Saturday, May 31, 2014

Blessed and Holy: Understanding Them Both Better Through Improving our Mental Health

I know you are likely checking out this blog to find the definition of holy.  I won't disappoint, if you can wait until I give the issue some context and then give you a definition in the third paragraph.

You may have noticed lately that in the United States there is a mental health crisis.  The mass shootings with a concluding suicide in our schools and elsewhere is only the tip of the iceberg.  Insanity is much deeper in our society than meets the eye. I would conclude that 90% of the insanity is not even noticed except to the trained observer, who knows that what is happening above the surface and is obvious is only a small part of a bigger problem.  I agree with those who say that health is the next big issue that faces us in the coming of age of our times.  Mental health is only one part, but a significant part toward all types of health.  Blessed and holy are words that actually have a lot to say about that bigger picture of health or being wbole, but it is being missed due to a poor job of defining both words.  I do believe that this problem starts with poor mental health.

I think most of us would agree that a mentally healthy person is healthy both emotionally and logically. Likewise a mentally healthy person or sane person has more credibility than a mentally unhealthy or insane person who has little credibility.  In fact, the significant feature we like in any person is that they are mentally credible.  You can rely on what they say.  The problem is that you cannot always rely on what is given as the definition of blessed and holy.  I am not going to go into detail in this post, but let me state what I believe is the definition for blessed and then for holy that has the most credibility.  Then I will give you some direction for finding that credibility.  So the definition of blessed that I find is most credible is that of "I am who I am".  It is a character trait of a person being who they are consistently.  There is no variance.  What people don't realize is that the popular definition of blessed of "blessings" is not the definition of blessed but its significance.  If you are who you are, then will reap blessing as a consequence.  "Blessed are the peacemakers" is because they are "peacemakers" and not war mongers.  So how about the definition of holy that I find most credible.  I find moral or ethical wholeness to be the best definition.  What is missed is that meaning is not the same as definition.  One of the meaning is that of significance and that is where "set apart" fits.  But it is not the definition of the word, a different kind of meaning.

So where can you find evidence for what I am saying.  Let me begin with this blog.  In my past posts up until very recently, you will find a lot of arguments from biblical texts, etc.  What they boil down to is that I am saying that the definition of "set apart" is illogical.  It is not mentally healthy in that sense. It has as many holes as Swiss cheese.  You will not find much on the emotional aspect that is also very important.  I owe everyone an apology for that, because it is a key component of being mentally healthy and spotting mental illness.

Let me give you an example.  I am going to leave out nay names to keep what I have to say anonymous, but what I am describing actually happened while I was a student in one of my three seminaries that I have attended.  I wanted to present my argument for the definition of holy in all its grand glory in an Old Testament class.  Fortunately for me, I had a very smart colleague in the class who warned me "not to put strange fire on the altar".   Here's what he meant.  I would not get a good grade and it would not be pretty in class if I were to present a definition for holy that was contrary to my professor's definition for holy.   In other words, there would not be a great dialogue on this topic.  He was exactly right.  I did a much more tempered approach and got a reluctant OK from the professor.  Emotionally, this is not a good sign.  It should have been that I could present a well-reasoned argument that would get full consideration in a calm and peaceful atmosphere.  I think my classmate was right to see that emotionally I was only going to get some level of anger for what I said.

This is not how it should be in seminary.  I was not going to present a view that it anywhere near to some classical heresy.  In fact, I would have been introducing a kind of classical orthodoxy from Luther to Spurgeon in the Protestant perspective, which is what this seminary belonged to at its core.  So there was not an openness to a mentally healthy dialogue between competing views, but a sense of subtle suggestion that it would be treated like "strange fire on the altar".

From nearly the earliest part of my writing 10 years ago, I have known about the logical issues.  But now I realize their are emotional issues as well that need to be faced and not ignored.  We need healthy people who know the basics of mental health.  They need to know the feelings of:

!) Acceptance versus shame
2) Joy versus grief
3) Emulation versus jealousy
4) Confidence versus fear
5) Peace versus anger

Now the second examples in each case are not in all cases to be avoided.  We need those emotions too.  But these are not ones we should take pleasure in.  Remember that statement: "Rejoice not that your enemy has fallen, but that your names are written in heaven.  Our joy becomes a double joy when we share it with others.  That is a reason for pleasure.  But what pleasure should there be in separation from an enemy.  Should that predominate?  I don't think so.

I think you also see this in Paul's advice in Ephesians where we are told to: "Be angry, and sin not".  So how do we do that?  We "do not let the sun go down on our anger".  Instead, we go to be in peace rather than anger.  So what is the benefit of that?  We "do not give the devil an opportunity".  See, if we cannot discuss definitions without negative emotions predominating, we are giving the devil a foothold.  We are not helping one another.

I think it is good advice when people disagree on the meanings of words that we don't go to sleep with shame, grief, jealousy, fear, or anger.  At some point we have to realize these are those emotions that while necessary, we should not get pleasure from them.  This is what I think Luther realized, when he said that 'anger" was for God an alien thing.  Sometimes God has to get angry, but we have to remember he does not enjoy it.

So I do think that to have a mentally healthy definition of blessed and holy, you have to consider not just the issues of logical versus illogical, but also the issues of emotional versus ill emotional.  Was it right to consider in seminary a classic definition of holy as strange fire?  I don't think it was.  But behind it was an emotion of both fear for the students and anger for the teacher.  At least, I think that his what my wise fellow classmate was trying to tell me.

Let's rise now to a healthy level.  Let's rise to both healthy emotions and healthy logic.  Then we can all take pleasure in mental health while we take not pleasure in mental illness.  We also then too might get the definition of blessed and holy right as well as each definition's significance and meaning in that sense.  Have a great night and remember healthy emotions before bed.  Soak them up and sleep well.  Ah, the devil will hate you for that.  Pleasure only in the good?  Take care.

