Thursday, December 27, 2007
There are many leaders of the church and teachers of the Bible who like to distinguish themselves as the one to follow by some simple formula. One is that we teach the "old paths." Another is that we are interested in the "emerging church." Another says that they have "contemporary worship." Yet another way to distinguish a fellowship is to say that it is "conservative." Another says that it is "liberal" or "open-minded." Another says that it is "evangelical." With all these banners competing for attention, what is one to do? Are we to give up before a sea of competing views or is there a "biblical" way out?
I think there is a biblical way to sort out all these banners. We are told in Romans 12:1-2, along with a few other things, that transformation is "by the renewing of your mind." I want us to focus on the 3 parts of meaning in the word "re-new-ing." This is all "of your mind" that great tool for discernment. So lets use the mind for a moment to become discerning between banners.
First, the first part of renewing is that it is something that is to happen again. For something to be happening again, it has to have happened before which means it has a past and is in that sense old. There is reason to be able to discern something old in the path of a leader or teacher is taking. Yet that is not all that you should see.
Second, the second part of renewing is that it is something that is new. It is not just old. It has to have something that is happening now, it has to have a present and in that sense new. There is a reason to be able to discern something new in the path of a leader or teacher is taking. Yet that is not all that you should see, even if you add the old to it.
Third, the third part of renewing is that it is something that is approaching or coming. It is not just present. It has to have something that is not yet, it has to have a future and in that sense next. There is a reason to be able to discern something continuing in the path of a leader or teacher is taking. It is not yet finished. Yet you must not see just that alone.
Renewing requires past, present and future orientations. It does not focus on just one of these orientations. The application is simple. Steer clear of those who proclaim only "old paths." Steer clear of those who proclaim only "contemporary worship." Steer clear of those who proclaim only "emerging churches." Instead, make sure you can discern a recognition and interest in the past, present and future. They should see those who came before them, those who are with them and the joy of adding those who come after them. That is renewing.
You see this even in my view that holiness is wholeness. I am not satisfied just to prove it is part of the "old paths," though it is that. That is why I continue to dig through the writings of Bengel. Neither am I satisfied that all over the web there are "contemporaries" who agree that holiness is wholeness, though that is good. That is why I am working on present day alliances. But I add to both of these that there is a "future" and things "emerging" where the biblical text must be explored and mined like it was not in the 20th century and where the implications of holiness is wholeness must be opened up like it has not since biblical times.
I pray to God that this time comes quickly so that we see the wholeness of Jesus our King, Savior and God soon. May God bless your present and future richly. And may you see the riches He gave you in the past.
Friday, November 09, 2007
I read this recently regarding Johann Albrecht Bengel, also known as John Bengel, in a biography about him:
Of his progress in sacred learning at this period we have evidence in a Latin treatise which he composed "On the Holiness of God," (Syntagma de Sanctitate Dei); which is highly spoken of in the "Corona Tubigensis," anni 1718, but was never in its original form committed to the press. The principal substance of it was embodied in his later works, as in his Commentary on the Apocalypse, 3d edition page 310. It was a philosophical as well as theological treatise, and one of its objects was to show, from parallel passages of Scripture, that all the attributes are implied in the Hebrew expression qadosh (holy); and in hagios or hosios, by which it is rendered in the Septagint; in a word, that the Divine holiness comprehends all his supreme excellency. He alleged several reasons for it in accordance with Scripture, and adduced quotations from the eminent divines of every period, to show that it was no new opinion. But he modestly yet decidedly opposed the cabbalistic idea of Professor Neumann, of Breslaw, that every letter of the word kadosh contains some deep mystery, and he communicated the substance of his treaise to the professor himself, in a Latin letter.
This quotation comes from "A Memoir of the Life and Writings of John Albert Bengel" by John Christian Frederic Burk (translated from the German by Robert Francis Walker, M.A.). I plan to follow up on these comments and make some of what Bengel has to say available in English so that many more can enjoy his research. May God bless you richly this day.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Systematic theology may be a bad word for some, but here are the options on the moral attributes for it, based on how a person defines holy. Holy is a very important factor. So I think it is important to ponder these ways of seeing the whole and its parts systematically. It just might favor holiness is wholeness.
First choice (one or a combination of the major Protestant views):
holiness as comprehensiveness (broadly defined) and as cleanliness (narrowly defined) -Anglican
righteousness and justice with sanctification (holy defined broadly as whole work) (holy defined narrowly as set apart) - Lutheran
humility and truth with sanctification of the whole man (holy defined broadly) and as purity (holy defined narrowly) - Reformed
love and perfect love with entire sanctification (holy as synonymous with perfection) (holy connected to 2nd crisis) - Methodist
goodness and maturity with holiness is wholeness (clarifying the English language) - Baptist
Evaluation: There is much to be learned from each of these traditions. The major problems are slight contradictions and a measure of lack in clarity at some points.
Second choice (presently popular):
separate (holy) - relational
Evaluation: There is a lack of clarity on how these moral attributes fit together and whether or not some of them are synonymous with holy, especially righteous.
Third choice (an older version of the second choice):
separate (holy) - essential
Evaluation: Has fallen out of disfavor due to current philosophy and emphasis on relationships. It has the same problems as option 2.
Fourth choice (Popular in mid 1900s to today with some conservatives):
wholly other (holy) - combines relational and whole, whole modifies relational (other to versus other from also a major point, meant to mean a positive versus negative relationship)
Evaluation: Also quite popular due to its link to relationship. Also liked for its positive emphasis. Problem is that it brings back the wholeness idea as a modifier without adequate etymology to prove its point, after relying on it to prove that separation or other is the primary meaning. Otherwise it suffers from same problems as both 2 and 3.
Fifth choice (My position systematically laid out):
wholly (holy) - holiness is wholeness
righteous & just (subordinate to whole, as a part)
truthful (subordinate to whole, as a part)
come out - relational (subordinate to truth)
loving (subordinate to whole, as a part)
good (subordinate to whole, as a part)
be separate - essential (subordinate to goodness)
pure (by fire) - essential (no mixture) (subordinate to goodness)
clean (by water) - essential (nothing unclean) (subordinate to goodness)
Evaluation: Has advantages in that it uses much of the first option, but eliminates the contradictions and clarifies some points. There remains however weaknesses in that pure and clean could be seen as either part of the attribute of righteous and just, because it could deal with amounts of impurities or cleanliness, or of love, because they are processes by which pure or clean are reached.
The fifth positin has some advantages, that I like, which is why I hold this position. I have kept the evaluation sections very simple. I hope I have not seemed unfair with any one position. Some things have been left out for brevity's sake. Please let me know, if I need corrections.
May God bless you and may He make you whole.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Communication contains fundamentals, even if reading itself is not fundamental. We read in 2 Timothy 3:14-17:
14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
What is lacking in our communication teaching is the meaning of words like of, to, in, through, by, etc. We have many teachers, but not one universal meaning that connects these words as a group until very recently. The meaning of these words that is universal is that they point out parts and wholes. What is not universal is that they relate them in diverse ways that are not one or the same. This is very important for understanding the meaning of Holy Scriptures and Scripture breathed by God.
There are two sets of four in this passage. The first set is indicated by those words that I just mentioned that indicate parts and wholes. They are: 1)to make you wise, 2)for salvation, 3)through faith and 4)in Christ Jesus. These are all part of what Holy Scripture is able to do. The second set is indicated by the connecting of them together by and. They are: 1)teaching, 2)rebuking, 3)correcting and 4)training. These are all part of God breathed and useful.
What is often missing in the discussion of the meaning of holy is what we would expect in the context, if the meaning is separate or if the meaning is whole. My grandmother pointed out to me in a story how she was able to correct a meaning in another man's translation from observing the context. I want us to attempt that same thing here.
If the meaning of holy is separate then I would expect to find things that I would find in other contexts where things are separate. It would be like a text where a person is trying to separate humans from animals for examples. So I would expect to find in this context things that are contrasting or not the same. It would either be a relational contrast best shown by the word but or a contrast of things best shown by the words this or that and by the word not.
If the meaning is whole then I would expect to find things that I would find in other contexts where things are wholes and parts. It would be like a text where a person is trying to assemble a whole bike from its parts.
