A LOVE SUPREME

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ordnung und Rumspringa

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

Living in northern Indiana does have its benefits. One of them is to be in close proximity to a fascinating group of separatists: The Amish. In a world where technology surges ahead at terabyte speed, the Amish attempt to freeze time and create an organic way of life. In a way that would make Heidegger proud, the Amish focus on cultivating a simple community of love and brotherhood. This is no small task in the middle of the United States, where technological innovation is unprecedented. So, to ensure that their way of life is preserved, the Amish have Ordnung.

"The Amish blueprint for expected behavior, called the Ordnung, regulates private, public, and ceremonial life. Ordnung does not translate readily into English. Sometimes rendered as ordnance or discipline, the Ordnung is best thought of as an ordering of the whole way of life … a code of conduct which the church maintains by tradition rather than by systematic or explicit rules. A member noted: The order is not written down. The people just know it, that's all. Rather than a packet or rules to memorize, the Ordnung is the understood behavior by which the Amish are expected to live. In the same way that the rules of grammar are learned by children, so the Ordnung, the grammar of order, is learned by Amish youth. The Ordnung evolved gradually over the decades as the church sought to strike a delicate balance between tradition and change. Specific details of the Ordnung vary across church districts and settlements." [Donald B. Kraybill, The Riddle of Amish Culture cited in Wikipedia article Ordnung]

Ordnung, then, is essentially Law. It is Law translated into life; behavior of conformity for the greater good of community, self, and God.

"The Amish, believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible and the Ordnung is meant to ensure that members of the church live life by following the Word of God. The Ordnung contains a set of behavioral rules. A person is expected to live a simple life devoted to God, family and community according to God's laws. Once a rule has been adopted, it is nearly impossible to have it rescinded or changed.

"Some of the most common rules are: separation from the world, hard work, a woman's submission to her husband, mode of dress, refusal to buy life insurance, and many more. Outsiders often think in terms of restrictions, i.e. no electrical power lines, no telephone in the home, and no personal ownership of automobiles. However many of their guidelines are for the purpose of guarding a person's character. The attempt is to prevent pride, envy, vanity, laziness, dishonesty, etc.

"The foundations of the Amish life are: an unassuming character, the love of friends and family, respect for the community, and separation from the rest of the world. The Ordnung defines who the Amish are. This code's purpose is to guide the behavior of the church's membership into Christ-likeness. Disobedience of these integral lifestyle regulations are punished by disciplinary actions initiated by the church leaders. Shunning (Meidung) is one of the most severe actions that the Bishop can mete out." [From Wikipedia Ordnung]

From the above, I highlight the following: many of their guidelines are for the purpose of guarding a person's character. The attempt is to prevent pride, envy, vanity, laziness, dishonesty, etc. Ordnung exists to create a community of righteousness and love; it guards against what the Apostle Paul terms "the desires of the flesh." It is a safeguard: Law counteracts the Flesh. Ordnung reigns the vices of our most base inclincations.

Ah, but the desires of the flesh will not be so easily tamed. In fact, when Law is put in place to stop the flesh, it often stirs the flesh all the more. Paul knew this well:

"I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.' But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died." (Romans 7)

According to Paul, when Law is used to regulate the flesh it produces more desires. Tell someone not to covet something and the desire for that thing increases. We want what we cannot have; it is human.

The Amish seemed to have recognized this at some point in their development. No community of the blessed can exist if its members never understand what might have been. The outside world, the devil's playground, holds mystery and fascination. In his classic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde puts it this way: The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing...

"Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the word take place also."

The above citation is a critical turning point in the novel. These words spoken by Lord Henry to Dorian Gray embed themselves in Dorian's imaginations and stir his wonder and curiosity, leading to his wish that he could sin forever without consequence and live as an eternal youth.

The Amish know the Apostle Paul, and whether or not they have read Wilde, they understand what is at work. For this reason, they have Rumspringa.

Rumspringa is a time for the flesh. It is an opportunity to quench the thirst, satisfy the curiosity, and taste the forbidden fruit. It is a time in the life of a young Amish to explore. This time comes prior to being baptized into the community and is something of a rite of passage. If a youngster comes through Rumspringa and is then ready to live under the Ordnung of the community, then they are welcomed into the fold.

