Thursday, January 31, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Basics

You are likely checking out this site to find out the definition of holy.  There are many proposed definitions, but probably only three that deserve serious consideration.  In alphabetic order they are:
1) pure, 2) set apart, or 3) whole.  One of the great challenges in defining holy is knowing the basic choices for its definition.  Even if it is complex word, what is it on the most basic level or core? 

A number of years ago, I was challenged as an assistant basketball coach by the head coach to tell him the basics of the game.  I uttered what I knew were basic things from my experience as a basketball player.  Most of what I told him had to do with skills.  I now know that I blew it.  I really didn't have my basics down, as I should have. 

I'm sure I could have recited more basics and somewhere in the mix I would have covered all of them.  But it would have been very complex and it would have been disorganized.  So from that point on, I listened carefully when any coach started to talk about the basics (or fundamentals). 

The basics of basketball I now know very well.  I may not know many of the complex parts of basketball like the many drills or plays that there are to chose from, but I now know the basics and can spout them quickly and in order.  Basics though should have been clearly taught to me before I reached adulthood some time ago.  Basics to be called that are usually things that a 12 or 13 year old can grasp.  But my list to my head coach were not.  (At least not in such a way that I could recall them to memory quickly.)

In looking at holy's definition, we are looking at a question of what basically does the word mean?  Does it mean that "pure" or "clean" are essentially an amount.  Are they like a pure gold where "all" the alloy is removed?   Is it then a matter of measure or amount?  Is it like gold that has the dross removed and then is given a designation to measure how pure the gold is? 

Or is the main point that something like gold has been separated from the dross or maybe better the dross from the gold?   Could this mean that this means something more like "set apart"?

Finally, is the basic point that holy means moral wholeness?  Are righteousness, truth, love and goodness the major parts of holy?  Does it parallel in many ways the use of wholeness as a concept? 

I am currently working on a paper that will answer these questions.  The goal to finish it is by no later than May.  I am very excited, because I am using a method of exegesis or interpretation that is very basic and yet very powerful. 

My parents used to say to me at the table, if I voiced my opinion on a biblical topic: "Chapter and verse".  The  neat thing for me is that I now living their dream of working out "chapter and verse".  I don't want to give up on a dream of knowing what God means through the word  holy extremely well.  I would regret giving up on their dream.  Their dream has become my own. 

Here's a quote on why I think it is worthwhile to wait and get the definition of holy right:

     Never give up on something you really want.  It is difficult to wait, but it's more
     difficult to regret. 

So wait with me for holy to be defined clearly on the most basic level.  The basic semantic classes of words come down to five primary definitions: 1) amount, 2) relationship, 3) whole, 4) action, and 5) thing.  I used these 5 to identify the basics of basketball as: !Effort level, 2) Team approach, 3) Healthy Atmosphere, 4) Skilled play and 5) Know the game.  Out of three of the best options for the definition of holy, I think I will in the end arrive at the basic meaning of holy according to chapter and verse.  It is going to be either an: 1) amount (ex. pure), 2) relationship  (ex. set apart), or 3) whole.   (By the way, "set apart" could also a distinction between things making that the core idea.)  In any case, let's make sure our views fit with chapter and verse and do not fall short of what we really want - a single reliable definition of holy from God's point of view. 



By the way, also check out:  There I also deal with the basics when it comes to exegesis.  . 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Answering the Question "Why?"

So why does the definition of holy matter?  There are fundamentally two answers to that question.  The first is the life-relevant answer.  The second is the teaching-relevant answer.  I have generally spent more time on the second than on the first in this blog.  I have a second blog that answers more the first question, but it depends a great deal on answering the teaching-relevant question that this blog focuses on the majority of the time.  Today, I want to expand more on both answers to the why questions you might have. 

By the way, before I get too far, I want to say that holy can be defined according to the level of adherents for each view, either as: (1) set apart, (2) pure, or (3) whole/wholly.  I'll say more on this as I progress, but I know some readers are visiting this blog just for the fast answer and they will not read any further.  For those who are reading further, here is what I am up to in my blog and in my paper for my post-graduate work. 

My plan is as follows:

I will define holy (Leviticus 19:1-2) as either: 1) set apart, 2) pure, or 3)whole/wholly depending on the evidence that I collect from Scripture in its original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek  ....