What I find in this context is two sets of parts of wholes. I do not find a contrast in the most immediate context. Instead, I found two sets of four parts that belong to a whole. What makes Scriptures into Holy Scripures is that it is able to do more than just make one wise, but also wise for salvation, and not just wise for salvation, but salvation through faith, and not just through faith, but through faith in Christ (Messiah) Jesus. And what makes Scripture clearly God breathed and useful is that it is not just breathed and useful for teaching, but also for rebuking and not just for rebuking, but also for correcting and not just for correcting, but also for training. So these are powerful examples of why I believe holiness is wholeness. The first set distinctly points to holy, but second set illustrates beautifully parts of a whole and this too is the nature of holy Scripture.
This ties into the major argument of Johann Bengel, likely the greatest German scholar up to the present. I am arguing from parallels in speech in general and in Scripture that holiness means wholeness. Bengel argued, unfortunately for us today in Latin, from parallel passages in Scripture that holiness is wholeness. So he and I have reached the same conclusion from very similar arguments. And I will continue to try to find a way to get hold of his writing somehow, so I might share it with readers of this writing in English so that it might be more universally available to all of us who long to understand God's Word to us. May God richly bless you.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Do we need to correct something in espousing hard work? Jesus once said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." It has become fashionable in our day to promote the virtue of "work hard" versus the "yoke is easy" philosophy. Have we lost something in promoting hard versus light? Is it desirable for the meaning of holy to be hard to determine?
There are things in life called hard or heavy. One of those things is hard problems to solve. Hard problems believe it or not have similar characteristics. They are: 1) Complexity, 2) Disconnected goals, 3) Action constraints and 4) Lack of clarity. To put it in simpler terms, they are: 1) too much in amount, 2) disconnected in relationship, 3) stillness in action, and 4) unclear on things. We call some problems difficult or heavy rather than easy or light because of the burden of responsibility we bear to solve problems. Defining holiness is one of those difficult problems in life. We know this because there are so many differing views on its meaning. It creates a complex situation. Yet we must not despair.
There are a host of problem solving techniques, but fundamentally we have to face the fact that the problem is difficult. So to remove the difficulty, we need to remove the characteristics of difficulty. This is a virtue. This is not harmful. Jesus, in saying His yoke was easy, was not a softy.
We need to make the solution light and easy over heavy and difficult. We need to bring the right amount to bear that means starting with little amounts before taking on the big amounts. We need to find a true relationship that develops ties between things and closeness between things versus disconnections and distance. We need to create loving action that is skillful and busy in action rather than unskilled and a sluggard in action. And finally, we need to produce good things like clarity versus obscurity in words and in things.
For brevity, you could say it all the following ways in terms of the process of action:
The responsible whole is start with the light to lighten the heavy.
The right amount is start with the little to make smaller the big.
The true relationship is start with the joined or connected to connect what is disjoined.
The loving action is start with the easy to make create ease for the difficult.
The good thing is start with the clear to clear up the unclear.
I think this process is important to bring out in the clear and not keep concealed. As it says in Proverbs 2, better is open hatred than concealed love. Openness is very important. I want to make it very clear what process I have used overall in approaching the heavy burden of the meaning of holy.
This process has in the end made the statement of Jesus make sense. He does in fact make the yoke easy (the work) and the burden light (the overall responsibility). I praise Him for that. I don't think the meaning is hard to derive when a person using the process above. That is overall how I arrived at holiness means wholeness. May God bless your day.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Ignatius of Antioch was once quoted as saying:
Pray Unceasingly. And pray ye without ceasing in behalf of other men. For there is in them hope of repentance that they may attain to God. See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way. Be ye meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting: to their blasphemies your prayers; in contrast to their error, be ye steadfast in the faith; and for their cruelty, manifest your gentleness. While we take care not to imitate their conduct, let us be found their brethren in all true kindness; and let us seek to be followers of the Lord (who ever more unjustly treated, more destitute, more condemned?), that so no plant of the devil may be found in you, but ye may remain in all holiness and sobriety in Jesus Christ, both with respect to the flesh and spirit. —Letter to the Ephesians, 10
What I see here are a list of things that may make up a list of what makes up holiness in its parts, and his summary of this list in the word holiness. This is a very real possibility to any careful reader. This is a quote worth re-reading and pondering as to its implications for the meaning of holy in the early church.
In the Scriptures, we read:
"Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: "`Be holy, because I am holy.'" 1 Peter 1:15-16
In the book of Common Prayer, we read:We have done the things we ought not to have done, and left undone the things we outght to have done, and there is no health in us. - Book of Common Prayer, page 63
In the 39 Articles we read:
II. Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man.The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men
XI. Of the Justification of Man.We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
XXXV. Of the Homilies.The Second Book of Homilies, the several titles whereof we have joined under this Article, doth contain a godly and wholesome Doctrine, and necessary for these times, as doth the former Book of Homilies, which were set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth; and therefore we judge them to be read in Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may he understanded of the people.
Some time ago I read that Richard's Hooker's key concept of comprehensiveness went back to the word holy. I think we can also note that in Anglicanism a note that rings out louder than that found in other Protestant denominations is the note of holiness, health and wholesome. I believe that these too are connected to that very important word holy. I don't think the Anglican forefathers like Hooker would object to me saying holiness is wholeness. In fact, I think he and I would share that saying as a double joy!
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary must be regarded as classic in defining words in English and in keeping with the use of these words in the Bible. Yet many are not aware of his first word in defining holy. The most fundamental or most proper definition he could give the word is whole.
I quote, in full, his 1828 dictionary entry for both holy and holiness:
1. Properly, whole, entire or perfect, in a moral sense. Hence, pure in heart, temper or dispositions; free from sin and sinful affections. Applied to the Supreme Being, holy signifies perfectly pure, immaculate and complete in moral character; and man is more or less holy, as his heart is more or less sanctified, or purified from evil dispositions. We call a man holy,when his heart is conformed in some degree to the image of God, and his life is regulated by the divine precepts. Hence, holy is used as nearly synonymous with good, pious, godly.
Be ye holy; for I am holy. 1 pet.1.
2. Hallowed; consecrated or set apart to a sacred use, or to the service or worship of God; a sense frequent in Scripture; as the holy sabbath; holy oil; holy vessels; a holy nation; the holy temple; a holy priesthood.
3. Proceeding from pious principles,or directed to pious purposes; as holy zeal.
4. Perfectly just and good; as the holy law of God.
5. Sacred; as a holy witness.
Holy of holies, in Scripture, the innermost apartment of the Jewish tabernacle or temple, where the ark was kept,and where no person entered, except the high priest, once a year.
Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, the Divine Spirit; the third person in the Trinity; the sanctifier of souls.
Holy war, a war undertaken to rescue the holy land, the ancient Judea, from the infidels; a crusade; an expedition carried on by christians against the Saracens in the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries; a war carried on in a most unholy manner.
HO'LINESS, n. [from holy.] The state of being holy; purity or integrity of moral character; freedom from sin; sanctity. Applied to the Supreme Being, holiness denotes perfect purity or integrity of moral character, one of his essential attributes.
Who is like thee, glorious in holiness? Ex.15.
1. Applied to human beings, holiness is purity of heart or dispositions; sanctified affections; piety; moral goodness, but not perfect.
We see piety and holiness ridiculed as morose singularities.
2. Sacredness; the state of any thing hallowed, or consecrated to God or to his worship; applied to churches or temples.
3. That which is separated to the service of God.
Israel was holiness unto the Lord. Jer.2.
4. A title of the pope, and formerly of the Greek emperors.
Now from these two entries, we see that he regarded wholeness as the core idea for holy or holiness. Yet we can also see him struggling, as he mingles in other elements to the definition like perfect or sanctified. So I do not claim unsurpassed clarity for my forebearers in defining words, but I do claim that we have drifted from their primary insight into this most beautiful word. If we return to that primary definition, we just might find the clarity that even eluded Noah Webster.
For those unfamiliar with Webster a few important facts to learn from a quick internet search. It is said that Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary contains the greatest number of Biblical definitions given in any reference volume. Webster believed "education useless without the Bible". Noah Webster was convinced that the Bible and Christianity played important roles in the lives of a free people and its government. "In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed.... No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people...."
