Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Holy Means Whole: According to Being More Biblical

I grew up with a saying in my family that is great in principle and yet very hard to live by. It is: "chapter and verse." What this meant in my family is that if you have an opinion on something debateable, then you had better be able to back it up with chapter and verse from the Bible. Since that time this principle has grown for me into the principle of being biblical.

I have striven to be that very thing for a lot of years and yet I find that there are still areas where I discover I am less than biblical. This could be a reason for despair. Yet the vision I have for a new church plant is: "To strive to be more biblical, while owning our errors and removing harmful compromises."

The reason I stay optimistic is that being biblical is a matter of degree and not a 100% degree. Let me illustrate. I think the degree or measure is this. What is big and what is little? When it comes to communication from God, what is big to you? Is it an oral communication you heard last Sunday? Is it a written communication in the latest popular Christian book? Or is it the written communication from a book commonly referred to as the Bible? Is that in fact what is big for you? Is it bigger than everything else?

When I say I am a biblical Christian, I don't think I am so in a 100% way, but in a way that the Bible represents the written or oral communication that is bigger than all else. For me the Bible is not exclusive in communicating helpful things to me as opposed to harmful, but it is the greatest by far in communicating those helpful things which I need.

I think this is the right measure the Bible deserves. It is not that there are not lesser lights in books written by Christian authors or others. It is that it is the greatest and not to be surpassed as an authority. Nothing is its equal. This is what is right and just.

My argument for holiness is wholeness is my attempt to be more biblical and not hold even Christian or other authors above the Bible. This is a hard saying for many people who look at being Biblical as though the biblical person can never be wrong about something as big as holiness.

I think it is rather possible to be wrong and still be right in the bigger sense. I also think that unless you hold that view, you are liable to defend what should not be defended. A pastor friend of mine recently told the story of his son getting in trouble at school. After his son told the story to his dad, he asked his dad if his dad's response meant he could never sin. His dad responded that "Mistakes happen, compromises continue."

I think it is important to correct the wrongs of the past and not fall into continuing compromise. It appears to me that some of the church fathers and reformers made an error with regard to the meaning of holy. They could not solve whether it meant whole or separate, so they settled for an intermediate position of both meanings with the context determining which one was valid. When the 19th century came to a close new data on other Ancient Near Eastern languages indicated that this was no longer valid. One possible root of meaning pointed toward separate. The other pointed toward whole. It was now clear that the previous position was now a compromise and no longer just an error that happens to all of us.

The question became whether or not the error would end or whether a compromise would continue. The problem is that there are harmful and harmless compromises. Half a loaf of bread is a harmless compromise, if the alternative is no bread. Half a baby on the other hand is a harmful compromise, if the alternative is a living baby (even in the wrong hands) as Solomon and the child's actual mother realized.

Unfortunately, the effort to end a compromise on the meaning of holiness may have resulted in having no bread at all or in cutting a baby in half in such a way that we were left with a corpse. By some deciding to end any compromise and rather settle for none, they lost wholeness. This seems to be the more conservative side. On the other hand, by some deciding to cut the baby in half and settle for something dead, they also lost wholeness. This seems to be the more liberal side. Both sides of argument over error seemed to have been a little overzealous and destroyed something that was helpful in trying to remove compromise and error.

With holiness meaning wholeness, there is still plently of support for separation. But without holiness meaning wholeness, there is very little support for wholeness. We lost something in trying to remove error. Half a loaf was better than no loaf and a living baby was better than half of a dead corpse.

I want above else to be biblical. Genesis 2:1-3 supports the idea of wholeness. Exodus 31:13-17 supports the idea of wholeness. So does even Luke 10:27 in principle, "`You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, ....'" Aren't these parts that make up the whole of the self? What word in Scripture brings together the parts of the whole better than holiness?

I want to finish by saying I strive to be a biblical Christian with the Bible bigger than any other book in my influences. I get support for the wholeness idea mostly from within this book itself. Unfortunately, I cannot supply all this support in one big gulp. But is it not acceptable to admit our errors so that in the end we might be right, but even more God right about what our world needs? Our time needs wholeness, health and soundness. May God get the glory!

In Christ,

Pastor Jon