Thinking Out Loud

November 19, 2016

Holy, Holy, Holy: What is Holiness?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:15 am

Most people know The Bible Project for their book-by-book summaries of scripture. But today I discovered this topical video posted about a year-and-a-half ago. More information about their work at JoinTheBibleProject.com.

See what you think about this explanation of holiness.

January 29, 2015

When Unbelievers Get It

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:39 am

I Cor 14 is a passage that deals with spiritual gifts that may be interpreted differently by people depending on their take on the reality of those gifts in the 21st century. So I don’t want to focus specifically on the idea prophecy or prophesying as much as I want to focus on the latter part of verse 25:

24 But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. 25 As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is truly here among you.” (NLT)

What a great moment that would be! Imagine someone coming into one of our meetings who is not a believer, but they observe “God is truly here among you.”

I like how The Message handles this:

But if some unbelieving outsiders walk in on a service where people are speaking out God’s truth, the plain words will bring them up against the truth and probe their hearts. Before you know it, they’re going to be on their faces before God, recognizing that God is among you. (vs 24-25, Message)

There’s a great Old Testament parallel passage to this:

This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: In those days ten men from different nations and languages of the world will clutch at the sleeve of one Jew. And they will say, ‘Please let us walk with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ (Zechariah 8:23 NLT)

What a picture that paints!

We had a pastor once whose nearly ten year ministry of us truly came to a dramatic climax with his final sermon. His last sentence of that message went something like this, “I don’t want people to leave here saying, ‘They have a great church;’ but rather, they should say, ‘They have a great God.'”

What a great thing to hear!


About the Blogroll:

This blog has a rather interesting link list in the sidebar. Blogs mentioned are chosen because they are (a) faith focused and (b) posting regularly. The doctrinal flavor of the blogs listed is quite varied, but I don’t include blogs that appear to have more “agenda” than content. Some blogs are listed somewhat permanently, some disappear and return a month later. Together, they represent almost one twentieth or about 5% of the bloggers that I have bookmarked in my computer and read regularly. Some of the blogs appearing in the Wednesday link list end up on this page later on, while others have a key post that I feel is worth mentioning, while at the same time I’m not sure I want to establish them as a link or imply endorsement. Recommendations are invited.

March 10, 2014

God > Us

This was a different type of article for C201, and I thought I would share it here as well…

Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (NIV)

That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.”[Is. 64:4] (NLT)

Isaiah 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (NASB)

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (NRSV)

 

holy_spirit_-_pentacost_jwis

A long time ago in an environment far away from where I am today, I was a philosophy major at a secular university required to read The Idea of the Holy by Rudoph Otto. The subtitle of the book is An Inquiry into the Non Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational. (Today, the book’s marketing department would be looking for something more catchy.)

In the book, Otto introduced the idea of “numinous.” Sometimes when writers introduce terminology that is outside our normal frame of reference, we tend to be dismissive of its application to our particular brand of theology. But read this definition carefully and slowly:

Otto was one of the most influential thinkers about religion in the first half of the twentieth century. He is best known for his analysis of the experience that, in his view, underlies all religion. He calls this experience “numinous,” and says it has three components. These are often designated with a Latin phrase: mysterium tremendum et fascinans. As mysterium, the numinous is “wholly other”– entirely different from anything we experience in ordinary life. It evokes a reaction of silence. But the numinous is also a mysterium tremendum. It provokes terror because it presents itself as overwhelming power. Finally, the numinous presents itself as fascinans, as merciful and gracious.

Outline of Otto’s concept of the numinous (based on The Idea of the Holy. Trans. John W. Harvey. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1923; 2nd ed., 1950 [Das Heilige, 1917]):

Mysterium tremendum et fascinans” (fearful and fascinating mystery):

  • Mysterium“: Wholly Other, experienced with blank wonder, stupor
  • tremendum“:
    • awefulness, terror, demonic dread, awe, absolute unapproachability, “wrath” of God
    • overpoweringness, majesty, might, sense of one’s own nothingness in contrast to its power
    • creature-feeling, sense of objective presence, dependence
    • energy, urgency, will, vitality
  • fascinans“: potent charm, attractiveness in spite of fear, terror, etc.

~online notes by Joseph A. Adler, Professor of Religion at Ohio’s Kenyon College.

You’ll also see (above) that Otto used the term “wholly other.” I’ve often thought the book could also have been titled, The Idea of the Wholly! Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry explains this:

The term “wholly other” is used in Christian theology to describe the difference between God and everything else. God, the Christian God, is completely different than all other things that exist. God can be described by essential properties such as holiness, immutability, etc. But we have to ask how we, as finite creatures, can relate to the infinite God. It is difficult when he is “wholly other” than we are. It means that we must relate to him by his self-revelation in the person of Christ Jesus, and through the Bible.

