Thursday, December 31, 2009

Holy Means Whole: According to Webster's Word Histories

I thought about writing a summary of my writings for the year, but I did that pretty much in a recent entry. One thing that has always stood out to me is the absurdity of growing up in the 20th century without any sense of holiness meaning wholeness, when this was a very traditional understanding in the English-speaking world of translation. One of the best proofs of this is the many dictionaries that show the etymology of holy having a connection to the meaning of whole. I want to present one of those dictionary etymologies as given in a newer book titled Webster’s Word Histories.

The actual entry is that of Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, but for our purposes I am going to leave out the Ghost and Spirit histories. It is easy to separate it out without doing any injustice to the evidence for the history of the meaning of holy. One other change is that I am going to write out a full meaning for any abbreviations. The actual entry is found on page 223 of Webster’s Word Histories, if you want to read it without any changes.

The entry then reads:

[Holy from Middle English holi, from Old English halig, translation of Late Latin sanctus, translation of Greek Hagion, translation of Hebrew ha-godesh; holy, from Middle English hooli, translation of Late Latin sanctus]

You can check out any standard dictionary for the meaning of the Old English halig. It clearly was tied to the concept of whole or healthy. Our earliest English translators clearly saw a meaning of whole in the word holy as a later replacement for halig. That is the stance of any serious etymology.

I think this should cause all of us to pause at the end of this year and to consider carefully the steps we are following in moving away from a meaning handed down to us by pretty reliable men. John Wycliffe and William Tyndale along with many others gave us a rich tradition of the Bible in our own words. These translators also helped give birth to renewal.

I know that in our day many are big believers in progress. So seeing Wycliffe and Tyndale as reliable seems a bit quaint or odd. Certainly, we say, translation has progressed too. But perhaps we can see them as quite reliable without giving up on progress over time. Could it be that they were right on a fundamental level, yet not entirely right, when it comes to a fuller understanding of what this really means? Did they really make the meaning of whole crystal clear in translation? The possibility that they did not, leaves open the room for plenty of progress, yet not the kind that undercuts the fundamentals. Could it be that our understanding of progress is driving some of us, more than actual evidence regarding the meaning of holy?

We, as Christians, are not today in the midst of any renewal like that of the Reformation. So we need to do at least two things. We need to acknowledge to the world, or at least to the Christian world, that we are questioning the reliability of these Christian men on a very critical fundamental point. It could be a cause for our lack of renewal. Also, if that had been done in the 20th century, I might have sooner known at least that holy might mean whole. As I said earlier, we also need to slow down and consider. We need to ask: “Could we be mistaken?” Perhaps then 2010 might be the year for us to amend our ways.

In Christ,


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Holy Means Whole: According to Micah 3:5

Holy Means Whole: According to Micah 3:5

The Gettysburg Address lasted all of 5 minutes, I believe. The speaker before Lincoln spoke for 1 ½ hours, if I recall correctly. That speaker, who no one remembers, wrote to Lincoln and told him he said more than him during his 5 minutes. I am going to keep this short and still try to say more than a longer discussion. I want to show you an example of how holy means whole has implications for wonderful meaning.

I’ll let you look at the larger context yourself, yet in Micah 3:5d, we read in a literal translation: “they even sanctify a war against him.” Today the meaning would be: “they even set apart a war against him.” To get more meaning you might say that this means “they even make a special war effort against him. “ Yet that might be a stretch for the meaning of setting apart a war. On a common sense level, I am not sure I get the point.

In Micah 3:5d, we could instead see the meaning as “they even put together all the parts of a war against him.” To get even more meaning you might say that this means “they made a very significant effort war effort against him.” Rather than just a partial war against him, they were going to make a whole ware effort against him. They were not going to leave anything out in the overall arsenal of war.

To me, this translation or meaning is far more meaningful than the first. To literally put together all the parts of a war effort against an enemy means you are giving your all which fits with the context of using the word “even.” Even means something goes against expectation. In this context, you might expect their anger resulting in some insignificant efforts, yet you would not expect an all out war effort.

So they are not giving just a half-baked effort, they are giving their all by leaving no part of a war effort out. So holy means whole has very big significance even in small places. I think this is “a wonderful new meaning” to quote Luther on his new understanding of righteousness.

In Christ,


Monday, November 30, 2009

Holy Means Whole: According to a Persuasive Essay Outline

In How to Write Fast (While Writing Well), the author argues that the outline is the key to writing fast while writing well. To meet my goal of writing every month without failure, I am going to use his insight to write fast, while writing well. The way I am going to do it is to use a persuasive essay outline that I discovered to outline one way to persuade others that holy means whole. So a bared bones outline is what I will present this time.

I. Introduction

A. Get the reader’s attention by using a “hook.” Many in history, who have been accused of being ignorant, actually were those who knew. Many historical examples could be mentioned: Galileo, Luther, Wilberforce, Lincoln, Einstein, etc.
B. Give some background information, if necessary. I would refer you to my earliest postings on my blog for some background. So I will not bore you with more of it here.
C. Thesis or focus statement. My thesis is that if you follow the sound guidelines for learning the meaning of any word you will arrive at holy meaning whole.

II. First argument or reason to support your position. It is that traditionally many have believed that holy means whole. It is only during the 20th century that things were turned upside down.

A. Topic sentence explaining your point. Martin Luther, John Calvin, Richard Hooker, John Wesley (rather Johann Bengel his favorite commentator) and Charles Spurgeon all agree that the primary definition of holiness is wholeness.
B. Elaboration to back your point. These all believed that holiness means wholeness based on the scholarship of their day. It is also true that during these times and under their leadership and with this understanding they led renewal movements. I think it is important to contrast the effects of their understanding with our own when we are in a declining movement rather than renewal movement.

III. Second argument or reason to support your position.

A. Topic sentence explaining your point. The idea that holy means whole is backed up by scholarship grounded in a very simple object called a rock that everyone can understand.
B. Elaboration to back your point. Mary Douglas, a famous anthropologist, uses parallel passages to suggest that holy means whole, because a physical object known as a rock is whole. This should be very easy to understand once we agree on the parallel.

IV. Third argument or reason to support your position.

A. Topic sentence explaining your point. Ancient Hebrew script could ultimately be the best argument for holy means whole.
B. Elaboration to back your point. Jeff Benner has demonstrated a connection between Ancient Hebrew Script and the idea of pictographs that express ideas. What is left is more detailed analysis of the root letters for holy.

V. Opposing viewpoint to show that I have considered another point of view and have a rebuttal to it. I have considered the opposing view and found it originally hard to change my point of view from what I grew up with.

A. Opposing point to my argument. The opposing point to my argument is the idea that the root idea of holy is separate or to be set apart.
B. My rebuttal to the opposing point. My rebuttal is that scholars who hold this point admit that this point of view is controversial. The problem is that this is often not pointed out in many of the lexicons that pastors rely upon, so that the argument appears, but is not really, a slam dunk.
C. Elaboration to back your rebuttal. No original research can seriously deny this point. This is admitted by people like Rudolph Otto who then make their choice for separate based on philosophical reasons not linguistic reasons.