There are a variety of different levels of indulgence during the period of Rumspringa. Not all Amish youth are rebellious; it all depends upon your opportunity, your group of friends, and your desire for experimentation.

"In large Amish communities like Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Holmes County, Ohio, and Elkhart and LaGrange Counties, Indiana, the Amish are numerous enough that there exists an Amish youth subculture. During the rumspringa period, the Amish youth in these large communities will join one of various groups ranging from the most rebellious to the least. These groups are not divided across traditional Amish church district boundaries. In many smaller communities, Amish youth may have a much more restricted rumspringa period due to the smaller size of the communities. Likewise, they may be less likely to partake in strong rebellious behaviour since the anonymity offered in the larger communities is absent." [Wikipedia "Rumspringa"]

So, the Amish balance Law and Flesh with Ordnung and Rumspringa. They cultivate a strict community where vice and lust are forbidden and the community and family are the priority. But in order to do justice to the desires of the flesh, they follow the insights of Oscar Wilde and allow room for the young to explore and indulge temptation. The result? According to the film Devil's Playground, 90% of Amish youth return to the community after Rumspringa.

39 comments:

Emily said...

Interesting. I can agree with acknowledging temptation instead of pretending the source doesn't exist, but what do you mean by including the quote, "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it"? Do you encourage "exploring and indulging temptation"? And if so, how?

And when you talk of temptation, are you referring to sins or to cultural taboos/manmade laws?

Ken said...

Does the Bible tell us to get rid of temptation or to resist it. Does the Bible ever give the ok for us to give in to temptation for a season so we become numb to it?

I seem to recall such passages as saying flee and resist. It does not tell us to be holy only after we have had our own Rumspringa or even a Mardi Gras (the former reminded me of the latter). No. It calls us to be holy in all we do, without giving exceptions.

Of course, this is a struggle, but it is one we are called to fight. Jesus did not send us down the easy path, but the difficult one. However, he is also with us, ready to help us face temptation with the armor of God and above all, prayer. And when we fall, he is faithful to forgive us.

I am curious, are you subscribing to the ideas of Wilde, or just writing about them? The post leaves that open-ended.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Emily: Do you encourage "exploring and indulging temptation"? And if so, how?

I encourage exploration and indulgence for legalists who burn with desire.

"it is better to marry than to burn with passion." 1 Cor. 7

Emily: And when you talk of temptation, are you referring to sins or to cultural taboos/manmade laws?

What's the difference, in your mind?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ken,

You sound like Luther! He fought the Devil tooth and nail. They would find broken things about the rooms Luther was staying in because he would hurl things at the Devil!

Melody said...

The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

I do love the work of Oscar Wilde, but he seems a poor guide.

As Emily has pointed out, the Bible tells us to resist temptation. Indeed, whenever I read about addiction there is an emphasis places on how all impulses pass, whether they're for brownies or crack. If you hold out, the impulse will pass.
Yielding to temptation only makes your desire stronger the next time temptation rolls around!

Your portrait of the Amish is interesting.

Once a rule has been adopted, it is nearly impossible to have it rescinded or changed.

So untrue. The Amish have cell phones, motorboats, and love sitting for photos. Their businesses are frequently outfitted with electric and a/c. The love television and video games. Just a couple generations ago, this would have been unheard of.

Of course, Shipshe has some of the most liberal Amish church districts in the Mid-west (which is why they're growing so fast!) but even so.

Also, I've been told (by Amish people) that the reason why the Amish have all their weird clothes and buggies and what-not is because they believe God has called them to live set apart - not because it's actually sinful to live another way. Probably they say this because if they didn't they couldn't justify taking rides in people's cars or renting their condos with a/c and cable (the Amish love their vacation homes!).

Anyhow, I'm sure I've wildly missed the point of this post, but I just thought I'd throw that out there since I spend the majority of my time in Amishland.

daniel said...

