Spiritual Plagiarism

1 11 2007

I am continually impressed with Baylor’s Center for Jewish Studies and its efforts to increase interfaith dialogue. Today at a luncheon in Truett’s Great Hall Susannah Heschel (pictured above), daughter of famous 20th century Jewish Rabbi Abraham Heschel, offered this theological gem (and I paraphrase because I didn’t write it down):

We cannot merely copy the faith of our ancestors – this is spiritual plagiarism.

My regret is that I do not remember her exact words. But the effect of it, I think, remains. We cannot merely do the same things that our mothers and fathers did. We must discover what it means, what it looks like, to practice our faith in our own day and time. We have very different problems to confront, different tasks to undergo. Susannah claimed that we must ask ourselves the questions that Abraham Heschel asked years ago – What does God want me to do? And what does the world need me to do?

For Christians, I think the question becomes – How does Christ want us to follow Him in our context? For me, how do I follow Jesus in Waco, TX in the year 2007? Surely, it looks quite different from someone’s answer in 1907. It is important to learn from and be conversant with the traditions of our ancestors, of course, but this does not mean that we merely copy their actions. We learn both positively and negatively. We progress by implementing the good of the past in new, creative ways, learning from and changing the evil that has been done, and altogether creating new ways to practice our faith in the 21st century and beyond.

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One response

1 11 2007
Adam

This really resonates with me Marc. I think it is right on. This is exactly the direction I hope we go with the cohort – learning together about what it means to be followers of Jesus in the here and now.

I really like the idea in the quote – that’s good stuff.

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