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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Walking Alongside Oneself Versus Walking With God

I seem to remember that in the context of his marvelous novel Perelandra, C. S. Lewis opines that one of the consequences of the Fall is that man began to walk beside himself. As I recall, what this means is that humanity, instead of living within its proper identity and calling began to be divided so that we became not only acting, obeying, worshiping subjects, but became objects of our own scrutiny and of our own cyncism.

We can certainly see this in the account of the Fall. Adam and Eve, representing us all, having stepped out of the identities given them by God, become self-aware in a manner which at best would be termed "tarnished" " "The the eyes of both of them were opened,, and they know that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves tsogether and made themselves coverings" ['Gn 3:7]. What an extraordinary and profound text! It is not just that Adam and Eve experienced a decline in their self-concept. It is this move outside of oneself, this creation both of an alternative identity [as did they both when they stepped outside of their trust-identity with God and began to consider the "merits" of the Serpent's propostion], and also the alternative identity of self-scrutinizer. In their pristine, pre-Fall state, identity was discrete and unitary. Life was filled with joy, focus, purpose and fellowship on both the vertical and horizontal levels. But after the Fall, all of this was irretrievably disrupted and ruined.

This extraordinary insight has everything to do with how we pursue or fail to pursue our own spiritual lives. Let me speak, for example, of davvening, that blessed discipline which I find so nourishing and central to my own spirituality,

When I davven, I experience a sense of holy interpenetration. As I exercise kavvanah [focus and intentionality in the prayer process], I penetrate the text and the text penetrates me. The concepts, the categories, the spirit of the text become my concepts, categories, and illumine my spirit. It is glorious and intoxicating. It is intensely, repeatedly, and ever-creatively and freshly formational. But here is where or discussion of the Fall cum Lewish comes in. As I pray, I ever have the capacity to step outside of myself, to walk alongside myself, and to cynically stand in judgment concerning the "silliness" and "time wasting" quality of what I am doing. I dare to believe that this kind of cynical self-debunking is something of an echo of the Serpent's mentality in the Garden: "Yea, hath God said?." There is this abandonment of holy focus, this cynical relinquishing of one's chosen holy positioning as a servant intent upon hearing and obeying the Holy One and a Holy Tradition. And my experience demonstrates that such cynical self-scrutiny is insatiable. There is not holy posture, no act of obedience, no accepted mantle of discipline and holy obedience, which is subject to being ripped to shreds and defiled by this walking alongside cynical persona. We never lose the capacity to debunk our own chosen paths.

In this age of post-modernity, it will not do to try and prop up our commitments with evidentiary arguments. This will neither work nor satiisfy. What then shall we do?? Shall we simply succumb to our own cynical deflowering of all that is holy, pristine, and idealistic? Or is there some defense we can effectively and consistently muster against this breaching of our walls?

I suggest there is such a defense. It is the defense of knowing and determined choice. I believe the defense is one of faith, of choosing that way which one has come to believe is pure and good, preferring to follow that way to the end, even if, in the end, that way proves to have been illusory. For me this means continuing the pathway of Messianic Jewish faith and Jewish covenant faithfulness as we have received it through our holy tradition. It means cleaving to that which I have come to regard as holy, pure and right. One thing is sure, at least to me. The path of repeated and endless cynical debunking dwells within and spreads the darkness. There is no light and no life there, only a dry and hollow laugh.

At 4/09/2005 12:15 PM, Anonymous ypasadena said...

Stuart, I wanted you to know that I am impressed by your sight.


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