Proverbs 13:19

A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody,

Don't look at Wilde as a guide for Christian living. Obviously, that's not going to allow you to appreciate the profound depth of a work like Dorian Gray. It's not Wilde's point to write a devotional guide for conservative Christians. Even so, I think that an honest reading of Dorian Gray is far more instructive than most devotional or other pop Christian literature being published these days.

Also, thanks for the look inside the Amish. They are diverse. There are many variations on what it means to live separately from the world. Personally, I prefer those who have stricter rules and greater separation. I think the genius of the Ordnung/Rumspringa system is that it creates a very close community while allowing for members to explore their vices. There is an extreme expression of Law and Flesh that seems rare among the religious crowds.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Daniel,

Very instructive verse! This would seem to be something of a motto for the Amish, don't you think????

ktismatics said...

Here's a short essay in which Slavoj Zikek says that the Amish practice of rumspringa is a false freedom. Briefly, his argument is this: Since the Amish kids have been raised in an insular enclave where the outside world and all its pleasures are regarded as corrupt, the rumspringa kids inevitably overindulge, immersing themselves in a temporary state of what even they regard as extreme sinfulness. So it's never framed as a real choice, says Zizek. Maybe so.

Erdman, I think what you really have in mind is to become a rumspringa missionary to the Amish, a temporary source of corruption for all those cute and innocent Amish girls.

Melody said...

the rumspringa kids inevitably overindulge, immersing themselves in a temporary state of what even they regard as extreme sinfulness.

I asked my boss once how the Amish kids could stand going back to Amishness after experiencing rumspringa. He told me that they party so hard during rumspringa that they'd kill themselves if they kept going like that.

Emily said...

Jon,

1 Cor. 7 ("it is better to marry than to burn with passion") does not advocate giving into temptation. Marriage is a provision of God that allows people to participate in activities that God ordains as good. However, without the umbrella of marriage, the activities are sins.

So are you actually saying that it is not good to place unnecesary restrictions on yourself or others (such as - it is best to stay single) that prevent you/others from enjoying things that aren't sin in and of themselves? If so, I agree. But using words such as "exploration" and "indulgence" gives your message a "give into temptation" feel which many of us have already posted saying this is not a biblical message.

The difference between sin and cultural taboos/man-made laws?... I would say sin is something that is disobedient to God, something that is talked about negatively in the Bible, something that when done gives you a sense of guilt. Anything that does not fit this description is not an actual sin and might just be human opinion.

But the actual application of this can be tricky. I could feel guilty for doing something that I don't think is negatively talked about in the Bible. So is the guilt just inflicted by myself / my culture? So, I guess I don't know. How's that?

Crystal said...

Melody, "So untrue. The Amish have cell phones, motorboats, and love sitting for photos. Their businesses are frequently outfitted with electric and a/c. The love television and video games. Just a couple generations ago, this would have been unheard of."

Are you sure about this? I haven't been to Shipshi in a while, but I've been to the museum they have there more than once and read enough Beverly Lewis to question the validity of your claim. Mennonites and Amish look a lot a like, but don't hold to all of the same values. I've always heard that Amish don't like getting their picture taken because it's creating a "graven image." Maybe Amish in Shipsi really are going liberal...
Heaven forbide that they start living like us!

Melody said...

Are you sure about this?

Incredibly sure. My job is mostly to create advertisements for an Amish ad book/magazine.

I haven't been to Shipshi in a while, but I've been to the museum they have there more than once and read enough Beverly Lewis to question the validity of your claim.

I understand. When I first started working up there I was shocked at all the things that are allowed, but they are really liberal Amish.

Mennonites and Amish look a lot a like

They come from the same background, though it would only be the very conservative Mennonites that could be mistaken for an Amish person (and only if you didn't see them arrive in thier car). But the bonnet on an Amish woman looks like it was constructed out of a coffee filter where-as a Mennonite woman may wear a doily or a bonnet that looks more like a strainer. Also, the conservative Mennonite women have those dresses with the cape deal and Amish women have no cape. Mennonite men don't wear suspenders
and their beards are neater, if they have them.

I've always heard that Amish don't like getting their picture taken because it's creating a "graven image."