We have been told through our education in school and church, based on some sense of historical and technological superiority, that our forebearers were sort of dumb. If that is true, then forget Webster's 1828 dictionary and read the rather poor definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, and settle for it. But instead, may God renew our minds and our dictionaries to see ourselves in continuity with our forebearers like Noah Webster and not as people with no need for them.
Pastor Jon Westlund
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
I once read the following very simple argument: "The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 is a singular noun; in other words all the following attributes are part[s] of one fruit. " This could be further evidence that holiness is wholeness since this is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. A point to ponder.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
The benefits are always the place to begin before introducing the technical features of anything, I was taught a few years ago. One of the great benefits of holiness is wholeness is its effect on our fundamental standards. One of the problems for the church has been the argument over impossible standards. I think we have to introduce possible standards, but effective ones that still maintain a standard rather than the effect of anything goes.
The driving force in the argument between different Christian groups has been to solve the dilemma of what is possible now versus the impossible later. Of course, all is impossible for us in our fallen nature so that forgiveness, as a whole, and mercy, grace, compassion and longsuffering, as parts, must be essential to any discussion. But for now, because forgiveness is assumed by me, I want to work on the standards that God originally intended, which bring us to our knees, and what standards we can live by, after we are Christians.
Going from perfection to imperfection is one example of standard change that now allows the standard to be anything goes. I think we need to change things from a willy nilly standard of imperfection to something that has backbone. Imperfection while in a sense admirable has no stopping point as far as how far that imperfection can go. We usually stop at the more recognized sins, but that is not what Scripture does.
The major standards that need correction are being holy, being full, being perfect, being complete and being entire. These standards as they currently are understood have become rocks of stumbling, rather than stepping stones for Christians.
I love John Wesley. John Wesley was a great grammarian and realized that sanctification or being holy, perfection, completion and entire were all present tense. He was so great, he even wrote a grammar at one point. So for him perfect love was a present time standard. So was entire sanctification.
I love John Wesley still. Yet John Wesley was a poor lexiographer, at least on occasion. He never wrote a dictionary and nothing he wrote on definitions, to my knowledge, reflects the skill he had at grammar. So other Christians have objected for good reason to his ideas, but they usually just changed the standard by lowering it, rather than defining the standard correctly or biblically. So many just changed his perfection standard to imperfection, which has led to a host of other problems, even while avoiding the difficulties Wesley faced.
It is time to keep standards that are present tense and possible rather than future tense and impossible, and the best way to do this is to define Biblical words accurately rather than lowering standards. It is elementary, my dear friends. We have defined fundamental and nearly fundamental standards incorrectly.
Wesley did not define holy clearly, when he used the word sanctification. This Latin term carried over into English obscures the clear meaning connected with wholeness. I believe it is God's original intention for us to be whole, and I believe it is His present tense possible standard following repentance and forgiveness, for us to be whole.
The idea otherwise expressed in sanctification of being without sin exclusively or being pure reflects more of an impossible standard. Purity is a wonderful process that is ongoing in our lives, as shown in some of the suffering we experience that purifies us. I don't see our purity as a finished process in this life.
This raises another argument that I cannot handle in this space about our flesh that still battles with our inner self that is renewed. I assume this battle is real, yet Christians can win this warring in Christ. I assume this will be the case with all the standards, so this is all I will say on this topic, only due to the fact that I want to stick to my primary topic and not get too lengthy.
Wesley did not define perfection correctly. I think this is his biggest mistake in understanding the Bible. Having said this, he corrected much of his misunderstanding with understanding. I say this because I agree so much with his grammarian rule that perfection is present tense. "Be perfect" is present tense. The question is still what perfect is.
Richard Hooker, I think correctly defined the word in terms of achieving a goal that is set. This would be perfection. It is simply reached the spot that was set for us. It is the child who reaches adulthood in Greek thought. I think this is what Wesley missed when he combined together perfection, entire sanctification and perfect love.
Biblical perfection is relational. Entirety is an amount. Sanctification is a whole. Love is an action. Wesley just needed to distinguish these meanings as well as he distinguished the time of present versus the time of future. May God make you whole this day.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
I am willing to bet that Joseph Le Conte is a not a household name in Christian circles. Yet I discovered him through a rather household name in Baptist circles, Charles H. Spurgeon. I want to quote Le Conte more extensively than Spurgeon did, partly because his material is so little known, but more importantly because he has a great way of saying things. He has this to say about holiness:
MY CHRISTIAN FRIENDS: I approach, not only with reluctance, but even with fear, the subject of my evening's lecture, the Divine Holiness. There is no attribute of the Divine nature which should so affect us with deep humility - none before which our pride and self-sufficiency should so fall prostate with face in the dust - none with which seems to show between Him and us so impassable a gulf, as this of holiness. These is none, therefore, which seems to us so awful, but which is at the same time so glorious as this. There is none which is so frequently mentioned in the Scriptures, and in such sublime and glowing language, and which is so closely connected there with the Divine glory. In the grand language of Moses: "Who is like unto thee, O Lord? glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders." Isaiah, in still more sublime and glowing language, represents the seraphim in his presence as covering their faces and crying one to another: "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory."
Shall I call this an attribute, then? Is it not rather the glorious combination of all his attributes into one perfect whole? As all his attributes proceed form the absolute, so all again converge and meet in holiness. As from the insufferable white light of the Absolute they all seem to diverge and separate into prismatic hues, so they all seem again to coverge and meet and combine into the dazzling white radiance of his holiness. This, therefore, is rather the intense whiteness, purity, clearness, the infinite lustre and splendor of his perfect nature - like a gem without flaw, without stain, and without color. All of his attributes are glorious, but in this we have a combination of all into a still more glorious whole. It is for this reason that it is so frequently in Scripture associated with the Divine beauty. The poetic nature of the Psalmist is exalted to estasy in contemplation of the "beauty of holiness," the "beauty of the Lord." Beauty is a combination of the elements according to the laws of harmony; the more beautiful the parts or elements, and the more perfect the harmonious combination, the higher the beauty. How high and glorious, therefore, must be the beauty of his attribute which is the perfect combination of all his infinite perfections!
You see, then, why this attribute is so awful to us. In the ideal man all the faculties and powers, mental, moral, and bodily, work together in perfect harmony, making sweet music - the image of God is clear and pure in the human heart. But alas! how far are we from this ideal! In the actual man the purity is stained, the beauty is defaced, the harmony is changed into jarring discord, "like sweet bells jangled out of tune." How it came so, we are not now inquiring. We all feel that it is so. Therefore is this attribute awful to us. It is the awfulness of absolute purity in the presence of impurity; it is the awfulness of perfect beauty in the presence of deformity; it is the awfulness of honor in the presence of dishonor and shame; in one word, it is the awfulness of holiness in the presence of sinfulness. How, then, shall we approach Him before whom angels bow and archangels veil their faces - Him in whose sight the white radiance of heaven itself is stained with impurity?
Is this glorious attribute also revealed in the physical, material nature? Yes, even this is revealed there; but only as such an attribute can be revealed there - viz., by physical symbols. There is a deep correspondence between things spiritual and things physical, a correspondence necessarily flowing from the fact that the physical prceeds from, and there must be a revelation of, the Divine spiritual. Now, we have already seen that holiness is the harmonious combination of all the Divine attributes into one perfect, beautiful whole. Evidently, therefore, the symbol, or correspondence, or revelation, of this must be found in the beauty and harmony of the physical universe, a beauty and a harmony determined by perfect law.
Still later Le Conte says this:
Holiness is like a forgotten strain of music, still lurking unknown and unrecognized in the memory: strike one chord, and the whole may be dimly brought back to the mind. This chord is struck by the Scriptures. The true nature of holiness, once understood by the intellect, and what a glory and a lustre it sheds upon the whole moral and physical world! what a glory is there then in the nature of Deity! what a nobleness and dignity in the true nature of man! What a splendor even in the physical universe, a the symbol and revelation of Deity! Holiness once appropriated and possessed as an attribute of our nature, and what words can adquately express the glory of the change? It is a new heart, a new life, a new spirit, a new birth.