But the holy/wholly pun I suggest above is one you should not forget, especially if you’re more accustomed to using words like ‘holiness’ in terms of personal purity. The website, TheNewCreation.com explains:

The word holy is commonly understood to mean moral perfection. And when it is applied to God’s relationship to “sinners” it suggests that God has such a high standard of holiness (moral perfection) that he will not tolerate or forgive sinners until they are sanctified and made holy (morally clean).

But this is not what the Hebrew prophets had in mind when they cried, “Holy! holy! holy is YHWH Sabaoth.” The Hebrew kaddosh, has nothing to do with morality but means “otherness,”– Wholly Other. “YHWH is other! other! other!”

YHWH does not conform to, or fit into our concepts of deity. He can not be defined by our abstract theistic characterizations (omnipotent, omniscient, impassible…). YHWH is radically, transcendentally different (other) then the gods made in our own image: the autocratic and domineering gods that are the projections of our primate animal nature.

God is radical, uncompromising, unconditional, self-emptying love for the other–us and all of creation. It is this love that defines His holiness. A love so completely open to the pain and need of the other; so inexhaustible in its selflessness; so broad and deep in its scope; that is could never be defined by any abstract philosophical/theological propositions. It could only be expressed and made real in a living person. Only in one who is the fulness of the humane and compassionate Abba. Only in the Crucified One: Jesus Christ.

The other term we often use in this case is transcendence, the idea that God transcends anything we can fathom, as stated in the scripture examples at the outset of today’s reading. The Religion Library at Patheos.com has a reference to Martin Luther that is appropriate to consider:

…Luther’s God is an all-powerful God.He stressed this idea in ways that may surprise people today.For Luther, God is wholly other than we are, and so we cannot rely on analogies from our own experience to understand God.We know about God only what God chooses to reveal to us.The picture of God in scripture is not uniformly comforting.God’s power and goodness are not constrained by human conceptions of power and goodness…

I want to leave you with another set of homonyms to sum up today’s thoughts. We talked about holy and wholly. Our reaction to all this should be aah and awe. Aah because it takes our breath away. Awe because we realize how great God is…and yet He loves us!

Note: Today’s blog post delves into concepts considered part of the philosophy of religion. Inclusion of website links in this discussion does not imply endorsement of the sources or websites as a whole.

May 26, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Another Wednesday rolls around… where did you go this week online?

  • Ruth Tucker at Christianity Today marks  the passing of Moishe Rosen, the sometimes controversial founder of Jews for Jesus, as does an article in the New York Times.
  • Readers of The Internet Monk blog can catch a free download of the first chapter of the late Michael Spencer’s book, Mere Churchianity.
  • A candid Leadership Magazine interview with Francis Chan — is he ever not candid? — about how things work at Cornerstone Church.
  • While I usually laugh at the blog, Stuff Fundies Like, here’s a piece that makes a very, very solid point about Outcome Based Justification.  If just one person clicks on this…
  • Yikes!  A 13-year-old student in New York State can’t wear a rosary to school because of a statute prohibiting “gang related dress.”  Who ya gonna call?  Jay Sekulow.   But wait a minute, could the school board be justified?  The police think so.
  • Blogger Jeff Leake has reason to be proud of his talented 16-year old son, Josh Leake who has released a new album.   Right now they’re selling actual CDs, but they might want to also consider downloads.   Check out his MySpace page.
  • Trevin Wax thinks that, “Traditional evangelistic strategies are not necessarily deficient in what they say, but in what they assume.”  Read more at Kingdom People.
  • I know a number of bloggers have already mentioned this, but if you’re a parent, you need to watch this Vimeo clip from Randy Alcorn about Pornography from 12 days ago, and also this more recent one — despite the audio problems — from 7 days ago for parents who have daughters.
  • What is God’s relationship to time.   Not an easy question.   Start your thinking process at this article at Prodigal Magazine.
  • Unequally yoked?  Russell D. Moore got a letter in April about a conservative, dispensational Calvinist marrying a tongues-speaking Pentecostal.  Two weeks later, he’s still getting mail.
  • Blog discovery of the week (but it’s been around since 2007) — E-Royal by Royal Farris.   Lots of good video embeds recently.  Which is where I first saw
  • “The Gospel According To Krispy Kreme” a ten-minute YouTube video of Louie Giglio from 2009.
  • Whatever happened to scripture memory.   Here’s a top ten list of some Bible passages everyone should know by heart.
  • It would be great if God spoke to us by sending little written notes to us throughout the day.   That’s the theme of this 2-minute free sermon video download at Floodgate Productions.
  • Currently reading:  I actually don’t limit my reading to Christian books; I’m currently enjoying The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee.  (Love that middle initial!)  The book is a fascinating history of Chinese food.   I discovered Jennifer at TED Talks.
  • Currently fundraising: Chris, our oldest is going to be working in the kitchen at a Christian camp for ten weeks this summer.   Based on a 48-hour (i.e. six day) week, they’re giving him $3.00 per hour; he has to come up with sponsors for the rest.   Contact us if you want to help.
  • Currently listening to:  A Ton of Worship.  A  collection of church worship from the UK, but check out the stats:  5-CDs.  20 songs per CD.   That’s 100 songs for only $12.99 US/$15.99 CDN.  Also a kids version for $9.99 US/$12.99 CDN.   From Kingsway Music.
  • Message to certain bloggers:  Your Twitter updates are really slowing down your page loads.   Is it worth it?
  • Question to video uploaders:  Why Vimeo and not YouTube?   I have a fairly high speed connection, but the Vimeo server — especially when embedded in blogs — doesn’t even come close to the speed of the YouTube servers.
  • Our cartoon panel this week is from Calvinist Cartoons by Eddie Eddings (c/o John Scaddington).