It's a vanity thing, from what I understand. You shouldn't care how you look, a photograph implies it matters. I don't think most Amish would do portraits - though I know of at least one studio that runs an ad with an Amish kid in it. But when I come around and take photos for human interest pieces it's for posterity so they can allow it - and they're not-so-secretly delighted. I have had one or two ask that their picture not be published.

Of course there are much more conservative Amish who live in Canton, Ohio or are scattered about PA. One Amish client told me that the Amish in Canton are backwards and smelly...if that tells you anything about how different the Amish in Shipshe are.

chris van allsburg said...

Jon wrote, "I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.' But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died." (Romans 7)

According to Paul, when Law is used to regulate the flesh it produces more desires. Tell someone not to covet something and the desire for that thing increases. We want what we cannot have; it is human."

Yes, but this is just one interpretation of Romans 7. Paul could easily be talking about his unregenerate life in trying to please God by means of the "works of the law."

In his regenerate state, of course he'd say the law is holy, spiritual and good. And it gives life: or else why Psalm 119?

chris van allsburg said...

you antinomian, you! :-)

daniel said...

Jon, I think Proverbs 13:19 can be interpreted in various ways but to me it means this: be careful of what you long for, because a longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul!

In other words we need to change what we long for to change our behaviour. Seems obvious but its quite radical really.

Fools detest turning from evil because it feels so good. But a wise person knows that the things of God feel just as good when your desire is for the Kingdom.

Jesus puts it this way: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

I do agree Proverbs 13:19 could spark an interesting conversation with the Amish. I don't think the Amish are alone in their coming-of-age traditions, maybe just the way they approach it is a little different and more formalized.

Rumspringa's not necessarily Biblical, but far better than infant baptism imo!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Rats, I've been found out!

K: Erdman, I think what you really have in mind is to become a rumspringa missionary to the Amish, a temporary source of corruption for all those cute and innocent Amish girls.

Hey, someone has to help the Amish girls realize how evil the devil's playground is! I'm only a servant of God....

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yes, Melody exaggerates, imho.

There may be some liberal Amish, but from my understanding, an Amish really needs to leave the fold if they are going to experience the world's pleasures.

Also, as I understand it, there are many many Amish leaving the fold. They seem to prefer to join/form a community that allows for more freedom, while at the same time maintaining a level of simplicity that still allows them to feel separated from the world.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Chris,

I am not an antinomian, though I sympathize with those who are. I prefer to describe myself as a metanomian. As a metanomian, I believe that Paul's theology of Law/Freedom/Flesh/Spirit was meant to suggest that a Free believer, living under the Spirit lives a life beyond Law: Law is no longer necessary; it is completely irrelevant.

I do realize that I am overturning hundreds of years of Protestant thought on this. Calvin believe the Law had three uses/functions/"ways." The third "way" was as a moral law (see absolute, unchanging). Hence, the third way of the law was something that the Spirit could use to bring holiness. This is reflected in Westminster Confession. Unfortunately, this is not a biblical position and I believe it is anti-Pauline. Paul is a Spirit-only believer. He never advocates using the Spirit via the Law, at least as far as I can see from my research.

The protestant position was a product of its time, but not a very good theological position. Quite horrible, actually! Not only is it non-Pauline, but it is also counterintuitive b/c Law (per Paul) stirs rebellion. I think that dismissing Romans 7 is premature and unthoughtful at best and extreme eisegesis at worst. But I'm guessing you sympathize with the interpretation, so if you've got a defense for it, then I would be interested in hearing it and thinking it through.

Psalm 119 was under the Covenant between God and his chosen people. This is pre-Christ.

Melody said...

Yes, Melody exaggerates, imho.

I understand that it's hard to swallow. I used to have the same ideas about the Amish that you all have. The first year here was very suprising.

There may be some liberal Amish, but from my understanding, an Amish really needs to leave the fold if they are going to experience the world's pleasures.

There are a lot of liberal Amish, but yes, they would probably have to leave. They're liberal Amish - still more conservative than the most conservative English (that's the rest of us).