If, then holiness is the beauty of and perfection of the Divine nature, surely it is also the beauty and perfection of the human nature. Now, we have seen that the whole work of man on this earth is to restore or perfect the Divine image in the nature of man, in the reason of man as truth, in the heart of man as love. Now, it is the harmonious combination of all these divine features that constitutes the beauty of the Divine image or holiness in man. Holiness, therefore, is the true end of human life and every other is false.
My friends, I have tried to show you the exceeding beauty of holiness. Shall I now turn [to] the other side of the picture? Shall I show you in contrast the exceeding ugliness of its opposite, sinfulness? If holiness is perfect law and order, then is sinfulness lawlessness and anarchy; if holiness is perfect harmony, then sinfulness is perfect discord; if holiness is spiritual beauty, the sinfulness is spiritual deformity; if the one is purity, and lustre and life, and health, then is the other foulness, and blackness, and spiritual death, and corruption.
Joseph Le Conte, Religion and Science (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1877), p. 158-160, 164-165.
Let me add some straightforward biography as to who this man was for those interested in understanding things more deeply. From Wikipedia, I believe, we read:
Joseph Le Conte (February 26, 1823 - July 6, 1901) was an American geologist.
Of Huguenot descent, he was born in Liberty County, Georgia to Louis Le Conte, patriarch of the noted Le Conte family. He was educated at Franklin College in Athens, Georgia (now the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia), where he graduated in 1841; he afterwards studied medicine and received his degree at the New York College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1845. After practising for three or four years at Macon, Georgia, he entered Harvard University, and studied natural history under Louis Agassiz.
An excursion made with Professors J. Hall and Agassiz to the Helderberg mountains of New York developed a keen interest in geology. After graduating at Harvard, Le Conte in 1851 accompanied Agassiz on an expedition to study the Florida reefs. On his return he became professor of natural science in Oglethorpe University which was located in Midway, Georgia at the time; and from December of 1852 until 1856 professor of natural history and geology at Franklin College. From 1857 to 1869 he was a professor of chemistry and geology at South Carolina College, which is now the University of South Carolina.
On January 14, 1846, he married Caroline Nisbet, a niece of Eugenius A. Nisbet. The LeContes had four children grow to adulthood: Emma Florence Le Conte, Sarah Elizabeth Le Conte, Caroline Eaton Le Conte, and Joseph Nisbet Le Conte.
During the Civil War Le Conte continued to teach in South Carolina. He also produced medicine and supervised the niter works (to manufacture explosives) for the Confederacy. However, after the war he continued to teach, but he claimed to find Reconstruction politics intolerable, with moves of the Reconstruction-era Legislature to deeply cut funding to South Carolina College.
In 1869, he moved to Berkeley, California to help organize the University of California, along with his brother John Le Conte. He was appointed the first professor of geology and natural history at the University, a post which he held until his death.
He published a series of papers on monocular and binocular vision, and also on psychology. His chief contributions, however, related to geology. He described the fissure-eruptions in western America, discoursed on earth-crust movements and their causes and on the great features of the earths surface. As separate works he published Elements of Geology (1878, 5th ed. 1889); Religion and Science (1874); and Evolution: its History, its Evidences, and its Relation to Religious Thought (1888). In 1874, he was nominated to the National Academy of Sciences. He was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1892, and of the Geological Society of America in 1896.
Le Conte is also noted for his exploration and preservation of the Sierra Nevada of California, USA. He first visited Yosemite Valley in 1870, where he became friends with John Muir and started exploring the Sierra. He became concerned that resource exploitation (such as sheepherding) would ruin the Sierra, so co-founded the Sierra Club with Muir and others in 1892. He was a director of the Sierra Club from 1892 through 1898. His son, Joseph N. Le Conte, was also a noted professor and Sierra Club member.
He died of a heart attack in the Yosemite Valley, California, on the July 6, 1901, right before the Sierra Club's first High Trip. The Sierra Club built the LeConte Memorial Lodge in his honor in 1904. The Le Conte Canyon, Le Conte Divide, Le Conte Falls and Mount Le Conte were named after him. He is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.
Obviously from this short biography, he was a man of some renown in his own day. We may disagree today with some of his views on science and nature. Yet I have a rich science and nature background and love his connections to the field of science and nature. What is so valuable in what he has to say is his connection of holiness to things natural in the way he expresses himself. He has a profound ability to use natural analogies as he speaks, which adds clarity to his thought for those aquainted with nature. I can relate in many ways to what he has to say about holiness. May you also be richly blessed by his writing.
This is THE verse for the idea of entire sanctification. It is also THE verse around which is much confusion in the use of words to clearly communicate. Around this verse swarms a large number of words including holy, full, perfect, complete and entire. They are all used loosely to mean largely the same thing. Because God promised that His word would not return to Him void, we must look at this verse and clearly communicate what he meant to communicate.
In this context, John Wesley, the foremost Methodist in all of history, formulated his famous combination of "entire sancification." He also added to this what he thought was a near synonym, the words, "perfect love." The core of Wesley's message is grasped in these words with a heavy emphasis on the word love.
I think it is important to clarify the use of some central words in biblical translation. I think that rather than think of holy, full, perfect, complete and entire as synonyms, we need to grasp their differences when used consistently in translation. Only then can I describe how I think we should grasp the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
Think of holy in whole, full in amount, perfect in relationship, complete in action, entire in thing. Or think of a holy whole, a full amount, a perfect relationsship, a complete action or an entire thing. Contrast this to a profane (or partial) whole, an empty amount, an imperfect relationship, an incomplete action, or the portion of a thing.
My help comes from the Lord says David. And I agree. And where I see God has helped his people is through Charles H. Spurgeon in understanding holiness as wholeness. I see the same through Luther in understanding fullness to be an amount. I see the same through Hooker in understanding perfect as a relationship. I see it again in the book of James, as a book of wisdom, in understanding complete to refer to action. And finally, I see it through Wesley who correctly recognized entire to be the best translation alongside of holiness or sanctification.
But Wesley's lack of clarity was to use perfect as nearly synonymous, when biblically it is a word about relationships and not about things like entire. These words are not synonymous because their primary meanings place the first in the context of relationships and the second in the context of things. These are separate categories.
I agree with Paul that people do not respond unless the message or sound is clear or distinct. I think the confusing of so many words in theology that are not confused in the bible has caused us to lack a clear call to transformation or change in our entire lives. We must be moved to complete action and reach to that perfect (not necessarily ultimate) goal of clarity in communication. May God bless the clarity of His word and remove our theological confusion.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
There is a wonderful quote from Thomas Carlyle on the meaning of holy. If you do not know who he is, I will give you a short description following the quote. He once said:
It is a curious thing, which I remarked long ago, and have often turned in my head, that the old word for `holy` in the Teutonic languages, heilig, also means `healthy.` Thus Heilbronn means indifferently `holy-well` or `health-well.` We have in the Scotch, too, `hale,` and its derivatives; and, I suppose, our English word `whole` (with a `w`), all of one piece, without any hole in it, is the same word. I find that you could not get any better definition of what `holy` really is than `healthy.` Completely healthy; mens sana in corpore sano [Applause]. A man all lucid, and in equilibrium. His intellect a clear mirror geometrically plane, brilliantly sensitive to all objects and impressions made on it, and imagining all things in their correct proportions; not twisted up into convex or concave, and distorting everything, so that he cannot see the truth of the matter without endless groping and manipulation: healthy, clear and free, and discerning truly all round him. We never can attain that at all. In fact, the operations we have got into are destructive of it. You cannot, if you are going to do any decisive intellectual operation that will last a long while; if, for instance, you are going to write a book, - you cannot manage it (at least, I never could) without getting decidedly made ill by it: and really one nevertheless must; if it is your business, you are obliged to follow out what you are at, and to do it, if even at the expense of health. Only remember, at all times, to get back as fast as possible out of it into health; and regard that as the real equilibrium and centre of things. You should always look at the heilig, which means `holy` as well as `healthy.`
Thomas Carlyle, Inaugural Address Edinburgh University
Here's a concise history of who Carlyle was:
Thomas Carlyle (Born Dec. 4, 1795, Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, Scot. — died Feb. 5, 1881, London, Eng.) Scottish historian and essayist. The son of a mason, Carlyle was reared in a strict Calvinist household and educated at the University of Edinburgh. He moved to London in 1834. An energetic, irritable, fiercely independent idealist, he became a leading moral force in Victorian literature. His humorous essay "Sartor Resartus" (1836) is a fantastic hodgepodge of autobiography and German philosophy. The French Revolution, 3 vol. (1837), perhaps his greatest achievement, contains outstanding set pieces and character studies. On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1841) showed his reverence for strength, particularly when combined with the conviction of a God-given mission. He later published a study of Oliver Cromwell (1845) and a huge biography of Frederick the Great, 6 vol. (1858 – 65). Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
So how does a diminishing in the effectiveness of winning souls become acceptable? I believe it is because past failure breeds two kinds of sinners. Those who accept failure and those who deny failure. Historically among Christians, the first group today are called liberals. The second group today would be called fundamentalists. I speak here only of each group. I am not speaking about any one individual that would call themselves by either name. There have been individuals that have been exceptional. But the church is declining rapidly in its impact on its world and that began, not in the 1960s's, but in the late 1800's. Success in winning souls though breeds a different kind from these two types of sinners.
