The Jordan River upstream of GalileeIn rabbinical thought from the first century, there exist two primary modes of teaching – hagadah (knowing/devotion/meditation on scripture) and halakah (doing the Word, walking in the Way). We in the Christian tradition would probably classify hagadah as “knowing the Word” and halakah as “doing the Word”. R. Abraham Heschel, considered by many to be the most respected Jewish rabbi of the 20th century, says of these two,

Halakah without hagadah is fanatacism,
Hagadah without halakah is irrelevant*.

In other words, to do the Word without faith or proper understanding of it is to be a fanatic, and to have faith and understanding in the Word without fully living it out is irrelevant.

Additionally, halakah has subset which stands apart, called parable – a concept with which we are very familiar. It was also taught in rabbinical literature that the best teaching of disciples, talmidim, is done in equal parts of hagadah, halakah and parable. If one takes Jesus’ teachings from the gospel and divide them up, you will find that the ratio of hagadah:halakah:parable is almost exactly 1:1:1!

Heschel referred to parables as the ‘basket handles’ for hagadah and halakah, because without handles, it is very difficult to lift a basket – particularly a heavy one. This is why Jesus used parables to help the people understand his teaching so that they could make a fully informed decision whether or not to follow them. (See this post for more background on the parable method). In Jesus’ society, which was heavily agrarian living under monarchies, parables took on earthy themes, king/subject and master/servant themes – because they were in the context of peoples’ everyday lives. Using these types of stories, he was able to, dare I say, ‘contextualize’ hagadah so that people could follow it.

So What?

What does this mean for us? There has been a lot of digital ink devoted recently to the topic of ‘ contextualization‘ and what it means to be ‘missional‘ – a lot of sound and fury, still seeking resolution. Using these three aspects, might I humbly suggest a way to lead in our churches and live out their emphases:

1) Hagadah – knowing the Word, studying the Word (which includes debate and discussion), holding to the truth of the Word – this transcends the culture in which it is taught. In Mark Driscoll’s lexionary, the things in the ‘closed fist’ are all part of Hagadah – they do not need to be ‘adapted’ to the culture and they must not be forgotten or minimized or marginalized. On the flip side, though, to only focus on knowing without doing makes a church irrelevant. Like the fig tree that bore no fruit, to know the Word but not walk it is cursed and will not lead to salvation.

2) Halakah – living out the Word – this is a mixture of both trancendant and contextual, and it is the heart of being ‘missional’. The Word contains definite prohibitions (idolatry, murder, theft, sexual promiscuity (including active homosexuality), etc.) and commands (loving God, loving our neighbor, caring for the poor & the oppressed, etc.) which are transcendant of culture, but it also leaves a great deal of ‘white space’ – issues and situations – which are not directly addressed. This ‘white space’ is where Driscoll’s ‘open hand’ lies, and it requires knowing the Word ( Hagadah) to differentiate between the ‘open hand’ and the ‘closed fist’. To perform works of Halakah without Hagadah in the extreme is fanatacism (think about abortion clinic bombers, the WBC, the Crusades, Jewish zealots, etc.) and at the least is misguided and sinful, and in any matter does not lead to salvation.

3) order clomid, purchase clomid. Parable is the true ‘contextualization’ of the Word – it is teaching and demonstration which takes hagadah (knowing the Word) and translates it into hagadah (living the Word) in a way that makes it plain to the hearer how they should live. If the ‘parable’ is done properly, the hearer can make an informed decision whether or not to follow the Way. Parable is all about contextualization – because ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse’, is it not important for us to know and teach the Word in such a way as it can be properly understood and followed?

And so, in our pulpits, classrooms and small groups, I think we should strive for the same balance of hagadah:halakah: cheap clomid online, order clomid. parable that the rabbinic (”respected teacher”) system used, for the betterment of the church. Whether Reformed, Missional, Emerging/Emergent, Purpose Driven or by whatever label we choose, it is the balance that is important – the balance of theology, missionality and contextualization.

*Heschel died in 1972, long before the ‘relevant’ became a buzzword in the Christian church – so it is interesting that he chooses this word to describe a way of knowing truth without living it.


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