I mean, there was the Amish fellow who got arrested for running a Meth lab - but you know they were only able to find him because the Amish were outraged and tipped off the police.

Ken said...

I love how people who do not live and/or work with the Amish seem to know more than the person who does work with Amish...

Jon, you wrote;

I believe that Paul's theology of Law/Freedom/Flesh/Spirit was meant to suggest that a Free believer, living under the Spirit lives a life beyond Law: Law is no longer necessary; it is completely irrelevant...
Paul is a Spirit-only believer. He never advocates using the Spirit via the Law, at least as far as I can see from my research.


The Law is not completely irrelevant, as even Paul points out that it serves as an educator, informing us of what is sin. It demonstrates God's holy standard. The point however is that we are not under the law, but under grace. Our righteousness does not come by fulfilling the law, but by faith (the point of Romans 3 and 4).

So does this free the Christian to live however he wants, giving in to temptation? Of course not. Instead we now live by the Spirit. But even in the midst of that, notice how many imperatives (commands) Paul gives all throughout his letters. He regularly goes into sections saying "do this" and "do not do that."

By your saying the Law is irrelevant is echoing of classic dispensationalism.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ken,

Good point. Of all the (wrong minded) protestants, the classic dispensationalists actually got it right: Law and Grace are at odds; this is more true to Paul than any other post-Luther/Calvin protestants.

Paul's "commands" should be read in light of his theology of Law/Spirit/Freedom/Flesh, and not the other way around. This is a good topic to follow up on, though, with more discussion, Ken.

chris van allsburg said...

Psalm 119 was under the Covenant between God and his chosen people. This is pre-Christ.

Dude, you gotta come up with a better argument than that. you're sounding like those old, dispy folks down yonder.

you dispensationalist, you. :-)

chris van allsburg said...

Jon,

If grace and law are antithetical to each other, why does the Abrahamic (Gen 17), Mosaic (Ex 20; Dt. 28-32), Davidic (Ps 89:30 ff) and New Covenants (Jn 15; Rm 11; Hebrews et al) all contain conditional clauses (demands for obedience)?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Chris,

I'm not sure what the Old Covenant has to do with Paul's theology of Law/Freedom and Flesh/Spirit.

Are you suggesting that absolutely nothing changed when Christ died and rose again? I'm not sure I follow.

Ken said...

Chris, true the new covenant contains conditional statements, but who are the conditions dependent upon for upholding them? God. This is why the New Covenant is superior to the Old Mosaic covenant, that is, if you believe God is faithful and can uphold that which he says he will do.

Ken said...

Paul's argument in Galatians and in Romans hinges on the role / function of the Mosaic covenant and Abrahamic covenant.

The Mosaic covenant was put in place because of Israel's sinfulness. It served as a controller and a picture until the time of Christ. So the Mosaic covenant is done away with in Christ.

The Abrahamic covenant however, still holds (this is where I depart from classic dispensationalism). The promised seed of the Abrahamic covenant is Christ as Paul points out in Galatians (cf Gal 3:15-18). We as believers are living as benefactors of that promise, and thus are children of the promised seed (cf. Gal 4:21-5:1) through Christ. So to place ourselves under regulations, saying that we must follow these to be in Christ is a serious problem, which is what Paul is dealing with in Galatians.

However, this does not give us license to experience some form of a "rumspringa." Paul makes this balancing point in Gal. 5:13ff. Notice in particular verse 25. Having just mentioned the "fruit of the Spirit", he says "If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit." It seems living in and by the Spirit requires that we actually work ourselves to live accordingly. It is something we do, not just hope will happen.

So do we allow ourselves to give in to temptation hoping that we will one day loose the desire for that temptation? To quote Paul again; "Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up" (Gal. 6:7-9).

chris van allsburg said...

Ken said...

"Chris, true the new covenant contains conditional statements, but who are the conditions dependent upon for upholding them? God. This is why the New Covenant is superior to the Old Mosaic covenant, that is, if you believe God is faithful and can uphold that which he says he will do."

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments," (John 14:15).

That sounds neat and tidy, Ken that the conditions are kept by God, but then you leave the command for people to repent of their sins hanging in the air. Someone might as say they should sin so that grace might abound.

