Thursday, April 12, 2007

Holiness is Wholeness: According to Holy's Hebrew Root in White Light

I want to say something about white light or bright being the basis for the idea of holiness is wholeness. This idea gains credibility, if we understand light itself better. The following ideas are taken from the World Book Encyclopedia, the 1990 edition, among other sources like an ordinary dictionary. The ideas are pieces of writing with only the relevant parts of writing included, to avoid including too much information that is not relevant to light and its connection with wholeness. So the way to read this section is realize that you are reading a collection of definitions to help you better understand light.

Light - 3. brightness, illumination, often of a special kind. 4. a source of light, as the sun, lamp, etc. 6. the light from the sun; daylight or dawn.

Light - Violet light has the shortest wavelength that is visible. Red light has the longest. Between them lie all the other colors of the spectrum, each with its own wavelength. Seen together at the same time, the colors appear as white light. Sun light is white because it has all the colors. However, when it passes through a prism, the different colors separate and can be seen. (purple, blue, green, yellow, red)

Sunlight spread into its different colors by a prism creates a continuous spectrum. From violent to red, the spectrum blends smoothly from one color to the next. Many other sources of light do not produce a continuous spectrum. For example, a street lamp may produce bright yellow, blue and a few dimmer colors, but it also has dark regions in its spectrum. (Sometimes a spectrum has gaps).

Light - In 1666, the English scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, discovered that white light is made up of all colors. Using a prism, he found that each color in a beam of light could be separated.
(Sir Isaac Newton is by all accounts a Christian.)

Other sources to consult:
Alder, Irving. The Story of Light. Rev. ed. Harvey House, 1971.
Sight Light and Color. Simon & Schuster, 1984.
Waldman, Gary. Introduction to Light: The Physics of Light, Vision and Color. Simon and Schuster, 1983.

To me, the idea of white light makes sense in explaining the concept of whole. Notice in one piece of writing above that a prism can demonstrate that other forms of light are not whole, because they do not create a full spectrum when the prism is used. Parts, the opposite of whole, are well explained by either of two ways. First, the use of a prism to demonstrate parts through the separation of light into its spectrum. Or second, the use of sand to demonstrate parts, because it naturally breaks into particles without any assistance, like white light naturally is whole without assistance. The use of sand is significant because the Hebrew word for profane extends from a Hebrew word that means sand.

Nature seems to support the key concepts of whole in sunlight and parts in sand. These are the physical roots for what we translate as holy and profane. And these physical things of sun and sand are very clear things to most people without having to be an Isaac Newton. Likewise to the Hebrews, who would have been very acquainted with sun and sand as people well acquainted with deserts.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Holiness Is Wholeness: According to Many Angles of Proof

While I confess that the idea that holiness is wholeness remains somewhat controversial at the present, that does not mean there is not a lot of support for that view. Like a wasp's nest, its support is not from just one angle, but many angles. Right now I would like to present the kinds of proof that I have found. These proofs go beyond just learning from examining the history of holy as a word and how it was understood.

The relevance of holy. The first proof, if you can call it that, is in my original quest to discover what solution from Scripture could possibly solve the problems of myself and the church. As a former scout in sports where it was my job to find the weaknesses in opponents, I thought it would be interesting to find the primary weakness in the church. The more I probed, the more I realized that the reason some solutions were succeeding while other solutions were failing is because some solutions were complete and others were incomplete. Wholeness provides the glue that holds the parts together that are all part of the solution for myself and the church. As I taught from the Word of God, I found I had to use each of the major lessons that I grew up with in the church, and not just any one of them, to solve problems in my life and in the life of the church. And this solution also seems to be related to the recognition that church health is the primary issue for the church in the 21st century.

The words of holy. While the proof goes beyond this point, its authority starts here. My first clue that holy meant whole was in Strong's Concordance where one of the words listed for the original word in Hebrew was wholly. This struck me as odd at first, since I was looking for the words in Scripture that had to do with whole, and I had never considered holy as an option until then. The words for holy also include: sanctification and hallow in our modern translations and in the KJV. Adding wholly to the list began my quest which you can examine more thoroughly in the previous blog (minus this first step of wholly). There I go into details about the words of holy. There is more than one word with it all coming down to the main meaning the word is meant to communicate to us.

