Friday, May 30, 2008

Holy Means Whole: According to Anthropology and Mary Douglas

The famous anthropologist, Mary Douglas, reached the conclusion, from examining certain biblical texts, that one of the two meanings for holy is whole. Her other definition was that of separate, but this was not based on her own work, but on the scholarly lexicons, which I doubt she felt qualified to challenge. What she was qualified to challenge, as an anthropologist, was any conclusion that came from an outsider's view of a culture as opposed to an insider's point of view of a culture. When it comes to a culture or a religion, anthropologist's try to find out the insider's view.

I find it very exciting that Douglas concluded that the insider's view, from certain biblical texts, is that holy means whole. One of the reasons this is interesting is because science and natural revelation have been speaking, even if science from sometimes strange views of wholeness, to a general need for wholeness. It sees that addressing the partial man is not enough, instead we must address the whole man.

In my undergraduate education, I had the privilege of sitting under former missionaries, who tried to apply the insights of anthropologists to their work in the field of reaching others for Christ. One of their major focuses was on arriving at the story as told by insiders versus a story told by outsiders. They even had technical terms for the difference. What other cultures wanted was to be able to tell their own version of their story from an insider's point of view. Once the missionary would grasp this story or point of view, often doors of evangelism would open up, because now the outsider was no longer seen as a threat, but as a friend.

The danger for scholars and pastors in interpreting the biblical text is imposing our ideas onto the biblical text. It may be that separate is just such an imposition on the biblical text. It may be that we are not listening to it, but to outsiders from Arabic culture, from Roman culture and from German culture. We must be careful to not impose outsider ideas on the insider point of view.

The etymology for separate is not conclusively from an insider point of view. In fact, by open admission of prominent scholars like Norman Snaith, it is controversial. The roots for separate come from Arabic. Also the history of Roman culture produced the idea of sanctification, which may not be the best interpretation of holy or may have itself changed meaning over time, due to cultural change. But last, many of the scholars, who did the work on holy in the late 1800s through early 1900s, arose out of German culture, that sometimes gloried in its separation or superiority over other cultures. Could these outsider's points of view been imposed on the interpretation of the Bible? Let us hope not! We do not want to be a threat to biblical culture or worldview, but a friend to it!

The idea of whole is the reverse of things falling or being torn apart. Please with me, let us test the idea of separation to see, if it makes or fails the test of being from an insider point of view. We owe to the science of anthropology and to the natural revelation of God's creation to test this point of view. Maybe Mary Douglas' work points us toward a very helpful insider's point of view. May God bless your day!

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Holy Means Whole: According to Blessed and Sanctified in Genesis 2:3

Two key words are joined together in the Bible, yet are so far apart in historical controversy! You could summarize many theological struggles, as between those committed to fruitfulness and those committed to faithfulness. I grew up in a family clearly committed to faithfulness and yet I also grew up exposed to athletic and educational fruitfulness.

There are people who have a critical eye for things fruitful. Likewise, there are people who have a critical eye for things faithful. The problem is that these two camps usually cannot join forces together.

Those focused on being blessed or fruitful look for what is blessed. They shy away from situations in which they know people are going to struggle. They might discourage those who are very different in age from marrying, because of the struggles they might face that would keep them from being blessed with children, as just one example. These people see with a keen eye that the marriage or another situation might not be blessed. Some people have an eye for something blessed or not.

Those focused on being holy or faithful look for what is separate. They shy away from things where faithfulness is questionable. I ought to know, I grew up with it and fed from this theological vine very strongly for one year. Faithfulness means holiness and holiness means separation, in their view. When marriage questions arise, it not a concern for fruitfulness, but for separateness and godliness that takes front stage. The questions are about the possible spouse's separation from the world or whether they are not separate from the world. Excessive beauty might be one thing that would be questioned. Some people have an eye for faithful or not.