In Christ,


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Blessed and Holy: Understanding Them Better By Understanding the Emotion of Fear

Today, I read an immensely sad article, How We Forgot the Holiness of God, in an email from Christianity Today (5/20/14).  The article should lead to the emotion of grief, not to the emotion of joy.  Once again an author makes a plea for the Rudolph Otto kind of holiness that inspires fear and awe. Hey, those are necessary emotions in the right context, but there is the possibility of emotional manipulation going on in this plea.  There is no concern for logical exegesis in the article, only getting people like you and me off our chair or couch and instead being fearful of being a sinner in the hands of an angry God.  But this is not like Jonathan Edwards' sermon that has an authentic basis for fear.  This instead comes off as a rather shoddy and cheap way of dealing with fear as an emotion. Holiness for me means a lot of more than this author in Christianity Today is implying.  A great deal more.  For me it means ultimately moving from an emotion of jealousy (I don't want to be like you) to an emotion of emulation (I want to be like you).

I'll show you how much  more holiness means to me by pointing out all kinds of errors in the article.  Perhaps before the author suggests we all fear, the author should fear more than anyone else.  You see fear is a great emotion, when it is understood properly.  But only when understood properly.  It cannot be used for manipulation or without emotional intelligence.  You have to have the latter to also avoid the former, even when by accident and not purposeful.

Let me illustrate.  When I was young and first learning to use a table saw my dad taught me to fear it, because it did not only cut off inches but also fingers.  That was good.  I haven't cut a finger off due to a healthy respect.  But he did not leave me stuck in fear.  He also taught me how to confidently avoid cutting off a finger so that my hand and fingers remained attached.  You need to move people from fear to confidence.  You don't start off with the silly idea of walking up to a table saw and using it fearlessly without lessons.  My dad was not manipulating me, but he was training me.  He made me a person confident in how to do what I wanted.  I wanted to accomplish the result ofcutting a board to the right length with a square cut end.  So he gave me a lesson in the emotions of fear and confidence, but also in the logic of how and why.

So let's look at the errors.  Keep in mind that I have been writing on holiness for around 10 years.  This blog has a link to some of my earliest beginnings in a separate blog.  I have read nearly everything that pertains to the topic that is worthwhile.


So why is this author so confident that Rudolph Otto's right and the prior 400 years of Protestant exegesis is wrong?  My dad taught me to fear a table saw.  Why is this author not afraid that he's wrong in his definition of holy?  My dad taught me to fear a table saw, because a saw CAN do things.  I think we should be a little more fearful that Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, Wesley, and Spurgeon COULD do things.  I am a lot more fearful of their abilities than I am of Otto's CANNOT.

Otto's own weakness and can't do attitude is revealed by himself in his study of holiness' meaning.  He gets to a point where he is not sure of the meaning of the word for holy, so he chooses the one which fits better with his preferred philosophy.  Doesn't that scare you?  It scares me, like working with a table saw carelessly.  Otto is careless and carefree which means he is what is otherwise known as fearless.  I am confident, but I am not fearless as a result.  I know when to fear and when to be confident.  Don't let me ever get careless at the table saw.  But let's use it how it is to be used confidently.


It is great to bring in Isaiah 6 as Otto uses this too as a central passage.  That makes perfect sense.  So it is true that Isaiah experiences fear in the passage.  But that does not define holy.  It is funny how the author misses other parts in the context.  He wants to go with Otto's definition having to do with fear and awe, but he ignores the concept of "whole" in the "whole earth is full of his glory".  He misses the argument for "moral wholeness" that Jonathan Edwards, Johann Bengel, and many others make from other contexts for their definition.  He skips past it.  Perhaps he has a historical bias about conclusions based on time and place.  Otto comes later, so he's correct.   He does not test Otto's view with other witnesses to see what they witnessed.  He does not ask famous commentators for their testimony.  One testimony in a real sense is enough.  The author and Otto experience no sadness in their testimony separating from leaders over a four hundred year period.  He misses out on the joy of finding the same conclusions with others.  No shared joy over a 500 year period to celebrate.  He's not worried about joy and connections with others.


He takes the second mistake still further as far as emotions are concerned.  Not only is he not saddened by his break with past testimonies, he is also not afraid of going forward without an act of experimentation.

Let me illustrate.  Just yesterday I could not find my coffee mug that I uses on a regular basis.  I was not confident where it was.  I decided that rather than dilly dally in my brain, I would instead start to experiment with the different possible locations by going to them and seeing if the cup was there.  If it was, then I could be confident where it was.  If I did not find it, at least my confidence would grow from eliminating possible locations.  So off to my car I went.  It was not in the passenger's seat though I knew I had in the car the prior day.  So I went back to the most obvious, the kitchen where I normally kept it.  Not on the counters nor in the cupboard.  So off to other rooms in the house beginning with the most likely to the least likely.  Not there either, so I returned to the most obvious location again, the kitchen.  And there it was.  I couldn't see it yet, but there was my lunch container.  I was pretty sure my cup was inside it, because I recalled placing something in there that normally I did not.  I had forgotten to empty it the night before like I usually did.  So I opened it - I experimented with the idea that the cup was in my lunch container - sure enough there it was.

You see, it is very important to experiment with ideas by doing something with them, not just assuming the outcome from some hypothetical action.  I did something.  In this case of exegesis (reading a passage from an insider's perspective, not an outsider's), nothing is done except a connection between Isaiah's dread and what holy means.  That is a very sloppy experiment.  In my experiment above, I experimented with all the possibilities until I arrived at one that ruled out any others.  Is this kind insisting they found the thing they were looking for immediately without any failed experiments?  Did they even consider other possibilities at all?