Out of the late 1800's came a great struggle over the heritage of the previous generation. The previous generation was best represented by Charles H. Spurgeon in England and by Dwight L. Moody in the United States. Neither of them, though, was deceived about the decline in winning the souls around them near the end of their ministries. Neither claimed to know the answer to the new problems they were facing, but each was waiting on the Lord for a fresh renewal. As they waited and stood firm, they avoided calling their inheritance a failure or denying that their inheritance had any failures within its walls. They were humble in both their place and in their time. They both called for people to turn to the Scriptures and wait on God.
We need that same humility today. Unfortunately, despair is often humility's counterfeit substitute. This is where people are hypercritical and this is accepted. This is surrendering to liberalism and its overly strong sense that our forefathers failed us. On the flip side is the danger of pride once despair is rejected. This is where people are not willing to be critical of their forefathers when criticism is due. This is surrendering to fundamentalism and its overly strong sense that our forefathers were very near infallible. That is why Martin Luther once said, "Pride and despair are close cousins." It is human nature, not the divine Spirit, who causes us to go to extremes and miss humility.
Holiness is wholeness is an example of humility. It avoids the despair of saying our forefathers knew nothing and that only contemporary scholarship can point the way to the meaning of holiness. Contemporary scholarship and liberalism often hit on the idea of holiness meaning "set apart" as derived from the Arabic language. On the flip side it avoids the fundamentalist pride of saying our forefathers were infallible and ignoring that there was more than one opinion or definition for holiness in the past. Fundamentalism often falls back on the meaning of "separate" as derived from the Roman Catholic and Latin concept of sanctification and struggles with admitting any other opinion existed. Humility recognizes that not all members of our Protestant inheritance saw holiness as meaning the exact same thing. Its meaning was somewhat unclear, yet not entirely unclear, if we are honest. Usually our forefathers joined together both the meaning of wholeness and the meaning of separate. I believe we must take this one more step and add the clarity of it meaning only wholeness at its core. That improvement requires humility.
So back to why a diminished return on winning souls is now acceptable. It is because losing a battle over time becomes chronic. One generation sins by losing humility and falling into pride or despair, because it can see winning people to Christ slipping away. Sin must blame someone and it must justify its sinning. The next generation does the same and the next after it. It takes a mighty God to stem this tide and change it after three to four generations of failure (see Exodus 34).
Holiness is wholeness is the answer to Spurgeon's and Moody's waiting. Spurgeon even defined holiness as wholeness. But it was not yet clear to him what this all meant in terms of both reading the Scripture and its implications for our lives and for theology. This is why he was still waiting.
I believe that God truthfully and graciously wanted to humble the following generation with this correction and renewal of the mind, but the mighty majority refused (see Romans 12:1-2). The problem is that like in the days of Moses, ten to two came back with a bad report on winning souls. That would mean five proud and five despairing to every 2 humble. Holiness is wholeness would breed new success in winning souls. Its implications are enormous for this age. Look at the need for wholeness in our world and the broader recognition of this need.
It seems too good to either side that has either accepted failure like today's liberals or denied failure like today's fundamentalists. We now have a third alternative. The only question is when the majority will pursue humility again rather than either despair or pride. Will there be renewal of our minds now like at the time of Luther? Or like at the time of Calvin? Or like at the time of Hooker? Or like at the time of Wesley? Or like at the time of Spurgeon? I guess I too must wait on the Lord who will renew my strength. I am waiting for the day.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Jonathan Edwards once said in A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, Part III, Section III: "So divines make a distinction between the natural and moral perfections of God: by the moral perfections of God, they mean those attributes which God exercises as a moral agent, or whereby the heart and will of God, are good, right, infinitely becoming, and lovely; such as his righteousness, truth, faithfulness, and goodness; or, in one word, his holiness."
Notice Edwards' last word on all these things is to say all of them in "one word." All these parts can be summarized in one whole, "holiness." This would then be the whole. Also notice his four major parts that make up God's holiness. They are righteousness which has to do with amounts, truth which has to do with relationships, faithfulness which has to do with actions and goodness which has to do with things. He has also touched on the major parts in Scripture as well as the major whole in Scripture from the moral standpoint of what is our obligation to one another. The only change I would make to his list of moral things is to put love ahead of faithfulness or faith as found in 1 Corinthians 13. Otherwise, I agree with him fully in his fundamentals.
This moral standpoint is fundamental to Edwards. He places the moral ahead of the natural in his heading for this section which reads: "Those affections which are truly holy, are primarily founded on the moral excellency of divine things. Or, a love to divine things for the beauty and sweetness of their moral excellency, is the spring of all holy affections." This is something to meditate upon as I would have been encouraged to do by my professors in college and in 2 seminaries.
I thank God richly for having introduced Edwards to me in my college years through my professor, Dr. John Piper and through another professor, Tom Stellar. They know him much better than I, as did one of my professors in seminary, Dr. Daniel Fuller, and I know from them that Edwards' writing on religious affections is supposedly his best. May God richly bless you from it.
Rev. John Howe gives a good summary phrase for holiness. He calls it the "attribute of attributes." A quick translation of his understanding of holiness is that it includes all the other attributes. In other words, holiness expresses wholeness. Attributes like truth and love would be parts of holiness for Howe. May God richly bless your life through His wholeness.
Friday, September 07, 2007
In the case of this Psalm, I will argue for wholeness not so much from holiness as from an example where wholeness is inherent in a passage, showing its significance in the Bible in general. So again, I want to be clear, this will not be a clear exposition of holiness so much as an example of wholeness as a principle within Scripture.
In Psalm 145:8-9, in the NKJV, we read:
"The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works."
I see here first a set of four elements or parts together in verse 8: gracious or grace, compassion, slow to anger or longsuffering and mercy. These are all in verse 8, but in verse 9, I think we see a summary of all of them as described in the words: "are over all His works." The word that summaries these four parts is translated "tender mercies," but also could be translated as tenderness or even softness. The word "mercies" is actually misleading since it has no direct connection with "mercy" in verse 8. If there is any possible connection it is more likely with compassion, though I do not regard them as necessarily connected, as some do.
So to summarize, I see four parts in: grace, compassion, longsuffering and mercy. And these all fit under what summarized as all His works in this context: tenderness. I am convinced it must be specific to this context since righteousness and truth are His works too and would not necessarily be tender in all cases like mercy, etc. clearly are when they are applied. So I do see this context as an example of a parts and whole relationships being significant in Scripture. This is an example of how important wholeness can be in principle.
In Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament, there is now included a section titled "Life and Writings of J.A. Bengel" apparently written by Charlton T. Lewis. There we read:
"From 1711 to 1713 he (J.A. Bengel) served a curacy at Stuttgart. It was about this period he composed a Latin treatise, On the Holiness of God, in which he shows, by parallel passages of Scripture, that all the attributes of God are implied in the Hebrew qodesh holy: in fact, that the divine holiness comprehends all his supreme excellence."
There is more than this to this story, however. It has also come to my knowledge that Bengel would introduce this teaching on the character of God before he would take his students through the process of studying the Scripture itself. I have even written to the scholarly source of this information and hope to learn more later. Bengel clearly understood character's importance and priority.