VI. Conclusion

A. Summary of main points or reasons. To summarize, there are at least 3 major reasons supporting the idea that holy means whole. There is historical precedent during times of reformation, renewal or revival. There is scientific evidence grounded in a simple object like a rock. There is the potential for Ancient Hebrew letters to give us further insight.
B. Restate your thesis statement. My thesis is that if you follow the sound guidelines for learning the meaning of any word you will arrive at holy meaning whole.
C. Personal comment or a call to action. I have always tried to be a team player as an athlete. I think we need the same in the case learning the meaning of holy. I want to work with a team of people including scholars and other kinds of support help that can prove once and for all the meaning of holy. In the end, this word is too important for us to be uncertain about, when it comes to its meaning. Let’s do something rather than leave things as they are. PLEASE JOIN WITH ME IN ANY WAY YOU CAN.

Thank you.

In Christ,


Friday, October 30, 2009

Holy Means Whole: According to Remembering

This morning I was searching for a note card I had for this piece of writing, but I could not find it due to insufficient memory. Fortunately, I did eventually find it. Memory is a very important thing at times.

The author of the quote I was searching for was making an argument for why you and I need to read classics. Here is his main argument: “What if you believe that knowledge that was once held in our possession has been lost due to intellectual error or insufficient memory?” Let’s face it, memory failure does happen. We humans, even saints, are forgetful at times.

Many writers on the topic of holiness try to base their arguments for the truth of a position based on antiquity. The reason this argument has weight is because sometimes our memory is insufficient. Even computer memory reflects the fact that memory is important. Sometimes there is an error on a drive, so we cannot bring back data that was once saved for future recall. The memory becomes inaccessible. Sometimes also there is insufficient space to save data and we call it insufficient memory. Memory can be crowded out by other things.

When I was growing up, no one around me in church remembered that holy means whole. I sat through a pile of sermons, a heap of Sunday school classes, and even went on to the big time of colleges, universities and seminaries and yet no one remembered that holy means whole. That was until one day, when memory in Strong’s Concordance awoke me to a new wonderful definition for holy. That was in 2004. It should have been there in 1974.

In my church body, memory was especially bad, because Evangelicals today primarily flow from the Methodist stream of Protestantism. Wesley out of all the major Protestant reformers seems to have had the worst memory of holy means whole. This is despite the fact that Johann Bengel was his favorite commentator and one of the most prolific authors on holy means whole. But amazingly, Bengel’s most important writing on this subject was never published and another part of his writing on this subject was never translated into English for Wesley to be able to read. I didn’t realize these influences on my experience, when I was growing up. You’ve heard of the subconscious part of a person. I call this part of my experience, my sub-experience, because while it influenced my experience, I had no awareness of it.

To complicate matters further, Wesley’s Anglican roots lost its memory of a connection between holy and comprehensive seemingly in a hurry. I’m not certain as to why this happened. Yet in talking to Anglicans or Episcopalians today, they are not aware of a connection between the biblical concept of holy and their English idea of comprehensiveness. They seem to assume it just emerged as a good philosophical concept, rather than as a good biblical concept. You could call this an evangelical’s deep sub-experience. It helped form our experience growing up, even though we had no awareness of it directly.

So what should we do now, if we suspect we have lost something due to memory failure or memory being insufficient? On a computer we try to recover a corrupted or lost file by using a recovery program or we search for a new disk where there is sufficient memory.

In the case of our human memories we try to find a record that is contemporary or older than our own memory. In the case of holiness, many rely on older records of what holiness means to prove what it means. Yet just being older does not guarantee accuracy, since they too could have forgotten.

We also have to be careful when what we are saying now is not the same as what is said in the past, because one of the keys to building memory is repeating the same thing over and over again. If it changes, our memory is likely to come up insufficient. To remember is to “again member” over and over again. The more times it can be repeated without change, the more solid it is. There has been change enough to question the memory of things in the 20th century.

The Bible itself does not give us a contemporary statement of what holy means. Rather it was assumed that its meaning was well known and not likely to be forgotten. We never read holy means … or holy is …, in the classic definition sense. Yet this is not a problem, if we have the right tools to find its definition. So what do we do in the case of human memory?

The best solution is to find the memory of what holy means is in the Bible itself. I think the best hope for this is in the ancient pictographs for Hebrew or in the context of the oldest passages in Scripture. The memory is there. Since it would be contemporary, it would be a memory we can definitely trust. It would be like recovering a lost or corrupted file.

I wish I could dedicate all my time to this task. I think God has blessed me with the tools to find the answer. My only problem is that I cannot dedicate the time I would like to the task, because of the limits on my income. It is that simple for me.

How much longer can we afford to go without an assurance of what holy means? I am not sure. But a false assurance that our memory is sound, is no substitute for a rock solid memory that is not subject to failure or to a lack of space.

I wish I could say that the church’s memory of holy is that sound. I have seen tremendous reasons to doubt it, as I have searched the memory of the church, the ancients and Scripture. If only I had the money to use my tools that God has gifted to me through His word and His servants. Then I would apply them to insuring that we don't have intellectual error or insuffient memory.

In Christ,


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Holy Means Whole: According to What If ....

There is a great possibility that the definition of holy could be become clear, rather than controversial once and for all. There are a few keys to this. One is discovering the meaning of the word through its symbols or letters.

I was in Northern Wisconsin earlier this summer and I heard a very interesting presentation on Chinese characters and their ancient meanings. This got me thinking about Hebrew characters and their ancient meanings. So let me present a possibility that is incredible, if it is true.

In short summary, the presenter this last summer tried to argue that ancient Chinese character combinations pointed back to the story of creation. In other words, their combinations were based on a story that tied their individual concrete meanings together. I will not go into detail here, but let me say that the implication I saw was that possibly Hebrew characters did something similar.

Jeff A. Benner has written a book titled, "The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible." He argues in it that the ancient forms of Hebrew letters were pictographs. So he starts to formulate meanings based on ancient pictographs, rather than on later understandings of a word's meaning. One of my greatest linguistics professors, Dr. William A. Smalley, once said about both major lines of writing that, "writing developed originally out of representation of messages in pictures." The problem though according to Smalley was that "picture language has severe limitations." That is why written language developed further. So knowing this and after examining the early portions of Benner's lexicon, I think Benner's idea holds great promise.

Unfortunately, when Benner comes to holy, he relies on later scholarly opinion, rather than on his own method of using ancient pictographs. He violates his own insights. I have written to him on this and I have not yet heard back. Yet I want to share with you now a possibility based on his method. So the idea of possibility is why I titled this piece, "Holy Means Whole: According to What If ...."

What I want to attempt to do is use Jeff's insights with some insights from Dr. Smalley. Dr. Smalley once said:

Imagine, for example, a picture (or sequence of pictures) showing a person lying on a bier, with symbols of royal status, and some people wailing. This could well convey a message expressed in a various ways in English, including the following:

"The king is dead and the people are mourning."
"People are mourning, because the king has died."
"The king has died and is lying in state; people are coming to mourn."
"We mourn, because our king has passed away."

This shows some of the difficulty in using pictographs, yet it also shows how pictographs might function in communicating a message or messages. So I want to show what the pictographs Jeff proposes could mean.