...  using both biblical exegesis and linguistic synthesis & analysis as my tools, including:
    1) 5 T's - Translate, Transfer, Total, Train, and Teach - Nehemiah 8 (issue: Whole)
    2)  clarity and meaning combined (issue: Amount)
    3)  contextual structural analysis diagrams to identify precise parallels (issue: Relationship)
    4)  pre-state and post-state diagrams as well as syntactical tools to clarify actions (issue Action)
    5)  the combination of lexicons based on both classical grammar and scientific linguistics to insure
    the best results (issue: Things) ...

... Because:
    1)  the definition of holy is a potential solution to corporate and individual struggles in the church 
     and even worldwide, based on its implications
    2)  other potential solutions that have been tried in recent decades and years have fallen short of
    solutions during past periods of church reformation and revival
    3)  there is a measure of uncertainty or lack of clarity for what holy is by definition, and there is
     a likely way to reduce the uncertainty that has been acknowledged by big name scholars (Otto,
     Snaith, Kline, etc.)
    4)  there is a moral obligation to pass on the gifts given to me by my teachers (and I believe the
     Holy Spirit) to the wider world
    5)  the effort to define holy fits with the tools that I received for exegesis and for linguistic
     synthesis, so it means that I can contribute something to the discussion because otherwise I should
     do nothing, so I don't waste the time of others.

So the first 5 focus on what is the "How?" for what I am doing.  The second 5 get at the nitty-gritty part of "Why?" am I doing all this.  For me life matters more than teaching, but also teaching is sometimes the means to life change.  May God richly bless you this day and may He guide my efforts at teaching, so they have worth and value to others and to myself.  Thank you for taking some time to read to the end of my writing today. 

In Christ,


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Perhaps Better Through Two New Books

If you are looking to understand holy, there are two new books that may help.  One deals more directly with holiness as a topic and the other deals more directly with wholeness as its topic.   Wholeness is one of the top three candidates for the correct definition of holy.  That is why I recommend both of these for their potential insights. 

I have not read either of these two books as a whole, but I have read a summary on each.  My interest in both of them stems from my interest in the twin concepts of holiness and wholeness and in the possibility that holy means whole. 

The first book is: The Utter Relief of Holiness.  It is written by John Eldredge (who is best known for his book Wild at Heart).  Part of the summary of the book says that he deals with "how God makes us whole and holy".   I find this last connection interesting, because it follows closely the concept of "whole and holy" as taught at Bethel University and Seminary, where I attended in the 80s and 90s.  If you search on-line, then you can find Bethel's stance on this topic in their course catalog. 

The second book is: Solo: An Uncommon Devotional.  I am not yet clear on who authors this book from the summary that I read.  What I did read that interested me, was that: "The ancient practice of lectio divina or `divine reading' was all about wholeness - whole practice, whole Bible, whole God".  It just so happens that I have a classmate at Nashotah House (Seminary) who is writing on the topic of liturgy and the "lectio divina.  So this one caught my interest for that reason as well.  Maybe he and I will be able to collaborate on our writing! 

Anyway, I wanted to share these two titles with my readers and I plan to eventually own them both.  I think each may have something to say about the implications of holiness, especially if it does in fact mean moral wholeness. 

I hope you enjoy your reading.  If you would like, then you can leave your comments after reading either or both of these books on my blog and then you will have a chance to let others know your perspective.  Take care.

In Christ,


Friday, January 04, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Amateurs and Professionals

Do you want to know what holy means?  Do you want the popular answer or do you want a real answer?  The facts are that there is more then one viable definition for holy.  It most likely means one of three major options: "set apart", "pure", or "whole" (in reverse alphabetical order to avoid prejudice).  The most popular at present is "set apart".  I want to take this status of where there is more than one viable or plausible definition a step further by discussing the distinction between amateurs and professionals.

To begin, let's recall a few famous quotes on the difference:

"If you think it is expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."  Red Adair

I would add to this quote the following, due to my recent experience with car trouble in 2012:

"If you think it is expensive to hire an amateur to do the job, wait until you hire a supposed professional."

Another quote is:

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit."  Richard Bach

"By the time I was 22, I was a professional.  A young and flawed professional, but not an amateur."  Stephen Sondheim

I'll introduce a few more valuable quotes on the difference, as I write more.  The point of these quotes is that there is a clear difference between an amateur and a professional.  I want to suggest that there is a way to distinguish the two and also to value the two (not just one!)   As I read through a series of these quotes on  "Brainy Quote", I noticed two things; 1) that the distinction between professional and amateur is important and 2) that most of the quotes prefer professional over amateur with a lesser amount of preference for amateur over professional.

