In his profound and thoughtful book, Another Reformation: Postliberal Christianity and the Jews, Jewish philosopher/theologian Peter Ochs speaks of reparative reasoning, or Scriptural Reasoning. This an approach to Scripture and to intra-communal self-scrutiny which seeks to identify and repair what is wrong in the communal life of the people of God. As Ochs says elsewhere, “repairing problems or sufferings is a species of bringing definition to what is irremediably vague; more poetically, we may also say that ‘defining the vague’ is a species of ‘repair.'”
Considering the writings of Christian philosopher Stanley Hauerwas and his encounter with the prophecies of Amos, Ochs names six marks of reparative reasoning:
These are the marks:
- Reasoning in response to a profound interruption in one’s community of speech and action. I take this to mean, reasoning in response to perceiving something as having gone wrong.
- To read a material threat to the nation as a symptom of an as-yet-invisible disorder within the nationalist community. In other words, when God allows the community to be under threat, it is more than likely due to sin in the camp. He is drawing our attention to a matter which must be addressed.
- Reading the disorder in the nation as symptomatic of the nations collective sin or error. This is closely related to the prior point, but highlights the communal nature of the problem. It is not one person or some small group of persons who are the problem—one can find the problem systemically far deeper.
- A moment when the prophet’s reasoning and God’s voice are mutually indistinguishable. In other words, God does give to people insights that closely mirror his own, and there are times when God’s servants speak that one is right to judge that he/she is being addressed by God.
- A prophetic public proclamation.
- This proclamation is a call for public action.
What might such marks have to say to the Messianic Jewish movement as it stands today? What problems do we need to identify that otherwise will remain “irremediably vague,” and how might we repair them?
In my next posting I will revisit these marks and tentatively apply them to the Messianic Jewish Movement. Come think with me.