Friday, July 2, 2010

Abi's thoughts about reJesus and UNTAMED....

Why I love Alan & Debra Hirsch

When I went to Neil Cole's first Organic Church Conference in Long Beach, CA, in January of 2007, I did not know the Hirsches.  As I was trying to decide which seminars to attend, I thought Alan's sounded interesting.  It was beyond interesting ... it was mind-blowing.  Not in what Alan was saying -- but that he was saying what I had come to in my heart, but didn't know how to articulate.  I later told Alan that listening to (and, later, reading) him was for me just like reading C.S. Lewis was in the 70's:  seeing/hearing what I had come to believe in my heart but had no words with which to articulate it.

It will come as no surprise to my friends that what links me to Alan is our common embrace of Hebraic thought over and against Greek/Platonic thought.  This need to approach all things of God through a Hebrew filter is what drives my insistence on understanding cHesed and using cHesed glasses to view scripture and discipleship and relationship.

Really ... if one wants to understand scripture and the Incarnation, there is no way to get there without learning to think like a Hebrew.


I will have to unpack their book later, but suffice it to say that it is a fabulous book -- and one perfect to use with a small group.  The thoughts for pondering at the end of each chapter are priceless.  And I must say that it is a book that really whets one's appetite for more.  Especially the hint that Deb will be writing a book of her own.  I look forward with great expectancy to that one!

For a wee abbess known for asking hard questions and telling it like it is, this book was so refreshing.  My frequent feelings of "abi-normal" ness were met by companions who share them.  It helped me understand even more why I resonated so strongly with both of them at that conference.

The Abbess highly recommends that you get their book.  You will not be sorry.


Alan's newest book with Michael Frost is also wonderful.  I found myself nodding along as I read.  So  much frank analysis and fresh views of where we are as little Jesuses ... and where we need to be.  Another book to process with a group, although they do not have the wonderful discussion helps at the end of their chapters.

That being said, it was a bit of a shock to run into what I consider a bit of infiltrating Platonic Greek thought in their discussion of Paul's Vision of the Jesus Community in Chapter Seven:  The Church That Jesus Built.

Beginning with page 168, there are a number of examples where they embrace the understanding of "head" as authority rather than source.  Frankly, I was shocked by this.  One of the challenges of bridging time and space and culture and language is to realize how words are used at different times with different connotations.  Consequently, the next few pages brought a few raised eyebrows rather than head nods.  These were also the only times in the book that their words didn't ring true and their thoughts did not convince.  For me, at least, this was a missed opportunity to free the wild Messiah from another misconception.

In using the Ephesians1:22 verse where Christ is head over all things for the church, we  have an example where head is clearly used as a metaphor for authority -- over all things FOR the church.  And I agree with their conclusion that this means that all Christ's influence is used to benefit the church.  This is cHesed -- looking out for the best interest of the covenant partner.

But when Paul goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, then the head metaphor must change from authority to one of source -- both as to origination as well as to sustenance.  I know that this is a hotly debated issue ... and getting hotter still.  But there is some important context which I find compelling.  And I am hopeful that Alan might find it so as well.

One of the critically important ancient arguments has actually been one of physiology -- concerning the location of the mind (the center of intelligence, reason, thinking, and decision-making).  In Paul's day, there had been two camps:  head and heart.  ( I am indebted to my friend, Dr. S. Scott Bartchy, for sending me an important article on this by Troy W. Martin from Saint Xavier University.  I am sorry that I do not have a link to it to include here.)

Plato, Philo and Plutarch held the head to be the center of intelligence, reason, thinking, and decision-making -- the center of control of the body.  It was no jump for those of that camp to see Paul's use of head as control or authority.

But Aristotle and the Stoics held the heart (kardia) as the center of intelligence, reason, thinking, and decision-making.  Many translators have shown this confusion when they chose to translate Paul's use of kardia as "mind" rather than "heart."

This, then, frees Paul to use "head" in what many see as the more common metaphorical sense -- as the source, origin and one who sustains life rather than the ruler and authority over another.

If we are to really hold to the Hebrew mindset, we must realize that when God came in Christ, he did not come to rule and exercise authority over humanity.  Even as we recognize him as Lord and Savior, Jesus shows himself to be the quintessential covenant-maker and covenant-keeper who uses all his power and influence for the best interest of the covenant partner -- us.