There are four pictographs that make up the word holy in ancient Hebrew. Reading right to left in Hebrew:

1) a picture of the sun at the horizon
2) a picture of a tent peg
3) a picture of a tent door
4) a picture of two front teeth.

It is difficult to understand at first glance, why these objects would be related to each other. Yet it may be possible to imagine a way they are related. Imagine them with their opposites:

1) A sun at the horizon (sunset) versus a sun at high noon (midday)
2) A tent peg versus no peg
3) A tent door versus a tent wall
4) Two front teeth versus being toothless (upfront).

Their meanings then could be:

1) all of a thing versus some of a thing
2) it could be connected versus unconnected
3) it could be moving versus immoveable
4) discerning versus undiscerning.

What is hardest to imagine is the way these things are part of the same picture. How do these pictures form a whole or communicate a message together?

Here is a possibility:

1) all = Amount
2) connected = Relationship
3) moving = Action
4) discerning = Thing

Dr. Smalley and others like Dr. Dan Shaw taught me a Wycliffe method of recognizing basic meanings in language or in words. There were four parts of meaning that made up the whole of meaning. Each of these pictographs could be communicating a concept of language that are connected at a fundamental level to include all the meanings or parts of communication. This is what would be incredible.

Holy, as an ancient pictograph, could then communicate to us that:

in amount, we are expected to give our all as pictured in a sunset at the end of a full day,
in relationship, we are expected to be connected as pictured in a a tent peg that connects a tent
to the ground,
in action, we are expected to be moving as pictured in a tent door that moves when we push it,
in thing, we are expected to be discerning as pictured in teeth that separate one thing from

Holy would then mean the whole, because each of its parts of the whole would be represented in each of the pictures. They would be an ancient object lesson or picture lesson for the people.

These ancient meanings could also explain why the root meanings that have been proposed for holy are diverse. One meaning for holy that has been proposed that has been proposed for boosting the definition of being whole is that of shining. Obviously this connects with the first pictograph. The other meaning for holy that has been proposed is connected with being separate. Obviously this connects with the fourth pictograph. This could bring clarity to the situation as to where historical definitions got their ideas.

All I can say is that would it not be something, if what I propose as possible is also true? It could give us not only a settlement of controversy, but a picture of what holiness is supposed to look like. A concrete picture might be the greatest blessing of all!

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Holy Means Whole: According to Richard Hooker

Generally speaking the core value that is most promoted in the Episcopal debates over their identity is that of comprehensiveness or inclusiveness. The question that is open for debate is what the origin for this value is.

Some argue that it comes from the mediating position of the Anglican Church between that of Catholicism and that of Protestantism. This is what makes it comprehensive or inclusive. This idea of following a middle course then is the determining factor in what comprehensiveness means. Add to this the fact that comprehensiveness is the idea behind the great debates currently happening in the Episcopal and Anglican Churches over homosexuality and then you realize this is no small matter.

The difficulty is that finding the true historical roots for comprehensiveness is not easy nor is it without controversy. Back in 2004 or 2005 I ran across a person who argued that the root meaning for comprehensiveness came from the meaning of holiness or wholeness. Unfortunately for me, this person’s writings on the internet on no longer available at the link I had discovered. He also argued that Richard Hooker was the key author behind this idea.

I think you could argue that it would go back further than Hooker and it would have to originate at least in Cranmer, if this argument is true. This is because Cranmer included in parts of the prayer book or the 39 articles the concept of wholesome. You might even have to go back to a translator named John Wycliffe and argue that his understanding of holiness and wholeness as synonymous is significant.

Yet Richard Hooker is one of the key people in the debate as to the meaning of being an Anglican or an Episcopalian. Both sides of the current debates claim an historical legacy to support their cause.

I think it is not controversial to say that one of the core values of being an Anglican or Episcopalian has to be their comprehensiveness in the sense of wholeness. To pick just one prominent example, their stance is that of recognizing 5 solas in the place of Luther’s 3 solas. On a core value level they instinctually identify when others have left some things out.

Richard Hooker once preached a sermon titled: “A Learned and Comfortable Sermon of Certainty and Perpetuity.” In that sermon he had this among many other things to say: “The truth of some things is so evident, that no man which hears them can doubt them: As when we hear, that a part of anything is less than the whole, the mind is constrained to say this is true.”

I think this is a core value of Anglicanism, when you see the architectural magnificence of Hooker’s writings and when you see 5 solas rather than just 3. They are not satisfied with just some of the parts of anything. They strive also for the whole. They see the whole as greater.

Whether or not holiness or wholeness is the origin for the idea of comprehensiveness or not, though I suspect it is, the value of wholeness is at least one of the core values of Anglicans and Episcopalians.

I wish they would come back to this core value. It would be helpful to both sides of their titanic debate. It might even solve their greatest problems and weaknesses in the debate.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Holy Means Whole: According to the Forgotten Ways

When I first discovered the idea that holy means whole, I was a bit startled by its seeming novelty. I had never heard the idea before November 2004. That was until I researched the way the word for holy was translated in the King James Version, using Strong’s Concordance. There showed up the translation of the original for holy as wholly. This was what originally initiated my search. Since then, I have discovered that the idea was not novel, but forgotten.

Somehow the far right, the far left and the mushy middle forgot to pass it on to those of us who were born in the twentieth century. I’ve been asked how this could have happened or did happen. I think I can now venture a good idea as to how this happened. But before I say how it happened, I think it is important to point out that it happened for both unintended and intended reasons.

Sometimes crisis events prevail over accurate definitions. In the late 1800s, there are two crisis events that in turn changed the definition of holy. The first was a quest for clarity and a scientific basis for the meaning of biblical words. The second was a response to the quest to be clear and scientific.

I have to simplify the story, so I will make it about just two historical characters. The first is Julius Wellhausen. The second is Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Both are villains and heroes, depending on who you talk to and who knows who they are. Wellhausen is sometimes credited with first establishing credibility for the critical study of the Bible. Spurgeon is sometimes credited with first establishing a beachhead in response to critical study. Let’s live with these oversimplifications for our purposes.

Wellhausen had a pretty significant event in his life, when he had a falling out with his theological mentor, Ewald. From the climate of that time in Germany, there was a strong emphasis on being scientific. One had to have clear ideas in order for something to possess intelligence, to paraphrase Wellhausen. He did not find that in Ewald’s approach to the Bible.

Further, Wellhausen’s efforts had to be objective in order to be scientific. Part of this, was the conviction that a person must study, not just Hebrew religion and Christian religion, but also the other religions of the Ancient Near Eastern world. In this way, by demonstrating objectivity in at least initially treating all religions in that time and place as equals, one could establish credibility in the scientific realm.

Yet the implications were greater than that, because with this objectivity, there also was a belief that there might be themes that all religions held in common. One of those themes was believed to be a distinction between the taboo items of life and the ordinary items of life. Taboo things were things restricted to the sacred and the ordinary things were the common items of everyday life. The idea of holy in Judaism and Christianity supposedly were restricted by taboo and therefore sacred. They were set apart. The profane were the things not under restriction and therefore secular.