The problem with Otto and this author is they try one possibility for fear - God's holiness - and stop there.  They don't consider other possibilities.  Maybe Isaiah had read how no one can see God's face an live and he thought he had seen his face and that regardless of holy or not, you die.  Or maybe the main issue was his uncleanness and he was ashamed of himself before such a clean assembly.  Like a wedding guest attending a wedding feast without proper clean attire.  He nor Otto does even look at that as a possibility in itself as a reason for fear.  Jesus was holy and yet it did not automatically lead to dread.  The Holy Spirit is in us, yet it does not lead automatically to dread.  I think fear and dread come in certain instances to us.  I don't think that is the constant state before holiness.  I would think the great emotion there is that of emulation - I want to be like Him.

An added problem inside the text that is not considered from an insider's perspective is that 'the whole earth is full of his glory" is much closer in the context to "holy, holy, holy" than the material on fear and dread.  Maybe what should be experimented with is the idea that God's "moral wholeness" is reflected in a view of the "earth's wholeness".  It possesses the glory that God has even if only a reflection of it as the moon is a reflector of the light of the sun.

So my question is why the author does not feel fear?  Why is he so cavalier and fearless as to make illusion to Otto's sloppy exegesis?  Why doesn't he have a goal of preferring the more immediate context over the more distant?

It appears he does not possess the skills of an exegete.  If he does not, then he should fear and stay away from exegetical comments based on an outsider, who admits his exegesis was built on an outsider philosophical perspective.

Holy, Holy, Holy is Yahweh God Almighty,
the whole earth is full of his glory.

Those words are the immediate context.  That is where the test is.  The testimony has to come from the most immediate.  The ones with the eye witness kind of testimony.  Not from the second rate witness in the next room or the larger context beyond that.  Stick to the most immediate.

Likewise, experiment.  Don't just show up with one option as a place to find the lost.  Check around until you find what you are looking for.  But don't stop short or you will end up like "U2" and "still trying to find what you are looking for".


I dislike it when people set up a straw man argument or a wet paper sack argument.  In other words, they make it so easy to win by having no competition.  I see this every year, when some college team rolls over some weakling and the polls move that team up to #1, only to see them get trounced three weeks later.  What this author is arguing about is supposed to be why holiness is forgotten, not about whether people are afraid of God or not.  I was expecting an emotional and logical argument.  I only got the former.

Here's his straw man argument.  People don't know the definition of holy, because they are not afraid of God's holiness.  People when asked for God's attributes don't mention holiness, because they want to avoid an attribute that leads to fear.  He even illogically treats love not as a requirement, but as a kindness or gift. He is illogical here.  The commandment (requirement) is love.  How is that like compassion?  It is mixing demands with gifts.

Listen, I have gone to churches with public sharing.  That is not a good forum for deciding whether the church teaches holiness or not.  As for the definition, they don't know it, because there are too many options. Who's fault is that?  To blame it on the common people not fearing enough from their pews is to set up a straw man argument. The sad thing is the argument he gives cannot fight its way out of a wet paper sack (weakling!) either.


There are more errors, but suffice it to say, "Why is this author asking others to fear God, when he does not fear his own lack of ability?"   Lack of ability is the basic reason to fear.  Its counter part is another's ability to do what I cannot.

Take the table saw again.  The table saw CAN cut off a finger.  My finger CANNOT stop the table saw blade from doing just that, if it is in the wrong place at the wrong time.  So you bet I fear God.  I fear him more than this author in Christianity Today does.

But God has also given me good teachers, so that I am not just caught up in God's alien nature (as Luther called it), but I am caught up more in what I can do through God's compassion and God's heaven sent instructors on exegesis.  May God's children have more confidence and may this erring child of many mistakes realize what he CANNOT do and have greater fear.  Don't instruct others in what you yourself do not possess - healthy fear and a definition for holiness.

In Christ,


Monday, May 19, 2014

Blessed and Holy: Understanding Them Better Through 1 Kings 18 as the Text and Now Your Testimony

People want to know things like definitions for certain.  That is an admirable desire on high importance topics like blessed and holy.  The problem is that the same people don't know how to get there.  The same people who want certainty also can get trapped in wavering rather than knowing.  Knowing the meanings of blessed and  holy for certain, as found in Genesis 2:1-3, requires something that most lexicons and scholars don't provide.  They don't test the meanings of these words from inside the text.

Instead, they test the meaning of each word from outside the text.  They use etymology (in some instances when they claim they don't) or they use cognate languages (these are languages like French in relation to English).  I don't think that either one of these tests is very valid or certain.  If you want reasonable certainty on a very important set of topics, then a lexicon or reading another 100 scholars won't get  you there.  The way to know something for certain over another possibility is to test what is true and humble versus what is false and proud.  But it has to be a complete test.  So how do we get to a better place and time, where and when we know for certain the meaning of blessed and holy?  I got an answer for that.  Read on.

I think the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 shows how to get past various the many opinions on the meanings of blessed and holy.  I'm going to present the story in the following format of questions:

1) What are the numbers?  (to form judgments)  (i.e. must be)
2) What is the test?  (to form testimonies)  (i.e. will be)
3) What are complete guidelines?  (to form laws)  (i.e. wants to be)
4) What is  the action?  (to form commandments)  (i.e. can be)
5) What is the thing?  (to form statutes)  (i.e. let be)

Before I continue let me present the major opinions I think are worth considering on the definition (one of three kinds of meaning) of holy:

1) "set apart" (by far the most popular in the last 100 years, but not previously)
2) "pure" (made popular in groups like the Puritans, but that is no surprise)
3) "moral wholeness" (the most popular of the last 500 years in Protestant theology)

I believe the latter wins after a thorough testing and experimentation.  But for the testing to be successful there must be many testifiers, not just many experiments.  Too many times we think of them as the same thing. Read on and see the difference.

