to sort out why. It may be the unfortunate picture that is posted, a picture which seemingly equates the "rabbinic yoke" to some dated torture device. (This was my first take at least, but in a follow-up conversation with jollybeggar he informed me that the post was supposed to be antithetical to the picture, the picture's undoing if you will.)

Another element of my discomfort is my lack of qualifications to speak for, and to a certain sense, about, Judaism. I realize that I seldom hesitate to pontificate about any number of topics or ideas that I know very little about but I suppose when it comes to religous traditions that are regularly maligned and denigrated by the protestant social majority, it gives me reason to pause.

It has always struck me as dishonest to overlay Jewish texts, history and tradition with an expectationary hermeneutic of Jesus-as-messiah. As benevolent as Rob Bell may be trying to appear to the Jewish tradition (although I'm not quite convinced) this expectationary hermeneutic assumes an original lack in the texts/history/traditions that it reads, it actually builds in this lack.
I guess its the perogative of the reader to bring to the texts whatever they wish, so my objections may be more for my own benefits than for anyone elses. It just seems to me that the ability to respect other faith traditions and love their members cannot be based on a prior assumption that their tradition is lacking or incomplete (or decieved, simple, or corrupt for that matter).

1/17/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"I guess its the perogative of the reader to bring to the texts whatever they wish, so my objections may be more for my own benefits than for anyone elses. It just seems to me that the ability to respect other faith traditions and love their members cannot be based on a prior assumption that their tradition is lacking or incomplete (or decieved, simple, or corrupt for that matter)."
(hineini)

well, i cannot speak for the benevolent rob bell- he's spoken for himself and you can borrow my copy of his book if you like, although it's got my scribbling all over the margins- but my take on what he has written in the passage cited, as well as many other spots in his book, is that he is a lover of God, a lover of scripture and an eager student of life. he also has a unique way of bringing these loves together in articulating his faith in God and his restlessness with the 'tried and true' misinterpretations of scripture that have become right-wing evangelicalism. the nice thing about his teaching, though, is that he does rely on big judgemental pronouncements to 'make a point' - he has a conversational approach that is more of an invitation into this or that idea, than an arm wrestle to see who buys the next round.

i think if i were to cite the names of people whose thoughts have richly fueled my own journey towards a deeper relationship with God through their teachings ('rabbis' in my skimpy but growing understanding of the word) i would probably put his name in my personal list along with c.s.lewis and oswald chambers.

one of the things that bell does seem to be about is in agreement with hineini's words above about the 'perogative of the reader to bring to the texts whatever they wish.' he points out that, although often people are eager to say things like 'let's get back to the Bible' or 'it's right there in the Bible- just read it' in order to give points they are making in a discussion credibility...

(which is a huge social mistake anyway, considering how higher criticism has done much to strip the Bible of it's authority among common people and scholars alike... uh-oh... whole nother blog coming- jb)

... people must remember that they bring a lot to their reading of the scriptures.

in my view, people are reading
through their tradition,
through their upbringing,
through their perspective,
through every sunday school class they did or didn't attend,
through every well-intentioned but doctrinally disjunct youth bible study,
through every sermon that put them to sleep before the final point was made,
through every song they've heard that had biblical content... everything.

i mean, i can't read the story of the testing of abraham in gen22, without hearing this voice somewhere in my head going:

God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe says, "Man, you must be puttin' me on"
God say, "No." Abe say, "What?"
God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin' you better run"
Well Abe says, "Where do you want this killin' done?"
God says, "Out on Highway 61."
(bob dylan, 1965)

we can't get away from the fact that we have perceptual screens which colour everything, so it's probably prudent to both acknowledge them and, where they distort truth, apply more perspective- like corrective lenses.

the rich challenge within this colour-sight/blindness analogy is that our perspective is ours and we don't have the advantage of stepping outside of it- we have to take someone elses word for it if we are seeing things a little -er- off. someone who is colour blind does not know this until he or she dialogues with others about what they are seeing in the world.

i agree (and qualify them a little with my own spin) with hineini's words cited above as well, that it is not only our perogative to bring things to scripture... it is our responsibility to acknowledge the things we bring to it, and to be willing to work through the implications of the possibility that our take on the scriptures (or a blogpost, or a picture, or any other vehicle by which knowledge and ideas are shared and God allows himself to be explored) can benefit from that which another brings to the same revelation of God.

i think that's why i blog... not to presume to teach, but to learn through the discourse that follows any post or comment. thanks for yours.