Being scientific about the meaning of holy in the original writings is a little more complicated than it is with many words. Some have what is called a clear etymology or a clear line from one word to another that helps us determine its meaning. For holy this is controversial rather than clear. This is the admission of every serious scholar. So into this vacuum stepped the insight of what was discovered in other religions, that there are items which are taboo or set apart and that there are items which are profane or common. So much for one part of our story. This is the root story for the far left side of the tracks.

Spurgeon’s efforts had to have credibility as well. He was not opposed to being objective, but he questioned some of the objectivity of Wellhausen and others, who felt comfortable with some critical views on Scripture that Spurgeon could not agree was objective. This came to a head, while he was part of what was called the Baptist Union.

Spurgeon ended up leaving the Baptist Union, following his accusation that some of its members were on a downgrade path in regard to Scripture. So the controversy became known as the Downgrade Controversy. Spurgeon’s favorite call to others of like mind was to “come out and be separate.”
This battle cry from the midst of a crisis, appears to have replaced Spurgeon’s earlier definition of holiness as wholeness. As he says in one of his sermons about holiness means wholeness, “as I have said many times.” Instead, following the controversy and even more his death not many years after, the definition for holiness took on the idea of “be separate.” So much for another part of this story. This is a root story for the far right side of the tracks.

The evangelicals at this time, were regarded by people like Spurgeon as weaker comrades in the battle against any kind of downgrade. The movement on the issue of holiness seems to have tried to steer a middle course in this controversy. It seems to have contributed very little, except perhaps wedding the idea of set apart to that of be separate. That was their so-called weaker course of peace. They later appeared more comfortable with the pursuit of being scientific in the twentieth century. So much for the final part of this story. This is a root story for the evangelical middle of the tracks.

What was lost in all of these movements and events was that the meaning of holy shifted. It shifted from primarily meaning whole according to Luther, Calvin (see later Jonathan Edwards), (Richard) Hooker, Wesley?? (see his favorite commentator, John Bengel), and Spurgeon. They did also recognize a secondary meaning of separate.

It did not matter whether losing the idea of whole as the primary definition was intentional or not. It got lost and forgotten. I want to recover our forgotten ways.

A forgotten idea may seem novel, until it is realized it was forgotten. It is no longer totally new when it is in fact old. If you want to see the tip of the iceberg of what was lost, please see my earlier posts, especially the oldest. We badly need renewal. A movement with ties to the past (re=again), with ties to the present (new) and ties to the future (al=for all of time). We need to continue improvements, yet we need the past too.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Friday, June 19, 2009

Holy Means Whole: According to Andrew Murray, Part II

Here is the other part from Murray that I could not wait to get out on the internet. It reads in part:

Note C (p. 208)
The Holiness of God

There is not a word so exclusively scriptural, so distinctly divine, as the word holy in its revelation and its meaning. As a consequence of this divine origin, it is a word of inexhaustible significance. There is not one of the attributes of God which theologians have found so hard to define, or concerning which they differ so much. A short survey of the various views that have been taken may teach us how little the idea of the divine Holiness can be comprehended or exhausted by human definition, and how it is only in the life of fellowship and adoration that the holiness which passes all understanding can, as a truth and a reality, be apprehended.
1. The most external view, in which the ethical was very much lost sight of, is that in which holiness is identified with God’s separateness from creation, and elevation above it. Holiness was defined as the incomparable glory of God, his exclusive adorableness, his infinite majesty. Sufficient attention was not paid to the fact that though all these thoughts are closely connected with God’s Holiness, they are but a formal definition of the results and surroundings of the Holiness, but do not lead jus to the apprehension of that wherein its real essence consists.

2. Another view [from #1], which also commences from the external, and makes that the basis of its interpretation, regards holiness as simply an expression of a relation. Because what was set apart for God’s service was called holy, the idea of separation, of consecration, of ownership, is taken as the starting-point. And so, because we are said to be holy, as belonging to God, God is holy as claiming us and belonging to us too. Instead of regarding holiness as a positive reality in the divine nature, from which our holiness is to be derived, our holiness is made the starting-point for expounding the Holiness of God. `God is holy as being, within the covenant, not only the Proprietor, but the Property of his people, their highest good and their only rule’ (Diestel). Of this view mention has already been made in the note to Sixth Day on Holiness as Proprietorship.

3. Passing over [from #2] to the views of those who regard holiness as being a moral attribute, the most common one is that of purity, freedom from sin. `Holiness is a general term for the moral excellence of God. There is none holy as the Lord: no other being absolutely pure and free from all limitations in his moral perfection. Holiness, on the one hand, implies entire freedom from moral evil, upon the other, absolute moral perfection’ (Hodge, Systematic Theology). The idea of holiness as the infinite purity which is free from all sin, which hates and punishes hit, is what in conception is the most prominent idea. The negative stands more in the foreground than the positive. The view has its truth and its value from the fact that in our sinful state the first impression the Holiness of God must make is that of fear and dread in the consciousness of our sinfulness and unholiness. But it does not tell us wherein his moral excellence or perfection of God really consists.

4. It is an advance on this view [#3] when the attempt is made to define what this perfection of God is. A thing is perfect when it is in everything as it ought to be. It is easy thus to define perfection, but not so easy to define what the perfection f any special object is: this needs the knowledge of what is nature is. And we have to rest content with very general terms defining God’s Holiness as the essential and absolute good. `Holiness is the free, deliberate, calm, and immutable affirmation of himself, who is goodness, or of goodness, which is himself’ (Godet on John 17:11). `Holiness is that attribute in virtue of which Jehovah makes himself the absolute standard of himself, of his being and revelation.’ [likely Godet again]

5. Closely allied to this [“#4] is the view that holiness is not so much an attribute, but the `whole complex of that which we are wont to look at and represent singly in the individual attributes of God.’ So [Johann] Bengel looked upon holiness as the divine nature, in which all the attributes are contained. In the same spirit Howe says of holiness as the divine beauty, the result of the perfect harmony of all the attributes., `Holiness is intellectual beauty. Divine holiness is the most perfect beauty, and the measure of all other. The divine Holiness is the most perfect pulchritude [def. physical beauty], the ineffable and immortal pulchritude, that cannot be declared by words, or seen by eyes. This may therefore be called a transcendental attribute that, as it were, runs through the rest, and casts a glory upon every one. It is an attribute of attributes. These are fit predications, holy power, holy love. And so it is the very luster and glory of his other perfections. He is glorious in holiness’ (Howe in Whyte’s Shorter Catechism). This was the aspect of divine Holiness on which Jonathan Edwards delighted to dwell. `The mutual love of the Father and the Son make the third, the personal Holy Spirit, or the Holiness of God, which is his infinite beauty.’ `By the communication of God’s Holiness the creature partakes of God’s moral excellence, which is perfection, the beauty of the divine nature.’ `Holiness comprehends all the true moral excellence of intelligent beings. So the Holiness of God is the same with the moral excellency of the divine nature, comprehending all his perfections, his righteousness, faithfulness and goodness. There are two kinds of attributes of God, according to our way of conceiving him: his moral attributes, which are summed up in his Holiness, and his natural, as strength, knowledge, etc., which constitute his greatness. Holy persons, in the exercise of holy affection, love God in the first place for the beauty of his Holiness.’ The holiness of n intelligent creature is that which gives beauty to all his natural perfections. And so it is in God: holiness is in a peculiar manner the beauty of holiness (Psalm 29:2; 96:9; 110:3). This renders all the other attributes glorious and lovely.’ `Therefore, if the true loveliness of God’s perfections arise from the loveliness of his Holiness, the true love of his perfections will arise from the love of his Holiness. And as the beauty of the divine nature primarily consists in God’s Holiness, so does the beauty of all divine things.’ [This is implied elsewhere to be Andrew Murray’s view also.]

