Friday, November 30, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better through Avoiding Presuppositional and Historical Fallicies

"Don't confuse the unlikely with the impossible."  This is one of those great lines from the fictional character Sherlock Holmes.  Quite often when it comes to understanding the meaning of holy, people are guilty of decidiing against one definition rather than another, because that definition at this point in time looks "unlikely".  That is where presuppositions are dangerous.  We always begin where and when we are here and now.  We also have to understand that despite what we hear, we may be hearing reports that are an historical fallacy.  Another great line from Holmes is:  "It may be more possible than you think."   So what I want my readers to do is for a moment forget the presupposition you have about the meaning of holy and to also consider whether you have been hearing an historical fallacy about what holy means. 

Most visitors to this blog come with the presupposition that holy means "set apart".   They are likewise likely to have the presupposition that holy does not mean "whole".   They are generally convinced that the latter meaning is a result of what D. A. Carson calls "Word-Study Fallacies".  He talks about this kind of fallacies in his book Exegetical Fallacies.  But he goes beyond that and also talks about other fallacies as well including what he calls "Presuppositional and HIstorical Fallacies". 

In much of what I wrote in my early entries on this blog were efforts to overcome people's presuppositions about what holy could even possibly mean and also to overcome people's historical fallacies about what holy means. 

I had always presupposed myself, until I was nearly 44 years old, that holiness had no connection to wholeness.  It turns out that this may only have beem a presupposition on my part and not a proven fact.  That was the first obstacle I had to overcome.  It was to avoid confusing the unlikely with the impossible, as Holmes had warned in the quote above.  Every bit of new evidence I orignially gathered still left me a bit leary of what initially appeared so unlikely a possibility -- that holy could mean whole. 

I also had been guilty of an historical fallacy.  It did not at all seem likely that those who called themselves fundamentalists on the one hand or others who called themselves conservatives on the other, could be guilty of not being conservative.  If you are not conservative on the meaning of holy for the Protestant Reformers, how can you be called a conservative?  But they were not conservative!   They did not know or teach that for all the Protestant Reformers from Luther to Spurgeon, the primary meaning of holiness was the concept of a moral wholeness.  I was guilty of my historical fallacy, because I thought I could be sure a conservative was a conservative for sure on at least the big things.   And believe me holy is big!   It is the biggest of God's moral traits with steadfast kindness sitting directly across the isle from it!  Thank goodness for the latter, so I can be forgiven for my historical fallacy. 

Many of my early entries contain accurate historical quotes of past Reformers including a great number of conservatives.   It is a good thing for present day conservatives that they are not alive now.  They would be deeply critical of the historical fallacy that earlier Reformers taught that the primary meaning of holy was "set apart".  Check my early entries and you will see great quotes from Luther, from Calvin, from Edwards, from Wesley and from Spurgeon.  The historical truth is that they taught based on the scholarship of their day that holy meant whole (in a moral sense).   It was "the attribute of attributes" as some of them called holiness. 

The other problem is that on the liberal side of things there is a deep presupposition.  It is that exegetical reliability is equivalent to modern technological improvements.  We are told that like modern technology moving forward and surpassing past technology in at least some significant ways, that likewise biblical scholarship has moved forward in the same fashion.  I think this too is a presupposition that is not real helpful. 

I do think that one of the dangers of scholarship in Luther's days is that there are not very good "footnotes" on where the idea of holy meaning whole came from.  I cannot find who where the chief scholars behind these definitions.  It could be Kimchi, or Nicholas of Lystra, or Reuchlin, or Melanchton, or Erasmus, etc..  Trying to find the scholarship behind the meaning is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  It is there, but it is nearly hopelessly lost and it is likely not going to be too fruitful trying to recover where the idea that the biblical words for holy mean whole comes from in that time period.  So our footnotes today are clearly an advance over the past, even if sometimes they also can become clutter.  Hopelessly lost is the past scholarship compared to the present scholarship in this one area of technology.  So I am not anti-technology or anti-progressive.  It is just danger to presuppose it all the time!

So drop the presupposition that holy means "set apart" is the final destination in progressive improvements.  Also drop the historical fallacy that there is a direct connection between present day conservatives and the theologians from the 1800s and back when it comes to the meaning of holy.  There is not that connection.  They are building up a historical fallacy by being selective in their quotes.  Check any of my past entries for accuracy (I will provide footnotes if you ask!) and you will find my presentation of history is no fallacy!

Have a great season of Christmas cheer!  You now own two less fallacies.

