Flexibility and Our Hebraic Heritage
by John D. Garr, Ph.D.
The following article is from Restore! Magazine Volume 6 Issue 3. It is the nature of men to settle into their traditional patterns of conduct, particularly so in religious matters. At the same time, it is the nature of God to be progressive, to develop the revelation of his will and work among men through succeeding generations. The conflict between a progressive God and traditional man is inevitable; therefore, as time has come for greater truth to be revealed or restored in the continuing reformation of restoration, progressive reformers have been met headlong by confirmed traditionalists, and the battle has raged.
In the nascent years of any reform movement, persecution from traditionalists is inevitable. Men tend to fear what they do not understand, and they tend to attack what they fear. Reformers have always threatened the comfort of the status quo, and everyone has not shared their innovative thought; therefore, they have been objects of attacks upon their ideas and upon their persons.
The persecuted often receive reinforcement to strengthen and expand their ideas and personal evaluations from the very persecution which they receive. If they are unstable in their visualization of their new concept, it is likely that they will go beyond their original progressive idea and adopt egotism, egocentricity, or even megalomania. These personality traits of leadership are translated into a mass of people as exclusivity and even a kind of xenophobia.
Reformed Christianity began as a challenge to church tradition in an effort to recover the Hebraic foundations of Christian faith. The sixteenth century reformers styled themselves "Christian Hebraists," and they insisted on the reformation hermeneuticthe grammatico-historical method which insists on scriptural interpretation in the light of the grammar of the text (Hebrew) and the culture and history of the people to whom it was written.
This radical reformation was soon displaced by nationalist agendas and the building of individual kingdoms. Often as movements crystallized in their exclusive thinking, they began to elevate various secondary ideas to the level of primary truths, to try to bring the periphery into focus with the central. Sects or cults developed, with some minor scriptural truth or option becoming central theology for the group. In such a way attention was drawn from essential restoration truth to superfluous human ideas or fanciful scriptural interpretations.
The result is that for over four centuries reformed Christianity has been characterized by unchristlike attitudes such as suspicion, hate, schism, strife, jealousy, dissension, faction, envying, and the like. Intolerant men have made the mistake of thinking that they, like Paul, were set for a defense of the gospel and that defense meant taking the offensive to attack through polemic and personal invective the work that others were doing in the name of God.
In recent times, however, the wheels of restoration have begun to turn more rapidly. Seemingly insignificant efforts have begun to develop among people of nearly every denominational background to open lines of communication. Many of the polemicists of the past have been replaced by diplomats. Some of the smoking proof texts of previous generations have been holstered in favor of the weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faith. Many have come to recognize the difference between a gnat and a camel and which is easier to swallow. Some are gaining the spiritual maturity to be able to discern between what is God’s responsibility and what is man’s responsibility.
Now, leaders of the restoration that is recovering the Hebrew foundations of Christian faith are coming to the understanding that flexibility and the absence of dogma are very Jewish concepts. More and more people are learning the wisdom of being conservative in their beliefs but liberal in their practice, accommodating for the understanding, vision, and tradition of others. Crystallization is being melted down by the love for God and for men into malleability. Rigidity and intransigence are giving way to flexibility and reconciliation.
We whom God is using to advance the radical restoration of taking the church back to its Jewish roots must ever remember that ours is not an elitist, exclusive, judgmental society. We must keep our eyes focused on the ever-moving Cloud of Glory; however, we must build bridges behind us while reaching out to new horizons of faith and truth. Flexibility adds to our strength. It is never a sign of weakness to reach out to someone else in love and affirmation, even if we do not understand all they believe. Let us continue to work at Hebraic restoration, but let us also mirror the spirit of Christ who came into the world not to condemn but to save.
Dr. John D. Garr, founder and president of Restoration Foundation, has pioneered research, writing, and teaching on the Hebrew foundations of Christian faith for more than thirty years. His international ministry has enlightened believers of numerous communions, teaching them the historical and theological emergence of Christianity from the matrix of biblical Judaism. John, his wife Pat, and their sons, John, Timothy, and Stephen, are working to promote Restoration Foundation. Dr. Garr's web site is: www.restorationfoundation.org.