What is incredible to me is that there seems to be no way to acquire this treatise in either Latin or English to examine his proof from "parallel passages in Scripture." It would be a great find to see this proof!
Thomas Boston has this to say about holiness (in Gathered Gold by John Blanchard):
"Holiness is a constellation of graces." So he too recognized the summary idea or the wholeness idea of holiness.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Who preceded the great Baptist preacher of the late 1800s, Charles Haddon Spurgeon? It was Pastor John Gill. Spurgeon may have gotten his first hints that holiness is wholeness from his predecessor.
John Gill writes in his A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, Book 1 Chapter 20, Of the Holiness of God:
Holiness is an essential attribute of God; it is his nature and essence; it is himself, he is holiness itself; "he swears by himself, because he can swear by no greater"; and he will not swear by any less, and yet he swears by his holiness, (Heb. 6:13; Ps. 89:35; Amos 4:2, 6:8) which places put [together] and compared together show that the holiness of God is himself; and it has been thought to be not so much a particular and distinct attribute of itself, as the lustre, glory, and harmony of all the rest; and [it] is what is called "the beauty of the Lord", (Ps. 27:4) as it is the beauty of the good angels, and of regenerate men; and, indeed, what is wisdom or knoweldge, without holinesss, but craft and cunning? or what is power, without it, but tyranny, oppression and cruetly? but God is "glorious in holiness", (Ex. 15:11) this gives a lustre to all his perfections , and is the glory of them ; and therefore none of them are or can be exercised in a wrong manner, or to any bad purpose.
So again we have an example of another giant of the faith, in the Protestant tradition, who recognizes that holiness is not a particular attribute, but the harmony of all the rest. In clear words for today, we would say that it is the whole. And who cannot rejoice in Gill's point that holiness prevents any particular attribute from being misused. A wonderful insight by him and something to consider before we accuse a whole God of any wrongdoing.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
I like how one great pastor put it: "Luther needs no trumpteter." He meant that everyone has heard of Martin Luther. Yet not everyone has heard his views on holiness or sanctification. Here is one popular expression of his view from Edward W. A. Koehler in A Summary of Christian Doctrine. He says on page 155:
XXVI. SANCTIFICATION THROUGH FAITH. (STEP V)
The word "sanctication" is sometimes used in a wider sense, as in 2 Thessalonians 2:13: "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." The term here comprehends the entire work of the Holy Ghost, by which He leads the sinner unto eternal life. However, it is also used in a narrower sense, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:3: "This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication" etc. Here the term evidently refers only to that part or phase of the Spirit's work, by which He incites and directs believers to live a godly life.
A couple of notes on Koehler's quote. First, note the "wider sense" of holiness as being a word that "comprehends the entire." Stopping right there you see the concept of wholeness in other English words. Then in the "narrower sense" you see that it "refers only to that part or phase." Stopping right there you see the concept of part.
So we can at least see some notion of wholeness in Luther and in the tradition that follows him. It now is our job to clear up this notion of holiness even more. We have to continue reforming in this tradition.
Pastor Jon Westlund
Friday, July 20, 2007
In place of the words, universally understood virtues, you could place the words, world-wide understood virtues. At one time in history a philosopher proposed the following as a list for the world-wide recognized virtues: beauty, goodness, justice and truth. I would like to propose a new list. It is new only in the sense that it needed to be dusted off so it can be clearly seen. They have been there all along for us to discover. It would be wholeness, justice, truth, love and goodness. Wholeness would be what holds the four together and keeps them in perfect harmony with each other.
I have yet to find a sound theologian, anywhere in the world, who did not or does not recognize and understand all of these virtues. What is also wonderful about this set of virtues is that they are easily understood by adults, even if not ideally so. Most adults could define any one of these fairly well. For justice they might decribe fairness, for truth they might describe reality, for love they might describe service, for goodness they might describe concrete goods versus the evil choices of this life. For wholeness they might describe the necessity of all these together. Again, not ideal, yet still very real.
I am convinced that ultimate reality is made up of these ideal virtues or values. What is comforting is knowing that these virtues are universally known by the people who live by the virtues of the Bible. The words of the Bible include these virtues, but they also penetrate each of us and point to things that are realities in our lives, however clouded our understanding might be. We may know only in portion, yet we universally know, these are virtues.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
C. S. Lewis had this to say about holiness: "How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing (and perhaps, like you, I have met it only once) it is irresistible. If even 10% of the world's population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year's end?" I want to meet the real thing every day. The first time in 2004 was great. Let's make it happen every single day that the Lord has made!
Recently, an author has put together a book that argues that even more key to understanding C. S. Lewis than joy is holiness. The author says that Lewis had a view of holiness that fits with wholeness. I am not sure he adequately proves it. But what Lewis says about what happens to words is very applicable to holiness.
What I really enjoy in the book about Lewis' view of holiness is the explanation for what happens to great words like that of holiness, that make it rather dull instead of exciting. Good words, in Lewis' words, suffer "verbicide." Oliver Wendell Holmes said: "Life and language are alike sacred. Homicide and verbicide - that is violent treatment of a word with fatal results to its legitimate meaning, which is its life - are alike forbidden." Lewis further says: "We cannot stop the verbicides. The most we can do is not imitate them."
I am afraid that it is obvious that holiness has suffered verbicide in the past. I am now trying to not imitate it and to avoid what is forbidden, not just by law but also by Scripture. May we all want to know what this word meant before verbicide. God bless your day!
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
I ran across this quote that really struck my heart as I was working on something other than my chief passion of holiness.
"Keep about your work. Do not flinch because the lion roars; do not stop to stone the devil’s dogs; do not fool away your time chasing the devil’s rabbits. Do your work. Let liars lie, let sectarians quarrel, let critics malign, let enemies accuse, let the devil do his worst; but see to it nothing hinders you from fulfilling with joy the work God has given you. He has not commanded you to be admired or esteemed. He has not commanded you to get rich. He has never bidden you defend your character. He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood (about yourself) which Satan’s or God’s servants may start to peddle, or to track down every rumor that threatens your reputation. If you do these things, you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourself and not for the Lord. Keep at your work. Let your aim be as steady as a star. You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered, wounded and rejected, misunderstood, or assigned impure motives; you may be abused by foes, forsaken by friends, and despised and rejected of men. But see to it with steadfast determination, with unfaltering zeal, that you pursue the great purpose of your life and object of your being until at last you can say, ‘I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do’." AUTHOR UNKNOWN
Add to this:
He [Thomas Cranmer, major contributor to Anglican and Episcopal churches] continually had to meet and overthrow error and he did not always have enough time or energy to adequately state and discuss the truth. If that is an exaggeration, perhaps we can put it this way. He could not state and discuss the truth in such a way that it is seen in its right perspective, as a positive thing and not merely in the defence against something else. And it cuts deeper than that. For even when he does state and discuss the truth, he is inhibited to some extent by the fear of misinterpretation and misunderstanding. The fear was not illusory, .... But it is not always a help to the free and positive expression of truth to have to keep a continual watch over the shoulder at possible misinterpreters. .... For after all, the best answer to error which is a perversion of the truth, is not a negative of the error, but a bold affirmation of the truth." G. W. Bromiley, Thomas Cranmer Theologian
And finally add to that:
"... means that we have to give it careful consideration, but it is no guarantee of validity." G. W. Bromiley, Thomas Cranmer Theologian.
I see three key purposes for people to understand in reading this blog about holiness is wholeness. They relate to each of the quotes above.
The first purpose of this blog is to publicly make available my work on holiness is wholeness. It is written to allow people to have access to that view. If I am to work on that subject, it is paramount that I not get sidetracked by being a storehouse for all the views out there. I am willing to guess with my education that you can find all of them on the internet!
The second purpose of this blog is to biblically support the view that holiness is wholeness. It is not to criticize the view that holiness is separation alone, or the view that holiness is separation with a secondary idea of wholeness or the view that holiness is wholeness with a secondary idea of separation. If the view that holiness is wholeness is good, then it will have plenty of positive examples from the Bible to support it.