What are the numbers?  Let me stack up the numbers for you first.  Do you remember the story of Elijah?  He asks the people for a test.  He asks for a time out.  He says, "How long will you continue to waver between two opinions?"  The people like his idea for ending their wavering.  So here is how it went #s wise.

Baal's prophets, Yahweh's prophet

1)  2 opinions, 1 opinion
2)  400 reps/prophets of Baal, 1 rep/prophet for Yahweh (Elijah)
3)  1 altar for Baal, 1 altar for Elijah
4)  the whole community assembled as testers/witnesses, the whole community assembled as testers/witnesses
5)  Only fire from heaven, only fire from heaven.
6)  many slashings leading to bleeding, not even one slashing
7)  0 gallons of water, excess gallons of water
8)  Very dry wood, very wet wood

I think you can tell that Elijah is not even worried about the odds being stacked against him in this test.  He knows there are two options: 1) a guaranteed decline or failure, which is why he makes fun of them, and 2) an uncertain possibility, which he believes will test out just fine.

I likewise am not at all bothered by the numbers.  The number of lexicons means little to nothing, if they all are just Xerox copies of each other.  The answers that lexicons, dictionaries, word studies, newer scholarship, older scholarship, and church leaders give wavers between opinions.

So what is the test?  Let me stack up the test for you.  The test is what will be your opinion here and now.  Notice that Elijah is not willing to deal with further procrastination on their part.  Their desire to avoid the topic in the here and now is seen in his primary question: "How long will you waver between two opinions?"

Here is my breakdown on the place and time:

Baal's prophets, Yahweh's prophet

1) at present they go to worship Baal and Yahweh, Elijah wants them to go to worship only Yahweh,
2)  they have perhaps in even the same building worship to each, Elijah wants them to have separate worship,
3)  they want to continue waiting, Elijah wants the waiting to stop,
4)  they have put off agreeing to test each view at a place and time, Elijah asks them for a test at a place and time - a here and now test (very shortly)
5) they have gotten comfortable with their uncertainty (wavering), Elijah wants them to rid themselves of their uncertainty  (He wants them to say: "As for me and my house we will serve Yahweh".
6)  apparently they have been putting the place of decision off for a long time, Elijah wants the time out to end so they can get back to action,
7)  procrastination, urgency
8)  traveling from place to place, finding their place

What Elijah asked for and what he got from the people was a test.  That is all he needed from the witnesses.  He needed one agreed upon place and time when they could all testify to the results.  He alone as a witness was not enough.  He wanted maximum testing or witnessing.  They made a covenant or bond with Elijah that they would be witnesses to a test.  It is no test to hear the testimony of only one witness.  That is all that I am.  He did not give them any guarantees except that he would be present, when Yahweh proved who he was.  They agreed to the same place and time as Elijah and they did not require certainty from him in advance, but rather they sought certainty after the test where they were present to testify.  Maybe their wavering was directly a result of their desire to have guarantees in advance, rather than waiting for til the time that they could testify to guarantee what was true and humble.  

The difficulty in the present, especially regarding holy's definition is that the tests are quasi-tests.  The are not tests that give you a great deal of certainty.  In fact, as scholars have assessed the definition of holy more recently, the tests are coming back more uncertain than previously.  The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (the grandest work on the Hebrew language) casts serious doubt on the etymological argument for "set apart".  It also made the courageous step of leaving out cognate (other language) material and relying primarily on the Hebrew language internally.  

I am afraid that the one test of blessed and holy has not really been performed up to here and now standards.  Since James Barr, no one has written a full blown test for the definition of holy after he successfully unseated the argument from etymology alone.  (He did not say it has no value, but he does say its value is limited.)  That is what I am trying to do otherwise in this blog and in an upcoming book.  I want to set the stage for a grand test of definitions of blessed and holy.  .

So what is complete?  What is complete is playing by all the laws.

I think the laws for Elijah and the prophets might have been something like this:

Baal's prophets, Yahweh's prophet

1)  no stranger fire other than from heaven, no strange fire other than from heaven,
2)  Prayers are permitted, prayers are permitted
3)  We can play with up to 400 players against Elijah by himself, I will permit them to have 400 as long as I can play
4)  bleeding and slashing is permitted, heckling is permitted without any need for physical violence
5)  There is no requirement to use green or wet wood, wet wood will be used that goes beyond required
6)  Baal gets to go first based on the "coin toss", Elijah will go second based on the same "coin toss"
7)  The contest will continue until a side gets the result of a fire.  Elijah continues until fire arrives
8)  If Baal wins then everyone is to go with him, if Yahweh wins then everyone is to go with him

What is the action?  What is the action is the experiment.

I think the rules for Elijah the prophets of Baal and the crowd of spectators were these:

Baal's prophets, Yahweh's prophet

1)  no matches were allowed (that is cheating), no matches were allowed (that is cheating)
2)  each side was to set up their own altar, each side was to set up their own altar
3)  each side was to ask their god to send fire from heaven, each side was to ask their god to send fire from heaven
4)  the action of the people of Israel was to be witnesses, the action of the people was to be witnesses
5)  neither side could sell money back guarantees in advance, neither side could sell money back guarantees
6)  the guarantee came after the experiment, the guarantee came after the experiment
7)  certainty would come from knowing the results following the experiment, certainty would come from knowing the results after the experiment,
8)  prayers and blood-letting allowed, prayers allowed but no blood-letting except from animals

To sum it up, it is to set up an experiment and perform it.  To be specific about the definitions of blessed an holy, I have only given a rough sketch of the experiment mainly for the definition of holy.  I still have a lot of writing to do and a lot of writing that is not on my blog yet.  I have thought it all through in my own mind and I already know the outcome for me personally.  But that does not mean there are many testimonies to that definition.