The context of holy. While proof begins with the word holy itself, the context in which holy is found is also important. The context says that "holy, holy, holy" is the Lord God Almighty. No other word gets this exalted status of being repeated three times like this, not just in Isaiah, but also in Revelation. Not love, not relationships, not truth, not goodness and not even humility get this status in the context! I also found this out the hard way in real life! The text is written for our instruction, etc. So the context of holy is very important because it helps us test the language of holy or the word holy against the words that surround it to see that it rings true with the context and the text of Scripture. So from this context we can see not only its meaning but its meaning as to importance. Another context that gets more at its meaning is that of the Sabbath commandment that we keep the Sabbath day holy. This is usually interpreted to mean that we keep it separate from the other six days. That is certainly there in the context because by description "the" means only one and the name "Sabbath" is only applied to the one day of the week which would make it separate from the others. The problem in the context then is that holy when interpreted as separate becomes simply redundant or at best there for emphasis. We don't know for certain that is its purpose from the context. So there remains the door open for an exciting possibility. It is that the context could allow that the idea is that you keep the whole Sabbath day of rest, a day of rest, and not just part of the day. It would mean not only in the evening you do no work, not only in the night you do no work, not only in the morning you do no work, but also through the afternoon you do no work. That means the whole day you do no work and then to profane it would be to allow ourselves to work during any part of that day which is defined by the word Sabbath as rest. I think this better fits the context, because it avoids the problem of being potentially vain repetition of a point already made that the day is separate from the other six. Please consider this in your hearts. It is exciting isn't it?
The history of holy. While the proof begins with understanding holy itself, it is always important to understand that we do not learn a word without other smart people before us and after us to assist us in understanding. So I take very seriously that five major people in the Protestant tradition, from which I am an heir, understood holiness as wholeness. While the clarity differs from one tradition to the other and while their is not clear consistency, mostly because of the word sanctification, still all had some sense of wholeness. Their names in historical order are: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Richard Hooker, John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon. A longer list can be found in more than one previous blog.

The theology of holy. While proofs do not all have the same weight, theology provided the earliest indications that there was going to be a problem later in the life of the church that has now reached a major threshold of burden and frustration. When someone has a medical problem like a cut finger, it is important to care for it early on rather than wait until infection has spread to an entire arm or limb. The difficulty in putting together a comprehensive systematic theology was one of the earliest indicators of a problem. And the biggest problem was usually trying to find what the major theme would be that would unite all theology. Ironically, I think it was close to the surface in each effort, yet never got all the attention it deserved. Lutheran theology focused on righteousness and sanctification, Calvinism focused on humility (a part of truth) and sanctification, Anglicanism focused on comprehensiveness or sanctification (as synonymous), Methodism focused on perfect love and entire sanctification (as near synonyms), and Baptists focused on goodness (and from it maturity) and holiness. In each case holiness or wholeness was a major theme alongside another theme whether you use sanctification or holiness as the word to express it. Our studies themselves should have told us long ago that all this disagreement on where to begin and what is the major theme points to a future problem of greater magnitude, if we do not clear it up. Pushing theology aside it not working but only letting the infection grow.

The major parts of holy. The Bible is the ultimate standard of authority. Holy is not the only description of who God is in the Bible, so we need to make sense of that fact. In it we read that God is righteous (Ps. 7:11). We also read that He is true (John 3:33). We read again that he is holy (Ps. 99:9). Then we read that God is love (1 John 4:8). And finally, but not exhaustively, we read that God is good (Ps. 73:1). Which one is He? Why not say He is all of these. These are some incredible verses about who God is and what His character is. Many have argued that one or another of these characteristics are most important. The Bible teaches that all of these are very important because all of them are very frequently mentioned and sometimes we are explicitly told they are more important than other characteristics. I would never leave out God's love in any basic description of who He is (1 Cor. 13). Yet the Bible itself, in two places, puts holy above even love. It says in Isaiah 6:3 that God is "holy, holy holy." It says again in Revelation 4:8 that He is "holy, holy holy." No where else do any of the descriptions of God get repeated three times for emphasis of importance. I believe that each of these parts is a special or major part of holy. All of them are biblically the most important character traits of God demonstrated by the number of times they are repeated versus the other ways that God is described. They are all very important. Only one is most important, because it includes all the others in it, holy.

The language of holy. While language is specific to holy itself, there are also general rules of language that also apply. For a long time there has been a fascination with the number 8 in Western Culture as though it has some mythical qualities in discovering the parts to something. Witness the 8 parts of speech for Greek, the 8 parts of speech for Latin and the 8 parts of speech for English as instances. By the way, all of the systems recognize a different set of 8. I am convinced that language studies now recognize that there is the whole of language and there are the parts of language, but that the 8 parts are not it. I learned a different system from Wycliffe Bible translators that recognizes 4 parts or 4 classes as they called them which I think replaces the 8 parts and happens to work in more than just 1 language. With some modifications from their words, I recognize language that expresses wholes and parts including of, to, in, etc. and then I recognize the parts as being: (1)amounts, (2)relationships, (3)actions, (4)things. Holiness in context goes beyond any one of the part even that of relationships or things in the idea of separation and I think in context functions as a direct expression of the whole. This would make it very important in language as well as in the text of Scripture when we say: Holy, holy, holy.

The science of holy. In science their is an increasing call beginning with Albert Einstein for an "explanation of everything." I believe holiness or wholeness can match that call and prove to science and scientists that the Bible is the book of God and not of mere mortals who err.

The philosoply of holy. In philosophy there is a strong leaning toward a system that is not reductionistic but holistic (or wholistic). Holiness is not reductionistic but wholistic in the right sense of the term. To be reductionistic is to think that you can reduce everything to the same thing that does not apply to all those things. Holiness allows for diversity among the parts that make up wholeness. So you do not reduce each part to being all the same part. On a bike their are different parts like the handle bars or chain. They cannot replace each other because they are distinct parts and cannot be reduced to the same thing.

So with varying degrees each of these supports the meaning that holiness is wholeness. Again, like the wasp's nest built by nature's God, the angles of support are numerous. I love to think that this also proves that God is a lot smarter than all of us. I know it does more than humbles me, it makes me want to shout His praises!

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Friday, April 06, 2007

Holiness is Wholeness: According to English, Greek, Hebrew, Babylonian and Sumerian

I want to say something about the history of the roots of the word holiness that we use often in English, but so seldom understand. What I will do is trace its history in English, in Latin, in Greek, in Hebrew, in Babylonian and in Sumerian. I will leave out the history or roots for the competing view only for reasons that I think most people want me to get to the point as fast as I can. It is also true that the competing view has gotten most of the publicity anyway and does not need me to add to it.

In English, much is made of the roots for holy. On the one hand, people like the scholar James Barr are too critical in comments about the root of the word being connected to wholeness. On the other hand, people are too positive that it has a direct link to wholeness. Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am thinking of whole in contrast to parts.

Wholeness itself is not directly linked to hale, halig, hallow, etc as some claim. That might be the reason for scholar James Barr's criticism. But I do think it fits the category in translation of being a regional substitute for halig. This means that the translators were convinced that both are connected to the ideas of whole, health and sound. What might be worthy of investigation is whether holiness has its deepest roots extending to holos in Greek and halig to hagios in Greek. Holos in Greek is connected to the idea of entire versus portion. Hagios is the Greek word that we translate with holiness versus profane. What is significant is that halig may have been a combination or compromise between hale and hagios, combining sounds or letters from both much like we maybe see in the Germain heilig.

In Latin, much is made of sanctification which has come over into English as being rooted in sacre. Let me only say this, that I think the use of sanctification in English translations is a very loaded term since many are not aware of the root words in Latin that go with it. But it does seem that part of the confusion of what holiness means comes from the Latin language. It might be that hail in Latin as in "hail Caesar" is closer to holiness than is sanctification. I will only say this in concluding. The root meanings here are only historically significant in their effects, they are not significant in proving the correct understanding of holiness or holy. The fact that Saint Jerome chose this for the Latin Vulgate translation does not mean that he got the meaning correct.

In Greek, as I did above, I will Englishize the word to read hagios. Its roots are unclear since much is made of the idea that you can connect it to other words with the hag root making it have a connection with words having to do with piety, religious, etc. I think this is dangerous since this is based on later scholarly opinion rather than based on actual historical definitions by contemporary users of the language. The use of roots is helpful, but it also is not full proof. I think we have to go elsewhere to gain more certainty than its possible connection with hagnos. I would love to see a scholar test hagios itself for meaning in its own contexts rather than see a probable connection decide the issue.

In Hebrew, I will Englishize the word to read Qadosh. It could also be Englishized to Kadosh. It also has other forms that have to do with action like Qadesh, Qadish, Kadesh, Kadish, etc. This is the ultimate Biblical root for the word we translate holy. I think it should carry the most weight in its usage in the Bible. Jews will give you two possible meanings historically. They will tell you it has connections to separate or that it has connections to perfection. The separate idea is linked to either older chadash in Babylonian or to a form in Arabic. The idea of perfection, in the sense of wholeness, is linked to another Hebrew word meaning sun or bright.