When I talk about holy means whole, it scares some people in either camp, yet it should delight both camps. They need to be patient and realize that their concerns are addressed fundamentally. Let's look at each in biblical order.

First, comes "blessed." I do think blessed is the rule and norm, though there are obvious exceptions. I disagree with those, who conclude we are in the midst of an exceptional time in future history, rather than a time reaching for the rule. I don't think I or we can know, if our time is blessed or cursed, until it has happened. Like the end of time, the future is full of unknowns. I humbly recognize an unknown future, either blessed or cursed. So I seek things blessed by God.

Holy means whole, though not obviously fruitful, has potential for growth that makes holy is separate look like stunted growth. I believe holy means separate has run its full course and has produced a wealth of weeds, rather than a garden of healthy plants. The word blessed means fruitful, multiply and fill. I want to go along with the Bible and side with a concept that means fruit on the tree, multiplying through seeds from the fruit and the filling of entire fields with new plants. I am not satisfied, even as an athlete or coach is not satisfied, with poor productivity. Like an athlete or farmer, I am for changing our approach to holy means whole for reasons of fruitfulness.

We have not begun to see the healthy fruit, the biblical fruit, the historical fruit, the practical fruit and the theological fruit to come. Things will come together as wholes like we have not seen. We will see continuity, we have not seen. We will see bonds between groups, we have not seen. We will see rules that work, we have not seen. We will see things that make sense, we have not seen. It is going to be exciting and fruitful. I've begun to see a small tip of the iceberg or some of this already.

Second, comes "made holy" or "sanctified." This norm is the norm of all norms. The question is what it means, if we are to be faithful. For a long time, faithfulness and holiness have both meant separation from this evil world and age. I agree with separation. So I seek things faithful to God.

Holy means whole, though not obviously faithful, has potential for faithfulness that many have overlooked and in fact faithfulness that surpasses that of separation by itself. The danger with holy means whole is not that separation in the Bible goes away, but rather that it's excesses go away. Separation is a many splendid thing, but it is not equal to the glory of God summed up in all His attributes together. Traditionally and faithfully, this is the first meaning of holy historically, for many in the Protestant tradition and other traditions. But this meaning suffered verbicide equal to any crime of homicide. I want to remain faithful, not to a momentary interpretation, but to the original biblical text. I want to side with this biblical concept that provides faithfulness and separation that will blow people's socks off. This is not some worldly wholeness that I seek, it's a biblical wholeness that will glorify God's most incredible attribute, His holiness in all its full orbed array!

We have not begun to see the sound faithfulness, the biblical faithfulness, the historical faithfulness, the practical faithfulness and the theological faithfulness to come. Things will come together as wholes like we have not seen. We will see continuity, we have not seen. We will see bonds between biblical texts, we have not seen. We will see rules and practices, we have not seen. We will see theological stuff that makes sense, we have not seen. It is going to be faithful and sound. I've begun to see the tip of iceberg here as well.

I seek both fruitfulness and faithfulness. Or to put it another way, I seek "blessed" and "made whole." Do you? May God bless and make whole you and your day!

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Holy Means Whole: According to Past Connections, Not According to the Present Connections and According to Future Connections

Other people matter. Connections past, present and future matter. One of the supports for holy means whole is the connection with Christian people through time. At one time it was not so strange to hear this meaning. When I was growing up it was very strange or very unlikely you would hear this meaning. In the future, this may all change. So let me share a summary history lesson on the meaning of this word.

In the past, going back to at least the time of Luther, the meaning of the word connected two ideas. The primary meaning was that of whole. The secondary meaning was that of separate. Which of these two distinct ideas was present in a Biblical text was determined by context. I could quote many on this, but you have access to these quotes in other pieces I have written. This definition of holy lasted until the late 1800s, when there was an explosion of scholarship due to the new status of education.

