Apostle to the New Copernicans?

Michael Metzger

Two millennia ago, a highly educated Jew became the apostle to the Gentiles. Are we now seeing another Jewish leader, also well educated, sort of serving as an apostle—except this time to the New Copernicans?

Readers of the Bible are familiar with Saul, a highly educated Jew, having graduated from the most prominent rabbinical schools of that day. His teachers included Gamaliel, the most outstanding rabbi teacher of that time (Acts 22:3). Saul became Paul after he came to faith in Christ. Paul was “the apostle to the Gentiles,” seeking “full inclusion” of Jews and Gentiles in this newfangled thing called the church (Rom. 11:1-14).

That inclusion was overdue. The church was largely Jewish for its first 300 years. It was difficult for many Jews to imagine how Gentiles fit in. Paul’s writings widened the imagination of Jew and Gentile. He helped one see the other as part of the church.

Today’s church would benefit from someone like Paul. Many Christians feel like exiles, outsiders in church. They don’t feel a part of a church that often thinks in ‘either/or’ dichotomies. Exiles think in 3D, seeking a faith that appreciates complexity and paradox. They recognize that those apart from the faith often get parts of the story right.

In this sense, exiles have much in common with “religious nones.” Nones check “none of the above” when asked their religious preference. They too are tired of the ‘either/or’ dichotomies they see in organized religion. Nones aren’t stupid. They sense they get at least parts of the story right and would appreciate a little recognition for this.

A handful of us see exiles and nones as a tribe, what we call the “New Copernicans.” Like the original Copernicus, exiles and nones see life in 3D. New Copernicans appreciate those who see life in wider dimensions. One of those folks is David Brooks.

Brooks is a columnist at The New York Times. He grew up in a left-wing household in Greenwich Village in New York, went to Grace Church (Episcopal) School, and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1983 (Brooks describes Chicago as “a Baptist school where atheist professors teach Jewish students St. Thomas Aquinas”).

Brooks has a new book, The Road to Character. He wrestles with the notion of there being two sets of virtues, described in Lonely Man of Faith, a book written by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik in 1965. Soloveitchik noted that there are two accounts of creation in Genesis and argued that these represent the two opposing sides of our nature, which he called Adam I and Adam II. Brooks describes them this way:

Adam I is the career-oriented, ambitious side of our nature. Adam I is the external, résumé Adam. Adam I wants to build, create, produce, and discover things. He wants to have high status and win victories. Adam II is the internal Adam. Adam II wants to embody certain moral qualities. Adam II wants to have a serene inner character, a quiet but solid sense of right and wrong—not only to do good, but to be good. Adam II wants to love intimately, to sacrifice self in the service of others, to live in obedience to some transcendent truth, to have a cohesive inner soul that honors creation and one’s own possibilities.

Brooks believes we live in a culture that nurtures Adam I, the external Adam, and neglects Adam II. New Copernicans agree. And due to his wide-ranging background—left-wing Jewish household, Greenwich Village, Episcopal school, and the University of Chicago—Brooks has a gracious ability to widen the imagination of many. That’s why he’s sort of serving as an apostle to the New Copernicans.

This should encourage exiles, Christians who esteem scripture. In Genesis, the names of God reinforce this notion of there being an Adam I and Adam II. In chapter 1, Moses uses Elohim for God, meaning “the strong one,” stressing the omnipotence of God as Creator. Made in God’s image, this is Adam I—the career-oriented side of our nature. In Genesis 2, from verse 4 on, Moses adds the Hebrew term Yahweh, often transliterated as “Jehovah,” emphasizing the personal nature of the God. Made in God’s image, this is Adam II—the side that wants to love intimately and serve others.

Brooks’ writings present a way for exiles, Christians, to seek “full inclusion” in a tribe populated by many who don’t know Christ. If you want to learn more about his book, watch Brooks’ interview with Charlie Rose. Then you be the judge as to whether we’re seeing a new Jewish leader sort of serving as an apostle—but this time to the New Copernicans.

Follow me on Twitter: @Metzger_Mike


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