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.