In the present, going back to the late 1800s scholarship, the meaning of the word had just one meaning. It's meaning was that of separate. This was essentially because of the study of etymology and the discovery that one had to choose one of the two meanings based on which view of etymology was favored. There were some who still stood up for whole, but their scholarly opinion was in the minority. Each view, the majority or minority view held to the idea that one of the two definitions was alone the meaning of holy. Separate clearly moved to being primary and even exclusive.

The majority view did develop also the idea of wholly other, but this idea essentially was still focused primarily on separation. Whole was now just a modifier on the primary stance of separation as the definition of holy. I suppose a person could argue that this is a separate position from the stance of defining holy as only separate, yet I could go either way on that point. In any case, separate is clearly now primary and whole is at best secondary, as now only a modifier of the first.

Also in the present, there is a very small minority, who called for a change from this view altogether and who thought that in every place one sees holy, a person should substitute the idea of whole. I have found only two major people, who would have fallen into this category, in the latter part of the 1900s. I am sure there were other voices, like possibly C. S. Lewis, but this will require more research.

In the future, there will be a change, because the past and the present can't coexist without a solution to their differences. I think the future favors the idea that holy means whole. Time and good biblical study are the only things that will tell, if I am correct. But I base my view on what I already have seen in my study of the Bible. So I believe the future favors whole only, rather than a both-and solution that favored whole in the past or an either-or solution that favored separate in the present.

I think both parts of history contribute something that the other does not. The first contributes a preference for the meaning of whole that I think is biblically correct. The second contributes the need to decide between the meaning of whole and the meaning of separation. I think the future will be very instrumental in working out a solution from both contributions to biblical teaching. May God bless your day.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Holy Means Whole: According to Language Itself in the Bible and Elsewhere

Prepositions are one of the parts of speech that people love to hate. I wish instead we would hate those who taught us to hate them and the things that taught us to hate them. Prepositions are the most loving part of speech, when we learn their universal meaning.

The major reason we learned to hate them is that they are defined differently by different teachers. Another reason we learned to hate them is that it was very difficult to identify them in a sentence, unless we memorized long lists of examples. The final reason we learned to hate them is that classmates, who saw these two problems, heaped a great deal of scorn on these innocent bystanders in speech. Why not learn to love them, rather than hate them?

Let me tell you the reasons we should love them. The first is that they have only one universal meaning, not the multiple meanings we were taught in school. They express in their universal meaning the idea of a part of a whole. Let me give you one example. The sentence, "Sally drove her car to the school," could be changed to "Sally walked to the school." The part of "Sally drove her car" was changed to the part of "Sally walked." The whole of "to the school" stayed the same. There is a variety of ways to get to school that are all parts of how a person could get to school. If time allowed, I could produce a host of examples here. Instead, I would recommend going to my link shown on the side of this blog, where I will treat this more extensively. Second, with this one universal meaning, there is more meaning behind the statistic that this is the most frequently used part of speech that there is in all languages combined. I know this has been studied by linguists and I don't know anyone who would contradict their status as number one. There is also a good chance that this same pattern of frequency would be found in the Bible. In linguistics (the study of language), the reason frequency matters is because it is linked to importance. It is like comparing an elephant to a mouse. The bigger one gets, the more one gets attention at the zoo. Third, with this level importance, it may be dangerous to hate them, because you normally want to deal with the most important things first, if you know anything about time management and the principle of focus.

That brings me to the link with holy means whole. Holy is the only word in the Bible that describes God's character that receives the repetition of "Holy, holy, holy." It does this in both Isaiah and in Revelation. This never happens with love, though the Beatles tried to give it that importance in one of their popular songs. Holy receives distinction in that it gets repeated together the most times of any word.

If holy means whole, then whole would receive this distinction of importance. And if prepositions are connected with dealing with parts and wholes, then they would support this special distinction of importance for wholeness. Language itself, even taking away the word holy to support it, suports wholeness as being of major importance in our lives.