It is never in anyone's best interest for someone to rule over another.  That way leads to dependency and immaturity.  No, the way of Christ for his Bride is one of love that submits and grace that serves and mercy that initiates and supports.  There is no wielding of authority or ruling by coersion.  There is only wooing and waiting for the return of cHesed from the Beloved.

No, there is no way to biblically show Christ as the head of the Church his body in such as way as to allow husbands to rule with authority over their wives -- not at least in a way that is internally consistent for our God who is Love -- mutuality-in-equality. 

To have Paul making an appeal to order out of the wild freedom Jesus brought to the downtrodden is to really miss the point here.  He calls men to realize that Jesus had stripped them of their patriarchal power and calls them to love their wives by submitting to their needs, to be gracious to their wives by serving them and showing mercy to their wives by initiating and supporting their growth to maturity in Christ.  As sister in Christ first, wife second, the brethren are to embrace the mutuality-in-equality modeled by Jesus -- within the Trinity as well as within the disciples/the 120.  As wild as this freedom was for the sisters, it was a real twister for the brothers.

Paul finally gets around to speaking it explicitly in Ephesians 5:29-30, where he shows that nourishing and caring for his Body is what Jesus is about. As Alan and Michael say so clearly:  lets not tame Jesus and make him the opposite of what he said and is.  I say the same about Paul:  let the wild apostle of the wild Messiah be set free from our image of his message!

...stay tuned, there will be more about UNTAMED and reJesus from Abi!


Anonymous said...

Great analysis your Abi-ness. Perhaps I can get away with it because Mike wrote that section! :) I agree about Source over Authority in general though.

Shalom sister
Alan Hirsch

AbiSomeone said...

...ah, it is as I thought! That is the challenge of co-authoring a book, isn't it. It is difficult enough to remember one's own words without having to account for your partner's word, as well.

So many fabulous things I'm still chewing on -- from both books.

Really looking forward to Debs writing her book. Really, really!

Your cHesed sister appreciates you so much, brother.

Rick Meigs said...

Great post Abi!

Janet Woodlock said...

I love the way you write so articulately on some of the things I feel Peggy. I must admit I've had the same response as you to Alan's teaching in person and in print... for me it's like finding words for what I "knew" all along by the Spirit.

I find this refreshing to read... I've been chatting about... well being cynical about... the ideas about "headship" here:

If you have time you might want to add some nuances to the discussion... or not...

Really appreciate you!

Love Janet

AbiSomeone said...

Dearest Janet...

I quickly went through the discussion being had. God bless you for jumping in, but I just can't get caught up in this nit-picking anymore ... at least not at this time.

People will see/hear/believe what they want when they are upholding a status quo (read: institution). These folks would be challenged by the wild Messiah Alan and Michael have described!

Love you and looking forward to that day when we see each other face to face....


Janet Woodlock said...

Ah, very wise. I must learn to stop taking the bait. Sigh...

Seeing each other would be very, very cool... whether this side of glory or the other!!!!

AbiSomeone said...

Well, it took me a few years to stop taking the bait, so I know how you feel. I see it like that old story about there being two wolves in each of us who are constantly at war: one wolf who is good and kind and a productive member of the pack -- and the other wolf is evil and selfish and destructive to the pack. When asked which wolf wins, the wizened elder says: the one you feed.

Hence the internet warning against feeding "trolls" by responding to their bait ... and I would add to that list those who judge and slam those who do not think like them (found on each side of any argument, in my experience) -- rather that listen to be able to understand.

Anyone who looks at the person and life of Jesus and comes away both willing and able to judge, condemn, dominate, intimidate, tear down or destroy another brother or sister in Christ ... well, in my book, they better check to see if little goat horns are starting to grow out of their head.

There are always ways for each of us to "spin" a justification for our interpretation. It is only when we face the wild, untamed Messiah who loves in a fierce-yet-good Aslan-ish manner -- and submit to being un-dragoned if we have been thinking dragonish thoughts -- that we will be fully and truly human, as we were meant to be when created in the image of God.

Okay...gotta get packing. Off Wednesday with the 3 boys to visit my family in SoCal. Hoping against hope to catch Alan and Deb while I'm there....