1/18/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"'Call no man rabbi' - why do you suppose this is the case with one particular teaching of Jesus in Matthew's writings?" (societyVS)

good question. especially the 'suppose' word... gives us some room to maneuver as we try to sort things out.

i suppose it could be (two verbal shock absorbers there...) that this statement supports bell's notion that Jesus was giving the 'keys to the kingdom' (the right to study the scriptures and prayerfully draw meaning from them) to the 'everyman.'

now a question of my own...
what is a 'rah rah sis boom bah' church?

1/18/2007  
Blogger BrotherKen said...

"It just seems to me that the ability to respect other faith traditions and love their members cannot be based on a prior assumption that their tradition is lacking or incomplete (or deceived, simple, or corrupt for that matter)" (hineini)

um, i am sorry but i do not have to agree with you completely to love you. and i can love you completely without agreeing at all. that is part of my instructions in my faith... to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. there is no qualifier there that the "others" are of the same belief. in fact we are to love our enemy. and love includes respect.

now if you mean to say it is difficult to do this, yes sometimes it is. but not that hard.

and if you disagree with me then that is fine too. still love ya.

1/18/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

"that is part of my instructions in my faith... to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. there is no qualifier there that the "others" are of the same belief. in fact we are to love our enemy. and love includes respect." (brotherken)

I suppose much of this comes down to our understandings of love.
I think its interesting that "the golden rule" or doing unto the other as I would have them do to me, is a wonderful example of empathy and a good guide to good conduct but it continues to place the self as the measure of "righteousness" or "love". Which means my personal desires and pursuit of well-being, how I want to exist, is guiding how I treat the other (which I just assume wants the same things as me). To me, this appears that the criteria of right action is based on a self-interested or selfish position.

As a few of these blog posts point out, the challenge is to move out of our comfortable "love" that demands of us only what we are prepared to give, a love which we are always in control of.

In a small but meagre gesture, I'd like to add my voice to those who are thinking what a love that privilages the other rather than myself looks like.

1/19/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

Right on Heinini - no more of this 'selfish faith'.

1/19/2007  
Blogger BrotherKen said...

hineini, I get where you are coming from and I respect that as a valid viewpoint. I just disagree... with complete respect.

Your point that.. it continues to place the self as the measure of "righteousness" or "love".. does not quite ring true (to me and my beliefs) because I don't hold any of the things I believe as my truths. I believe God is the only originator of truth. So what that means is that.. I have only accepted this truth for myself. I let others know what I interpret as truth but I do not feel it is necessary that they agree with me. I don't even feel it is possible for me to sway the convictions of another. Only God can. So if God tells me to feed the hungry and treat them respect and love them... I am completely free to love them regardless of differences of beliefs or lifestyle. You see I am not putting myself above anything by believing that God is above all.

And my understanding of love is of course outlined in 1Cor:13. It is not a lip service type of love. It is a love that truly cares for and meets the needs of others in a substantial way (as opposed to spiritual which I believe can only be met by God). When a person receives a much needed gift they don't stop to make sure that the giver is of the same beliefs. They just feel loved.

Now I know a lot of this doesn't jive with the way many ministries are run today. In most cases we (the church) have given the impression that you must convert, or at least listen to our preaching, to benefit from our charity. But my God loved me while I was yet a sinner.

This is not a love in which I am in control of. If it were not for God I would not know love.

1/19/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

Hiw much more velvet does Elvis really have - quite the conundrum.