I knew holy's definition with certainty and personally back in November 2013.  Before that time, mainly the last 10 years, I knew through experimenting that there were lots of problems with the etymological argument arriving at "set apart" as the definition (one of three kinds of meaning).  I also knew that in the last 500 years that the Christian church and even the Jewish synagogue are divided on its meaning.  My question is a lot like Elijah's: "Why are satisfied with procrastinating between so many opinions?"  So I have begun the experiment that people can give witness to on-line.  I want witnesses.  I am not doing this in the dark somewhere.  I am doing it in the light of everywhere and at hyper-speed.   These are the twin advantages of the internet.  

Let me illustrate the importance of experimenting and not just guessing in our brains.  This is how I used experimenting just this morning (5/19/14).  .

So this morning, I did not know where my coffee or tea cup had disappeared to.  Rather than waver too long as to where it might be, I started out by experimenting with where it might be.  I had a few opinions in my mind.  I experimented first with the location of the passenger's side seat in my car.  I seemed to recall that the solution to this mystery had some connection with my car.  Well, it wasn't there.  Then I decided, let's re-check the kitchen looking in the open at the counter space and then in the cupboard.  I didn't find it there either.  Then I checked the other lower probability the living room, etc.  Still, no success.  Then upon returning to the kitchen, I spotted where it was most likely hidden.  I noticed that I had not emptied my lunch container from the day before.  Than I recalled also that there was something I had placed in there the day before that was unusual for me. It was then that I opened the packet and there it was!  I found in truth where my cup was located and I also have to admit humbly that I did not know were it was with certainty until that moment.  No mental experiment was as good as finishing the experiment by opening the bag.

The problem is that too many people rely on their minds and not on their souls.  They think of knowledge as something that is mind-based rather than relationship-based.  I now realize for myself more than ever that knowledge in the Bible makes a lot more sense as a term of intimacy as one of my professors once called it.  I think his idea leans in the right direction.  Where and when will we be?  That is where and when we shall know.  No elsewhere and not any time before.

I also found my cup fairly fast, because I tested my theories rather than tried to just think my way into certainty in advance.  This is, I think, a great mistake by many people.  They don't just do it - experiment that is.  Peter Drucker taught me, through one of his books many years ago, the superiority of this method of experimenting.  People who are unsure need to experiment, to paraphrase his advice.

What is the thing?  No longer wavering between two opinions as to which one is god.  It is either Baal or it is Yahweh.  Which one shows that he is God?

 Let me stack up the things for you at last:

Baal's prophets, Yahweh's prophet

1)  fire from heaven will demonstrate that Baal is god, fire from heaven will demonstrate that Yahweh is god
2)  we don't believe that any human being can command fire from heaven, we don't believe that any human being can command fire from heaven
3)  the demonstration has to be something that we cannot do ourselves, the demonstration has to be something that we cannot do ourselves
4)  the demonstration cannot be subject to coincidence (fire from heaven during a lightning storm), the demonstration cannot be subject to coincidence (it has not even rained for a long time and there are no clouds)
5)  the demonstration can happen using wood that burns very easily, the demonstration can be with dry wood but let's make it more miraculous by adding water than no human being can overcome without trouble)
6)  our god will answer us while the people are still there, my god will answer even after part of the day is lost and the people might be starting to want to go back home
7)  our god surely knows he has a stake in this and hasn't been distracted, your god I think is distracted by the latreen while my god is still interested
8)  we think by slashing ourselves greater attention will come from our god, my god needs no such attention getting measures

Some at least have heard who the winner in this experiment was in terms of demonstrating which god was the God.  It was the god named Yahweh.  Elijah now had not only his own testimony, he also now had the testimony of the people of Israel.  No longer was it him alone while the crowds limped along.  I know that later in the story Elijah starts to feel sorry for himself all over again.  But notice that God reminds him that he is not the only prophet of Yahweh who did not bend the knee and he certainly too was no longer the only one to testify as to who is God among the people.  There were now many witnesses.

That is where every reader of this blog can make their mark. They can become witnesses of the things they have seen.  You can do it by leaving a comment to let others know you have witnessed what I have said.  Others can then add their testimony to yours.  I know that I am not alone.  I don't have Elijah's problem today at least.

So I would like the testifiers of truth and humility, people who wait until after the experiment and have stopped procrastinating, to join with me and start using my tools under my "communication tools" tab and to start reading my prior experiments in this blog.  You'll be surprised what you'll find once you kick procrastination to the back seat of the bus.  It is an absolute necessity to understand your importance as fellow connection, witness, and testifier, who waits truthfully and humbly for certainty.  Then you shall know and not before.  Ah, isn't it fun to stop procrastinating and instead begin to get things done?  Take care my fellow witnesses.

In Christ,


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Blessed and Holy: Understanding Them Better Through Exodus 19:1-8 (Credibility - Part 5 of 5)

Credibility is a thing that is hard to find.  It is also hard to establish it with others.  It requires more than a high IQ.  It also requires EQ.  EQ is an emotional quotient like there is an intelligence quotient, IQ.  You may have a very high IQ and fail at EQ.  Notice the following picture:

What I find is that too many people are emotionally afraid of considering the option that the most popular definition in lexicons in the last 100 years and among the majority of current scholars is incorrect.  Too often the definition that people settle for is fear driven rather than confidence driven.  It can also be fearless driven as though confidence is the total absence of fear.  I am convinced that the definition of holy is "moral wholeness" and I can emotionally say it with confidence under control (it is not a fearless over-correction.

