Thursday, June 28, 2007

Holiness is Wholeness: According to Scripture (Exodus 20:8)

"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.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon Westlund

Holiness is Wholeness: Making Things Easy and Light

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.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon Westlund

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Holiness is Wholeness: According to Protestantism's Soft Spot of Comprehensiveness

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.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Monday, June 25, 2007

Holiness is Wholeness: According to John Wycliffe

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.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Holiness is Wholeness: How This Began for Me Personally

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.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon Westlund