1/20/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

"Now I know a lot of this doesn't jive with the way many ministries are run today.In most cases we (the church) have given the impression that you must convert, or at least listen to our preaching, to benefit from our charity." (brotherken)

I think this is a really interesting idea and one I'd like to speak with you all about a little more. Much has been made in previous posts about how easy it is to criticize the church, maybe more so in terms of its service to those "outside". I have been curious why this is so for quite some time. What I was thinking of offering here was maybe a form of question as to why this is. The simplistic version of the question is "Why doesn't the church do what it says" (as a nod to jollybeggar I will concede that this question already assumes the church guilty as charged) but I want to encourage anyone to pose that question anyway they'd like and offer any thoughts they have.

On my own behalf, I'd like to speak briefly about a distinction that I think offers very hopeful possibilities for a turn around for the church, or, the church's repentance if you will. I want to start by returning to the quote above, specifically the second sentence;

"In most cases we (the church) have given the impression that you must convert, or at least listen to our preaching, to benefit from our charity" (brotherken)

The problem I see here, and of course this problem offers a hopeful possibility, is the concept of charity. Now it may look like I'm playing semantics here, and to be fair I may have asked brotherken to clarify what he means (and I hope he will) but I think many of the difficulties the church faces currently in regards to "the least" is the church's inabilty to transcend charity, to move beyond charity to charity's better, solidarity.

Let me explain. As mentioned above in the conversation regarding the "golden rule" I mentioned that although the golden rule offers a helpful tool for generally peacable and charitable conduct towards those who surround me, it still uses my desires, how I would like to be treated, as a rule in determining how I should treat others. I must first decide what I want before I act and in acting, I in a sense, impose myself on the other, assuming they will want what I want. With charity the giver is never at risk, their position, their beliefs, their life are held in reserve from the other. They are giver, and the other is receiver. A one-way transaction, that in this world's economy cannot but create a debt in the receiver.

In order that this doesn't drag out I will get to what I see as the hopeful possibility. The step beyond charity (which is actually a step back for the "I") is solidarity. Now what do I mean by solidarity. Well, solidarity is the radical humilty of the self that seeks to empty itself (kenosis) of itself and instead privilage the other. The self keeps no interior fortress of unassailable beliefs or doctrines but seeks to move beyond the distinction between I and they. As an important side note, this rejection of the "us" and "them" distinction is not a collaspe into a collective "we" instead its a privilaging of the other. It is the embrace and pursuit of St Paul's words to "count others better than yourself".

Obviously there is much more to say but I'd like to hear what others have to say.

1/22/2007  
Blogger BrotherKen said...

Why doesn't the church do what it says? (hineini)

Firstly, I don't even think the curch is talking a good game. The voice from the church should project the Majesty of God more than anything. I am just coming around to this realization lately but, I think we as Christians try too often to make God out to be the answer for all life's problems and that is just not the case. In our desire to know God we have brought Him down to a level of understanding that is comforting to us. My answer to the question would have to be that the church has lost a clear understanding of who God is. He is not contained in the attribute of "love". His attributes are infinite.

"..but I think many of the difficulties the church faces currently in regards to "the least" is the church's inabilty to transcend charity, to move beyond charity to charity's better, solidarity." (hineini)

If what you are saying is that we should strive for equality, I don't agree, but I think you are driving at something a bit different. The best I can respond with right now is that, with my limited knowledge of who God is, I just don't see the need to compare how I am superior, inferior, or in any way different to anyone else. My status is insignificant compared to God. The giver and the receiver of charity are in the same boat, their continued existance is dependant only on God. I know God told one rich man to sell all he has and give it to the poor but I believe that was a circumstancial case that proves that we should be willing to do that if our wealth is a stumbling block to us (or we simply feel that is what God is asking from us personally).

I am not completely confident of what I just said and would certainly explore more on the topic if you wish. Love ya!