6. In speaking of God’s Holiness as denoting the essential good, the absolute excellence of His nature, some press very strongly the ethical aspect. The good in God must not be from mere natural impulse only, flowing from the necessity of his nature, without being freely willed by himself. `What is naturally good is not the true realization of the good. The actual and living, will, to be the good he is m must also have its place in God, otherwise God would only be naturally ethical. Only in the will which consciously determines itself, is there the possibility given of the ethical. The ethical has such a power in God that his is the holy Power, who cannot and will not renounce himself, which must be, and would be thought to be, the holy necessity f the goodness which is himself – to be the Holy. The love of God is essentially holy; it desires and preserves the ethically necessary or holy, which God is’ (Dorner, System, Vol. I).

7. It was felt that in such views [#3-6] that there was not a sufficient acknowledgment of the truth that it is especially as the Holy One that God is called Redeemer., that that he does the work of love to make holy. This lead to the view that holiness and love are, if not identical, at least correlated expressions. `God is holy, exalted above all the praise of the creature in his incomparable praiseworthiness, on account of his free and loving condescension to the creature, to manifest in it the glory of his love.’ `God is holy, inasmuch as love in him has restrained and conquered the righteous wrath (as Hosea says, 11:9) and the judgment is exercised only after every way of mercy has been tried. This holiness is disclosed in the New Testament name, as exalted as it is condescending, of Father’ (Stier on John 17).

8. The large measure of truth in this view {#7] is met by an expression in which the true aspect os the Holiness of God are combined. It is defined as being the harmony of self-preservation and self-communication. As the Holy One, God hates sin, and seeks to destroy it. As the Holy One, he makes the sinner holy, and then takes him up into his love. In maintaining his love he never for a moment loses his divine purity and perfection in maintaining his righteousness. He still communicates himself to the fallen creature. Holiness is the divine glory, of which love and righteousness are the two sides, and which in their work on earth they reveal.
`Holiness is the self-preservation of God, whereby he keeps himself free from the world without him, and remains consistent with himself and faithful to his Being, and whereby he, with this view, creates a divine world that lives for himself alone in the organization of his Church’ (Lange).
`The Holiness of God is God’s self-preservation, or keeping to himself, in virtue of which he remains the same in all relationships which exist within his Deity, or into which he enters, never sacrifices what is divine, or admits what is not divine. But this is only one aspect. God’s Holiness would not be holiness, but exclusiveness, if it did not provide for God’s entering into manifold relations, and so revealing and communicating himself. Holiness is therefore the union and interpretation of God’s keeping to himself and communicating himself; of his nearness and his distance; of his exclusiveness and his self-revelation; of separateness and fellowship. ‘
`The divine Holiness is mainly seclusion from the impurity and sinfulness of the creature, or expressed positively, the cleanness and purity of the divine nature, which excludes all connection with the wicked. In harmony with this, the divine Holiness, as an attribute of revelation, is not merely an abstract power, but is the divine self-representation and self-testimony for the purpose of giving to the world the participation in the divine life’ (Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament 1:160).
`Opposition to sin is the first impression which man receives of God’s Holiness. Exclusion, election, cleansing, redemption – these are the four forms in which God’s Holiness appears in the sphere of humanity; and we may say that God’s Holiness signifies his opposition to sin manifesting itself in atonement and redemption, or in judgment. Or as holiness, so far as it is embodied in law, must be the highest moral perfection, we may say, “holiness is the purity of God manifesting itself in atonement and redemption, and correspondingly in judgment.” By this view all the above elements are done justice to; holiness asserts itself in judging righteousness, an in electing, purifying, and redeeming love, and thus it appears as the impelling and formative principle of the revelation of redemption, without a knowledge of which an understanding of the revelation is impossible, and by the perception of which it is seen in its full, clear light. God is light: this is a full and exhaustive New Testament phrase for God’s Holiness (1 John 1:5) (Cremer).
This view is brought out with special distinctness in the writings of J T Beck. `It is God’s Holiness which, taking the good which was given in creation in strict faithfulness to that good and perfect will of God, as the eternal life-purpose of love, in righteousness and mercy carried out to its completion in God himself to a life of perfection. God does this as the Alone Holy. In the world of sin divine love can only bring deliverance by a mediation in which it is reconciled to the divine wrath within their common centre, the Holiness of God, in such a way that while wrath manifests its destroying reality, love shall prove its restoring power in the life it gives’ (Beck, Lehrwissenschaft, 168, 547

…. [ a lot is left out here that will be added later, p,214a – p. 217a]

Careful reflection will show us that in each of the above views [#1-8] there is a measure of truth. It will convince us how the very difficulty of formulating to human thought the conception of divine Holiness proves that it is the highest expression for that ineffable and inconceivable glory of the divine Being which constitutes him the Infinite and Glorious God.

…. [217b continued]

This section is packed full of wheat and chaff. I will comment on it more later. But suffice to say, Murray did his homework.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Holy Means Whole: According to Andrew Murray, Part I

I learned some of the most important things I know about holiness from Andrew Murray in his book titled Holy in Christ. To find anything about holy that is quoted from it on the internet seems to be mostly fruitless. To find even the same title for the same book makes it even worse. So I will quote a great deal from it here, so that you can read for yourself what he had to say.

In addition, I am going to edit this posting considerably over time. I just couldn't wait to get these two parts out there on the internet. Here it is in part:

Note B (p. 207)
On the Word for Holiness

The proper meaning of the Hebrew word for holy, kadosh, is a matter of uncertainty. It may come from a root signifying to shine. (So Gesenius, Oehler, Furst, and formerly Delitzsch, on Hebrews 2:11). Or from another denoting new and bright (Diestel), or an Arabic form meaning to cut, to separate (So Delitzsch now, on Psalm 22:4). Whatever the root be, the chief idea appears not to be only separate or set apart, for which the Hebrew has entirely different words, but that by which a thing is separated from others for its worth is distinguished above them. It indicates not only separation as an act or fact, but the superiority or excellence in virtue of which, either as already possessed or sought after, the separation takes place.

In his Lexicon of New Testament Greek, Cremer has an exhaustive article on the Greek hagios, pointing out how holiness is an entirely Biblical idea, and `how the scriptural conceptions of God’s Holiness, notwithstanding the original affinity, is diametrically opposite all Greek notions; and how, whereas these very views of the gods exclude from the gods all possibility of love the scriptural conception of holiness unfolds itself only in the closest connection with divine love.’ It is a most suggestive thought that we owe both the word and the thought distinctly to revelation. Every other attribute of God has some notion to correspond with it in the human mind: the thought of holiness is distinctly divine. Is it not this reason that, though God has so distinctly in the New Testament called his people holy ones, the word holy has so little entered into our daily language and life of the Christian church?