The third purpose of this blog is to show that holiness is wholeness deserves careful consideration as a biblical stance before moving on to guarantee its validity as a biblical stance. My point is that holiness is wholeness is not a strange novelty bursting on the scene and made popular only because the lessons of the past are unknown. Instead it is itself a past lesson that has been that has been unknown only because it was forgotten. I want to bring holiness is wholeness back to memory for careful consideration and then I want people to look to the Scriptures as marching orders for whether it is a biblical stance. I am only asking for serious consideration of holiness is wholeness when I compile the quotes or create links to quotes from Christian leaders. Then I am asking for people to follow up this careful consideration with biblical examination.
Biblical examination is now my work that I must not be distracted from, it is my task to support it with postive evidence without trying to answer all negative criticisms and it is my focus to look at holiness is wholeness through biblical examination.
Please pray for me and help me stay accountable to this effort.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
"Substitute wholeness every time you see holiness." That's Ray Stedman's rule for reading with the understanding that holiness is wholeness. I love that rule. The only difficulty is that sometimes it doesn't seem initially to make sense. So I want to prove that it can make sense even when at first glance it may not seem possible.
Let's look at the text of Exodus 20:8, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."
The key here is whether it can make sense in the context to say: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping the Sabbath Day wholly." And whether it can make sense to say: "Therefore the Lord blessed [keeping] the Sabbath day and made the Sabbath day [keeping] whole." On the surface it may not look like this is possible, because we are so accustomed to a particular way of interpreting the passage. So let's look more in depth at a way of understanding holy as whole.
Let's begin from the most obvious or most certain, and then end at the least certain. By this process, I think we will be able to clear up whether holiness is wholeness in the case of this important Sabbath text. First, we are looking at one day that is distinct from the other six days. We know that "the" indicates one and that "six" is explicitly mentioned regarding the other days. The idea of a week is implied, but not explicit which would make up a unit of seven. We also see that holy is an amout according to the translators in the context as shown by its ending. I would understand this to mean to keep it wholly versus partially. Others would understand it to mean to count it separately versus together with based on the idea of separation.
Second, we are looking at the fact that no work or not any work is supposed to happen on the Sabbath day. Not any implies that every type of work is forbidden. What is important here is that the idea of all usually includes all that is within a group like in "ya' all." Every or any tends to be even more inclusive in that it may reach beyond the members of a group and include even those outside a group. But we know from any translation that no amount of work is supposed to be allowed into this day of rest. This part of the translation needs work since this allows a fair amount of discussion on the strictness of keeping the Sabbath free from work. This part of the discussion is not as certain as the first part. So much for amounts or numbers.
Let's move on to the next most obvious. The seventh day is in contrast to the other six as shown by "but." It also follows the other six since it is called the "seventh" day. We also see relationships between various groups of people as alternative groups as shown by "nor." We see again a contrast as shown by "but" in the contrast between "made" in six days and "rested" on the seventh day. Finally we see what results from God resting on the seventh day. "Therefore" He blesses it and makes that day wholly. So much for relationships.
Let's now deal with some things not as obvious. There is a lot happening. We are to "remember," then be "keeping," then "shall labor" and "do," then understand what it "is," then "do" again, then God "made," then "rested," then "blessed" and finally "made holy."
Let's discuss the action of "remember." Remember could be said because it refers to something already known before. But I think it is meant to do more than just say I have told you this before. Is it not also possible that we would forget this day in the sense that it is not the usual routine? Why would we forget it? Because it is an exception to the rule of the other six days which are more the norm for each week. Simply put, it would be exceptional. Like birthdays, which occur only once per year, they occur only once per week, and so are harder to remember than the six that are the same.
Let's discuss too the action of "keep." It means first or fundamentally to watch like a person watching for a full moon to occur. The idea of keep is a secondary meaning from the context where it means to keep a watchful eye on something that may otherwise be lost. This is where the idea of guarding sometimes comes in. Overall, it is a call to due diligence when it is combined in the context with remember. We have to remember and watch which is a great definition for diligence.
Another action to discuss is the most basic action of all, "do." Next to it is "made." My sense from the use of these words is that the key point is do not undo what the Lord has made.
Another action to discuss is that of "blessed." God did not originally curse this day making it subject to vanity any more than any other day He made, but he blessed it making it subject to fruitfulness. The reason for this action of "blessed" lies in His action of resting which supports why the action of blessing is needed. It was not that this day itself was cursed and needed His blessing. It was because people sometimes assume resting is unfruitful and so cursed unless God gives His direct blessing on the action of rest as not unfruitful action. Sloth and laziness are under a curse, but resting is fruitful. You can be sure, if some had their way, they would get rid of any rest along with sloth and laziness.
Finally, there is the action of "made holy." There are two traditional understandings of this word. The context determined which one the older commentators saw in a context. In this context it usually was seen as having to do with separation or with consecration. The other option was a meaning of wholeness. I think wholly or wholeness can make sense in the context.
God did not make this day originally profane any more than any other day God made. The reason for this action of "made holy" lies in His action of resting. He made it whole, not in the sense that the day itself was not whole and needed Him to make it whole. It was because people might think that keeping the Sabbath day was only required for part of the day and not the whole day without His direct word on the whole day. The point was to stress the whole day! Some have already gotten their way and have turned holidays, not into something they keep for a whole day, but at best a part of a day.
We see this action problem, don't we, in most holiday observances in the United States? Take the 4th of July. Is it not true that people think they are observant Americans when all they do on that day in observance is watch fireworks for only one part of the day? They give up their evening for the real theme and forget it the other three parts! Maybe I am too kind and some don't even give up their evening to think about independence. To counter this tendency in me, I have actually tried in the past to watch parades and do other things to keep that whole day a Day of Independence. I try to keep the whole day.
In all of this, it is important to note that the blessing and the direction to keep holy are given for the seventh day in this context because of God's change in action from making to resting. The blessing is because the danger is always lurking that someone will turn resting into a curse through calling it laziness. Making it whole is because someone will turn a whole day into a part day through calling keeping the whole day utterly ridiculous, or calling it trying to get the whole shooting match, or calling it the whole shebang, etc. From this they try to get you to back off from the whole day. You get the idea. So much for the action.
Now let's deal with some things that are a little less clear, plain or certain. I would never argue that because holiness is wholeness that there is no sense of separation in Scripture. Rather there is a very clear sense sometimes that we must "come out and be separate." When it comes to things, some very clear separations are happening between things in this context. So in terms of being, some things are separate or distinct from others. In terms of relationships, sometimes we have to come out from others.
Some of the things in this context are: work, rest, Sabbath, day, it, you, etc. , Lord, heavens and earth What Sabbath is literally is to cease from work. So it is separate from work. It does not say that it is or is not separate from play necessarily, but it is distinct from work. Also this day is distinct from other days. We normally separate one thing from many things. In addition, a day, to be a day includes parts: evening, night, morning and afternoon. Each are distinct parts of the day just as days are distinct parts of a week, weeks distinct parts of months, months distinct parts of years, etc. We also told about you, etc., which is distinct from everyone or just oneself alone. We also are told about the Lord who is separate from being a servant or steward. Finally, it is set in reference to the heavens & earth, etc. not just one distinct part of creation.
The confusion as to what holy is comes from the lack of understanding clearly whether parts of days are assumed in this context as what is being combated against or a melting together of this day with the other six is what is being combated. Is it primarily a problem of last day becoming another work day or a problem of this day only being kept one part of the day as a day of rest? That is a very good question. Or could it be that both problems are being combatted with the distinction between work and rest and then the distinction between wholly and partially? That is an even better question. Please ponder this before answering.
What we need is the following: The testimony of places being certain should be followed to take away the doubts of the uncertain places. The certain places should not be allowed to overwhelm the uncertain, but it gives us some great clues. I think the context allows for wholly as combatting a separate problem. I would like to know your thoughts.
Pastor Jon Westlund
I had a very inspirational talk with a fellow pastor in which we discussed holiness is wholeness. The talk helped me see clearly that I want to make holiness is wholeness an easy and light thing for people to grasp.
Holiness is very much on people's hearts and minds. What isn't always there is clear meaning. I am beginning to realize that the easiest way for people to grasp that holiness is wholeness is to show its meaning in Biblical context. People have access to the Bible, even if they do not have access to a myriad of other things.
So if I can do only one thing in life, I hope I can enrich your life by making all of this easier and lighter to grasp. May God richly bless your understanding of His word.