1/23/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"I know God told one rich man to sell all he has and give it to the poor but I believe that was a circumstancial case that proves that we should be willing to do that if our wealth is a stumbling block to us..." (brotherken)

a rich man and i were talking about this one time.

he was convinced that, although the literal words to the rich young ruler ('sell all you have and give it to the poor') fit Jesus' character and his message, Jesus was possibly speaking to something bigger than material wealth and all that. he asserted that, in his view, Christ was challenging the guy to a bit of a perspective check. (ie 'come back when you think you have nothing to bring to the table, and we'll talk') because the guy has a bit of a swagger to his piety... he arrives on the scene acting like he's gonna help Jesus out a bit...

there's a picture of the disparity of the giver/recipient relationship- when a giver presumes to have something to offer the son of man then there's a bit of a potential pride thing inherent to the whole scenario, me thinks.

there's danger when we are of the opinion that we can help God do his thing... is it glib to say that God allows us to participate in this thing he's doing?

anyway, my friend the rich man had just sold everything at the time and was moving to calgary because God was calling him to a pastorate there.

1/23/2007  
Blogger BrotherKen said...

JB, this area of what we are called to give up has been a great challenge for me. When I read Luke 14:25-33 I really don't know what to think. The best I can come up with is that Jesus is saying that we should count nothing we have of any value and allow God to give and take from our lives as He so pleases. It is a tough one to pin down.

1/23/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

brotherken, I'd like to think Luke 14:25-33 with you but I'd also like to invite someone along. In his book "The Gift of Death" Jacques Derrida reads Luke 14:26 in light of the Akedah, the story of the binding of Isaac. You see for Derrida, who follows somewhat closely Kierkegaard here, if we sacrifice what he hate then it really isn't a sacrifice. In fact for a sacrifice to be a sacrifice it must be the sacrifice of the unique and the unsubstitutable which as Derrida points out links the sacred to sacrifice.

When Isaac asks his father where the sacrifice is, Abraham cannot tell him but, and this is maybe the most important part, he must answer Isaac's question. Abraham is caught in an impossible situation and gives the only possible response he can, the ironic "God will provide".

Abraham must hate Isaac,must sacrifice him, must murder him, but it is only a sacrifice, it is only an obedience to God if Abraham loves Isaac (remember God's command to take "the son whom you love").
This is the point I was trying to make above in regards to the golden rule. Acting ethically, or acting justly (if its possible at all) is to be open to the voice of the other like Abraham was. Openness to this voice means we can hold nothing back, no sons, no faith, nothing we love. We must hate what we love if we are to be ethical.

Just as Abraham was unable to answer Isaac (or Sarah or Eliezer), unable to justify his actions and so make his actions understood. We are at the mercy of the other who demands of us everything, calling us to hate what is most dear to us but yet, demanding that we love all the more. Abraham faces an infinite responsibility to Isaac and to God, both demand the hatred of the other yet, of course, Abraham must love them both.

1/26/2007  
Blogger BrotherKen said...

Thanks hineini, that does put a better understanding on the text than what I was saying. I am not ready to make the jump to the position that you propose though. What I see in your position is an intentional goal of making ourselves martyrs. I am moving toward the understanding that forsaking everything, even our own lives, means that we must search our heart and be sure that we hold nothing dear to our hearts except our love and trust in God. A mother who loses a child will certainly grieve, but not be angry that God allowed (or caused) this to happen because her faith and happiness is complete in Him.

1/26/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

"What I see in your position is an intentional goal of making ourselves martyrs." (botherken)

I would say that pursuit of martyrdom is another form of self-aggrandizement, hardly consistent with being a hostage to the other. Related to this point is that continueing to "hold nothing dear to our hearts except our love and trust in God" betrays our ethical responsibility to the other in privilaging our conceptualizations, "beliefs" and "knowledge" over the other's life. As stated above, to be ethical requires us to hate that which is most dear to us, we don't get to sneak anything for ourselves or hold anything back through clever justifications or good intentions because prior to these justifications and good intentions is the call of the other that we must answer.

I'm really at a loss as to what you were trying to illustrate with your grieving mother example. Maybe you could try this one again?

1/27/2007  
Blogger BrotherKen said...

hineini, thanks for trying to understand that, i was not really committed to it and it was a bit contrived. I will try again.