I hope you can see that he views holiness as clearly more than separation.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Friday, June 05, 2009

Holy Means Whole: According to Biblical, Renewal, Spiritual and Natural

It is important that people understand the values that underly what I am trying to do. For me the values that are important when discussing the word holy are the following. They are: biblical, renewal, spiritual and natural. I intend when I write to not violate any one of these four values.

The biblical value means in sum the 66 books of the Book that I grew up with are what I regard as God's Word and nothing more or nothing less than all 66 of them. Each of the 66 make up a portion of God's Word that stands out from other writings. All of them together are normnative and get special attention that none of the others gets.

The renewal value means that collectively all periods of time and people are connected together. Our values are not just made up of the past and being traditional. But neither is it just the future and being futuristic. Renewal means what it says. There is a past, because it happens again, there is a present because it is happening now and there is a future because it includes all. Renewal means that I am connected collectively with my Greatgrandmother, my Grandfather, my mother and others before them. But I also expect to see new believers now and in the future. Our faith should stretch to all periods of time. Not just the past or the present or the future is normnative.

The spiritual value means that the activity of life is produced not by the flesh but by the Spirit. We are otherwise spiritually dead, even though we walk around apparently alive. That is until we are truly born again of the Spirit. So while I think an unbeliever can read correctly a passage of Scripture and explain its meaning, it still does not mean that they are alive and that they have the Spirit. The significance of bringing life is not yet recognized by them.

The natural value that I oppose objects or things contrary to nature. We sing that this is my Father's world and we say that it is God's creation. I take both very seriously. I thoroughly believe that His handwriting is on His handiwork. He reveals Himself in nature. So to go contrary to what is natural is dangerous. A vase of clay is an object made of the material of clay. We need to learn from the materials that God has used and the objects He has made from those materials. We need this value as well as the others.

I went through a very difficult time as a Christian when I tried to live by just the principal of Scripture (Bible) Alone. It isolated me from others and so undervalued renewal the most. Commentaries from the past and present couldn't be used to uphold biblical purity. Yet Luther never avoided the collective connection with other believers. The values of spiritual and natural were diminished. The whole experience propelled me much later to the values above, yet without diminishing the value I placed on the Bible. I still am happily a "chapter and verse" child of my parents.

I just wanted to lay out these values for those who wondered what they are. Much of what I use for communication is based on what I have learned from nature when it comes to communication. It is based on the solid study of language. We live in a day when the changes in transportation have brought distant places close. We also live in a day when changes in the means of communication have brought distant times close. Space and time technologies have altered our understanding of communication for the better. I hope you can see that I value nature in this regard and also renewal.

I think we should use our advanced understandings and also the understandings of the past that we now have in our possession that we did not in the past. We now understand language much like they did in 5th/6th century B.C. This is something that would have been likely inaccessible to Luther. Will we use our renewed understanding to our advantage? That is my challenge to all of us.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Friday, May 29, 2009

Holy Means Whole: According to the Ten Views of Sanctification

How could your title be true you might ask? If there are ten views, how could you propose one view? It is because the ten views show the failure of the meaning of separation to unite Christians around one common view. I think that a viewpoint’s failure may point to the other’s success, though not by itself. It at least adds credibility to the idea of holy means whole.

Also I might mention that it might be more accurate to say somewhere between five and ten views, but I wanted a simple title. There are two key books showing the diversity of opinion.

One is Donald L. Alexander’s Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification. The other is Five Views on Sanctification. This is where I get the idea of ten views, but there is overlap.
In Christian Spirituality, there are the Reformed, Lutheran, Wesleyan, Pentecostal and Contemplative views that are represented. The authors for each in order are Sinclair Ferguson, Gerhard Forde, Laurence Wood, Russell Spittler and E. Glen Hinson. In Five Views on Sanctification, there are in somewhat parallel order, the Reformed, Augustinian-Dispensational, Wesleyan, Pentecostal and Keswick views that are represented. The authors for each in order are Anthony Hoekema, John Walvoort, Melvin Dieter, Stanley Horton and J. Robert McQuilkin. So you could say seven views and ten authors to be the most accurate.

Before I go further I want to clarify a very important point. My gift mix does not make me the scholar that these gentlemen are. I respect all ten of them as scholars and some of them have educated me in the things that I know. Yet my gift mix does include that of teacher.

Let me explain the difference. Jesus was a teacher, but while He may have also been an expert in the law, He never refers to Himself that way. On the other hand in Luke 10, we find him discussing things with an expert in the law. In that passage in Luke 10:25-37, Jesus defines the expert in the law as one who knows what is written in the law and he defines the teacher as one who knows how to read it. He asks: “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” I think the first question is what experts ought to know, even if they are not great teachers. I think the second question is what teachers ought to know, even if they are not great experts. I think Jesus worded his two questions the way he did, because of the expert’s role and because of his role in this story.

My role is not that of expert. I am not the most knowledgeable in “what” questions. In college, I turned down a pretty good job offer thinking it involved too much detail for me. What I did not understand is that it would not require me so much to be an expert, as to teach how I read what is written. That I could have been good at, but unfortunately I missed that opportunity.

Now I know that I am a person equipped with the gift of teaching, but not necessarily that of knowledge or expertise. These ten men can beat me in that area. But when I read their material, I think I see something others may miss in reading. I see the same basic idea for the definition of holy as being that of separation. I do not read the same thing there that I read in Luther, Calvin, Hooker, Wesley(?) and Spurgeon. A new definition is being proposed by all ten men, when you read them.

Their failures to solve so many problems between themselves means maybe there is something wrong from the beginning. Maybe holy or sanctification are being defined wrongly. I know this may add only probability to the idea that holy means whole. But it adds more than that. It adds a great reason to read the previous experts of previous generations and see “what is written” in their pages that is not written now.

Happy reading to all of you. If you want to save some time, then feel free to read my other entries of quotes in my previous blog entries. I have many more quotes I wish I had time to already make available, but it will already give you a generous start. God’s riches blessings to you for reading.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Holy Means Whole: According to Common Sense

Common sense is not as common as people wish. I don't mean this as a criticism of people in general. I also don't mean to sound as though it is an unreachable ideal. I rather mean that it is not as common, as most of us would like. If it were more common, I think the idea that holy means whole would also be more common.

I recently was on flights to Atlanta and Orlando. In the airports, I heard a lot of common sense and a lot of people complaining about the lack of it, when it came to airports and airlines. I witnessed its lack again the other day, when discussing rules for a track meet. Even the officials admitted the lack of common sense in rule making. What is happening?

It is intimidating, if people feel that "It is all Greek to me!" It is exhilarating, if people feel, "It is just common sense!" So how does a person find a way out of intimidation, when dealing with the Bible originally being written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek? Does it mean we all are left feeling intimidated by scholars? Or is there a way out?

I know from the Bible that there is a way out. I also learned a very valuable way out, while I was in the auto industry. One of my coaches taught me the way out by distinguishing between features and benefits. This greatly diminished the feeling of being intimidated and the danger of intimidating others.