Don't you think the God of the universe would clearly communicate this importance as well? Wouldn't He chose one word to point out the importance of impact of many words combined? Does His revelation in the Bible contradict the revelation of what He created in nature in the form of language? I doubt it. That is why I now love prepositions after I must confess I used to hate them. I owe them an apology, if they were living. May God bless you and your day.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Holy Means Whole: According to the Etymology Flaws for the Meaning of Separate

Etymology is controversial by its very nature. It relies sometimes on hints of connection rather than actual historical reports of connection to establish the meanings of words. That is the case with holy. In Hebrew and in Greek, there is no historical statement that explicitly says that what scholars have determined is the etymology of the words for holy, is in fact the etymology of the words we translate as holy. Not only that, but scholars who have chosen between whole and separate, like Norman Snaith, admit their choice is controversial. He is not the first one to recognize this. Andrew Murray, a great Reformed pastor, admitted the same, when he made his choice. So what are we to do? I think we are to keep moving forward.

Sometimes to move forward, you have to move backward. That is sometimes good in the game of Monopoly and in the real game of life. So, in this case, in order to move forward, we need to move backward with regard to the idea that holy means separate, when scholars examine the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. It would be nice to just remain certain that holy means separate, but sometimes the only way to attain true certainty is to allow uncertainty to enter into the picture. Then we can attain real certainty.

The first step backward, before moving forward again, is to admit that the idea that holy means separate is controversial. This is seldom or maybe never mentioned in lexicons (technical dictionaries) for Hebrew and Greek. We have to deal with the fact that Gesenius, who became seen as an authority in his Hebrew lexicon in the late 1800s, which meant many lexicons are just copies of his views, rather than further research of his views. But Snaith and others are telling the truth, when they admit their conclusions are controversial and not without some uncertainty. This admission though does not have to undo us.

The reason that it does not need to threaten us is, because it then frees us to look at the whole process of etymology in a way that is renewing to our minds. 1 Chronicles 1:24-31 outlines what we know is a genealogy of human beings, though not the geneology of words, as is the case of etymology. What we learn is that there is a history moving from Shem (Semites/Semitic people) to Abraham (the first known Hebrew) to Isaac (Abraham's promised son) that is continuous. Yet from Abraham to Ishmael, there is a break in that continuity, as Ishmael and his mother are sent out from Abraham's household. I learned to pay attention to these kinds of details from my grandmother's analysis of family trees. I grew up hearing all about genealogies.

This is significant, not just in terms of human genealogy, but also in terms of the geneology of words. In the etymology of holy, it is as though we are following what I will call reverse history, because the movement is not from predecessor to descendant, from Hebrew to Arabic, but from Arabic to Hebrew. Or maybe more accurately, as though Hebrew and Arabic came from the same generation. But human genealogy says that history moved from Abraham, whose family tree speaks Hebrew, to Ishmael, whose family tree speaks Arabic, rather than history moving backwards to Abraham. The current view of etymology is problematic, based on what we know explicitly about history. And this history is not uncertain, but certain. What can be added is that not only is it dangerous to proceed backwards from descendant to predecessor, but it might be safer to go back further to another predecessor. We know that in Babylonian, a predessor to Hebrew, there appears to be a word that is very similar to the Hebrew word for holy, that has the meaning of shine, which is the basis for the meaning of wholeness. There is also another Hebrew word that clearly has this same meaning, that is a possible predecessor for the word we translate holy.

The other thing that explicit history tells us is that Ishmael's influence would no longer be that of an insider, but that of an outsider. If Hebrew can be known from what we know in Arabic, then we want to be sure there could not be any outsider corruption. The danger is that when Ishmael moves away, the probability of language change increases. There is now a greater possibility of outsider influence. This problem I would describe as outsider borrowing versus insider inheritance. I wish we knew the meaning of holy from Isaac's descendants rather than from Ishmael's, because language change increases with geographical distance, as a general rule. Leaving and going out geographically is significant to the process of change and the loss of continuity. This I learned when studying linguistics as an undergraduate.