Pastor Jon Westlund
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese once said: "There's no great mystery to quarterbacking. You move personnel around in various formations looking for the defense's particular patsy and then you eat him alive." I am afraid that the enemies of God and his people have found our particular soft spot and are now eating us alive!
That weak spot is Anglican or Episcopal comprehensiveness. The reasons for this are many, but the main reason is because the meaning of comprehensiveness has been cut loose from its clear biblical origins. Another reason is that Anglicanism has never had a clear primary leader like has other Protestant traditions. It has Cranmer, Hooker, Jewel, Simeon, etc. as its chief leaders rather than one clear champion like Luther. Richard Hooker is the one who I understand to have defined holiness by the English word comprehensiveness. But knowledge of this and clarity on this seems to be lacking when I write or speak to contemporary Episcopalians. I cannot say that when I speak to a Lutheran about justification the same thing happens. Instead they are quite clear on its biblical origins.
J. I. Packer wrote an excellent little booklet titled: A Kind of Noah's Ark? The Anglican Commitment to Comprehensiveness. As an Anglican, he and C. S. Lewis represent what is right about Anglicanism. In this booklet he writes: "ONE ingredient in today's Anglicanism ... is ... its claim to be comprehensive in a way that other traditions are not, and its confidence that this comprehensiveness is a fine thing." But, not everyone agrees that it is a fine thing. Packer sees this problem and points out that comprehensivenss has been "paraded as an Anglican excellence from at least four points of view."
The four points of view are: 1) inclusiveness (or calculated inclusion), 2) integration ( or integrative practice), 3) tension (inner tension) and 4) relativism (inescapeable theological relativism). The problem as Packer sees it is that "there is no common mind on how the current breadth of doctrinal toleration should be regarded." For Packer, part of this is caused by all of these views parading themselves as excellent views of comprehensiveness. I agree.
Yet let's add to Packer's insight. I believe that these four views mainly emerged because Anglicanism has not been clear on its greatest strength which is holiness. Comprehensiveness was originally a definition for holiness. In the hands of the best Anglicans like Hooker it brought good things to the church like a more comprehensive or whole list of 5 solas in contrast to Luther's partial 3 solas: faith alone, grace alone, Scripture alone. It also saw the place for Scripture, tradition, reason and ... as informative parts of a whole schema for grasping the meaning of Scripture. These ideas were in fact more comprehensive in a way that fits with being more whole than other Protestant perspectives.
Holiness is the root of comprehensiveness is in contrast to the many meanings that Packer suggests that have been given to comprehensivness. Sadly, it seems that Anglican scholars like Wescott and Hort at the end of the 1800s may have been duped into some soft version of comprehensiveness in some of their perspectives that has led many to fall into a type of relativism in more recent church history.
Holiness is the root for comprehensiveness also means that Anglicans in particular should have been the first to grasp the wholeness of God's character in the major parts of what makes up holiness. I am surprised that someone following in the tradition of Richard Hooker did not grasp the character traits of righteousness, truth, love and goodness as chief parts of God's character in contrast to those who want to stress only his love. The same could be said for the chief parts of God's forgiveness in his mercy, grace, compassion and longsuffering in contrast to stressing only his grace or mercy.
Because comprehensiveness is Protestantism's soft spot, I believe it is the hill, or the valleys that connects the hills, we must retake. We must reform ourselves and realize that comprehensiveness is rooted in holiness or wholeness before we can enjoy the fruit of revival. William Tyndale realized that the Word of God needed to get to the people in their own language. He decided to take that hill or die doing it. We need to decide with the same level of conviction to retake the hill of holiness is wholeness. Comprehensiveness must originate again from holiness. Then Packer's confidence that comprehensiveness is a fine thing can be restored. May God keep reforming us and then may the reviving of us be the fruit of reform.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Name the two most famous translators in English Bible translation history? Two of the most famous, argueably, are William Tyndale and John Wycliffe. I found recently a very exciting piece of evidence that at least one of these translators was convinced that holiness is wholeness.
In the Wycliffe New Testament is a very wonderful example of how Wycliffe understood the word holiness in English. Underlying this example is not the typical Greek word translated as holy, but there is a footnote which shows his understanding of the word holiness in English, even if there is no evidence of his view of the Greek word for holiness.
In Titus 2: 7, we read this in the Wycliffe New Testament:
"In all things give thyself ensample of good works, in teaching in wholeness, in firmness." The footnote for this passage reads: "In all things give thyself example of good works, in teaching in holiness of living, in firmness of virtues." Notice the parallel, wholeness is in the main part of his text, and in the parallel footnote is holiness.
Like I said before, a wonderful example! God bless the translators who understand not just the original text, but their own language so well.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
It has been said: "You can learn a line from a win and a book from a defeat" (Paul Brown). My line is this. It is no longer necessary to be weary or wear out. My short story is below. It is how I arrived at holiness is wholeness over time.
As a teacher of Christians, I was getting weary in late 2004. It is said that "a back and forth discussion without getting anywhere, wears you out." That was my feeling after reading many Christian books and teaching many times over many years. It was not really getting me anywhere. That was until I learned that holiness is wholeness, then discussions really started to go somewhere. I can honestly say that since that time, I have not been nearly so weary.
The first step in time to get there was doing what I used to do as a football scout. I began by looking for the strengths and weaknesses of the Christian Church. What I discovered was that the Christian Church had many strengths in its major themes. I realized that a strong adversary would not attack at points of strength like the major themes of the past. Where I found weakness was that while it had many strong parts on the table from differing traditions and from differing authors of Christian books, there was no whole to join together all the parts on the table. I saw this particularly when I studied the major themes of each of the major denominations within Protestantism. Luther's themes were righteousness (or justice) and sanctification. Calvin's themes were truth (or humility) and sanctification. Hooker's theme was holiness (or comprehensiveness). Wesley's themes were perfect love and entire sanctification (nearly synonymous for him). Spurgeon's themes were goodness and holiness. This inspired me to start looking for a word in the original text of Scripture that could unite all these major themes, so I could shore up the weak spot that the devil and the church's enemies would attack.
The second step in time was seeing in the providence of God that perhaps there was a reason in history for the succession of themes by the major Reformers in Protestant history. I could see a very exciting succession from righteousness to truth, to holiness, to love and to goodness. Overarching all of them was a connection always in some way with sanctification and holiness. Maybe in our time, the point was to re-address the question of comprehensiveness as a definition of holiness and define it more clearly? And could it be that historically, this weakest point in clarity could be become the strongest point in clarity by defining it as wholeness? Could it also be that the English contribution to things will only now reach full fruition even as this language spreads worldwide through many things like the internet and commerce? Translation has been called "a long and arduous process." I would call hundreds of years, long.
The third step in time was brought about because of my developing a reading method that would make it more easy to be biblical. In short story form, I used to struggle as a reader. In college, I finally became an acceptable reader, but still the process was nothing that any of my students got real excited about. Through this challenge, I was brought to the point of taking a very good translation method from Wycliffe Bible Translators and transforming it into a reading method. I also changed a few things they did based on hints from the traditional or classical method of reading. The parts of language became: 1)amounts, 2)relationships, 3)actions and 4)things. The whole of language became wholes and parts as seen especially in words like of, at in, to, etc. What I needed next was a Biblical term that would address wholeness in language. Only later would I realize that holiness could fill the gap.
The final step in time, which occured in November 2004, was the clue I found in Strong's concordance when I saw that one of the translations of the Hebrew word for holy was wholly. This had never occured to me before as a meaning for holy. The King James translators obviously saw something that all my education missed. I had been taught that the meaning of separation was questionable, but the substitute I felt was no better. Now I was looking for a word having to do with wholeness, so I had to seriously consider this old possibility from the KJV. Over time, I discovered, first through internet resources, that holiness means wholeness was by no means a crazy idea. Among my most trusted Christian preachers and writers of the past, I found very strong advocates of the meaning of wholeness. Over time, more scholarly materials also confirmed this meaning of the word, though I must say I got my best material from supposed critics of the idea.
So holiness is wholeness wins a lot of battles the others cannot. The result is that I am less weary from back and forth discussions that go nowhere. Now most of my discussions go somewhere. That is my other line from a win.
Pastor Jon Westlund