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,