Also, the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant because, "if you believe God is faithful and can uphold that which he says he will do,"? What about Abraham? Romans 4:20

"Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised."?

People under the Old Covenant had access to God's grace just as we do today. Abraham believed God and obeyed him, and God also supplied Abraham with what he needed. God speaks to us in the Bible in terms of conditions and commands because we are creatures and must respond by means of our will, intellect and bodies. Otherwise, we may as well be Gnostics.

The reason the New Covenant is superior to the Old (among many many other reasons) is that the Mosaic code has been fulfilled by Jesus and now the gospel is for Jews as well as Gentiles. A quick read of Acts, Galatians, and Hebrews makes this point clear. Jesus is not just for Jews, but Gentiles. And Gentiles do not need to be circumcised in order to please God. The Mosaic way of life is done away--the system that is.

We are not under law in the sense of not using it as a system of salvation. Even Jesus taught Nicodemus that he needed to be born again--and this before Pentecost!

chris van allsburg said...

Jon,

My understanding of of the Old Covenant, I just wrote. But I will say that Paul most certainly does intend for us to not "live under" the Decalogue, but rather to abide by its principles.

Romans 13 is case in point:
"8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

Christians don't obey the 4th Commandment in order to provide a fine retirement for their parents on the east end of the Mediterranean Sea. And Christians don't obey the 4th Commandment on the 7th day of the week, either.

But the principle of using the
Decalogue as a guide for life is clearly taught in this passage. It is obvious from the context that Paul is talking about the Decalogue when he says, "whatever other law there may be."

John Murray wrote that Christians are not saved FROM the law, but UNTO the law. Romans 13, among other passages (Sermon on the Mount, 1 Tim 1) supports this view.

I see Romans 7 as Paul discoursing (historic present) on his unregenerate state, trying to please God by means of the flesh, which is to say by means of obeying the law without the Spirit.

But now, in his regenerate state, he is set free from the condemnation of the law in order to serve God by means of righteous obedience, instead of unrighteous obedience (unregenerate, fleshly obedience). The progressive sanctification of Paul's theology is one of obedience in righteousness to the law of God as witnessed in Romans 13.

If love fulfills the law, then love is not an abstraction, but has a concrete reference in the law and character of God.

Not Pauline necessarily, but isn't the promise of the New Covenant the God would write his law on our hearts? This promise was given first to the Jew; but in it's wider fulfillment to the covenant with Abraham, it is also promised to the Gentile as well.

Even James exhorts us to obey the ten commandments in chapter 2:

If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons. ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall do the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill,thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.


Yours,
Chris

Jonathan Erdman said...

Excellent thoughts, Chris! It's great to get a lengthy perspective from you, especially in light of how much you are studied in the relation between OT and NT.

You said: If love fulfills the law, then love is not an abstraction, but has a concrete reference in the law and character of God.

What if the opposite is true? What if love does not fulfill the law, but what if law was meant to fulfill law? In this sense, then, law is always synthetic: it is always a law made by someone. It is not an abstract entity that exists on its own like a Platonic Form. Nor is it absolute and unchanging (again, a Greek philosophical notion). The laws of men are just that: the laws of men. The laws of God are made by God for human beings at specific junctions in time: the Old Covenant says things like don't let your house get moldy and if you do tear it down, or if a girl gets raped the guy pays the bride price and the rape victim has to marry the rapist, etc.

In this sense, then, law serves love, but love does not serve law.

Romans 13 is a great passage, but I think you are streching the implications beyond the text in a sense that I'm not comfortable with. For example, you say, "John Murray wrote that Christians are not saved FROM the law, but UNTO the law. Romans 13, among other passages (Sermon on the Mount, 1 Tim 1) supports this view." How, exactly, does R 13 support this view. I think it is quite the opposite. It is the thinking of protestants like Murray that Paul is combating in Galatians 5:
1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? 5Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
and
19What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.
23Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ[h] that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. (chap 3)

Why have protestants been obsessed with going back to law??? I don't know. To me, Paul is pretty clear in Galatians. In chapter 5, then, he goes on to describe how the life of the Spirit goes beyond law (hence my metanomianism) and overcomes the desires of the flesh.