I want to agree that the distinction is important, but I want to also say that it is likely dangerous to prefer professional over amateur in one sense.  It is more true to life that we all have to value being an amateur, because that is where we all begin before we go on to being professionals in some occupation.  Here I would fall back on a close parallel in Dr. Donald N. Larson's distinction between knower and teacher.  Amateurs can be very advanced knowers, but that does not mean that they can also be teachers.  But likewise some professionals lack the desire or interest of the knower that is sense in some amateurs.  That is why some professionals like Sergei Bubka say: "Even now I want to keep my amateur spirit, to spend my time, to be in the sport with all my heart".   But even as some professionals say that about themselves, speaking of the need for balance, an amateur like Bill Bruford have this to say about themselves in a recognition of balance:  "So I have the classic amateur's technique; I know some very tricky bits and I have large gaping holes".

So let's look at where I think my writing on holiness is in terms of a balance of both amateur and professional.  Let me begin with a quote from Alan Greenspan: "I was a good amateur, but only an average professional.  I soon realized that there was a limit to how far I could rise in the music business, so I left the band and enrolled in New York University".   If I examine my early blog posts, most of what I had to say came out of being a knower and an amateur, not a professional.  It does not mean it does not have value.  I am far from saying that.  But I think it had a "limit" to use Greenspan's word snd "large gaping holes" like Bruford says.  I was a very well-intentioned amateur with a lot of great discoveries that really make little difference to many of the professionals.

That all changed, when I decided I need more education (to get a good balance) and I enrolled at Nashotah House (Seminary) in Delafield, WI.  I was lacking some of the professional side of studying word meanings up to that point.  Since then I have been growing on the professional side and I hope I am also not letting go of the amateur side that just loves the thrill of discovery and hates to let go of the sheer curiosity to learn and to become a knower.  This knower aspect needs to remain alongside my becoming someone who can teach what holy means.

Robert Graves once said: "In love as in sport, the amateur status must be strictly maintained".  In other words, we lose something when we are only professionals who spend time on the clock not knowing why we do what we do.  There is no passion for it and there is a sick kind of snobbery in professionalism and teaching alone that puts down the one who knows.  I want to forever remain an amateur and a professional, so that I never become an academic snob.

Before enrolling at Nashotah House, I could feel that " ... disadvantage of not having acquired some technical profession", as Henry Bessemer once said.  Now I see my professionalism growing, as I write my thesis paper.  I am becoming more than a knower, I also am becoming a teacher.  I love having both together.  I still have that sense, as Simon van der Meer, once said that: " ... to a certain extent my slightly amateur approach ..., combined with practical experience was an asset".  I don't want to ever loose that common sense approach.

Howard Hawks, a film director is quoted as once saying: "I'd rather have flawed professionals than well-meaning amateurs".  But he also is famous for telling the story of a tennis pro who lost his ability to serve well, when he wrote a book about it, so sometimes all you can say is that you like something and that is how you know.  I am convinced that good experiential knowledge and good scholarship need to work alongside one another, not against each other.  So quoting Hawks on either side of the balance is not fair to him.  He was a combination of both.

You will find sometimes "flawed professionals" writing about the meanings or definitions of words in the biblical text.  You will also find "well-intentioned amateurs at times as well.  I want to talk about one specific example that is away from defining holy and might help us then be more objective because it is also from the past.

That specifc example is Martin Luther.  I believe, he was a "flawed professional" as well as a "well-intentioned amateur.  He once had a very simple or amateur question, "How much is enough [to satisfy this God]?  He found his answer in the biblical text in the words "righteousness of God".  These words worked, because he overlapped the meanings of righteousness and justification.  Justice is the answer to his question.  Righteousness is actually a flaw, because some (not all) professionals today realize that in the Hebrew text there is a distinction between righteousness and justice.  They are both amounts, but they are not the same answer to the same question.  Righteousness is the answer to "How many?  (ex. One God)."  Justice is the answer to "How much?" (ex. love your neighbor as yourself).  So Luther was a "flawed professional" but still a professional.  He was also a well-intentioned amateur, but sill a knower with a down to earth real question.  He was advised by some of the best professionals of his day like Erasmus' Greek text and Reuchlin's knowledge of Hebrew.

Let's hope we can be judged the same way as Luther or even better, when it comes to defining holy as it was originally understood in the biblical text in our time.  Let's take being professional to a new level without losing the spirit of the amateur.  Let's be like James Whistler who once said:  "I maintain that two and two would continue to make four, in spite of the whine of the amateur for three or the cry of the [professional] critic for five."  Let's keep our balance!  Let's define holy as both an amateur and a professional!

In Christ,