In Christ,


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Knowing AND TEACHING

I had a great conversation yesterday with one of my college professors in the philosophy department of Bethel University.  His name is Dr. Stanley D. Anderson.  The thing that made it exciting was that he is the author of a book that now goes out to all Bethel University freshman called Becoming Whole and Holy.  It can be found through Worldcat as published in 2004, the same year I began my work on holy in earnest.  If you have read any entries for this blog previously, then you will know why I am interested.  But what was different in my discussion yesterday was that I was able to say I agree totally with him and with Bethel University on a knowledge level and from the perspective of life that their order of "Whole and Holy" is correct, as they define the word holy as "set apart".  This agreement is important. 

From that starting point, my quest is to find out if holy means "set apart" or if other words in the biblical text mean "set apart" and if fact, holy means "whole".  So he and I know already about "whole" and "set apart" in terms of their priority order in real life.  My quest is also that suggested by Andrew Murray in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  He may turn out to be right on, when it comes to the quest for understanding the Bible

The project that I am currently working on is to qualify to be a teacher of what holy means.  The difference here is the difference that we find in Paul's letters to Timothy, when he says "Pay attention to your life and teaching".  So in paying attention to my life, I find that being whole or being healthy (not just physically!) is a necessary priority.  But that does not mean that being "set apart" goes away.  But also knowing about being whole does not make me qualified to teach that from the Scriptures!  That is a different task.  Teaching is like a map for the territory of real  life.  For that, I study to be an expert not only on territory, but on reading ancient maps like the Bible. 

So my old alma mater and I agree as knowers and as people learning from real life.  But it is important for teachers to know that I am not boasting before I put my suit of armor on for battle as opposed to returning from battle as to what holy means.  This is very important to teachers.  They want to know that a fellow teacher has done the work that they have done to be a teacher.  That is fair isn't it?  I sensed that this was important to Dr. Anderson during the course of our conversation.  Humility is a good thing. 

The task in front of me is to finish my exegetical work for seminary in order to make me qualified as a teacher among teachers or a map user among other map users.  People may already know the truth and that it is life that comes before teaching.  But that does not mean that teaching should not be paid attention to!  Rather it is a very imporant second step!  Remember Paul's words!

One of my friends, after my talk with Dr. Anderson, pointed out that many extremists or exlusivists within the Christian faith community put being "set apart" ahead of being "whole".  He is right about some potentially dangerous implications, if they are not reading the map correclty.  This is precisely where implications for life are built from how people read the map and how they see reality.  So my task is singular.  Solve the map (of the Bible) as fast as I can as well as I can! 

In Christ,


Holy: Understanding it Better As Knowers and Teachers

This is one of those entries where I need to say something about my other closely related blog on communication basics 101.  It is largely the best tool I can recommend for getting at the basics of meaning, as it relates to the meaning of holy.  When it all comes down to meaning, holy is likely one of five major classes of meaning or at least one class is primary. 

So if you want to understand those classes better, please check out my most recent entry:  and some of the earlier ones in that same blog. 

They are very helpful for keeping things as basic as possible, but they also are categories that are supported within the scholarly community of translators, linguists and teachers.  The classes of meaning have credibility and credibility is what I try to add a little more of, in my latest entry.

Please examine the entry and then for yourself decide which one of the five meaning classes you think holy falls into as a word that posses meaning.  Another challenge would be to take the different definitions that are possible and ask yourself as one example, if "set apart" or if "whole" falls into one or more of these basic meaning classes and which one is primary. 

Theologians sometimes mingle these basic meanings, when it comes to "set apart", so see if you can figure out which meaning is primary or not.  Test this method for yourself.  You do not need to be an expert or scholar to test your knowledge.  It will not make you a scholar, but it can make you knower.  Enjoy!

In Christ,


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Holy: Understanding Better Where I am in Studying This Key Word

I want at this point to give all of my readers a better idea of who I am.  The internet provides unmatched ability to give you a better sense of who I am personally without my having to travel to where you are today.  So today I am providing to you a video to watch that sums up where my project on the definition of holy is and where it is going. 

Here it is (simply click on the link below):

I hope viewing the video gave you a little more personal insight into who I am and that it also communicates where I am in the process of studying the meaning of holy in the Biblical text.  My goal from my studies is to be qualified to also teach on the subject from the Biblical text.  Remember from what I said in the video that being a knower is not the same as being a teacher or vice versa.  It takes both. 

If you have insights, questions, or comments; then feel free to respond to this blog entry and my video.  It is my humble wish that this entry is an encouragement to all who need it.  Thank you.