Thursday, June 30, 2011

Holy: Understanding it Better in Terms of Wholistic Communication

I want to challenge a tendency of method in defining holy.  It is that we assume that our method in defining the word holy is entirely sound, healthy or wholesome.  Each of these descriptions, by the way, are translations for the same word in the book of Titus.  I think that before we claim to have a sound method, we need to insure that is it comprehensive or that it is wholesome. 

Wholesome or wholistic (to sometimes be distinguished from holistic) communication means looking at holy from four major angles of method: 1) logical, 2) rhetorical, 3) grammatical and 4) scientific.  One of the problems is that these issues are often not addressed, because of the atomistic tendency of some of the educational world and some of communication theory.  What I mean by atomistic is that they keep delving into smaller and smaller details of parts rather than rising to the level of looking at things in terms of the larger whole.  This is like looking at the parts of bikes without also examining a fully assembled bike and the method of using it or its usefulness and benefit as a whole. 

In other words, holy is often examined through just one of these four angles or some small part of a angle, rather than addressing it through all four angles.  Each of these has to do with the method used to determine the meaning or definition of holy.  It is not just a matter of the word holy itself, but also the method we use to determine its meaning. 

This particular piece of writing will look at the things we learn in the classrom by studying more than by the things we learn in daily life through the real world.  This is because we are looking at things called words that suit a classroom setting pretty well.  I will look at some of the starting points for our methods of defining words.  I will not in this blog attempt to give evidence or proof so much as lay out problems and potential solutions.  What I hope to accomplish is to lay out at a higher level where the problems and potential solutions for method are located.  .

Logically, there is a mathematical inconsistency between rhetoric and grammar that is not resolved.   You could say that between the basic classical foundations of learning; grammar, logic and rhetoric, there remains an inconsistency.  Rhetoric, in dealing with the larger components of language, recognizes five major parts (or four major parts with one of its aspects functioning as the whole).  Grammar on the other hand, in dealing with the smaller components of language, recognizes eight major parts plus the whole of speech with its total of nine (including speech as a whole).  Logically, five does not equal nine.  This mathematical inconsistency should be resolved.  Why five and nine or four and eight?  Why are not the larger and smaller parts of communication mathematically parallel with each other?  The solution to this inconistency could be through the universal or basic classes of meaning recognized in the literature dealing with semantics.  If we can resolve this inconsistency, it would give us a better idea of what class of meaning best fits with the usage of holy in the Bible. 

Rhetorically, persuasion is concerned with connecting with others.  The problem is that the higher critical views of history have pushed aside taking seriously rhetoric for a number of years.  Rhetoric got buried under scepticism about the honesty of persuasion.  It as though Plato's sceptical view of rhetoric prevailed once again in history.  Notice how the word rhetoric is usually used in our language today in negative sense.  So a whole new branch of learning called speech communication was developed with little connection to rhetoric.  This caused the insights of rhetoric to be ignored far too often in approaching the Biblical text.  What I am finding is that understanding the methods of honest persuasion using rhetoric helps in better understanding the contexts surrounding holy, because now ideas like parallelism in speech seen as legitimate ways to try to communicate in order to persuade.  This actually is very critical to understanding the false and true arguments from context for the meaning of holy.  Too often context is examined too broadly without any sense of whether there is a connection to the word holy through a method of parallelism or otherwise or whether a word just happens to appear next to holy in a context.  There has been too much guessing.  This can be solved through better understanding classical and Hebrew rhetoric in its own right. 

Grammatically, the problem is that too much of the material written on holiness depends solely on traditional or on structural grammar, for those who still care about rhetoric.  Then add to this the problem that people have lost interest in the topic, because of the way it is taught.  To many people it bears no relation to how they learned language before they arrive at school.   So people fail to see any relevance for it.  The traditional (not necessarily the classic) approach largely points to etymology and the structural approach largely points to usage or context.  While these are both valuable, they do not measure up to the explanatory power of transformational grammar with its recognition of rules that capture an unending activity of communicating.  The technology of transformational grammar must be fully used, even as the technology of the computer should be harnessed for good rather than evil.  So the inconsistency of not using the insights of transformational grammar and yet using other technologies like the computer for its advantages needs to be corrected.   Grammar also needs to be made relevant so more people care.  That may be the greater problem. 