Yet that is not all that I learned. I had the good fortune of studying under Dr. Don Larsen, a linguist, who was working on language continuity related to geographical location. Unfortunately, he never published his material. But I was lucky enough to analyze his material before he would consider publishing it. I recommended he publish it, but I don't think he wanted to get laughed at, like happened to Galileo and to Copernicus in the history of science. His enthusiasm for his material did not get away from him, like it might have for Galileo, but instead something was holding back his enthusiasm.

What Larsen developed was a history of core words, from the perspective of demographic data. His method is that he plotted the relative locations of languages, based on their relations on a map, rather than using the idea of oldest in terms of dating by what was called glottochronology. This is why Larsen's 5 phyla (large language families) are different from the linguist, Morris Swadesh's 5 phyla. I think Larsen feared he would be laughed to scorn like Swadesh was, even though his method was quite different. What is significant for etymology, is that Larsen's work points out that change is greater with geographical distance and less with closer proximity.

So though uncertainty may threaten to undo us, when we say that there are flaws in concluding that holiness is separation, not all hope is lost. We can begin renewing out minds by examining etymology, like we examine genealogy. And we can also realize through languages all around the world, that geography is a factor in language change. So what comes directly before in history is more certain to give us back our confidence and what stays in close proximity is more certain to give us back our confidence in what a word means. That is why I trust the etymological possibilities from Hebrew and from Babylonian, more than I do the possibilities from Arabic. It just makes better sense both in terms of time (genealogy) and place (geography). The relationships seem tighter. Our steps backward into uncertainty can make it possible to take steps forward that lead us into certainty. May God bless you and your day.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Holy means Whole: According to the Warning to Be Discerning

A friend of mine recently shared the story of how much they enjoyed their Christian college education, and yet how much they lamented the lack of warnings at their school about reading certain writers who were contrary to the Christian faith. What they were lamenting was how many of their friends naively thought this stuff was harmless and invited these thinking patterns into their lives. The outcome was rather devastating. I experienced much the same thing when I went through college. I still can't believe the naive carnage.

It is not that either of us wants to impose avoidance of all writers outside the Christian faith. Instead, we want to have our eyes open every time we read. It does not matter whether it is non-Christian, Christian or biblical. It is important to discern between good and evil. If everything was good, then we could be totally carefree when we read. I hope some day to enjoy that in eternity, but right now you have got to have your eyes open. There is both good and evil in this life, and you need to be discerning as to good friends and those who would make bad friends. Of course, none of us human beings are all good or all evil, even with the fruit of God's longsuffering, yet we still need to discern what is predominate in someone's life.

Likewise, sometimes you can trust scholarship as good scholarship and sometimes you can't trust scholarship, because it is bad scholarship. I am not a scholar myself, so I have to rely on scholars to help me discern my way in the case of the foreign and biblical languages. Yet I can discern my way and recognize the good guys or the good stuff versus the bad guys or the bad stuff. This is through the basic principles that inform all discerning people. In this very real world, because we should be discerning, we need to hear more than one side of a controversy, because there is good and there is evil. So I need to remind myself of this often.

I struggle with the lack of discernment by Christians and non-Christians regarding the meaning of holy, the most important descriptive word for God's moral character. Sometimes Christians get careless, act without discernment and then get themselves in trouble. I've seen this in my own life more than I want to admit. Sometimes, too, people trust people who are themselves trustworthy, but who made the mistake of trusting someone not trustworthy. So people get taken indirectly rather than directly.