January 27, 2010

When Non-Churched People Get It

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:10 pm

I Cor 14 is a passage that deals with spiritual gifts that may be interpreted differently by people depending on their take on the reality of those gifts in the 21st century.   So I don’t want to focus specifically on the idea prophecy or prophesying as much as I want to focus on the latter part of verse 25:

24 But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. 25 As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is truly here among you.” (NLT)

What a great comment to hear!  Imagine someone coming into one of our meetings who is not a believer, but they observe “God is truly here among you.”

I like how The Message handles this:

But if some unbelieving outsiders walk in on a service where people are speaking out God’s truth, the plain words will bring them up against the truth and probe their hearts. Before you know it, they’re going to be on their faces before God, recognizing that God is among you.  (vs 24-25, Message)

We had a pastor once whose nearly ten year ministry of us truly came to a dramatic climax with his final sermon.    His last sentence of that message went something like this, “I don’t want people to leave here saying, ‘They have a great church;’ but rather, they should say, ‘They have a great God.'”

What a great thing to hear.

August 18, 2009

Brian Doerksen: Make Love, Make War

I lied yesterday.   I said you could expect this book review later this week, when in fact, I couldn’t stop reading.  I never finish a book in a single day.  If anything, the book ended suddenly; I kept looking for a postscript or afterword or epilogue.

Make Love, Make War: Now is the Time to Worship (David C. Cook, 2009)  is a wonderfully crafted outpouring from the heart of Canadian singer-songwriter Brian Doerksen, who has authored or co-authored — he seems to do much of his writing in tandem with others — some of our best known worship songs such as:

  • Doerksen - Make Love Make War (2)Refiner’s Fire
  • Your Love is Amazing
  • Today (As for Me and My House)
  • It’s Time for the Reign of God
  • Faithful One
  • Everlasting
  • Creation Calls
  • Light The Fire Again
  • You Shine
  • and 84 other CCLI-listed songs

Some of these songs, and some I didn’t know, become the chapter titles for this book and are used as a springboard for discussion about what it means to live a life of worship to God, and also the worship songwriting process itself.   On many chapters, I found the songs playing as on a loop in my head, providing a background soundtrack to reading the book.   (Maybe someday that technology will exist as you begin a new chapter, the appropriate song will play…)

Doerksen - Today DVDFurthermore, although I’ve missed hearing Brian live, getting to know his voice and spoken mannerisms from the Today live worship DVD resulted in almost hearing him speak the words right off the page.    I questioned getting the DVD, since I already had the CD, but it has proved to be one of my all time favorite visual worship experiences.   The book Make Love, Make War is the next natural progression, deeper into the heart of Brian’s love for his heavenly father, though if you currently own neither, don’t let that dissuade you from the book..

The book is part worship textbook, part autobiographical.   It is in places humorous and at other places deeply serious.    It is partly intended for worship music personnel at local churches — especially with its technical and practical tips for musicians at the end of each chapter — and also intended for the average person who seeks after God.

In many of our churches, the worship component involves half or more of the total time spent “at church.”   Towards the end, Doerksen suggests:

“…we send people away to Bible school and seminary for years to learn the Scriptures and how to preach.  And upon their return they preach sermons, which people often promptly forget.   But there are very few theological schools designed to help modern artists and worship songwriters learn the Scriptures and biblical theology; we just tell them to write a song we can sing in church.  Maybe it’s the songwriters who should study the most — because the lyrics of the songs are what really stick with us.”

In an excellent analogy — again towards the end of the book — he compares worship leaders to the Best Man at a wedding, leading the introduction of Bride (the church) and Groom (the Father), and then quickly getting out of the way.

DoerksenElsewhere he despairs over pastors who encourage worship leaders to include something “lively” or “up tempo,” when the heart of the Psalms is often woeful lament.   His admiration for principal Psalmist King David — he just calls him Dave — is repeated throughout the book.   He admits that sometimes, following after his role model, his song themes and lyrical choices have been met with criticism.    This does not deter him; he feels he is living out the particular worship role for which God has chosen him.

Lord willing, Brian Doerksen will keep giving the church new musical worship material; but I also hope this isn’t the last time we see his name on a book.   He has much to teach us about our relationship with the Father.

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