"What is moral wholeness?", you might ask.  It is all these moral traits as a whole:

1) Righteous and just
2) True and humble
3) Loving and perfect,
4) Good and great.

To lack anyone of these would mean that a person is not morally whole.  It goes almost without saying, but "steadfast kindness" is the sequel to holiness when it comes to salvation.  This kindness is a gift while holiness is a demand or requirement.


I want to point out that I agree fully to Scripture alone as the principal by which the meaning of holy should be tested.  It is not the lazy man's way of defining holy, but the brain exercising way to define holy.  My purpose is not to convince people to read all the scholarly materials on holy, though some are helpful, but to better equip them to understand the meaning of holy in the biblical text for themselves.  Note this quote by a guy who exercised his brain pretty well and I understand had an IQ in the 160s.

Here one also has to be cautious not to take this quote too far.  Einstein is not suggesting that reading others is a waste of time entirely, but he is more concerned that people develop their own habits of thinking rather than relying primarily or only on an authoritative source outside of one's own understanding.  I like to think of it this way.  It is the difference between those raised by parents to be adults themselves and those who remain mainly dependent on their parents even as adults.  These thinkers are not independent thinkers.

The danger in going too far in one's independence is though like the person who becomes an adult and forbids themselves to ever get the advice of a parent.  You can be independent even if you know your parents' view.  That does not necessarily block you from independence unless you are still dependent on them can cannot chose other than their view.

So let's examine the text itself as a starting point:

Exodus 19:1-8

New King James Version (NKJV)

Israel at Mount Sinai

19 In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai. For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain.
And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded him. Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” So Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.

Jo Bailey Wells in her fine consideration of these verses points out some significant characteristics in this text.  She points out some relevant parallelism in relationship to the definition of holy.

[This post with some other recent posts is under construction.  Next week should afford another opportunity to revisit those that are incomplete.  Sorry for the delay.]

In Christ,


Thursday, May 08, 2014

Blessed and Holy: Understanding Them Better Through Exodus 19:1-8 (Credibility - Part 4 of 5)

I think I am going to be wrapping up my work on the definition of holy this week.  I am now going to re-direct my major efforts toward the parts of Scripture that are much simpler and provided the tools for me to recognize that the popular definition of holy in our day is an error.

The definition of holy as "set apart" is reading too much into one ancient writing that say that "holy means set apart".  Means does not always mean definition.  In this case, I am convinced that it means significance.  I do believe that being blessed and being morally whole do set people apart from those who are not.  This is just like a hospital separates the healthy from the unhealthy in cases of communicable diseases.  But to claim that what we are chiefly to imitate in God in being blessed like he is with some kind of prosperity (which seems kind of weird) and to claim that we are chiefly to be like him in his separation from sin (again which seems kind of weird) is not the God that I want to emulate.  I want to emulate a greater God who has a blessedness that indicates "I am who I am" and a God who is above all else chiefly "morally whole" as holy.  My God is not morally one kind like just love.  Give me a much more robust God than that and then I will emulate God for the rest of all eternity!

May you learn the meaning of holy as I have and long the day when all the world knows it too!

[This piece too is still in process, but it does cut the point doesn't it?]

"Are you afraid of success?"  Remember that line from "It's a Wonderful Life"?  Maybe the fear of success is greater than we imagine.  "The only thing to fear is fear itself".  Remember that line from FDR?  Could it be that our fear is greater than fear itself?  Could it be that our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but rather our fear is that our adequacy or confidence demonstrates the inadequacy of others?  How can we possibly succeed where they failed?  Are we also fearful of hurting other people's feelings of adequacy or confidence?   I believe I can see and feel these fears every day.  So now fear rather than confidence is our primary stance.

Perhaps, following failure after failure which came after proclaiming success after success, we are a bit weary and fearful of confidence.  Look at the path of our own pasts and those leaders around us covered with failed successes.  From religion, Jimmy Baker; from politics, Richard Nixon; from business, Kenneth Lay; from sports, Tiger Wood and the list for all these areas goes on and on.  People who once had our confidence that then turned around and shattered it.  It is a fearful past that we live with everyday.

In a very real sense, fear is helpful.  We need confidence that is not just fearless.  We have to be able to discern when confidence makes sense and when fear makes sense.  The problem is when fear so controls us that we now believe that we too will not possess the strength to solve the previously unsolvable.  The ones older than us didn't, goes the reasoning.  Why would this generation of human beings in the 21st century succeed, where many in the 20th century did not?  Could we possibly be more adequate than the so-called "Greatest Generation"?  Is this our fear?  Does latching on to them as the "Greatest Generation" just give us a convenient excuse to not try what they found impossible?  Is it an attempt to shield us from the fears of the 20th century?  Is it an attempt to find one place and time where we can be confident?

I believe excess fear and excess confidence are both hurting the legitimate feeling of confidence.  In the story of Joshua, he is told that instead of being afraid that he is to "be strong and courageous".  Notice not strong and fearless.  Remember too that "the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom".  So woe to the fearless!  So what about us?  We are not to be frightened by other people' s feelings of fear and inadequacy, are we?   We are not to join the fearless, are we?

A biblical theology is one of those specific areas where people are afraid.  People are afraid that a biblical theology is not possible.   The let's boil that all the way down to a specific biblical definition of holy.  It simply is not possible, we reason, based on all the ones before us that failed. I repeat and capitalize for emphasis two words: NOT POSSIBLE.