When we were in training, very often our training focused on features like power windows, ABS brakes, rack'n’ pinion steering, etc. But when we were talking to our customers, we were supposed to focus on the benefits of those features, not on the features themselves. So we were to talk about convenience, the ability to brake and steer at the same time and quick handling on corners, etc. There were exceptions, like when a customer started asking technical questions. Sometimes, my job then switched to finding someone more technically educated, than I was. Yet our rule remained, start with benefits.

A more common sense example would be your first moving vehicle, usually propelled by another family member. It was your little red wagon. Admit it, you rode in one of these long before you owned a red Dodge Power Wagon. You became very aware of a smooth ride, when it was happening. It was definitely a benefit, when a rough ride got too rough. We may even have advanced to understanding that rough sidewalks or a damaged wheel meant a rough ride. Those features usually could be grasped by even a pretty young rider. I'm sure you were brilliant for someone your age.

Going back to our cars, most of us know that when we have a properly inflated tire, which is a feature, that it shows itself by a smoother ride, which is the benefit. As a person working in the auto industry I was living in a world beyond common sense and a world of common sense at the same time. You could say I was a middle man between the uncommon sense world of technical features and the common sense world of real benefits.

So what is the difference between a feature and a benefit? In a few words, it is the common sense difference between parts and the whole. You have the part called a round wheel and then you have the whole of the smooth ride. The experts on language say it in almost the same words; they call it the difference between feature and activity. Watch how this plays out in the common sense world of real benefits and see if the experts are right. In the end, you can then feel a lot less intimidated. Just use your common sense to advantage.

In Luke 10:25-37, life and love are connected to each other. Life is the big thing in the question asked and life is the big thing in the answer given, using common sense. On the city street or at the grassroots of the farm, life and death are everyday things. Most people’s common sense tells them that a person or an animal is dead when activity or life ceases. They get life and death. It is a little harder to get their hands around love, yet love is not absent from life.

Jesus makes it clear that without love, life will not be inherited. Both love and life are actions; the only question is what their roles are. From a common sense point of view, life is the more common sense thing, so it is likely the greater of the two. So life would be the benefit while love would be the feature.

To understand love you actually do have to get a little technical. Sorry. Love is a general word. Love relates to helping change another's tire, like furniture relates to chairs.

Yet love is very important, because it is the umbrella for the features needed for the activity of life. That makes common sense, since life is the main issue in the question and that indicates what is most central. Also without love for one's neighbor, Jesus makes pretty clear that there will be no inheritance of eternal life. So what does this mean for the meaning of holy? How can we use our common sense there? I think we can use it, like we used it for seeing the roles of life and love. The question is which role, whole or part is the role for holy?

We read in our Bibles many times that Yahweh is holy. We also see a difference between love and holy. We don’t read love, love, love; yet we do read “holy, holy, holy” is “Yahweh God Almighty.” Holy is not a feature like love, it is something greater as indicated by its repetition.

Its greatness is indicated by how many times we read that Yahweh is holy, but also by its connection to the name Yahweh. When I was growing up, I knew that nothing in church was more important than the name Jesus. It was common sense. I have known this and it matches with what I know from my grassroots and my street life. Names are important on the street and at the grassroots.

Experts tell it to us this way. They say that there is the integrating object or person and there are the components of that object or person. They are talking here about the whole and its parts.

Using common sense, either Jesus or Yahweh are the name for the integrating person. If you are not familiar with the name Yahweh, Jesus’ name means “Yahweh saves.” There is nothing greater in the Old Testament to integrate everything than the name Yahweh. I grew up knowing that there was nothing greater in the New Testament than that name Jesus.

So what then is the meaning of holy? I think holy is that word that indicates the components that make up the person of Yahweh and Jesus. It tells us the most important thing about the components. It tells us that the person’s components are whole. They lack no component in their personality.

On the city street or at the farm’s grassroots, you have to know that the people you are dealing with are whole. On the street, your survival depends on others being integrated people who are whole and healthy. You don’t want to hang out too long with people who are imbalanced and whose personalities are disintegrated, unless you are skilled to handle their issues. At the grassroots, your survival depends on others being integrated who are whole and healthy. You don’t go hunting with a partner who lacks an important part of his personality, like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, who needs a brain. You need whole persons.

I know in the business world, there were imbalanced personalities, who thought that just working hard is all you need to succeed. These imbalanced people were dangerous to one’s health. That is to say nothing about the fact that they were spewing nonsense.

It is common sense too that Jesus was not a person who saw his primary component as a person, as being separate. Isn’t this just common sense from his story? He didn’t become an Essene or join the community in Qumran. He walked the streets and the country grassroots restoring the wholeness of the broken-hearted.

In the end, I think common sense tells us that separation doesn’t make sense as a meaning for holy. An integrated person is the central object of the Bible. And His person is made up of not just one component, but many. His Name is Yahweh. He is one, He is Father, etc., He is living and He is God. He is also these things in general. He is holy, He is righteous, He is true, He is love and He is good.

So I think this makes it easier for us not to feel so intimidated about the technical parts. If we can first grasp the common sense whole, then we can accomplish a great deal. We do not need to feel so intimidated by the scholar, yet we don’t want to be too scornful either. The parts have their place, like love to life and like round wheels to a smooth ride. Yet common sense seems more comfortable with the whole. Common sense needs to come first, so that it rules rather than nonsense and intimidation. There is a way out.

In Jesus,

Pastor Jon

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Holy Means Whole: According to Its Reference

Martin Luther is a pretty highly regarded theologian. At least, he should be, and I know I highly respect his contribution to my own faith in Christ. Yet even he made mistakes in understanding. I think it is important though not to exaggerate his mistakes and say an error in understanding is “dead wrong.” I believe the same thing about the error of believing that holy means separate. It is wrong, but it is not “dead wrong.”

Let me explain, using the example of one of Luther’s primary errors in understanding, that is yet also full of valuable insight. He spoke a tremendous amount about law and gospel, yet I think he misunderstood something very basic about the use of these words in Scripture.

I am not going to rehearse all the arguments for my position. There is not nearly the space, and I wrote an entire paper on it in seminary that covered well over 10 pages and maybe even covered 20 pages. So I can’t do the subject justice here. Let it instead suffice for me to give a summary of my conclusions and use it as an example, and not as a place to prove my position.

I concluded that Luther misunderstood the meaning of law and gospel, based on the biblical text and that numerous scholars who understood the Jewish context were correct in questioning Luther’s interpretation of the relationship between law and gospel in Scripture. Likewise, some of my own professors reached very similar conclusions, based on their knowledge of the Greek text. Luther saw law and gospel as related in the way of contrast rather than continuum. Law thundered God’s requirements while gospel softly spoke of God’s gift to us according to his understanding.

I think scholars are right to question his understanding that these two words are related by contrast. Yet I think they need to concede that they are equally wrong to miss the value of his reference point in speaking of contrast. I have written earlier about reference and non-reference. Each word should signify a point of reference. I do think Luther was incorrect in designating the reference for law and the reference for gospel as being in contrast to each other. Rather the gospel seems to be a continuation and fulfillment of the law itself. But what cannot be lost, is that Luther was making reference to a biblical contrast that does exist in reality.