I've tried to be as discerning as I can about the meaning of holy. I've tried to distinguish the good from evil, whether it comes from a good man or good woman or whether it comes from a bad man or a bad woman. There is saying that goes like this: "All truth is God's truth." I would add to this another: "All lies are the devil's lies." While the first saying means we should read other literature outside of just Christian literature in a Christian's education, the second means Christians should read Christian and all literature with eyes open for lies. Why read non-Christian literature with our eyes closed, when we cannot do that even with our own Christian literature? One quick example is that Martin Luther condemned Copernicus' ideas about astronomy as unbiblical, because of the account of the sun stopping in the sky in Joshua. Most Christians know now that this was one of Luther's bad moments, though not characteristic of him. Because of these kinds of exceptions, we must be very discerning. So you have to separate the two things, good and evil.

What has disturbed me is the bad things I have found in researching the meaning of holy. First, was finding meanings for holy that I had not been taught, when I was growing up. My first hint of failure in my Christian education was discovering the meaning "wholly" in Strong's concordance too late in my Christian life. Second, was finding that the meaning of "separation" or "be separate" in some contexts made no sense. For example, "separate the separate" makes little sense in Ezekiel. It is somewhat empty, because it gives no reason for why something is separate. It ends up arbitrary and without purpose. Third, is the failure of lexicons (technical dictionaries) to solve the problem of what this word means, while some lexicons present their findings as though it is not based on a failure of scholarship, but on a great success. The truth is that the etymology is "controversial" according to Norman Snaith, even when he supports the meaning of separation. Many other scholars say the same thing on both sides of the divide over etymology, whether they think it means separate or whole. Fourth is the failure of the historical authorities to solve the problem. You can go back to even Jewish authorities and you will find Rashi (separate) and Rambam (it says something more) disagreeing over what holy means. Likewise, Christian authorities since the time of the Reformation and early Renaissance (I'll read further back when I get time) taught that it meant primarily whole and secondarily separate until the late 1800s, then new authorities taught it meant separate, then another set of authorities taught it meant wholly separate (or other) and finally in the late 1900s there was a small resurgence in favor of whole. So in the end, I go back to looking for what makes sense, because that is how I will discover the good in defining the word holy.

We need to plug both meanings back into biblical contexts. First, we need to put "separate" or "be separate" back into the Bible where we previously used words like "holy, sanctified and saints"; and see if it makes sense. I think we can see already that it is at least plausible or the idea would not have lasted a century. This has been tested for some time. But after this being tried for a long time, there are still plenty of problems. It seems to be tied to a little nonsense. It carries a lot less impact in the text when already the idea of separation or dividing is present in the text through other words with that meaning. Take, for one example, the creation story where God "divides" and then He later "sanctifies." If He is dividing again, why not just use the same word? There are other examples too, like that of the one I mentioned already in Ezekiel. Second, we need to put "whole" or "be whole" or "make whole" into the Bible where we previously used words like "holy, sancified and saints"; and see if it makes sense. I am discovering that it does.

Right now that may seem controversial, because of majority opinion. But the important thing in discernment is observing things. And with words, we have to test to see whether they produce sense or nonsense. It takes time to discern sense, when there is more than one text to observe. But we can start with the important one in Genesis 1-2. I've written on this in earlier blogs, so I won't repeat it here.

At this time, we are also stuck with a set of definitions that at best are a close approximation to what it should be. We still have differences in points of view among good people. But now and in the future, we have the ability to get beyond just a close approximation of what the word means. We have many professional linguists in our midst, where in the past they were few in number. The tools of linguists today go beyond the tools of yesterday. Wycliffe Bible translators has been translating the Scriptures into many more languages than just Latin, German, English, etc. This has meant that our tools are better equipped to identify the universals of language, which is the big breakthrough needed for words like holy. It is like later astronomers finally having the aid of the telescope to confirm Copernicus' views on astronomy. We have the tools now to finish the job.

