Reparative Reasoning and the Condition of the Messianic Jewish Movement

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. A prophetic public proclamation.
  6. 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.

About Stuart Dauermann

The blog of Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann, teacher, mentor, radio talk show host, denizen of Los Angeles, and a visionary with a long career in Messianic Jewish activism. You can hear Rabbi Dauermann as he hosts Shalom Talk, a weekly radio show, and even listen online at Rabbi Dauermann spends time traveling nationally and internationally, and throughout the year is in Israel as a Scholar in Residence at the MJTI Jerusalem Center. He has plenty to say about Jewish-Christian relations, the need for shalom in the world, and the agenda of Messiah, the Son of David.
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1 Response to Reparative Reasoning and the Condition of the Messianic Jewish Movement

  1. Rabbi Dauermann,

    I am so very thankful again for your bringing these discussions into the Messianic Jewish community. I received a copy of Dr. Ochs’s book just a few weeks ago, but with finals reigning over my head, I have not had a chance to read past the chapter on Linbeck and skim through the discussion on Jenson. I have loved Ochs approach that calls for our various traditions to read the Scripture together in face-to-face dialogue. (I am super anxious to read the chapter on Yoder and the “limits of Postliberalism.”)

    One thing I would say about Jenson is that his prior arguments that attempt to root trinitarian language in the need to identify “the God that raised [Yeshua] from the dead” as being the same “God that rescued Israel out of Egypt” is significant in rethinking major Christian orthodox doctrine in terms of the original Jewish context of the narrative.

    That brings me to my suggestion. (I hope you forgive me for my long replies. I am anxious to be in this discussion.) One of the problems that needs to be identified, so that it does not remain “irredeemably vague” is has been somewhat talked about openly, but not specifically named. Fackenheim (and Novak too, but I cannot place where I read the argument at the moment) said the following:

    “On the ‘old fashioned’ basis [where we are stuck in premodern interpretive categories] it is clearly impossible for Jews and Christians to read our texts together. The revealed authorities which inspire their respective reading are incompatible and mutually exclusive. There can be no ‘dialogue'” (my emphasis–“New Hearts and the Old Covenant” in The Divine Helmsman, Crenshaw and Sandmel eds., 1980: p. 197).

    These “premodern interpretive categories” he goes on to say, are the “respective religious commitments…on a revealed authority” that we must do away with. I agree with him, to some degree–but certainly not entirely. His main argument uses as an example the readings of Jeremiah 31, where Jewish communities will focus on Rachel’s weeping (Jer. 31:15-17) as seen through the lens of 3rd century Midrash and the Tikkun Rachel liturgy. Christian readers, on the other hand, will skip directly to the New Covenant passages (Jer. 31:31-34) and completely look over the moral difficulty raised in the previous verses.

    I raise this issue only to suggest that the Messianic Jewish community stands as a testimony that the Talmudic tradition and the Orthodox Christian doctrinal tradition can be held in tension.

    Granted, there is a wide spectrum of “Messianic Jewish” communities, range from those who are mostly Gentile but hold the Talmud with more authority than traditional Christian doctrine (i.e. Trinity, Chalcedonian Christology, etc.) to those who contain many Jewish members but clearly hold Constantinian formulas more to heart and hardly ever consider the Talmud.

    I assume that most of us on both sides, at least to some degree or another, hold the revelation at Sinai to Moses to some kind of authority. Is there a way for us to hold on to that shared belief and return to read the Tanakh together in a “binocular way” like Michael Signer suggested in his essay in Christianity in Jewish Terms? (This was a compilation of essays from Westview Press in 2000.)

    The Messianic Jewish communities are the prime example that, at least it can be tried. I would argue, however, that the larger Christian communities (I don’t know about the Jewish communities and the Talmud) still have a long way to go before rethinking Constantinian orthodoxy for the sake of reading their “Old Testament” and being able to take the readings of the Jewish communities seriously.

    Perhaps there are others, but this seems to be a major theme that comes up (especially with Ochs and the Society for Biblical Reasoning.)

    What are your thoughts?


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