Now before I say much more about a biblical passage this week over 5 steps in 5 days, I want to point out the many times that I have learned the danger of these words "not possible" and why they ought to be feared (fear itself again!).   They can be very dangerous words.  They can undercut confidence itself.  So here is some instances outside of biblical theology but still part of life's experiences, where I have experienced the danger of NOT POSSIBLE.  They are:

1) it is not possible for your parents to love you as much as their natural born, because you are adopted,
2) it is not possible to beat someone in wrestling, because they beat you a year ago,
3) it is not possible for you to be a mile runner on the high school track team, because the first time you were ever timed in a mile run in high school, you were beaten by an offensive lineman,
4) it is not possible for you to ever be smart, because your IQ score in high school was very low,
5) it is not possible to get a high grade in college Greek, because you struggled even with English grammar,
6) it is not possible for you to become a good communicator, because who scored very low in the English section of the ACT during high school,
7) it is not possible for you to be a good basketball coach, because at one point you did not know the short list of fundamentals,
8) it is not possible for you to succeed as a fisherman, because you previously failed as a fisherman,
9) it is not possible for the tool you have to be better, because others used it before you and it did not prove better but instead controversial,
10) It is not possible to be emotionally intelligent, because you previously were not emotionally intelligent.

All of these and more (ex. player, coach, and AD) contribute to why I believe "not possible" is dangerous.   Everyone has proved instead to be very possible.  Besides that, it makes us (me included) all hypocrites, who sang when we were younger, "nothing is impossible with God".  It is not our mindset alone that needs to change as much as our strength-set.  We need to boost our confidence, when it is appropriate!

An emotionally healthy person knows there is a time to be confident and there is a time to fear.  The healthy person knows when to be one and not the other.  Again, they are not fearless.  They are confident.  There is a huge difference.  Lots of people get hurt being fearless.  Me included, so that is not what I am looking for from us.  I am instead looking for confident people, who know when to be confident.

In Christ,


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Blessed and Holy: Understanding Them Better Through Exodus 19:1-8 (Credibility - Part 3 of 5)

In speaking to the issue of what is the definition of holy, as one part of what holy means, we should all agree that we need to engage our minds in the process.  We should also all agree that it needs to be all of our mind or brain that is engaged.   So let me engage your whole brain.  Who is most credible in the use of their mind? Is it: 1) a person who is very smart and feels little, 2) a person who feels much and is not very smart, or a person who feels deeply and is very smart?  I am convinced the most credible mind for deciding on a definition for holy is that person who both feels deeply and is deeply smart.  This kind of person has a quiet ethical credibility,

Further, I do believe our emotional state does influence our decision making, so that it is best to bring it out into the open and handle it positively rather than hide it or try to subdue it.  It is the person who ignores their emotions and/or the person who ignores their logic that gets in the most trouble.

I continue to be convinced from my devotional reading of Scripture that this is true, since emotions are found in many stories influencing decisions.  From these biblical instances and other evidence, I believe that the person whose thinking is most credible is that person who considers both feeling and logic.  Peter F. Drucker, the great management guru of the 20th century, lays out an obviously logical format for making decisions in his many books on management, but he also acknowledged the need to listen to that voice he called the "daemon" for a short time to make sure we heard its voice and not just the logical voice in decision making.  Ironically, it seems that emotions could most effect those most unaware of them.

[This piece of writing is likely to be broken into 2 parts with one section staying in this post and the other going to my communication basics blog for a more full treatment.]

For a number of years, I have been studying the topic of emotional intelligence alongside of rational or logical intelligence.  The pages in my notebook on emotional intelligence go back to at least 2006, but some of the things on the topic I may have been studying much longer.  Personally, I have been "studying" emotions since I was pulled out of my 3rd grade class to see the principal and then the school psychologist.  Today, I will limit my discussion to psychologists and philosophers, who are also authors, that have especially helped me with my emotional intelligence.  They are: 1) Daniel Goleman, 2) Robert Plutchik, and 3) Aristotle (yes, that Greek philosopher).  To sum up what I have learned, I would say four things directly related to each of them:

1) emotional intelligence is more important than logical intelligence based on biological factors (Goleman),
2) there are basic emotions from which the other combinations of emotions spring (Plutchik), and
3) psychology has been hindered by the notion that fight and flight are opposites and so are both anger and fear, which can easily be shown to be a false set of opposites by its inconsistency with other emotions and other approaches (Aristotle)
4) the important triad of ethos (ethical/credible), pathos (emotions), and logos (logical) have been overlooked to our detriment when it comes to appeals for our decisions (Aristotle).

I find that every one of these lessons is important, but especially the last one.  I find that by ignoring the emotional component when it comes to people's minds being persuaded and by not recognizing that both emotional and logical appeals are necessary for a person to be considered ethical or credible are both critical to defining holy correctly.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle people need to get over is the negative view of their emotions.  I think Daniel Goleman's work on emotional intelligence and his rooting his ideas in the biology of the brain are a big help in cutting edge science of the brain.  But there is also an ancient tradition in rhetoric that shows that ancients like Aristotle also recognized its great role a long time before the latest science.  Not all  have taken a negative or dim view of emotions.  In going through the educational system of the United States, whether private or public, we are tested on our IQ, but there is not an equivalent EQ test.  Goleman's own test is nowhere near a type of compliment.  But the picture below does show importance of the emotional part of our brain that interacts with the logical portion.

There are some helpful things written on emotions, but also some that are confusing or misleading.

On a personal level three people have helped me the most: 1) my mother, 2) my Great Aunt Lilly, and 3) Pastor B. Wayne Johnson.

Three professional people have helped me with my emotional intelligence perhaps the most: 1) Dottie Lideen (the schoool pychologist mentioned earlier), 2) Pastor Jim Learned, and Roger Buck, a Director of Christian Education and Stephens Ministry Coordinator.

