Friday, September 30, 2011

Holy: Understanding its Definition better Through Using a Process

This entry in my blog steps back from directly defining holy to talk more broadly about my views on methods to define holy.  In my view the weakness of some of the writing on holiness is a lack of awareness on how important their method is to determining the outcome of their definition of holy.   

My point is to say that the process we use to determine the meaning of holy is very important.   Our methods have implications and can cause us to draw either correct or incorrect conclusions.  My other point is that biases can get in the way of accepting relevant methods for defining it. 

The process is important to the effect or outcome, whether it is the process for determining a meaning for a word or whether it is a process for shooting a basketball.  The "how" is relevant alongside the "why".  If making a basket is my motive, my reason why, then the method, my how I shoot, is relevant.  It is the same in determining the meaning of holy. 

Now using the basketball analogy, there is room for differences in the method, but not differences that are dramatic.  It  is one thing for the best shooters to have subtle stylistic differences, but it is far different to violate the four basic fundamental parts of shooting.  Whether you take Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan or LeBron James; they all share the same fundamental strengths in the art of shooting.  However, all of them do not shoot exactly the same. 

Next, it is important to understand some of the attitudes we carry to the table, when it comes to method.  I remember this from my days as a coach and I see the same thing in the arena of being a pastor.  There are certain biases against method that are even greater in the church than they are on the basketball court. 

The first bias, I will call the Holy Spirit objection.  It is very simple, we don't need a method, because we have the Holy Spirit.  To me, this response lacks balance.  I like what St. Augustine said once about prayer and about balance: "Pray as though everything depended on God, work as though everything depended on you."  I think the same applies here.  I believe wholeheartedly that everything depends on God's Holy Spirit when it comes to interpretation, yet I don't believe this excludes method.  The reason I don't think it excludes method is because in the book that records things that people like David said by the Spirit, there methods are described.  We are told actions to take. 

I cannot live by the Spirit and not do what the Spirit has spoken.  I believe in Nehemiah 8, the Spirit has given us a process: teach, translate, total, train and transfer.  I believe balance is needed which means having regard for this process that was outlined by the Holy Spirit.  By the way, the five words that begin with "T" are my simple way of remembering the HolySpirit's process.  The Spirit uses other specific words for these ideas.  See my earlier blog that deals with this process for greater detail. 

The second bias, I will call the historical objection.  It is very simple, we don't need a method, because we have freedom.  To me, this method also lacks balance.  Many people are trapped in the formerly relevant rules or freedom of a previous period of history.  Sometimes the emphasis of some of our ancestors was right on for their time, but not right on for our time.  I think our time needs balance in its process as compared to an overemphasis to correct an imbalance to only one side.   

This means I find the biases toward a process for defining a word irrelevant at times.  I have found a lack of balance between rule and freedom.  St. Augustine once wrote three books to define his process for understanding the biblical text.  He saw the need for rules.  I think we need to think through our process as well and yet allow freedom for improvements in our process.  In other words, we need to keep things in balance.  I don't think using Nehemiah 8 as a basis for a process is either  too restrictive or too free.  It can keep a balance. 

One of my teachers once said he was overemphasizing his point to correct something.  While that may have been a good teaching method at one time, I don't think it is helpful at our present time.  Now I think we have to keep a balance to make our point, because otherwise things veer off to one extreme or the other, because of our present times and context.  We now have twin dangers to avoid that maybe were not present earlier like they are now. 

So I really think we must keep a balance in our process to define words based on the need for relevance.  I think the rules of 1) teach, 2) translate, 3) total, 4) train and 5) transfer are very helpful.  These rules have a relevance to move things in a helpful direction from the prior processes, like those of Augustine, to determine meaning that are often too limited by rules or too free to be useful. 

I wish I had time to develop the full argument here, but I thought I should at least let people know that my method in defining holy is intended to be a balance Spirit & method and rule & freedom.  It takes relevance very seriously.  It recognizes the dangers on both both sides of its method, because of what is happening in our contemporary times rather than what has happened in the past. 

In my next entry, I want to again step back a little bit and talk about my expertise.  This will also be relevant to explaining the different kinds of entries you will find on this blog.  It will help you understand both what you can hope to find here and what you will not find here.  The point is that I want to contribute what expertise I have to defining holy, but also I do not want to mislead people either as to what my expertise is.  Thank you for taking a few minutes to read this entry. 

In Christ,

Pastor Jon