I'm not a dispensationalist, but Scofield and Chafer got it right while everyone else from Calvin onward missed the bus.

Chris, simple question: If we still need law, then where is the Spirit-filled coming up short? I.e., why is the Spirit not good enough? Why does everyone in the protestant tradition feel so compeled to add Law to Spirit when Paul is so clear in his letter to the Galatians?

I think when James speaks of the law of liberty, he seems to be going for something that is beyond law, a new law. There was the law that condemned us as lawbreakers--break one law and you break them all--but there is the law of liberty that takes us into freedom. I'm guessing James' idea is similar to Paul's.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Oooops.....All of the above Galatians passages are from chap 3, not chap 5.

Anonymous said...

Is Rumspringa what neo-evangelicals do on a church fast?

Jonathan Erdman said...

The parallel is certainly there, is it not? Evangelical kids who are sheltered all their lives and decide to explore the desires of the flesh; not all that different from the Amish way of life, eh?

Also if interest is the huge market in the Evangelical world for Amish fiction writing. In many ways, I can't help but think that Evangelical fascination with the Amish is a way to transplant some of the similar struggles with legalism into another reality. Perhaps it helps some Evangelicals deal with the suppression of desires/flesh and sort through what legalism is, its various ramifications, and whether or not Evangelicalism is or is not a form or legalism.

Basically, everyone deals with issues of Law and Flesh; it just depends on what context you are in.

Melody said...

The Amish and the Evangelical communities are similar in their seperatism (especially the more conservative Amish who mostly only buy from other Amish and have their own schools etc.) So why do you like the Amish community but not the Evangelical community?

Jonathan Erdman said...

I like the idealist, old school Amish because they take the separation thing to the extreme. At this point in my life, I think that most Evangelicals get caught somewhere in the middle. They want to live separate from the world but still have all the conveniences of the world and still make a bunch of money by working in the world's system. This is why there is a real spiritual crisis amongst many Evangelicals; they may isolate themselves from the boobies on tv but they face a much more formidable opponent, namely, complacency. I think a lot of Evangelical parents are scratching their heads and wondering why their kids just don't seem to care about anything meaningful.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I say, go all or nothing.

Either be a part of the world or be an Amish and/or join a monastery.

The middle ground is the worst place to be, imo. It basically results in picking the fruits from the world that you find most appealing and shunning those that aren't so nice. This approach gives one little credibility with non-Christians.

ktismatics said...

Here's another excerpt from Frank Schaeffer's book Crazy for God:

The idea of public space, the ideas that led to the building of my father's and my favorite places, for instance all those civic works in Florence and the pizzas we so happily strolled, wss the very idea that the evangelical homeschool movement unwittingly wanted to destroy. The wanted no public spaces (physical or intellectual) to be shared by people of all beliefs. They wanted only private spaces, where they could indoctrinate their children free from "interference."

...The problem with the evangelical homeschool movement was not their desire to educate their children at home, or in private religious schools, but the evangelical impulse to "protect" children from ideas that might lead them to "question" and to keep them cloistered in what amounted to a series of one-family gated communities.

...by the 1970s the evangelicals as a whole had come up with an alternate "gated" America: "Christian" education, radio, rock, makeup, publishing, schools, homeschools, weight loss, sex manuals, and politics. It wasn't about being something but about
not being secular, about not having nudity, sex, or four-letter words. What it was for, no one knew.

What was so strange was how evangelicals learned to use all those worldly tools that their fundamentalist grandparents stood against and that, as a child, I was forbidden from even knowing about. They were using rock, TV, and movies to construct an alternate reality. But they were using these "worldly tools" in a way that was odd: it was not to involve themselves in their culture and learn from it, but to hide from other Americans and create private space.

daniel said...

Good quote kt. Very tgought provoking. Think I should get the book. This is the kind of thinking that impressed me in Frank Schaeffer's Sham Pearls for Real Swine.

Tuishimi said...

I enjoyed this post. Thank you.