I think the link for separate is weak because you can see even in English that if you are to take the root idea seriously, then a change from q to ch or k to ch might be significant enough to say there is no link.

The link with the other Hebrew word is not as problematic in terms of the letters used. The way to think of sun or bright could be in the sense of what science now terms white light. This would then also connect it with the idea of the sun. The implications might work out in that white light is the whole in comparison to any of the parts like the color red or green. The way to demonstrate any of these parts would be to use a prism or to note the colors of a rainbow which is water breaking apart white light into its component colors.

Another important link is that of the word profane which in the Hebrew is a word that is derived from a root word for sand. Sun and sand are the common fare of a desert people as I learned in the video series "Walking the Bible" shown on PBS. Sand would afford a beautiful illustration of the opposite of white light. It tends to fall apart into parts or particles without outside interference while white light tends to hold together without outside interference. These words would both been easy to understand while holiness and profane seem to allude us in English.

Finally, the roots in Babylonian and Sumerian go back to quddushu. In ancient writings it is tied to ellu which is given the meaning of bright. If we recognize the meaning of white light as being the equivalent of bright, then it makes good sense in some ancient texts that may otherwise seem confusing. Since we know that Abraham emerged from this area of the world, this link could be very significant. Even if all you know is English, you can see the words in Hebrew and in Babylonian or Sumerian in Englishized form look very much alike. It is very likely the Hebrew would have Babylonian roots.

So I think the meaning of wholeness can stand up to the test of studying the roots of these words. Just think of the sun's light and the sand under your toes as the roots for both whole and parts. Then you can physically sense the difference between whole and parts.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holiness is Wholeness: According to the History of Christian Intelligence

I am hoping you are one of those people who wants to be sure of the meaning of the words in the Bible. I am also hoping you are hungry for God's Word because you are seeking Him for answers. That is the real drive behind my desire to know the meaning of holiness. It is nothing else, whatever may appear from what I write. So what is most disturbing for me ultimately is that time is passing in which people are not aware of the great advantages of knowing that holiness is wholeness.

One of the reasons people do not know that holiness means wholeness is because not everyone who claims to be an authority agrees on that point. Among those who disagree are some with a disrespect for the intelligence of the past. Among those with intelligence in the past are the five largest names in Protestant history: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Richard Hooker (perhaps arguable), John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon. These are major giants for: Lutheranism, Presybterianism (not to exlude the other Calvinist churches), Anglicanism (Episcopalians), Methodism and Baptists. I think that the intelligence of the past deserves respect that it has not received. And you do not have to show a level of respect that lapses into respect that only Scripture deserves to do this.

Let me explain further what I mean by not lapsing into respect that only the Bible or Scripture deserves. Intelligence is simply the ability to know what something is. For example, you tell a child, "This is a dog" while pointing to one. You tell them, "That is not a dog" while pointing to a cat. I am saying "This is wholeness" while I am pointing at the word holiness in the English Bible you read. Wholeness is also the point for a few others words connected to holiness like sanctification and hallowed.

I believe that these Reformers from the past were pointing out that holiness or sanctification had to do with wholeness, even if not always with equal clarity. We need to remember something about the Reformers. To be intelligent you do not have to be in portion equal to Scripture. You just need to reflect it, rather than oppose it. Its important to realize that they did not confuse dogs and cats like some assume in their criticism of the idea that holiness means wholeness.

Albert Einstein, in The World As I See It, had this to say: "The harmony of natural law ... reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection." The Scripture says that we see in a glass dimly (1 Cor. 13). So did the Reformers, yet their systematic thinking was a reflection of the Word of God, not an utterly worthless misguided effort. A reflection is a help toward face to face clarity. I think Scripture reflects a harmony that reveals an intelligence of incredible superiority, because all Scripture is God-breathed (1 Timothy). But I think we hinder recognition of that intelligence when we say that holiness is separation rather than holiness is wholeness.

Some recent Bible translators or scholars show no respect for past translations which recognized that holiness is wholeness. We also can also diminish respect for the Reformers of the past and exalt ourselves to some high place we do not deserve. We need to respect others according to Scripture, especially people who are our spiritual fathers in that they led us to Christ (1 Cor. 3). My heritage is something I really treasure for bringing me to Christ and knowing firmly I do not save myself.