I guess one of the problems I have with what you are saying is that I don't see the relationships we have between each other as even comparable to my relationship with God. What I see in your writing is a desperation to have the perfect relationship with God AND all people.

I feel a love for my wife and my daughter and my mom and dad and friends, well everyone I get to know.. all unique relationships and I treasure each one. Then I have my relationship with God. My relationship with God takes precedent, of course. This may all sound trivial but hang in there, I may be able to put two thoughts together tonight :-)

I don't know about you, but I get a bit confused and off track with my humanly relationships. I think most people can only handle up to about 6-8 really close human relationships at a time (and 2 or 3 of them will have priority). And we meet people daily that come and go out of our lives. We could not survive well without good human relationships, but we need God more than any of them (and I am sure this applies to the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith). That is why the emphasis of the golden rule is on God, and then others and yourself; ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.

Let's say that someone is mean or disrespectful to me or someone I love. I am bound to love the person but I may never be able to have a flourishing relationship with them. We are not bound by any biblical teaching, old or new testament, to maintain a any human relationship. Well OK, the marriage and family relationships have special emphasis, but not to the degree as our relationship with God. I guess my point is that we are limited in our ability to maintain human relationships but not in our relationship with God. That relationship must be maintained above all else, even to the point of losing everyone and everything we love.

I better quit now, I hope I haven't belabored a point that is obvious.

1/27/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

"What I see in your writing is a desperation to have the perfect relationship with God AND all people." (brotherken)

I guess firstly and most importantly, this distinction you create between humanity (people) and God gets severly undermined when I read Matthew 25:40. I think too much gets snuck in when we start asking questions like "Is God really asking me to do (whatever)?" especially when it comes to our interactions with the people around us. I think this shows up here..."I am bound to love the person but I may never be able to have a flourishing relationship with them." (brotherken)
What I find curious is the following sentence where you write "We are not bound by any biblical teaching, old or new testament, to maintain a any human relationship."(brotherken) I think this is a very insightful comment. The texts call us to a responsibility to the widow, orphan and stranger, to the other and I don't think this can be called a relationship. Relationship assumes a reciprocity between the people involved, a correlation is created, a tie is created based on some samness, we are alike so we are in relation, we relate, like a relative.
Responsibility on the other hand is a response demanded from us by the other's vulnerability, there is no equivilance between me and the other, no promise that we stand to gain anything, and certainly no loyalty to one at the expense of another.

So when you write, "I guess my point is that we are limited in our ability to maintain human relationships..."(brotherken) I completely agree. The unfortunate thing is that we revel in this limit, believeing we have no obligations to anyone, or, maybe to a limited few. Our self-interestedness seeks relationship, the saftey of the reciprocity of relationship.

"That relationship [with God] must be maintained above all else, even to the point of losing everyone and everything we love" (brotherken).

As for the first half, maintaining the relationship with God above all else, I think Matthew 25:40 as mentioned above offers a very different possible understanding of this. As for the second part about losing everyone and thing we love...isn't that the point? Were we not just speaking about that from Luke and the story of the binding of Isaac. Thats our direction, there is where we must go, hating what is most loved, and sacrificing everything, even sacrifice itself to address the face of the other in its utter vulnerablity to which we are infinitely obligated.

1/28/2007  
Blogger BrotherKen said...

hineini, I think this has been a great exchange of understanding and I have enjoyed it. You seem to understand exactly what I mean and I you, yet I don't feel we need focus on the differences. You obviously wish to know God. Keep writing!

1/28/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

With that much sacrifice talk and 'giving it all' you two could be mistaken for methods on suicide. Just pointing that out.

1/29/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

EPILOGUE: feb 2008

with all of this depth, no one ever did explain to me what a 'rah rah sis boom bah church' is...

guess i'll never know.

another interesting piece of whatever is that, within a year of all the posting and discussion above, my friend the rich man in an example above stepped out of full-time pastoral ministry and back into the world of business for a whole bunch of awesome reasons.

ah, the wisdom afforded us all by the passage of time!

2/09/2008  

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