Scientifically, the problem is that what I have found to be the greatest insight of linguistics (the study of language) is not being used, when it comes to understanding meaning and how definitions should be written.  Whether it be the insights of archaeology and what we have learned about 6th century B.C. grammar in India, or it be the insights on universals because we have such a larger base of languages to examine today as opposed to the classical past or it be the insights into the human brain and how it works in psychology, we need to use natural knowledge to its full explanatory capability alongside of supernatural revelation.  Both kinds of revelation should matter.  My graduate studies in the area of the philosophy of science taught me a great deal about the importance of natural revelation alongside of supernatural revelation in the Bible.  You ignore either one of these sources of revelation or knowledge or what was previously hidden at your peril.  The most important insight for me from linguistics has been the core classes of meaning which also have a lot to do with the ability of search engines to work so effectively.  Understanding language at a very fundamental level can really set the stage for what the various alternative meanings of holy really mean in terms of actual significance.  So the inconsistency of not using the latest insights from linguistics or from the philosophy of science needs to be corrected for the linguistics we are using to be considered soundly scientific.  

These four areas make up the wholesome or wholistic approach I would like to see pursued in defining holy.  It would help in making sound its definition beyond its current shaky status, regardless of which definition is arrived at through effort.   Again, all of this sketch is broad and not in detail.  This is all very preliminary to the work that still must be done and is being done.  There is a lot more that must be fleshed out for these insights to be seen as truly effective.  I hope though that at least I have gotten you thinking in the some new sound directions. 

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Holy: Understanding it Better Through 2 Chronicles 5:11

In 2 Chronicles 5:11, it reads in very literal translation: "And it happened as the priests were going from the sanctuary - for all the priests who were present had sanctified themselves without observing divisions."   This translation demonstrates the possibility of a contrast between "sanctified" and "observing divisions."  In that case, holy's or sanctified's basic meaning would be that of whole.

You could understand it this way " ... for all the priest who were present were themselves the whole without observing any divisions [among themselves]."   This is at least plausible and the contrast with "without observing divisions" would make its meaning also contrast with being set apart or separate. 

So this verse at least demonstrates what is at stake in terms of understanding a great number of passages throughout the Bible.  By itself, the evidence is not earthshattering, but a number of passages with this same plausibility would be.  Please think about it. 

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Holy: Understanding it Better Through the Minority and Majority Views

Since biblical times, the meaning of holy has been understood in different ways.  An argument over its meaning may even be hinted at during the time of Jesus and in the biblical record itself.  At any time there are usually minority and majority views on a topic.  At the present time, the majority view is that holy means separate or to be set apart.  Also at the present time, the minority view is that holy means whole.  There are also other meanings out there as well, yet I consider these two meanings to be the most hopeful correct meanings.  The problem is that people treat the majority view as a consensus view.  The solution is to understand the actual status of a majority view and to understand the requirements for a minority view. 

One of the purposes of this blog is to ensure that the minority view is not overlooked because of the majority view.  My reason for this is that the might of supporters is not always right.  If that were true, then historically holy means whole might be right.  Before the 20th century, holy means whole was the primary definition for holy in Protestant circles at least.  Set apart was another meaning for holy, but oversimplifying some, it was the secondary definition. 

Yet a minority view must always understand its status and realize that it must earn the right to be the majority view.  It has to be humble.  It has to be meek.  It has to work harder in order to change its status.  It also must accept its status, if it fails to provide evidence for its position.  Being the underdog doesn't make a position right. 

So the majority cannot impose a tyranny with its status and exclude the minority view from consideration as though it enjoys a consensus status.  Likewise the minority cannot impose anarchy with its status and by force rather than ballots impose its view on others.  Each must remain diligent in proving its case to legitimately hold a majority status. 

I hope you will consider both points of view in your quest for the meaning of holy.  As I present more and more evidence, I hope you will be swayed by the evidence more than by the number of supporters.  Yet in the end, the number of supporters does matter.  Let's just hope the current majority is based on evidence and not on peer pressure.  That is my serious quest. 

In Christ,