In studying under Dr. John S. Piper, Tom Stellar, and Dr. Daniel P. Fuller, I learned to use my own brain more and other people's brains less to keep my own brain from becoming lazy.  This does not mean other views are not important (they are!) for seeing options for biblical interpretation, but what it does mean is what Einstein discovered:

So let's look at the text now that we have a better sense of how our minds work overall.

[while this is still under construction, next week (5/11/14) is when I hope to add to it.]



Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Blessed and Holy: Understanding Them Better Through Exodus 19:1-8 (Credibility - Part 2 of 5)

In defining any words including both blessed and holy, it is important to find a credible source.  Wouldn't you agree?  How do you decide who is credible and who is not?  The second question is a little harder to answer than the first.  There is a clear consensus on the need to discover a credible source otherwise why turn to some sources for your information over others.  Why not settle for the National Enquirer?  Why is it that a Hebrew lexicon or an English dictionary is any better?  What are the conscious criteria?  My sources for credibility are the following: 1) credible appeal, 2) emotional appeal, 3) logical appeal.

Recently, I experienced a situation where my "logical appeal" was spotless and yet it did not appeal to those I was speaking with effectively.  They basically decided not to act.  I was a little frustrated with my failure, so I decided to step back and instead of blaming them for not listening to me, I decided to find out if I had failed in my appeal in any way.  (Keep in mind that you have the advantage of my 20/20 hindsight in realizing that I had made only a very strong logical appeal.)  In any case, I thought maybe I did not effectively address them in terms of their emotions.  So I returned to some ideas I had explored previously on "emotional intelligence", EQ. I found this material helpful in the past and so I returned to it for more insight once again.  This time though I had a little higher "logical intelligence", IQ, than the previous time, so I noticed some things I had previously had not noticed.

Aristotle's rhetoric he spoke of three key means of persuasion.  To transfer his words into English, he spoke of: 1) credibility, 2) emotions, and 3) logic as key parts of persuasion.  It recently dawned on me that this triad could be like another triad that I learned a long time ago in the translation of righteousness, justice, and judgment.  English translators for many years have known that justice is in some contexts the level line of amount and in other contexts it is the vertical and level lines of amount combined and so is translated as judgment.  In their wisdom, they have practiced this for years, but perhaps not as consciously as we could wish.  Perhaps Aristotle was not as conscious as we could wish either when he speaks of his triad.  Could it be that 1) emotions, 2) logic, and 3) credibility are another example of a greater, lesser, greatest triad?  I believe it is.

Think of it this way.  When you desire to find a reliable source for the meaning of holy, would it not be the ideal to find someone is both feels deeply and is very smart.  In other words, they ooze what gives a person credibility.  Just today I read in the book of 2 Samuel about those who are blameless and those who are those who ought to feel shame.  The story is that of Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom.  There is hardly another story filled so much with these emotional appeals.  But these emotional appeals to do not stand alone.  They are accompanied by logic as well.  The story gets its credibility from both helping a person feel deeply as they read it but also see the story very smartly as they see it.  It is a story of relationships with persuasive power.  

[My new writing schedule is this - to begin a piece every day for 5 days and then the following week to try to follow up and finish them.  Thank you for your patience.  Keep in mind that I am writing much behind the scenes to bring out some of it here, but I think it is still valuable.]

In Christ,


Monday, May 05, 2014

Blessed and Holy: The Possibility of Understanding Them Better Through Exodus 19:1-8 (Credibility: Part 1 of 5)

What is the significance of our emotions, when it comes to defining either blessed or holy?  Let's be more specific.  Are you feeling that the definitions you have been given deserve acceptance?  Or are you rather feeling that they are shameful attempts to define a key word in the Bible?  Emotional intelligence, while it has received some really excellent attention in recent years, is also shackled to outmoded ideas from the 1800's and it lacks a real clear test like that used for logical intelligence.  While testing for the Intelligence Quotient, IQ, is elaborately developed, there is no equivalent test for a person's Emotional Quotient, EQ. Worse yet is that the combination of both together, a person's Credibility Quotient,CQ, is even less developed.  The reason that I began my discussion with questions of acceptance and shame is that these are the basic questions of emotion that relate to the logical question of amount like a test score of say, 90 out of 100..  In school, if I take a test and receive an acceptable score like 90 out of 100, then I feel the pleasure of acceptance.  If I take a test and receive an unacceptable score of 50 out of 100, then I will feel the pain of shame.  So what should be our emotional state?

So what ought we to feel about test scores relating to understanding blessed and holy?  In speaking to Christians in particular, what do the test scores say about the definition of each of these words.  It make shock you to learn that recent scores are lower rather than higher.  The emotional diagnosis is one moving toward shame rather than acceptance.  If John A. Lee is correct, most of what scholars labeled as a definition in a lexicon is simply a good copy of an earlier tradition of definition.  Most of it has not been re-tested.  But in the case of holy, there have been some important (acceptable) advances in scholarship.

First, Jo Bailey Wells, author of God's Holy People: A Theme in Biblical Theology, points out in her excellent summary of recent scholarship on the definition of holy, that the "old consensus that the original etymology was `separation' ... has now been abandoned" (p. 17-18, see footnote 10).

When I speak of outmoded ideas in the 1800s, I am referring to the continuing development of fight versus flight, or the idea that anger and fear are opposites.  Worse yet is the idea that anger is simply another form of fear.  I guess you could call that an update of an odd idea whose time to die has come.

When I speak of a test, I am referring to the need to test emotional intelligence (EQ) in schools just like logical intelligence (IQ)

[I actually wrote a great deal today, but I found the material fits better with part 4 of 5)

In Christ,