It is the contrast between what God requires of us and what He freely gives us through his Son. This reference is to a very real thing. Luther’s incorrect reference point for gospel is to a correct and real reference point to things like God’s kindness, mercy, grace, compassion and longsuffering (slowness to anger). Likewise law is among those things like charges, judgments, laws, commandments and statutes that show us what is required of us.

So let’s look at people’s understanding of holy in this same light. I am convinced that seeing holy as referring to separate, whether according to English historical roots or according to Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek is an error, but it is not a “dead wrong” kind of error. Second, it is impossible for it to mean both whole and separate as reference points, since in each case the two meanings belong to two entirely separate reference points that are not linked by etymology. And it does not solve the problem to alter which is primary and which is secondary. It may make things worse to keep the two together, since the etymological roots are clearly separate from each other and they could lead to greater errors than they would apart from each other.

Yet, having said separate is a wrong reference point for holy in Scripture, I am not prepared to say that separate is a “dead wrong” meaning. Rather I think the concept of separate points to a very real thing in Scripture. And I agree with Andrew Murray that clearly other Hebrew words have this as their point of reference.

So in the end, let us be clear on something. Holy means whole, does not mean that separate has no valid point of reference within Scripture. Rather it is only wrong to say that this is the point of reference for holy. Separation remains a very valid point of reference in the Biblical worldview through a number of other words in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. I don’t consider being separate a thing we want to throw out with the bathwater. Rather we ought to save it and restore it after a good washing.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Friday, February 27, 2009

Holy Means Whole: Order over Chaos (Luke 1:1-4)

Recently I read the introduction of a book that I enjoyed tremendously back in the early 1990s. It is titled: The Roots of American Order and it is written by Russell Kirk. To paraphrase Kirk, he argues in the introduction that order is the first human need before things like justice, which would be a merely a part of order. I am convinced that being whole parallels the concept of order.

I want to summarize some implications from some of what I have said elsewhere. It is that holiness precedes righteousness, truth, love and good; because it is composed of all of these combined. It is what the whole is to each of the parts.

It is also important to point out that each of these concepts including holy is rather abstract as opposed to concrete. This is not a problem, but it is important to realize that each of these is likely learned from concrete objects that precede learning their meanings. I think every linguist would agree that the concrete things come first in childhood learning.

This is also true I think of kindness, mercy, grace, compassion and longsuffering (or being slow to anger). They are generalizations for many specific instances of forgiveness as demonstrated by God.

This brings me back to the point of agreeing with Russell Kirk that order is a primary need. In Luke’s introduction to his entire book (Luke 1:1-4), he uses two words that point toward he and others putting things in order. I want to argue that holiness and wholeness have done much the same for me and have resulted in at least one of the benefits that Luke points out. It is the benefit of certainty.

I want people to be aware that by bringing things together into order it contributes to the area of producing certainty over uncertainty and a better understanding of what role certainty plays in one’s life. It is not that all uncertainty suddenly disappears, but I think at the fundamental level it pretty much does.

So if for no other reason, I ask that you examine my arguments for holy meaning whole because of the benefit of certainty in some areas that before where chaotic and uncertain. If that alone were its only benefit, then I think it still might be worth examining. I find certainty to be far less taxing on my health than uncertainty was.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Friday, January 30, 2009

Holy Means Whole:Yahweh is Holy

Psalm 99 has been called the holiness chapter and Leviticus has been called the holiness book. In Psalm 99:9, we read: “Exalt Yahweh our God, And worship at His holy hill: For Yahweh our God is holy.” In Leviticus 20:26, we read in part: “I Yahweh am holy.” If I asked you what is more important, God’s personal name of Yahweh or God’s character of being holy, how would you answer?

Recently, I was taken to task for not keeping the main thing the main thing in a sermon I preached. This criticism was done graciously and I was able to accept it graciously, I am happy to report. Similarly, in seminary we were supposed to write a topic paper for our master’s degree that identified the main unifying theme of Scripture. At that time, I chose the word holy, but I was left dissatisfied with my definition of holy and my placing holy as a character trait next to God Himself. I wanted the main thing to be the main thing then, even as that was my intention when I preached more recently.

In the last 2 months, I learned a great deal about priorities when it comes to categories of parts and wholes. I want to chart this out, using bold letters to indicate what is the main thing or what is more important and more urgent. And I've grouped tightly together and have italicized those parts and wholes that are less important than the first kind of parts and wholes. That same grouping is also those parts and wholes that are to be seen as equal to each other. The chart then looks like this:

Component(s) – Integrated Person (ex. funny, chubby, member of 3 Stooges - Curly)

Portion(s) – Mass (ex. slice - pie)
Member(s) – Collection (ex. players - team)
Feature(s) – Activity (ex. round wheel - smooth ride)
Material(s) – Object (ex. china - vase)

Having seen this chart, I think all will agree that God’s name of Yahweh or God’s name of Yahshua (Jesus) is more important than the components that make up God. Yet Yahweh is by his name an integrated person. And it is no small thing to say that “Yahweh our God is holy.”

Names mean more than just one thing. A name for God says more than that God is god and not man. It says something about even ourselves in a comprehensive way. So I now acknowledge that not only did my sermon not keep the main things the main things, but I did not do it either, when I was in seminary and wrote about holy. In my weak defense, neither did many systematic theologies or sermons that I studied.

Now I realize I must write about holy as a description of the wholeness of Yahweh God’s components as a person, but I must write even more about His name and the name of His son who died on the cross for my sins. The personal things must remain the main things even as they were for me as a young Christian. So I will eventually have to create another blog titled:

An integrated name is more significant than the whole of components. Being whole in components is more significant than each of the components, but a name is what best expresses that integration. If you must choose between a person who is integrated and having the whole of the parts, choose the integrated person who is identified by their personal name.

We use names all the time, so we sometimes take them for granted. But people who study names say that they are positively descriptive. They make sense in terms of the person or nonsense in terms of the person. A name is positively joined to some features and negatively separated from some other features.

For example, to say that Yahweh is God does not tell you everything about Yahweh, but certainly one of the central components of who Yahweh is. Yet the trait of being God and not man does not match the integration of all who Yahweh is as a person. For one He is not just God, He is the One God. God tells us what Yahweh is, but does not fully tell us who God is.

We can be steered off course by placing God’s character of holiness ahead of His personal name. The main thing must remain the main thing.

Yahweh as a name is mentioned nearly 7000 times in the Old Testament (Covenant Writings) alone. Then we need to add to that the number of times that Jesus appears in the New Testament (Covenant Writings), because Jesus’ name in Hebrew is Yahshua (or shortened, Yeshua), which means “Yahweh saves.” Then we need to add to that the number of times that LORD appears in an English translation of the Greek New Testament as a substitute for Yahweh, and we will find His name is very important. I will need to add up the full numbers some day. But frequency often says a lot about importance.

So let’s all keep the main thing the main thing even as we learn about holiness and wholeness. And let’s then also keep holiness ahead of things like justice, truth, love and goodness. Yet like Jesus, Yahshua, once said, “Do the former without neglecting the latter.” So God's name of Yahweh comes before all else, including the trait of holiness, yet it is not His name without His holiness.

In Yahshua (Jesus),

Pastor Jon