So join with me. Let's make the careful observations needed to discern the good from the bad. Let's find the defects in what we have been taught, let's fix them and build a better tomorrow for ourselves and for our children. Amen.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Holy means Healthy and Whole: According to a Simple and Clear Understanding

There are objections that can be raised to my position that holy means whole. I want to deal with two of those and I will deal with others later (and have in some cases before). The first is the objection of not keeping things simple. The second is the objection that it is unclear what kind of wholeness I mean.

Let's begin with keeping things simple. To be simple rather than complex is what one thing is in contrast to many things. It is very important to keep things simple, as shown in a April 2008 documentary on television called "The Woman who Thinks Like a Cow." The point of view of the woman featured was that due to her autism, she had a better sense of the basics of the brain of animals, because their brains are more basic than the typical humans. She was able to baffle the experts through her ability to see the basics. She didn't deny complexity, she just recognized the basics first.

The concept of a whole is simple, except that it is a general idea for many concrete and specific examples. When we are very young and adults teaching us are very careful to keep things simple, we learn about the tail of the kitty or the ear of the dog. We are then talking concretely and simply about one example of parts and wholes. I confess that the concrete examples are simpler than the abstact idea that comes from many examples. Even in the case of the word translated as holy, the word is most likely abstracted from the simple and concrete example of white light, which is a combination of a few colors like red and yellow. So I need to keep things concrete and singular whenever possible, if I am going to keep things simple.

Another way to keep things simple is to talk in the popular words of the day. Something that is heard over and over again is often simpler in people's minds, because of its repeated use. I must confess that health or healthy is the popular word used in Christian circles for what I am trying to say. It is popularized in the phrase "healthy church."

What is meant by that phrase is that a healthy church is one that balances ministry activities like discipleship and evangelism among the other major activities. That is what I mean by wholeness or whole, yet whole is not a popular word in Christian circles like healthy. So it is helpful to use the more popular word healthy more often, if I am going to keep things simple.

Let's move now to keeping things clear. I think one of the main reasons that healthy is more popular than whole, in Christian circles, is because of the dangers from what I will call weird wholeness or muddy wholeness. I find it hard to separate good wholeness from bad wholeness.

Being whole is often not as clear as distinguishing between the cat versus only its tail. My favorite concrete example of a whole in my junior high years would have been a bike versus only the spokes or only the sprocket or only the handle bars. Philosophy has complicated things, or rather made things less clear rather than more clear, as I advanced beyond junior high to college.

In philosophy or in science, there is a view of wholeness that muddies the water. Some try to separate themselves from it by distinguishing between holistic and wholistic. But most people don't see clearly the difference from just changing spellings.

There are two techical words out there, holistic and mereology, that really muddy the water, because the parts they try to fit together are parts that don't relate to my concrete examples of cat or bike. Instead, they try to make a whole from deep philosophical differences, like joining together opposites like good and evil. This kind of whole curdles my stomach. It also doesn't work for car engines. The goal is not to bring together an ecletic collection of cylinders and then just de-power some versus others to balance them out, but to build a refined engine that by its nature loves balance and harmony. Science too struggles with thinking that holism versus reductionism means uniting conflicting things. That is a long way from where I find myself on the map. This isn't in my Bible. While I love the word whole, it is not as clear sometimes as healthy, because it is loaded down with weird ideas, related to what is sometimes called New Age thinking. This is also why alternative medicine gets a bad rap that makes it hard to separate the good from the evil. This creates then the idea that whole or wholeness is a red flag.

So while I will stick by whole as in its concrete examples of dogs, cats and bikes; I've no choice but to start with healthy to keep things clear of strange or different thinking. I want to be simple and clear. Biblically, I think holy supports the idea of a healthy church that balances all the activities of what makes an active church versus an unenergetic church. A healthy or whole church leaves no part out and it balances the parts equally. That is why it is an active church and not an oppressive church, running out of energy to act.

May you and I unite in this simple and clear health and leave behind any complexity or unclear thinking that divides us. While complexity and lack of clarity are a part of life, its not where we should begin. I hope its mostly simple and clear now.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon