The name Radix Fidem is Latin for “root of faith.”
We aren’t trying to be pretentious here; this is just an effort to distinguish ourselves from other brands of Christian religion. There’s nothing wrong with using the English translation, but that’s a rather generic phrase and we aren’t trying to hijack it as somehow uniquely ours. We don’t take ourselves that seriously.
The Latin word radix is related to our English “radical” — getting back to the root of things. We aren’t quite so radical as to throw away everything from our ambient culture, but we don’t hesitate to reexamine everything. This began as my personal effort to understand better the cultural and intellectual context of the ancient Hebrew people. Anyone with just a little academic background in Old Testament history is well aware that the Hebrew people were radically different from us today.
And if you take the Bible seriously, it presents a record of God’s revelation of Himself to one nation in particular. This God claims to be the one and only true deity, the Creator of all things. The narrative indicates that what we have today is a significant departure from where we began. Somehow we chose a path the led us out of our original communion with Him, and the bulk of His revelation is aimed at revealing His terms for restoring that lost communion.
The path to restoration includes Him building and developing a language and intellectual background, a vast ancient heritage that was partly fresh and new, but also partly drawn from the likes of Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures. Thus, we can say that the Bible belongs to a much wider Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) tradition. Yet, it arose out of that to offer a unique approach to the question of peace with our Maker. In essence, ancient Hebrew traditions were made by God as the vehicle of His revelation, not simply chosen from a collection of existing traditions. The language and particular assumptions about reality were part of the package. If you don’t make some effort to grasp the huge differences between the Hebrew outlook and our latter day Western outlook, you cannot pretend to understand the Bible, nor the God of the Bible.
Jesus presented Himself as the Son of God, the final and ultimate revelation of that God. It’s not enough that a Westerner would attempt to understand His words and actions, but it requires seeing Him as the revelation itself. We note that biblical language personifies things in ways we might consider a figure of speech, yet we know from studies of ANE cultures as a whole that they would have taken that personification quite seriously. In other words, for them it was virtually literal, that you cannot abstract truth into words and ideas, but must become acquainted with ultimate truth as a living Person.
That’s just an example of how radical is the difference between today’s Western outlook and what lies behind the Scripture. Americans are highly conditioned by a general influence of folks like Plato and Aristotle, along with a hoard of Germanic myths. There is some academic evidence that the Christian gospel was highly modified and compromised to appeal to an Anglo-Saxon audience (among others) so as to bring them under a faux political “Christianity” (see my previous book, A Course in Biblical Mysticism for an in-depth examination of this shift). The problem is that the compromised version of the gospel has become the very foundation for the whole range of Anglo-American Christian religion.
American Christians tend to assume that this is what God intended. We take issue with that. Not in the sense of hostility, but we aren’t willing to continue in this tradition any longer, particularly when we cannot find peace with God there. God has awakened something in us that, when shared with American believers, provoked varying degrees of rejection. We aren’t so arrogant as to demand the world as it is should change to suit us, but we know where we aren’t welcome. The current community of faith under the name Radix Fidem consists of folks who couldn’t find a home anywhere else. Keep what you have if it works for you, but it’s not working for us.
A critical element in our different approach is embracing the notion that reality itself is formed on the character and personality of God. His revelation also reflects that same personality. He chose to depict Himself as a nomad desert sheik, an eastern potentate ruling under ANE feudal customs and traditions. We believe this was for a very good reason: Creation itself is hard-wired according to that ANE feudalism. It’s not a feudalism like Western Medieval feudalism, where the focus is on ownership of land with people attached. ANE feudalism is a familial ownership of people; a sheik’s domain and greatest treasure is His household of people.
We know for a fact the first churches in Jerusalem were also structured under this same ANE feudal model. We believe the New Testament churches scattered across the Mediterranean Basin were also organized this way originally. We believe “church” meant an extended household under a covenant of faith and guided by a shepherd elder. This elder was rather like a clan chieftain. The other primary leader was a priestly figure. Thus, we have the Two Witnesses of “priest and king” in terms of how they functioned within that extended family household. And while most early churches were, indeed, pretty much literal kinfolks, the ANE had a long tradition of adopting new family members. In the New Testament, the emphasis was on shared spiritual heritage, not DNA. This was no different from someone converting to the Covenant of Israel and becoming a very literal member of the nation. The covenant was the identity, not the bloodline.
Radix Fidem is a covenant family and is organized along ANE feudal lines. We believe in elder leadership alongside pastoral leadership. There is ample tradition and custom to make this work; it remains for us to make adjustments to understand and adhere to it as part of our covenant of faith. We know it’s a big leap for people pickled in the philosophy of democracy. We insist it shares very little with historical church organizational structures like magisterial, presbyterial or democratic and others, but our path is ANE feudal simply because we believe Creation itself operates that way.
This is just a part of our radically different approach to following Christ.