I really want to stress caution because generally people are in too big of a rush on topics that are not clear. Slow down when you study this issue. It's not all real clear. Those that say holiness means separation admit in their more cautious moments that things are not clear. Don't let your mind be puffed up like an animal when threatened which puffs up its size beyond its true measure. Instead humble yourself (James 2) and persevere in the process of discovering what is a good definition in everyday language for holiness.

Scripture is the final arbitrator, and I know that as well as anyone. When I was growing up in my family, if I wanted to put forward my perspective, I also needed to know "chapter and verse," or I got no respect. So saying Spurgeon said it was not enough. Yet I also know something else from my family and teachers. I'm not the only one with intelligence nor the new one who possesses intelligence while those older ones had none. If I really possess intelligence, then I will not be the only one, but I will share it in common with everyone in a group of intelligent people.

The topic of holiness (or sanctification) was a major theme for everyone of the Reformers. They studied this topic. Everyone of them recognized this theme as right up there with whatever other theme they had, whether it be God's righteousness in Christ or God's goodness. Holiness was always there, shared by everyone one of them, while all the other themes were slightly different.

Holiness is wholeness could answer the cry of our age. Our world is crying out for wholeness, not just directly in those words, but practically and relevantly in day to day struggles. I hear the cry loud and clear! I've used it effectively in organizing many problems or concerns. I've first used it to make sense of all the things God has taught me as parts of my salvation. Check out the topic of wholenesss on the internet. Just be careful of some crys. They are not as healthy as others. You must know the difference between good and bad, not just dogs and cats.

In Christ,


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Holiness is Wholeness: According to Many Witnesses

I have been researching for quite some time the topic of holiness and the lack of clarity on this topic is clear. One problem is researching the history of its meaning in Hebrew and Greek. Another problem is researching its history in English or Latin. Yet one thing is very clear and that is that holiness is not clear to many people when they hear it. I want people to be aware of something though that is very clear, yet seldom presented about the meaning of holiness. It is that many prominent witnesses in the past regarded the meaning of holiness as in some sense meaning wholeness.

I am not saying this solves all the problems with regard to clarity, but it is itself clear. These witnesses might use entire, complete, perfect or comprehensive, but the basic idea is the same when you read further. The idea of wholeness is simply that all the parts are present. I would like to list the names of those great teachers of the Bible from whom I have found evidence that they believed that holiness is wholeness, in at least some contexts.

The names include the following:

Martin Luther, John Calvin, Richard Hooker, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Finney, Jonathan Edwards, John Wycliffe, Johann Bengel, the KJV translators, John Howe, Alexander Whyte, Archibald Alexander Hodge, John Dick, John L. Dagg, Albert C. Knudsen, James Petigru Boyce, P. T. Forsyth, Andrew Murray, Charles Henry Brent, S. R. Driver, A. W. Pink, Mary Douglas (anthropologist), Hebert Lockyer (in an editorial role), R. A. Finlayson, J. H. Hertz (Jewish), George C. Bonnell (continuation of Calvin), David S. Shapiro (Jewish), Ray Stedman, Walter Kaiser, Jack Hayford, and Lambert Dolphin (continuation of Stedman), etc. I must also mention Noah Webster (Dictionary) and the Online Etymological Dictionary (Dictionary) as other sources for the view that holiness is wholeness.

What is very clear to me from all these prominent or slightly less prominent names is that the idea that holiness is wholeness is not some "Johnny Come Lately" idea. Many others could be added to this list that are lesser known or whom I have not had time to research since 2006. Yet all five major Protestant groups are shown with their primary leaders in some measure showing this was their definition.

What is very clear to me is that it makes no sense to simply throw out this definition in favor of the idea that holiness is separation, when others of less character may have started the latter idea. I have in mind people like Fredrich Schlieremacher, who I do not regard as a good student of the Bible. Why is it that it is not clear to people that God's providence ought to mean something? I know that not all of history for the church is clear on this definition, yet it is clear that all five major Protestant leaders used words that point in that direction. Is it clear why all five would be wrong?

So again while this does not solve every issue, one thing ought to be clear. If you do not believe that holiness is wholeness, then proceed with caution against such a great cloud of witnesses. You are cutting against the grain of some wonderful human beings, who possessed the character of holiness and wholeness that I wish I could emulate.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon