Friday, June 29, 2007

Words, words, words...

The post title is from Hamlet; early in the play, Hamlet is seen reading a book and, when asked what he's reading, responds with a sigh, "Words, words, words."
But words are vital; words are what makes us human. The primary "enemy" identified in the Psalms is not foreign kings or evil people, but dishonest lips, lying tongues and deceitful speech. So... in a Post Modern society, who should control the meaning of words and how should they do it?


John the Musician said...

Like my father, I tend to agree that controling the meaning of words is quite impossible. As far as words go, I've had several conversations with people in which the different parties have had entirely different definitions of very simple words like religion and church as an example.

In my personal experience, I've found that my definitions for words depend entirely on my enviornment. i.e. church became the word for old wineskin in my book. It became useless to me unless I was refering to mediocre people who I didn't particularly care about. Since then, the meaning has become more rounded, something like, "the gathering of brothers and sisters in Chist." Anyways, all that to say, every person has entirely unique definitions to many words, because every life is unique in and of itself. I also think that the more important a word is, the more controversial it becomes. I think the perfect example is the word love. It's been defined in many ways and probably will continue to be so.

I agree with you that words are very important, although they don't always feel like it. We have power with words. Also, just by changing around one word in a sentance, the power of that sentance can be enhanced or reduced. I think that the reason face to face communication is so important is because those involved can decipher the meaning of the others words much easier when feeling the attitude or motive behind the words.

Hmmm... I feel like I'm talking on and on for no reason and with no power, so I'll subside for the time being. =O)

Brian Emmet said...

"Controlling" the meaning of words is probably impossible... but there's something else I think we're reaching for that is important. For example, here in Massahusetts, our Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled that "marriage" is to be legally defined as the union of two persons, thereby 'redefining' marriage and hence legitimating same-sex 'marriage.' While we may agree or disagree with the decision on a social or perhaps even a civil rights basis (shaky ground there, to my mind), I think as Christians we need to be clear about the meaning of the word "marriage." We cannot control our culture's use of the term, but at least within our own borders, proper definition is essential. We cannot reduce marriage to a definition, but without a clear and correct definition, we've got no leg to stand on... and it can't just be fighting for/about the definition: we have to provide a clear incarnation of the meaning of marriage in the midst of an increasingly confused and lost culture.

Hey, maybe that's a clue: that true words, and the truth of words, can only finally be understood incarnationally...

...whatever that might mean!

josenmiami said...

good point, Brian. I am very in favor of good communication to arrive a the best understanding as possible of definitions, and whenever possible, to attempt to rescue words and restore them with definitions that reflect bibical content...example..."apostle" is a word that needs to be revisted with careful biblical study.

regarding control, I like something Paul Petrie once said in one of his email updates about Rebecca. He said, "The idea that we can control anything is an illusion of the strong -- the weak and the needy know better."

John M. said...

It seems that some perfectly good words get "deleted" from the public conversation because they have become "politically incorrect". It is ironic that in a supposed atmosphere of diversity and tolerance, certain words will incur a very intolerant and wrathful response. I like Brian's idea of "incarnating" a biblical substance to important words -- maybe St. Francis' idea to "Preach the gospel daily; if necessary use words.", can be applied here. For instance the meaning of the word marriage can be expressed by the way those of us who are married live. Then when asked to define the word, we can point to healthy, concrete examples of what we mean by marriage to illustrate our definition.

John M. said...

PS On the other blog, the last several posts I have made never appeared, even though it told me that my post was successful. To my knowledge I am not doing anything different. Does anyone have any pointers?

Michael said...

John I agree with you. I think our words need to be seen in order to be heard.
How many times have we all thought we understood the meaning of a word, (discipleship, shepherding, community, marriage) only to find out that our experiences tend to sharpen and bring into focus certain aspects of that word, that had not been part of our definition.
Its not so much that God's definition has changed, but once we start to obey that word we begin to understand it better.

My thoughts on controlling the definitions is that it cannot be done. I think that people who believe they control something (like definitions) also believe the own it. Consequently they can change the meaning and still keep the word. We see it in such words as fetus vrs. baby, church vrs building, faith vrs doctrine. In general I have seen words and their definitions move from verbs to nouns, from persons to places. Both are subtle changes in definitions that have significant impact in how we live.
Both control and ownership run contrary to a life of faith and stewardship.

steve H said...

"Controlling" words is, as several have said, probably not possible.

Absolute agreement on definitions is difficult -- but still is a necessary and worthy effort in the work of building relationships on real communication. Is this difficulty one of the results of the fall? An example of "Your sins have made a separation..." If so, then is working toward full communication, including defining words in common, a part of the outworking of redemption -- of becoming one (one soul, one spirit, one mind to use the words of St. Paul)? Is the redemption of language not a part of all things being brought together in Christ?

steve H said...

Here is also another sense in which "control" of language is important. Think about the power behind the words "pro-choice" and "pro-life." Who would be against life? On the other hand, how could any normal red-blooded America be against "choice"?

The abortion debate/battle in the U.S. has been framed around these two words. Pro-abortion forces seemed to be winning steadily when it was simply a matter of words -- "choice" seemingly outweighed "life."

The pro-life forces began to gain ground with the help of technical developments that supported "life" in the fetus -- movies such as "Silent Scream" and ultrasound pictures that demonstrated the "aliveness" and "humanity" of babies in the womb. (There's another example -- "fetus" doesn't sound all that human, but "baby" does.

Whichever side is able to have the most powerful words has a great advantage in the battle for the culture. In this sense there is a necessary and appropriate battle to "control" words.

John the Musician said...

Hey John M, is it possible that you replied to author instead of just replying? That's the only thing I can think of.

As far as controlling words goes, it seems we all agree that it can be done. However, I think it's important to look at the individual side of the story. We can control what a word means to us, and the more we understand what a word means to us, the more we can explain that meaning for us to others which will bring about over all better communication.

Steve H, you're last post was appropriate and I was in fact surprised because I had never realized the depth of what was going on with those words. I guess in a lot of ways, that is what be in the political world is all about, spinning and using words to ones advantage. By the way I saw Evan Almighty yesterday, and was really impressed by the way that they portrayed God. It was really refreshing to see a portrayal of God which is into having a good time and messin' around. =O)

Thou Shalt Do the Dance.

Michael said...

Steve, you could say the same thing about marriage and family. Both are being redefined to fit into our pluralistic society. Narrow definitions (if you want to call it that) are being replaced by definitions that are more inclusive. Isn't the act of defining something creating a line which ends up excluding something or someone or some group to the inclusion of others? Isn't that the power behind definitions, they exclude some people or activities and validate others?
I wonder if definitions give rise to accountability, meaning as soon as you clearly define something you find you are coming up short, who likes that? Take for example Love as defined in 1 Cor 13.

John M. said...

Steve, I agree with what you're saying. The words pro-choice and pro-life are an example of my comment about some words being politically incorrect and thus deleted from public conversation.

Pro-life is the name those against abortion have chosen to call themselves, but the media refuses to use that term, instead, calling the movement the "anti-abortion" movement.

Pro-choice on the other hand is what the pro-abortionists call themselves, and that is enthusiastically adopted in the public conversation.

The use of these two words skews the debate in favor of the pro-abortionists.

The media proclaim objectivity when in fact this is activist journalism pure and simple. An objective treatment would use "pro-abortion" and "anti-abortion", which takes the spin out of what both sides call themselves and nails the actual heart of both movements; pretty objective, but also anathema.

What if the "pro-life" movement started calling the other side, the "pro-death" movement, or the "pro-fetal death" movement. That would land someone in court, I would imagine. It also would be a distortion of reality, but it wouldn't be that much different than what is already being done, going the other way.

All this to just further underscore what is already being said. When it comes to politics (whether legislative politics, church politics or the politics that exist in almost any organization), it's all about spin. Whoever controls the spin game, controls the debate/discussion. Much of the time it's not about the actual meaning of words, but the perceived or "spun" definition.

Another thought, and I'll stop. How many times do we put a spin on actual reality when we communicate "truth" or "facts" in our personal conversation, or when we're trying to back up our "point" (of view) with scripture. Maybe I'm picking at specs in our larger culture when I should be working at the logs in my own life. Hmmm... I quit now.

Jeremiah said...

I'm at my Grandma's in Ft. Wayne and haven't seen this thread until just now. Michael, welcome back. BTW does anyone know what happened to Sean & Patrick? It seems like all of the comments so far recognize the power to influence the culture that controlling the definitions of the language gives a group, but most comments seem to have to do with "spin" i.e. using definitions which suit a cause. I suppose I've always thought that the biblical perspective is that words have objective, unchangeable definitions based on their reflection of "The Word". As such they have a certain measure of power in themselves that is derived from how accurately they reflect "The Word" (like little mirrors).(i.e. "life and death are in the tongure...") If they are "redefined" they then are muddy mirrors that lose that power. It seems to me that when we allow the presupposition to take root that words are fluid in meaning we then have already "lost" a significant portion of the societal battle to the forces of evil.

Brian Emmet said...

Jeremiah, I thnk your desire for words to have stable, unchanging meanings or definitions is probably illusory. I remember the popularity, at least among some Christian school folks, for Webster's 1828 Dictionary. The idea was that modern dictionaries simply go along with the corruption of modern language--they don't give the definition of words as they really are, only the definitions in current usage, or something like that. Webster's 1828 was seen as a truer, more accurate source for the real/true definitions. This perhaps is akin to folks who want to maintain the primacy of the KJV as the best/truest translation of Scripture.

So we have to accept the fluidity of language, especially in a postmodern world... but we also have to figure out not just what words mean, but how they mean. The "how they mean what they mean" may help us focus on incarnating the words we use--not using definitions and meanings to control but as a way of holding us accountable to the underlying realities the words point to. After all, my "marriage" to Kathy is not a set of squiggles on a page or screen... And when we confess "Jesus Christ is Lord!" we're saying more than a mouthful! And the way to make sure, or at least make somewhat sure, that we're honoring the meaning of those words is to (a) make sure we are clear about the definitions/meanings (and "definition" may be something not exactly the same as "meaning") of "Jesus" + "Christ" + "Lord." But that won't be enough--each of the words calls us to account, and calls us into a way of living. If we miss the "living it" part and settle only for securing the proper definitions, we've lost the game. I think that's what's happening to the definition of marriage in our culture: our failure to live up to and live out the words we say in our wedding vows causes the world to take "marriage" less and less seriously, because that's what they see us doing.

steve H said...

Word meanings do change as I'm sure you also recognize, Jeremiah. My studies in linguistics, back when I thought I was preparing to be a Bible translator, certainly demonstrated that reality to me clearly.

One of the reasons that studying the etymology and the history of words is a valuable activity is that we need to know as best we can how a word was understood and used by a speaker/writer at a given time and place in history.

Word study in that sense is an vital element -- almost a starting point, I think -- in thoroughly understanding Scripture. Once we understand as fully as possible the meaning of a word or words or concept, then our task is to communicate those meanings as clearly and accurately into words that mean the same thing (or at least as close as possible) to our hearers/readers.

No, in a fallen world we cannot expect perfect communication. (By the way, I think that God gives the gift of praying in tongues or praying with the Spirit precisely because He recognizes the imperfection of our ability to communicate.) However, unless we believe that there really are meanings/concepts/truths that can be accurately (if not perfectly) communicated then we are stuck indeed. We might as well recognize our isolation and surrender to despair along with many postmodernists.

I wonder if in this discussion we are putting to much emphasis on the word "word" or "words" when we are really talking about the fact that there really are Truths/ Concepts/Realities that we are to learn and to communicate.

steve H said...

One further comment on a different aspect of the topic. Jesus is the Word, as we all know. This means that Jesus was the full and accurate communication of the Father and the Godhead; He was the Word in His person, in His actions, in His attitudes, and in His words.

Our call as Jesus' disciples is no less a call than to become so united to and so conformed with our Lord that we are becoming also (individually and corporately) accurate communicators (living epistles, if you will) of Jesus' person, actions, attitudes and words.

John M. said...

Good points Brian. You mentioned the KJV translation of the Bible. It seems that our English translations are not free of "spin" and "political correctness". Was it fear of King James' doctrine of paedobaptism (infant baptism) that caused the translators to transliterate the Gk word "baptidzo" into "baptism" rather than risk a literal translation?

Or what about transliterating Christos into "Christ", effectively giving Jesus a "last name" in the English versions. Why wasn't it translated as the title "Messiah", which is what it means. "Jesus the Messiah" carries a depth of meaning and a reality that "Jesus Christ" totally misses. Was/is there a problem here with anti-semitism? Or at the least a reluctance to identify Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

Why have most English translations carried this "spin" into each generation of the English scriptures rather than correcting it by actually translating the words? In these two cases, the lack of translation causes one to have to dig to discover the actual meaning of the words in the context of scripture. But the casual reader never knows, and even the serious student is affected by the continuous repetition of the "spin".
I'm sure some of you will think of other similar examples. These are the two that come to my mind, but my point is that this idea of "spinning" to disguise or soften the actual meaning of words was operating strongly way before "post-modernism" or even "modernism" was even a word or a concept. So what we're dealing with here has probably been happening since there was language? Remember the garden? "Hath God said...?"

John M. said...

Hey Steve, I didn't mean to overlook your post. You posted while I was writing mine, and I didn't see it until I put mine up. Good stuff. This is a very interesting discussion. Hopefully it will serve to sharpen our thinking and understanding. I like the idea of us as His disciples/followers being incarnations (albeit incomplete and imperfect ones) of Jesus, and the whole Body together (ideally at least) being an accurate representation of who He is.

josenmiami said...

sorry guys, I cannot catch up and comment on everyone´s posts...although I did read it all. I like what Michael said: "Both control and ownership run contrary to a life of faith and stewardship."

I strongly agree. I also agree with Brian, Steve and others who pointed out that language is indeed fluid and that it is illusory to think that each word has one fixed meaning in heaven (or in offense intended Jeremiah...I actually have that same dictionary at home). Actually, the idea that there is one fixed, absolute ideal or meaning in heaven for every item or word on earth is philosphically neo-platonism.

Anyone who has traveled to other cultures or learned other languages knows the fluidity of the meaning of words. I once got in deep do-do for using a word in Spanish that in Colombia means an "old crouch" but in Cuba and Puerto Rico means an "old, dried up...." and I will leave the rest to your imagination.

The same thing happens when we travel to London or Scotland and try to communicate in English. "rent a truck" in England is "hire a lorry"

Speaking of defintions, I just posted part 5 of my church planting paper on organic cp on my other blog with the beginnings of a definition of what is, and what is not viable, biblical church planting (IMHO). However, far be it from me to try to control the definition, just suggesting my understanding of it.

I also have some photos of us with the student in Brazil on the friends4thejourney blog and some new jokes on the humor blog.

Brian Emmet said...

I will fall silent for a few days--up in NH. See you next weekend!r

Michael said...

Jeremiah, I am not far from your thinking. Some how our words or their meanings have to be tied to or have eternal value. Peter who answered Jesus when he asked the disciples if they too were going to leave after he had given a difficult word answered Him by saying "To whom would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life". Jesus' words were compelling. Something eternal was behind those words that drew the disciples closer to Christ and His father.

Maybe I am drifting to far away from the main purpose of this post.....But when our words are tied to eternal truths and are working in concert with the HS something happens.

steve H said...

Joseph, I don't know if my comment was "fuzzy" or not.

Clearly, I agree that words in human language change -- that we need to continually be looking for the words that communicate most fully the actual meaning.

What I don't hear you addressing is the issue of truth/reality/ meaning. If by the comment on neoplatonism, you are only saying that there is no fixed meaning for specific words in human language, I agree. However, I would not want to take it further to the point of implying that there is no real meaning or truth or reality that we need to "see," understand, and seek to communicate.

josenmiami said...

no Steve, I was just pointing out that Jeremiah~s view represents a philosophy...I am not passing judgement on neo-platonism...some of the church fathers were heavily influenced by it. I am just saying that it represents a Greek philosophical view of reality...that does not mean that there is no truth to it. Truth is truth, whether it is "Christian" or not.

I do believe in "Truth" and "falsehood".... I am not sure it is so much reflected in varying definitions of words, as it is in the integrity and intention of the person using the words.

Like you, I am all in favor of careful and extensive communication to arrived at mutual understanding of our defintions....not necessarily uniformity in our defintions.

for example, when I use the word "apostle" I mean missionary-evanglist-church planter, sent and commissioned by the holy spirit. Others may mean "bishop" overseeing churches. There may be some "truth" in both defintions, but we had better talk about it and understand one another so that we do not miss each other entirely in our communications.

Patrick said...

Good discussion guys! I've been doing my best to keep up with y'all, as I've been in and out of town. I've been to CA, TN, and MS. I'll be back in MS for next week. Then TX soon after that.

Keep up the good dialogue! I'll rejoin when time permits.

Jeremiah said...

Neoplatonist? Possibly but I know the ancient Celts viewed this world as a reflection of the "otherworld" and I don't think they were influenced to much by plato. The development of my thinking on this came not from either branch but rather out of deeply brooding over what it means for GOD to create "Ex Nihilo" (out of nothing as I'm sure you all know) along with the scriptures referring to GOD's ongoing conversation with HIMSELF regarding creation. When GOD creates Ex Nihilo, the only thing that exists before HE creates is Himself, so HE is not creating completely out of nothing, but rather out of HIS own thinking. The substance is from nothing, the idea the substance conforms to is out of HIMSELF. That being so, all that exists really does reflect something which is out of WHO GOD IS. Plato or not there is nothing contradictory here to Orthodox Christianity AND it is strongly supported explicitly by every scripture discussing GOD's conversation with HIMSELF regarding Creation (Ps. 50, Heb 1, Gen 1, John 1) as well as implicitly by every preacher who has ever gone to the "original" language to find out what GOD really meant. (as John M. mentioned before). I'm not advocating heaven as containing "Archetypes" of the items in this world, I am saying that Creation reflects the Creator. Items in Creation which are more accurate representations of the Creator have more value due to their being honored by HIS choice to more greatly exhibit HIS self expression in those items. i.e. man, created "Imago Dei" is thus more valuable than a dog. The implications to this regarding words, which are little mirrors of "The Word" seem to follow naturally and indicate that as "The Word" has a concrete, unchanging meaning, so to "words" carry infinity as well. Having said all this, part of the mystery of Christ is that though HE "Changeth not" HE continues to surprise at every turn. I have not problem granting the words may have shifting "connotations" but the base meaning remains. I personally don't see how we can admit otherwise and still honor the unchangeing WORD. However, since all of the men (except my dad) who I esteem the most in regards to theology seem to disagree with me, I want to hear how what I said is in error.

John M. said...

It sounds like we're in over our heads again! Kind of fun! I'm pretty sure I agree with all of you...

We're touching something pretty profound. I don't want to make "mystery" (try defining that one!) a cop-out, but there is some deep mystery being touched here.

Creation reflects Creator, Jesus the divine Logos, the power of the spoken word, the power of words anointed by the Spirit... Wow!

I just read Proverbs 10 today. It has a lot to say about the power of words in everyday life. One thing that we are touching in terms of practical application is the whole idea of communication. Joseph's last post addressed that issue. The reality is that whatever we believe about whether words and concepts have fixed definitions, most of the people we want to communicate with will attach many different meanings to the words we use. Our goal is clear communication, which will require finding out how the hear and perceive what we say.

How many feuds, wars, fights, and disagreements have originated in miscommunication? How many good relationships, business deals, conversions to Christ, etc. have come from clear communication where both parties understood one another?

Perhaps clear communication is a gift from God. The confusion of Babel was His judgment. We seem to encounter Babel every time we try to communicate.

josenmiami said...

hey Jeremiah, I am not attacking you, or neoplatonism. There is a lot about neoplantonism that I like, it is not heresy. In fact, it was a strong influence on the early church, and on Origen and St. Agustine. I might even end up endorsing it if I had time to study it. I am simply pointing out that is the philosphical basis of what you are claiming about words.

The problem with neoplantonism (according to some recent theologians and Christian thinkers) is that it tends toward dualism...a separation between the sacred and the secular, heaven and earth. I am not sure I agree with that... philosophy is not really my area.

I do believe in absolute Truth (a person). I do not believe that each word in English (southern, yankie, British or Australian) has a single absolute meaning in heaven. Nor does Spanish (from Spain, Mexico, Colombia or Argentina, and God help us, Cuba) nor Greek, Hebrew or Latin, although it is a little easier with the dead classical languages.

BAck to your central point: I think may have something to do with the connection of the human and the divine, the temporal and the eternal. One can view things through human lenses, or through (at least a little) divine lenses. I think you are trying to view these issues from inside heaven´s gates, from eternity, which is commendable. I am affirming pluralism and variation of meaning in language from the human-temporal view --- both are true and not mutually exclusive.

it might interesting to note that God intentionally refrained from naming the animals -- he commissioned man (adam) to do that.

There was probably only one single meaning for each word, up to Gen. 11 and the confusion at the tower of Babel....since that time, man has been divided in many different cultures and single divine meaning for a particular word is impossible (humanly speaking), but one day all things will be summed up in Christ who will hand over to the father all things, even culture and language.

so, Jesus is True, and he is the Logos, but language appears to be something that God gives man to create, based on Adam´s work in the garden. AND God was the author of the confusion and resulting pluralism at the Tower of Babel. He was not pleased with their motives and decided to confuse their langauges and scatter them to prevent their ungodly unity.

just a thought...

Jeremiah said...


I didn't feel attacked, and if I did that wouldn't bother me anyway, If I thought I hurt someone else is where I would get upset, so if you see something, let me have it! I'm not going to learn otherwise. I am aware of the progression from neoplatonism to dualism and it concerns me greatly, thank you for pointing that one out. I honestly haven't studied either neoplatonism or platonism so I really don't know where the safe and unsafe boundaries are, I just know that every time I bring up these topics people tell me they sound neoplatonic. Perhaps it all stems from something picked up from EF stuff at some point. I think you have a good point regarding the difference in the divine perspective on words and the human perspective on words. I hadn't thought about it in those terms before and I think it is a very useful way of viewing it.

Having categorized the "conversation" in those terms I suppose my next question is "Shouldn't we be looking to bring the divine perspective to men?" I mean, isn't that pretty much our job description if we are ministers of Grace?


I think you are exactly right when you say we are again stepping in deep waters, talking with you guys, I feel like Peter must have felt walking on the water, I mean on a lot of these we are out in the deep or the deep and it is only Jesus' hand that steadies us. That is why this is such a safe place, I think we are all consciuos of that. Steve already said, (and Brian reminded) that the True Theologian is on his knees first.

Finally, your point on communication ultimately being about what the listener understands is a tough one for the prophetic types to see. We often want to drop the bombs and fly off, but good communication has so much to do with educating the other party, really making sure the are clear on what you are saying. Thank you for bringing that up.

steve H said...

Jeremiah, whether in this forum or another, I would be interested to know points at which you think I disagree with you. In the main I think I am in agreement with you -- because I think I know what you mean even though I would say some of the things differently.

Even in the exchanges between you and Joseph, to me it seems that you too are not likely all that far apart. I suspect that if you were face to face where you could easily ask each other, "What do you mean by thst?" and other such questions you'd probably find that you have substantial agreement.

I think, that part of your differences lie in the angle from which you come at things because of your different giftings -- which you seemed to recognize already by mentioning listening can be hard for prophetic types.

Jeremiah said...


You made the comment (many posts ago) that "Word meanings do change" which led me to assume you disagreed with me. After Joseph's post I suppose I'm shifting somewhat to make a distinction between an "unbroken language" with absolute unchangeable meanings (i.e. pre-babel) and a "broken language" with shifting connotations => shifting definitions => shifting dialects => completely new languages. The reality of this broken, babel cursed fallen world is that new languages are in continual formation as this process keeps unfolding (much to my dismay). Perhaps it is too much like "grasping oil in the hand" to expect to stem the tide or even to reverse the process in an effort to bring the earthly languages into unity or (better yet) conformity with the heavenly language. (deep sigh) I suppose ultimately it is a gift from GOD to have broken speech in a fallen world considering that "...nothing would be impossible for them..." Like in a battle, often what hinders you will hinder your enemy as much or more.

Jeremiah said...


This being settled. As Joseph said in a previous post, GOD gave man the privelege and responsibily for naming the animals (i.e. defining things on the planet) and as John M. has already pointed out framing the societal discussions with certain words has a tendency to sway the conclusion one way or another. Keeping in mind that II cor. 10:3-5 defines spiritual warfare as taking captive thoughts, how can we effectively take captive the words (i.e. thought containers) of the society(s) we live in?

steve H said...

I am sure that we agree, Jeremiah, that there is an unchanging reality that words seek to express. I have had too much linguistic training and language history studies to be able, however, to ignore the reality that the meaning of specific words in a given language do develop and change over time. Otherwise, we would be able to read Shakespeare and the King James Bible without footnotes to give us the meaning of words. I figured that you must have known that too and were meaning something a bit different.

steve H said...

The question as you now frame it-- " can we effectively take captive the words (i.e. thought containers) of the society(s) we live in?" -- is a critical one. Perhaps the Lord can give us some strategies even with some specific words.

For instance, in "Total Truth" Pearcey argues that as soon as Christians begin to talk about "values" they have lost the contemporary debate because "values" are assumed to be subjective and personal. So how do we communicate effectively that there are moral absolutes and such as thing as "true Truth" to those bound to contemporary thought.

josenmiami said...

this is an interesting discussion, but I would like to suggest that you guys might be missing the point of the dispersion (multiplication and variation) of language at tower of Babel.

Jeremiah introduced the adjective "broke" with reference to language after God intervened at Bable. I think that might an example of imposing one´s assumptions or philosophical framework on scripture. Scripture does not use the word broken, nor does it indicate that there was brokeness...just confusion. Also, there is no indication that this was plan "b" and that plan "a" was to keep one single "divine" unbroken human language before the builders of the tower messed up God´s plans. I think it much more likely that God intervened to get humanity back on track with his original "multiply" to fill the earth and subdue it.

We should meditate long and hard on the lessons of the tower of Babel...they wanted to preserve their unity and community; they wanted to establish a "name" for themselves; they wanted to build vertically -- all of these things have parellels (sorry about spell checker here) in the contemporary church.

Language was give to man to create in the image of the God who spoke; Babel did not "break" the language, it multiplied and varied it as would have happened naturally had they spread out through the earth (horizontally not vertically) multiplying tribes, languages, people groups, nations and filling the earth with His glory, as was his original intent.

All through scripture, and especially in Revelations we see that God desires (and I would imagine, desired from the beginning, since nothing much surprises him) people from EVERY language.... why? I don´t know. I guess he likes diversity and pluralism.

Also, in my humble opinion, the core of the motivation behind the tower was the desire for human control, rather than recognize and surrender to God´s control. I would suggest that the desire or attempt to "control" language comes more from Babel than from Eden.

When someone says "capture" language, it is just a different nuance on control. It seems to me to be slightly persumptious of just a half a dozen of us in this blog to be terribly concerned with how we are to "capture" the meaning of words society...I mean, what the heck can we three or four in this conversation actually do about that? We are not seriously proposing that we can influence the direction of English in the USA are we?

The best we few can really do is to be clear about our definitions and to go out of our way to be good listeners and to attempt to understand and even interpret the meanings of others. otherwise, we are just indulging ourselves in a conceptual exersize of little practical value.

I think the original reference to capturing the meaning of words, was drawn from the scripture about taking our thoughts captive; then we took the word capture jumped over to capturing meaning and definitions in our society....thats a big jump.

I think the one area that we are authorized to exersize some control is self control...under God´s grace, we can take responsability for our own thoughts, our own heart, our own understanding and meaning...but i seriously doubt that we can extend that to the exersize of some form of social or linguistic control of meanings and definitions...and I doubt that is what God wants. Every man must work out his own salvation...God, and God alone is in interacting with and directing society and language...he uses us in that process in way we cannot even guess or imagine.

I say, we need to "chill-out", desert from the futile "culture wars" and focus on the kingdom of God within us before we attempt to impose the kingdom on society... lets just learn how to flow with the rhythms of grace and and let God take care of the big stuff like society, culture and language.

Adam Smith´s "invisible hand" directing economy and society is ultimately God´s hand -- not ours, not the church.

Jeremiah said...


I guess I've not studied languages enough to have thought about it much before.


Language Variation

Excellent point on God's plan being variation. I've been thinking about it some more and a good analogy would be light. White light is the most useful form of light (and most prevalent) but if you really want beauty you have to break it with a prism to see the immense (eternal?) variation of the rainbow. So I can see the same being true with speech as you have pointed out. In doing so, none of the concrete absolute meanings are lost, but rather an eternal well of possible meanings are released which is overwhelming to finite minds like ours. Once again it is a "both/and" situation: One Word, billions on billions of words. Once again we are on the edge of deep mysteries with this one.

Still in the middle of all of this, some words apparently don't change meaning. I wonder why that is?

"The rest"

You raised a number of other points towards the end of your last post that I disagree whole heartedly with.

"My Assumptions"

First of all let me state my core motivations for this

1) The last thing Jesus said as He ascended to Heaven was "...go and make disciples of all nations..." He didn't say disciple all men, or make converts of individuals, or disciple individuals. He said nations. A nation is a corporate terms.

2) Proverbs says "Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked." I know I'm not called to get into every fight that comes my way, but if I stand back and let wicked people have their way I personally become like a polluted well. I either have the water of Life bubbling out (John 4), or sewage flowing in I don't see another scriptural option.

3) Principles which apply to the individual also apply to the corporate.

"Culture wars"

Now based on the combination of the first two principles, how is not my God mandated responsibility to do all I can to disciple the nation I am a part of and teaching it to obey all HE commands? Furthermore, how can I simply focus on the "Kingdom of GOD within..." when unchecked evil is destroying this country and very quickly making it into a place where we shortly won't even have the option of focusing on the "Kingdom of GOD within..."

"Taking captive thoughts"

Regarding the "Jump" between taking captive thoughts applying to the corporate as well as the individual...this "Jump" is implicitly assumed by anyone who tries to convince someone else of any idea. To do so indicates that the idea being asserted is "True" not just for the person asserting, but for the person on the receiving end. You yourself are working very hard to produce a paper which you intend to use (I presume) to convince much of the Church that the current structure of the Church is deficient in some way (or multiple ways) So attempting to take captive the thoughts of a corporate group of people (whether nation, church, Church, blog, company, etc...) is a fundamental assumption of anyone who wields an argument. What II Cor. reveals is that this is the heart of true spiritual warfare and the actual enemy being fought are powers and principalities. I find that this seems to be surprising to many in the Charismatic/Pentecostal wing of the church because they have identified spiritual warfare almost exclusively with personal exorcism. That is, in my opinion, a rather minor skirmish in spiritual warfare (albeit a very important one to the individual concerned)


Control is not necessarily bad in and of itself. In fact, Control is more often good than bad. Actually, thinking about it, the only time it is bad is when it is exercised over by individuals over individuals in an anlawful manner. Only the "The Law" regulates when Control is legal to be wielded by an individual over another. I mean it is perfectly acceptable for a cop to control me with his sirens & lights if I speed. It is also perfectly acceptable for me to control when my children go to bed, what they eat, how they brush their teeth. etc. etc. Obviously the older they get the more that external discipline should move to an internal discipline, but you get the point.

steve H said...

I'm not quite sure, Joseph, why you are apparently so focused on the internal and the individual -- and seem to have great skepticism toward the impact of God's reign and purpose being worked out through us. The starting point has to be the individual and the internal and person to person but it seems to me clearly to be a both/and rather than an either/or.

Sometime back you made a comment that indicated that you may have made a conscious decision to back off from a wrong emphasis or at least an overemphasis in the early covenant/discipleship movement -- from triumphalism, I think it was.

Perhaps you have backed off from some other overemphases as well. We should back off from the "over" emphasis and the "wrong" emphasis. And we should work to get the emphasis right, especially on things the Holy Spirit has emphasized. The tendency. once "burnt," is to throw out the baby with the bath water. If you have done so, perhaps Jeremiah and I have something worth hearing.

And your challenges may also be necessary to keep us from overemphasizing some issues or even from getting sidetracked.

josenmiami said...

actually, I am not opposed to influencing society. I am opposed to an approach that is based in an attitude of "controling" the meaning of words or of "captivating" words because I think it is futile. I am all in favor of dialogue, careful and respectful conversation that is persuasive, but at the same time is reciprocal.

We cannot approach the secular society thinking we have the answers and they just need to listen and learn from us. We must approach secular society with respect, and listen to their languge, and even interpret their meanings, in order to win the right to a respectful hearing from them. When we start talking about controling and captivating, we have already lost the cause...we are setting up an adversarial "us versus them", we are good, they are bad scenario.

Jesus did say, "the kingdom of God is within you." He did say "love your enemies" and "judge not".

I think anyone who is oriented missionally will agree that we are largey failing to impact the secular culture. Was it Einstein who said that it is insanity to keep doing the same things and expect different results. I think I am on to some paradigm changes that might make it possible to influence secular culture, it is going to make most Christians uncomfortable.

Ghandi said, "if you want to change the world, BE the change you want to see." I tend to agree.

John M. said...

I've got a lot of ideas on all this stirring around, but I haven't been able to put them into "words" yet! Good discussion.

Jeremiah said...


Ahh the attitude is always where its at. You have an excellent point regarding listening to the society and finding where we can help/serve. Service is always the pathway to true leadership. I totally agree with you regarding "Incarnational Leadership" and that incarnating the change we want to effect in the society is imperative. This is set forward clearly in John 1. In regards to our currrent discussion on words and the meaning of words it has been a very effective tactic by the enemy to set the language for the idea debates in our society in such a way as to force the Christians to accept the World's assumptions on those ideas. For example, as John M pointed out, the issues are framed as "Pro-Choice" instead of "Pro-Abortion" I think (tell me if I'm wrong" what you are saying is that if we (the Church) were truly caring for women in crisis pregnancies the whole issue would largely go away, regardless of the language. I tend to agree with you. However, I do believe that someone needs to provide leadership in terms of communication and that "someone" should be the Church. In 1828 Noah Webster did this. Who do we have that can do it now? Is writing a dictionary the way to do it or is there a better way?

Could you elaborate on how you would see your paradigm changes affecting the language?

BTW as an aside:

In regards to the abortion debate. I personally think the issue is not abortion, but lust. If the American Church had her house in order in regards to sex, the abortion debate would not even be an issue. Throughout history child sacrifice always went along with the worship ofe the sex god/goddess of any particular society.

josenmiami said...

good points Jeremiah...I like "provide leadership" a whole lot better than "controlling" ...I am all for having influence.

I have to be brief..spent yesterday in a Favela with some missionaries...and walking the streets with some students ministering to street kids. in about 30 minutes we are leaving for a field trip to Petropolis.

I might have overstated the "paradigmn chnage" thing...basically it is Matt. 5 and 6, taken a little more seriously. His kingdom is not of this world, it is within us. The most powerful thing we can do to change the word and provide leadership is to let Christ be deeply formed with us. Become humble servants, stop judging and start loving....let our lights shine through good works...if we do it, they will come.

more, j

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, gents, I'm back... I'm grateful for the discussion thus far. Here are some somewhat random thoughts/responses...

"HEAR, O Israel..." is actually the first command, or the context for the first (and all) of God's commands. "Let every one be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to get angry..." I like it that we're wrestling to listen to each other, and to the Lord.

God's kingdom is not OF this world; neither is its location restricted to "within you/me/us." The Kingdom is at work and working, regardless of what's happening in me--the issue is, can I learn to get in on God's kingdom work, which will then require me to have it get working within me, and then out through me.

We are commanded to contend for the faith. This does not require us to become contentious or belligerent or manipulative, but it does require engaging the spiritual conflict on several levels. Hope you're not bored by it, but I return to, as an example, our understanding of the word "marriage." I agree that a root cause of our problem in Massachusetts is the failure of the church to be faithful to God's word about marriage, sexuality, fidelity, the place and nature of child-bearting and child-rearing, etc. In this sense, judgment has begun with God's house--but Peter's wider point is a concern for the world when that same judgment overtakes it. I don't think we can merely take the approach of saying, "Let's get our own house in order and then the world will come streaming to us." It's not that I think that there is not substantial truth to this approach, just that it is incomplete. If we don't participate with/in our culture--participate, not dominate or control--in hammering out the meanings of words, we fail in our responsibility to be salt and light. We are called to be faithful (not successful) in both our living and in our articulation of why we live the way we do. The point is not so much the harm that may come to the church as God hands the reprobate world over to itself (Romans 1), it's that real harm comes to people who think that marriage is the union of two (why not more?) persons, and that "family" is a grouping of people who "love each other." These ideas have consequence, and they are terrible ones, to the individuals involved as well as to the world in which they live.

We cannot impose or control, but may we persuade? The most persuasive thing we can do will always remain the faithfulness with which we live, but should we not also seek to persuade ("contend for the faith")politically, intellectually, culturally, etc.?

steve H said...

Well said, Brian.

Yes, we "may persuade" wherever possible and shirk our responsibilities as citizens of the eternal kingdom -- of the kingdom, that stone that will destroy all other kingdoms and become a great mountain -- if we do not try.

josenmiami said...

hi guys, just got back from a lovely day with Deb and the other students at Petropolis.

Brian you said this very well: "If we don't participate with/in our culture--participate, not dominate or control--in hammering out the meanings of words, we fail in our responsibility to be salt and light."

I entirely agree, and I agree with Steve answer to your question that, yes, we must seek to persuade. Of course, the more we seek to yield, surrender to the kingdom within us, the more "moral" authority we will have with those in our circle of influence. That is exactly what I am attempting to do with these students.

I think my sensitivity to words like "control" and "capture" has to do with my study of the end of Christendom and the rise of secular, pluralistic society. Remember, in our earlier context in this conversation, we were not talking about law enforcement, or parental authority (I agree with the need for social or parental control in your examples Jeremiah). We were talking about "controlling" the meaning of language or "capturing" definitions. I am fully in agreement with trying to get good definitions out there and persuade people to consider our meanings and definitions.

However, when we talk about question is with what mechanism are we going to "control" in a post-Christendom, secular society? The church has no state authority (and should not in my view) and the culture is no longer "Christian." In the eyes of the world, we are just one religious faith among many...with our own holy book, like many others. In my view, the only "mechanism" we have is the word Brian is using...persuasion.

I am not implying that this is what Jeremiah or Steve were intending in their use of coercive type words; but I believe that in many Christian leaders there is a residue of Christendom thinking that is out of touch with our current social reality, and fails utterly to communicate with secular culture or to persuade religious seekers in the pluralistic religious free market. Thus, we end up living in an isolated and ineffective Christian Ghetto...hanging out with Christians, listening to Christian music, going to Christian parties...while the rest of the culture can’t figure us out and stereotypes us. They actually expect us to try to 'control' them and their thoughts and to impose our values upon them. And then, when they overhear some of our conversations, we confirm their worst fears. Somehow, we have to get in the back door and do something to catch them by surprise with love and good works.

In my view this is the epochal change that Charles Simpson was preparing us for back in the later 80s with his series on the change from National Israel to the Babylonian captivity. The Daniel model does not allow for control or captivity, but does allow for moral persuasion through service.

Going back to something Steve said, (or asked) earlier... yes, I do believe that our arena of social influence is pretty strictly person to person. What other mechanism is there? What else is working? I would love to know if there is a better way. We cannot legislate morality (although I am in agreement with legally upholding a traditional view of marriage), and the culture wars, for the most part, polarize Christians and secular people and turns us into political opponents and even enemies.

What if everyone who has been an anti-abortion activists in the last 30 years had spent the same amount of time and energy, building trusting and loving relationships with pro-choice people, and explaining our concerns to them respectfully, after building the friendship, and after listening (and really trying to understand) their point of view? Would that not have been more effective in the long run than all of the confrontational stuff?

Same thing on the gay rights front. I am building redemptive friendships with 3 or 4 gay students and praying for them. I don’t know where it will lead, but it certainly seems more effective to me than going to a picket line and demonstrating with angry Christians about how God hates homosexuality.

so...if I seem super-sensitive about "dominion" type thinking and terminology, that’s the underlying concern. Christendom has ended and Babylon is here. We can weep by the river, or we can go to school with the magicians, new agers, astrologers and wizards and try to be ready to interpret dreams.

steve H said...

As I stated earlier, Joseph, I doubt that we are all that far off in our understanding even though we use some WORDS that carry different connotations.

In addition to what may be different emphases or understandings that Jeremiah and I may have, we also are a part of the KMI network of churches -- which means that Dennis Peacocke is one of our primary influences. Dennis uses a lot of militant language. I think this in part goes back to his days as a Berkley radical in the free speech movement and also he draws a lot of analogies from his training in the martial arts. There are great strengths and also some weaknesses in the way Dennis communicates.

Yes, Christendom has ended. But the fact is we are in a war. The fact is we were created to have dominion. The fact is we who are redeemed in Christ are still destined to have dominion (Hebrews 2; Revelation 5 etc.). Our tactics and approach must be different than they would have been in Christendom (some of the tactics and the approach were questionable then). But there still is a militant aspect to our task. I don't think we can or should ignore these militant sorts of words.

I remember a song we often sang in the 1970s -- a song of war picturing God's people marching into battle, calling upon us as we fought to "Lift High the Banners of Love." Now there's a paradox!

The idea is right. We need to be involved in the war -- love demands it. Marching in rank with flags flying and drums beating will not likely be a good tactic however at this point in history.

Trying to change things from the top down or by legislation will not win. But, there are those called by God to serve in the sphere of civil government who must seek to bring the influence of the kingdom to the civil sphere. Just as there are those called to the marketplace who need to approach business radically differently as kingdom people. In this sense, I submit that there are implications that go beyond the person to person.

John M. said...

Disclaimer. This is long. Please forgive me in advance. It's definitely not bite sized. (I've never been good at "bytes" as you all know!) It's not even a meal. It's more of a smorgasbord of ideas that have come as I have read the discussion.

Let me state the obvious: We all serve the same KING. We all acknowledge His ultimate, absolute authority. We all want to see His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We all believe that His glory will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea, and we all want to see that happen. So, we're all on the same side!

Here are some random bullet thoughts:

* The larger issue here is not just "words", but how we contribute to seeing the above common vision happen.

* Joseph is approaching culture/society as a missionary. A missionary doesn't judge a culture that is new to him, he seeks to understand it and figure out how to incarnate the Gospel into it in ways that are "culturally appropriate" so that the people can understand and embrace the Good News of Jesus and His Kingdom. The culture is seen not as totally evil, but mixed with both evil and good. The assumption is that once the Gospel takes root on a broad level, that Jesus by His word and His Spirit will begin to transform the culture where it needs transforming. There are many examples out there, especially with tribal peoples, where this very thing has happened.
This approach takes a lot of patience and time, but has powerful long-term outcomes. This "incarnational/missional" approach is only a few decades old in missions circles. The idea is in infancy in approaching our own culture, but the it has taken root and is growing rapidly in the Western church as it approaches it's own culture. (Joseph, correct me if I am wrong in my assumptions or explanations here.)

* The traditional approach to missions in the modern era was a colonial approach. The assumption of these missionaries was that their culture was superior to any "non-Christian" culture, so the approach was to take control and impose their culture on the target culture. Understanding the target culture or trying to adapt the Gospel to it was unthinkable because it was seen as totally corrupt. So, the colonial approach to missions was to impose Western culture and Christianity on the "heathen". This approach did much good and proclaimed the gospel (albeit a gospel mixed and confused with their own culture). But it also produced many horror stories, got a lot of people killed unnecessarily and served to mix politics, business etc. with salvation and spiritual transformation. Although most of us would eschew this approach in its most radical forms, the colonial attitude is still very much alive and active to this very moment. (This is the approach that I hear echoing in Steve's and Jeremiah's comments. Again, brothers, correct me if I'm wrong in my assumptions. I'm not trying to label here, just describe what I hear.)

* Is either approach totally right or wrong. No. Is one the better approach of the two? That's probably the bottom line to the current discussion. I personally have moved in the last few years from the "colonial" approach to the "missional" approach. So, I do have a bias, but I also believe that there is validity and good in both, and that we can affirm one another and support one another without totally agreeing. But even while we affirm and support, we also must discuss our ideas and be faithful to point out our disagreements with the "other" approach. That is the value of this discussion, I believe.

* Regarding U.S. society. We are no longer a homogeneous, monolithic culture. We are now a tribal culture with more subcultures than most of us have any idea of. When I was 14 years old, there was an almost universal acknowledgement of many basic assumptions, God, country, marriage, homosexuality, the authority of the Bible, etc. etc. were all commonly agreed on. Anyone who deviated from the "norm" was seen as radical, weird or deranged. We all listened to the same top-40 stations (it didn't matter which one you tuned in , you still heard the same songs), we watched the same movies and TV shows. We had a strong cultural consensus. Most of us understood how the words were defined. Yes, the world, the flesh and the devil were very much alive in 1963, but even those who participated in the "world" usually acknowledged the traditional definitions and authority structures. Of course things were rapidly changing and within a very few years, a radical counter-culture was very much on the scene. Still, there were basically only two entities, the "establishment" and the "counter-culture". (I know I'm over-simplifying.) That splitting of culture has continued until we now have incredible cultural diversity in every school, neighborhood and workplace in every community.

* The idea that we can go back to a homogeneous mono-culture is doomed. Does that mean that we shouldn't strive for and hold to the ideal that was in my opening statement. No! It will happen. But is may be a lot more diverse and less "homogeneous" than many of have envisioned. In fact, around the throne, WASP culture will be in the minority.

* Taking a "tribal/missional/personal" approach is rapidly becoming the only really effective way of reaching the present and emerging generations in all their flavors.

* There are still power structures and corporate entities that need Kingdom influence, but the infiltration method of influence will probably be more effective than the "beat them at their own game" approach. The strategy of creating our own power machine (the Moral Majority, the Christian Right etc.) to dominate and take control may not ultimately be as effective as the "yeast method"...

* Instead of attempting to take our culture captive and recapture the "original" (original to what era?) definitions, perhaps we should be attempting to introduce people to Jesus and let Him work on the transformation process. Some of us are hearing this, others in the Body are not. So, we need to march to the drumbeat we're hearing, but we all need to keep our ear to the Throne, to hear what the Spirit is saying to Jesus' followers.

* On definitions: Let's take the word "gay". I'm sure that some of us have been rankled that the original definition of "happy/joyful/light-hearted/carefree" has been "hi-jacked" so that the current meaning is "homosexual". Writing a new dictionary won't change anything. Arguing that this is not the "right" definition will only polarize an already polarized issue. Politicalizing the issue adds further polarization...

* Jesus was in control, but he didn't try to take" control. He didn't start a movement to over- throw the unjust Roman domination of Israel, or to take captive the Roman definition of words and culture. He made twelve disciples, ministered to people personally, taught publicly to those who wanted to listen, turned over some tables in the temple, said some strong things against the pharisees, then allowed the system (religious and political working in tandem) to kill Him. Of course he had a pretty good "fall-back" plan! But his "non-power structure" approach changed everything: Roman armies, Roman idolatry, Jewish pride and arrogance, Roman govt. etc.

* Disciple the nations... Nations are people groups (language groups/ tribes) not political, geographical entities. We can't disciple the United States. We can disciple people who are part of sub-cultures who are U.S. citizens, and if we are successful in communicating to them who Jesus is (yes, He will draw them to Himself), then eventually we might see transformation in the whole political/geographical entity called the United States of America.

* Abortion... I totally support changing the law. But will that stop abortion? No. It just makes it illegal. I wonder had we followed Joseph's scenario... Jeremiah's point that eliminating/reducing abortion will happen only when we see individuals' values and sexual mores changed by Jesus, is also very well-taken...

* John 4. Jesus with the Samaritan woman. Jesus didn't go to the town hall to talk with the political officials (ie gates of the city/elders; not that that would have been a bad thing, but point is he didn't do that) to speak with them about their extreme racist position toward Jews. He just hung out with an immoral woman and communicated to her in a way she could understand. When she tried to get into a debate about the "true" place and way to worship, he deflected the whole issue by making some sweeping truth statements and then got back to the topic of living water. He didn't discuss the definition of worship. He didn't preach her a sermon about her "bad" lifestyle. He just communicated "good news" to her. It bore good fruit...

Brian Emmet said...

Many thanks, John! You have provided what, in Air Force terminology (and apologies for the military metaphor) is termed a "target-rich environment."

Lock and load and fire away!

Jeremiah said...


Pilot to bombardier, Pilot to bombardier, commencing target approach! :)

FINALLY! We are getting close to what I had hoped to discuss!

I saw three main topics which needed addressed by this thread.

1) The nature of words and their definitions.

2) The importance of introducing the Christian worldview regarding the answer in pt. # 1 to our society.

3) The strategies to do so.

Regarding Pt. #1 we are all in agreement that there are eternal definitions to words but that as words are revealed to mortal beings in a finite world these eternal definitions are only revealed in part and sequentially leading to a "broken" revelation. (broken in the sense of light being broken into a rainbow.

Regarding pt. #2 I didn't ever hear anyone even stop for breath to discuss this, the answer was assumed as "yes" and the argument when straight for the motives behind the methods of doing so.

Regarding pt. #3.....


If, when you say, that "you cannot legislate
morality" you mean that it is the least effective way to do so, I agree. If you mean anything else my question is "What else is legislated?" Some moral code is at the heart of every law. The question is not "can you legislate morality?" but rather "Which morality will be legislated?"

There is a balance between external discipline and internal discipline. The complete lack of internal discipline is forcing our culture to need external discipline desparately and we are sliding into totalatarianism as a result. No way around it.
This is not theological/philsophical musings, just an observation of what is happening.

Regarding how we need to approach effecting change in our society, I agree 1000% with you as far as dealing with individuals. I also think the grass roots change is going to be what effects the longest term change and must happen or we result in the Roman Empire ~AD 300

John M.

You listed two ways of effecting change in a culture. One way was colonialism and the other was the current Missional mentality. (which I agree with and think is effective). There is a third option... which I personally identify with more closely. As to its effectiveness, history is the judge. I personally feel more like the early monks in 400 AD, the Irish monastics, or the prophetic communities during the decline and fall of Israel and Judah. It seems to me that the approach they took was to focus almost exclusively on living out the revelation GOD gave them and then being "a voice crying out in the wilderness" I mean all I do right now is design buildings, raise my kids and work in my Church with Dad and I keep hearing these things and seeing trends and I know one day GOD is going to say "Say it now" and somehow the words I speak will shake the world. On one hand it does seem ludicrous to think that the issues 4 or 5 guys work out on a blog site are going to have any effect on the world, on the other hand, how else has HE ever worked?


the people of this society may be hyper about anyone "contolling" their thoughts, but give me a break, do they not pay any attention to the media behemoth and its unrelenting demand for their money? (and yes I know the answer is no they don't) I personally fail to see what the problem is with simply asking, "who would you rather control your thoughts? Someone who enjoys violence and broken relationships or someone whose sole emphasis is self sacrificial love for others, the elimination of suffering by children and innocents, the exaltation of justice for the oppressed, and a society where every man is more concerned with his brother's/sister's honor than his own?

I think just presenting folks with a clear vision of what Jesus Kingdom is would go along way.

josenmiami said...


I agree about presenting a clear vision of Jesus. I also like the example of the Celtic church.

Regarding point #1, I dont ever remember agreeing to that. In fact, I remember disagreeing. I believe language is man-made, socially constructed.

I have gotten a little busy...going to lay low and wait to see if some others such as Patrick, Robert, Michael, Johnthemusician, Billy, Jimmy, jastclark, sherwood or William will weigh in with some thoughts on the subject.

peace! -j

William said...

After not reading the blog for about 3 1/2 weeks now because of traveling and just the busyness of life, I'm not going to lie, it is a little overwhelming to come into the middle of this discussion. It is one that I wish I would have been here at the beginning to start with you guys . But such is life. If I repeat things or bring something that is way off the path we are on, just guide me back.

Words have been watered down so much in our use and thinking that it is difficult to describe anything so that people get the full effect. The cake is awesome. The mountains are awesome. God is awesome. I find it hard to use words that carry weight anymore in everyday language, much less find words to praise God with when I "love" so many other things, i.e. fluffer-nutters (if you dont know what that is I will be glad to enlighten you).

Also, words that are used for excrements are better descriptors now than other words, i.e. pissed off, shit happens, etc..
Good or bad? I am not sure. I guess it goes back to the meaning of words and how they can change seemingly in an instant.

I do think we need to fight for the meaning of words. The power of life and death is in the tongue, and whether we think words carry weight or not, we will be held accountable or every word we say; so HE thinks they are important and that is really all that matters.

We can sustain the weary with one word.

I know that we have to reach people and meet them where they are, but we are called to redeem the times and show people that there is a higher standard than what they are living--always in love.

I think we need to fight for the meaning of words, the important ones.

John the Musician said...

Yes... I have many many thoughts...

Actually I just have this: RAWR!

That's my word, and you all are free to discuss. =OP

Just joking with yall. I'm in a jolly mood hehe.

Going back to what John M. was talking about, I'd like to ask a question.

Would it not be better to help one to three men in their proccess towards God then to attempt to help an entire community? I see the benefits of an entire community on fire for God, but at the same time I at least doubt my own ability to reach more than two or three men at the most. However, it seems like with God it is always quantity. I personally believe that by helping one or two men move farther and deeper into the fullness of God you can have a much greater impact on the world. After all, when you think of the scripture, "Where two or three are gathered in My name..." It's not just trying to make small churches feel better about themselves. When you look deeper, you realize that if two or three people were actually completely in love with God and devoted to His will, they would be able to have a huge impact on the world, where as a the only impact a church has on the world is that it takes a lot of people away from their regular lives for two hours on sunday.

I know this sounds a little critical, but I don't feel that way at all, I'm just realizing the implications of a handful of men in love with God. If we look at John Wesley and his handful of friends for instance, we can see how they could be the reason that England didn't have a bloody revolution, besides the tons of things I don't know about what happened. =OP

Anyways, just my thoughts.

steve H said...

A handful of men truely in love with God would each be reaching other men as well as relating to one another. Truely discipling a few who would then disciple a few would actually reach more people-- in a fairly short time for that matter--then trying to gather a big group.

Jesus seemed to consistently weed out the big group with tough words in order to reveal those like Peter and the 12 who had no one else to whom they could go for life (John 6).

True discipling involves training people in committted relationships so community is bound to be built and expanded.

Another element in true discipling is that the communities would see and embrace their responsibility to help one another as is made clear in 2 Corinthians 8.

Therefore, John, I think you are on the right track -- whether you are being critical or not.

josenmiami said...


Jeremiah said...

William and John! Welcome back and thank you for your contributions.

This is an excellent discussion on the reason behind this blog's existence and how GOD is going to use it to change the world. I agree wholeheartedly.

Regarding the topic of the thread, I want to respond to Joseph's brief response from a few posts back.

Joseph, you made the comment that "...language is man made, socially constructed..." I first want to thank you for the revelation you brought me concerning GOD's plan to vary language and that Babel wasn't necessarily "Plan B" I think that is a very good point and that, given the Father's burning desire to give Glory to the Son, the multiplication of words would indeed give manifold Glory to The Word. However, I'm not sure if you really meant that language is man made. Surely there was no man present before GOD uttered the words "Let there be..." Surely it was GOD who taught Adam to speak according to how GOD had constructed the tongue, mouth & vocal chords. When it says in Ps. 50 that "...Our GOD comes and will not be silent..." GOD is not speaking according to the limitations of some human invention or social construct. Fundamentally, God is an Absolute and His Kingdom is an Absolute Kingdom. I'm pretty sure that most of my personal theology and thinking rest on a very few key presuppositions.

1)Absolute Truth exists and not only exists, but is the framework for EVERYTHING! Relativity is only true insofar as describing the relative proximity of created entities to Jesus Christ.

2) Any significant theological point is simply a description of something found in the community of the Trinity.

3) Inside of GOD reality is described in terms of "Both/And", outside of GOD reality is described in terms of "Either/Or" (The Law of Noncontradiction holds true outside of the Transcendent Reality of Who GOD IS)

Based on this grid, it is very easy for me to see that (as you said) from Heaven's perspective, words have absolute meanings and are representations of Who The Word Is AND from the human perspective, words are varied, variagated, and ever expanding in meaning as they continue to (like the physical universe) attempt to describe Jesus.

However, it is impossible for me to ever agree that things as powerful as words are merely human constructs. I can not believe for a moment that you would bend to humanism in such a way and so I think you must have meant something different. Words are possibly human bent(as much as the Sovereignty of GOD directs), somewhat human shaped, but no more humanly created than stones.

I felt sure that we were in agreement concerning the dual nature of words and how they described Jesus in such an awesome way. That is what I was trying to sum up in Pt. #1.

John M. said...

Ditto on what John the M. and Steve said about making disciples.

Regarding our little blog changing the world. I just read a review of a novel called "Boomsday" It is a story set in the year 2011 of how a 29 year-old who works a day job gains national attention and influences the whole political machine in Wash. D.C. through staying up late at night and writing a blog about issues that the mainstream press is ignoring.
and misrepresenting. The power of words. Influence from the margins, out of "weakness", not power and control. Interesting concepts.

Jeremiah, take a deep breath, hold it for five seconds and then let it out very slowly. It will bring your blood pressure down a little! :)

Seriously, I have been thinking about asking this question, and your post begs for it.

What language does God speak? If God originated all the human languages on the planet, then which one does He speak? Of course we all hear Him in our own mother tongue or a language we have learned. But does God "need" any of them to communicate?

If God has a heavenly dictionary in the throne-room with all the absolute meanings of all the absolute words -- which words from what language would that be?

Jeremiah, I think in all your zeal to "prove" the "heavenly dictionary theory", you are putting God in a really small box. He is not limited by language as we know it. How did he speak the universe into existence? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't in English or any other human language. John 1 would lead us to believe that He "spoke" through the divine Logos, The Word who is not in a dictionary but is a person.

Like Joseph said, I totally believe in absolutes, but they are not so small and limited as human language. They are Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Absolute truth, wisdom and knowledge are not "words", they are "Word". Truth is not a concept or a word it is a person -- Jesus!

Yes, our human words are important and powerful. That is because we are human beings created in God's image. When God speaks, a universe is formed. When we speak we impact the lives, souls and spirits of other people. Sometimes when our words get in sync with The Word, supernatural things happen!

When Father, Son and Holy Spirit experience their perfect communion and communication, do they speak human language? I think not. Their level of communication is so much higher, deeper, more intimate, more clear, precise, absolute, if you will -- in terms of solid, substantive... I'm out of descriptors. Anyway, I think you all can see my drift...

steve H said...

John, my question is this:

What is the divine language of which all human languages are but pale reflections?

Surely, the Trinity could and probably do commune in dimensions beyond what we know as words. However, there is way too much in Scripture about conversation going on among the Trinity, about things God has said to someone/something other than human beings, as well as about communication with and among the angelic beings for me not to believe that there is not "language" other than human language.

By the way the reference "tongues of men AND OF ANGELS" in 1 Corinthians 13 also raises some interesting, howbeit unanswerable, questions. Are there a variety of angelic languages? Or is the plural "tongues" only refering to the languages (pl.) of men and to the language (sg.) of angels? Is there a divine language of which angelic language(s) are also reflections?

John M. said...

Steve, I thought about the I Cor. 13 reference too, as I was writing. Also there's the reference that the Holy Spirit prays with "groans that cannot be uttered'. Then there is the I Cor. 12 and Acts 2 gift of tongues. It seems that sometimes God allows us to speak human languages that we haven't learned so that others can understand, and at other times (most of the time?) when we speak in tongues neither we nor the hearers understand the language, therefore the need for an interpretation when the tongues are spoken publicly.

They just further add to the mystery and wonder of how communication occurs in the heavenly realms between the Trinity and between angels and between the Trinity and the angelic realm.

Jeremiah said...

John M.

So does your conversation with Steve indicate you don't think I was putting GOD in a box anymore? :) I agree with everything I've seen you two say in the last three posts (except the box comment). I don't know what that language is, and I have no doubt there are probably certain elements of it that we can not even audibly perceive (i.e. sub- and super- aural), much less understand. (Side note: If words are broken off pieces of The Word, we have an element that is very parallel to the Eucharist where the "Bread of Life" is broken and given out)

Ultimately, even the heavenly language(s) would still just be partially representative of The Word.


I've still been thinking about your comment on humans creating language and what you could have meant by that and I think I can see reconciliation here. It is a mystery of life that we can co-create with GOD when we procreate. Obviously we are not creating Ex Nihilo, but the three fold chord of Man + Woman + HS brings new life into the world (Ps. 104). Possibly you meant we co-create words/language with GOD in the act of speaking and "Coining phrases/words"

Ultimately my biggest concern in all of this discussion is whether or not our perception of The Kingdom of GOD and its application to the world is grounded in Absolutes or Relativity. If we are not presenting a Way of Life grounded in Absolutes (and yes one of those is Variety expressed in orderly categories) then we are ultimately not offering anything differently than the anybody else.

Sean said...

Hey all,

I have returned. I told John M. that I would indeed post something, just to let everyone know I'm still alive.

I'm trying to read through everything to get caught up...


josenmiami said...

welcome back Sean,

I typed several paragrams and then lost them in this internet I will try to condense my words...jeremiah, you implied that I am speaking from a position of relativistic humanism. I tend to think that what you are expounding is in essence Greek neo-platonic philosophy. I personally think that your paradigm has been formed by a dominion 'ideology' that I do not share.

An ideology is a complete system of ideas...often with political and economic implications. Although any ideology may have a large percentage of truth in it (Calvinism for example), there is always the danger of allowing the ideology to replace God and His mysteries..."truth in tension" ...resulting in idolotry (I am not accusing you of idolotry, just expressing my concern about ideological Christianity). The word of God is not just an 'absolute' meaning or is more than that, the Word of God is "He"--is a person.

God gave man the ability to create and use language, man (and women) creates language and changes it socially (socially constructed). Ask a linguist (right Steve?).

There is no way to control language from the point of view of an ideology or even a theology. Language just IS. The only way to influence language is to allow the kingdom of God to come within me, and then influence people around me with righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. We cannot impose faith, only influence people toward faith. If that is humanism, then I will cheerfully be a humanist :-)

I doubt that we will come to agreement because we are operating from different paradigms, but i am happy to continue to listen, or to agree to disagree.

John M. said...

Hey Jeremiah, thanks for the positive response. I was going to retract the "box" statement, but then I re-read it and I still think that -- although I will concede the "really small" and just say, "box".

Brian Emmet said...

Sorry to have been silent/absent from the recent conversation, but I have been following along. Our son is getting maarried this Saturday--second family wedding in six weeks, and last of my three chilren to marry, so I'll probably be even less coherent than usual...

The other philosophical school of thought that is present in these conversations is known as foundationalism. It's got some similarities with neo-Platonism, but is also a horse of a different color.

Foundationalism's father was Rene Descartes (17th cent). "What are the secure foundations on which we can construct our knowledge and therefore our lives? It cannot be church teaching, because the churches disagree..can't be mere human experience or emotion because those vary so widely... hmmm... Ahah! What is the one thing I can know for certain? I think, therefore I am." Descartes understood himself to be a Christian and his goal was to "help" the Church by providing for its message a "foundation" that was accessible to all.

I think the interesting aspect of this for our current discussion could circle back to the language question, particularly the word "human." I'd suggest that every person, every society, has some sort of "I ______, therefore I am" statement operating at the center. This statement forms our sense of identity/self, and I think it may be even prior to "worldview," although it obviously is influenced by the prevailing worldview, whether individual or corporate.

My question is not the philosophical/theological one--"What is God's definition of the word 'human'?"--but perhaps a more missional one. I think if we could help people look at how they have already 'filled in the blank' (I ______, therefore I am), we could help them towards the Good News. The social issues we struggle with, all that goes into the so-called 'culture wars,' are at root an argument about the meaning of 'human'. How do each of these modernist philosophers tell us to 'fill in the blank'?--

Marx--I labor, therefore I am?
Freud--I desire...
Darwin--I am the product of chance and time...
the Media--I watch, therefore I am.
the Mall--I shop/purchase...

Perhaps we could help people see the 'inhuman-ness' of all these, and move towards Jesus' 'definition' of us:

You are loved; therefore, you are!

Jeremiah said...

John M.,

You are welcome. I hope I have conveyed through the last several months that I am very open to my thinking being challenged and I don't mind at all being forced to defend my beliefs or to change them if they come up deficient. I very often think about these conversations we are having as I drive or what not trying to work out where my thoughts are inconsistent or what have you. I sincerely believe that I am not going to get better at my orthodoxy, orthopraxy, philosophy, or thinking without these types of conversations and I also sincerely hope that I will always hold this stuff with "open hands" as C.T.B. said, "I've learned not to hold things so tightly so that it doesn't hurt my fingers when He (GOD) takes them away"

Man its hard to write a short post.


Welcome back!!! I've missed your comments.


Ditto above and I'm so happy for your family with the wedding. Those are such special (and exhausting) times.

I've never heard of foundationalism before, although I'm familiar w/ Descartes philosophy and his unwittingly setting the foundation for humanism. An interesting comment came out of a movie called "The Man in the Iron Mask" when the character who is a priest (Played by Jeremy Irons), in a moment of dramatic presentation, states "the greatest question is who we are" This is obviously heresy at its highest humanistic point. While the definition of humanity is important (and probably the one which really motivates most people as you pointed out) it is at best (in my opinion) a dim second compared to the question of "Who is GOD"
This being the case I'm not sure that Missionally the best question is "Who do you think you are" But "Who do you think Jesus is?" This seemed to be the question Jesus was always asking people in one form or another and the question that Peter answered in such a caustic manner in Acts 2. However, I'm definitely not the evangelist in this group so maybe my opinion on the best missional question is irrelevant.


I was NOT calling you a relative humanist. I agree with every statement you have made concerning the Unchanging Personal Nature of Jesus Christ. I am having trouble with how you are making the jump from an Absolute King who is the Absolute Incarnate Living Word, to comunication being relative, changing, and fundamentally disconnected from The King. There seems to be a discontinuity between your belief about Jesus and your belief about words and communication.

I've heard the term "dominion theology" before, but I've honestly never heard an explanation beyond that it is a "Now" without the "Not yet" of the Kingdom. My belief is that there is a "mystery" of the Kingdom coming right now and the Kingdom coming in the future. Jesus said to pray for it to come on the earth in the same way as it is in heaven (Now) and He also made tons of references to it being a future fulfillment. This leaves me saying He meant "Both/And". Incidentally you and I probably agree much more than you realize (at this point) concerning the relationship between Multiplication and Dominion. I can't figure out why we call it the Dominion Mandate when 3 out 5 commands (in those verses) are about multiplication. I've been calling it the Multiplication Mandate for 8 months now.

Ideology is one of those words that means nothing to me because nobody agrees on a definition although everybody agrees its bad. I've tried very hard to simply look for the key biblical axioms and build my thinking/theology off of those. I'm not formally trained in this stuff and don't claim any credentials, but I can tell if something contradicts the Bible or not and I try to hold carefully the tricky things where the incredible Mysteries of Christ pervade.

Because I've not been formally trained, that has probably resulted in me picking up bits and pieces of different systems that I've discerned as "True" If someone tells me I'm in a certain philosophical camp that may be true, I don't know, and as long as it isn't heresy, would not be offended over it.

Regarding The Mysteries, I spend more time contemplating these rather than the stuff that fits on the axiomatic grid. As someone said "I don't worship what I can understand, If I understand it, it must be smaller than me." That is kind of the neat thing about the axioms I listed, they leave room (at the center) for The Mysteries, while still providing an orderly way to categorize pretty much everything else (at least as best as I can tell)

Also, last night I was thinking about this and thought of a better way to say the three axioms:

1) The law of Authority (Absolute Truth).
2) The law of Distinctions (Non-Contradiction).
3) The law of Relationship (Both/And).

Sorry this is so long, but this is really fun. I hope I'm not trying your patience too much.

John M. said...

Brian, there is a book out called "Beyond Foundationalism". It's published by a mainstream evangelical publisher. I can't remember the publisher or the author. Has anyone read it, and if so, could that person give us a synopsis, if, in fact the book relates to our present conversation?

Jeremiah, I really like the term "multiplication mandate". I may adopt it myself, or, at least a hyphonated form, the "dominion-multiplication mandate".

Relative to this whole language discussion, I catch another, deeper question. It's the question of how much freedom God, in His sovereignty, allows humans to have regarding making decisions, creating social constructs and languages etc.? Has anyone else picked up on that?

Jeremiah said...

Fogotten comment,

Joseph you have made numerous comments regarding "The Kingdom of GOD within" and I agree 100% that that should be first. I have maintained for some time now that Jesus' first miracle was 30 sinless years. If the foundation of our character is not first, the crane of our gifting will cause us to collapse. (and we've all seen enough of that...) however to build a foundation and not use the crane would be wasteful. (which I don't think you are advocating)

John M. Good stuff I have noticed that undercurrent, but I've been avoiding it addressing it. (my posts are already eggregiously (sp?) long.

josenmiami said...

hi all: I could use your prayers today...I woke up with stomach flue or something like it. I have not been able to eat.

the last 4 or 5 comments have been excellent and edifying. John, I would also enjoy a synapsis of the book, i have had some long discussions with Ray Ciervo about this stuff (we eventually agreed to disagree I think -- I have a habit of that)

Brian, although I am familiar with the term and have a basic idea of what it means, you gave the best explanation I have read. Thanks! I also enjoyed your synapsis of the various core operating truths...a postmodern would say "myths". I like your phrasing of the Christian core definition, 'you exist because you loved.' However I dont think all or even most Christians are operating on that truth (I wish they were). The messages gets muddled into "you exist if you believe" or even worse, you exist because you go to church and vote republican. are cool...I appreciated your be truthful, you were starting to wear me down with your relentless pursuit of clarity, definition and agreement.

just for clarity, I never said that God is disconnected from language....I said that he gave us the ability to create language -- and that i dont think he has an absolute dictionary in heaven of what each word must mean or we are big trouble.

I do believe he is connected to language through people who create it. What does it say in Col? He holds are things together by the word of his power?

Like the internet, which cannot truely be controlled or directed on a macro level, language has both evil and good, truth and falsehood, because there are "true" and good people creating language and giving meaning to words, just as there are evil and false people (and a lot in between who are clueless) who are also creating and giving meaning to language.

The kingdom of God is righteouness, peace and joy in the Holy we surrender to the king, and experience more and more of his righteousness and the Holy Spirit energized kingdom, God creates "true" and good language through us and our understanding ... the one who fills all in all.

thats why I think we cannot impose it, but we can influence it. Eugene Peterson is a great example...also mother teresa and others...

I just got embroiled a little controversy in our community in Miami that illustrates very effectively what I mean by religious "ideology"...I might remove the names and send it to you guys at some point as an illustration of the problem of Christan ideology.

peace! going to lay down.


Brian Emmet said...

Jeremiah, the question about "What is the meaning of 'human' is designed to raise the question of "Who is God?" because the only truly satisfactory answer to the first question is "The being made in the Divine Image," which then compellingly leads to a conversation about God. The problem with starting with "God" is it's a non-starter with lots of folks. It's an example of asking or insisting on a question that lots of folks aren't so interested in...

John M, I did read that book on Foundationalism, I think, but I didn't understand much/any of it--kinda way over my head. There is a good, less-technical treatment of the topic in Stan Grenz's book "Renewing the Center"--and it's just a chapter in that book, so you don't have to read the whole thing (although I found the whole thing extremely helpful).

Jeremiah, it's a book I'd recommend to you, too. It will drive you nuts, I think, but in some productive ways.

Joseph, hope you mend fast!

I liked the comment about bloggers who change the world... not sure how much of that we'll get to, but I at least feel that I am changing because of this!

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, off topic, but: is anything happening on our googlegroups site? I've checked in a few times and can't tell if nothing's shakin' over there, of it you've all decided to hide out someplace where I can't find you [sniff! sniff!]

steve H said...

Concerning the mandate -- Would it be appropriate to conclude that God's way to fulfill the dominion clause is my faithfully fulfilling the multiplication clause? If so, could we say the way to dominion is multiplying disciples -- bearing and raising children who are disciples & evangelism that produces disciples?

Hope you are feeling better by now, Joseph.

Sidenote: Have you seen the reports on Al Qaeda resurgence -- this time in multiplying through training cells scattered among the nations? Is that "stealing" our mandate or what?

John M. said...

Steve, the early Communists did it too (multiply through cells). Satan's no dummy and he's a great rip-off artist. Good observation about the D-M mandate.

Brian, thanks for the heads up on the book(s). I agree with you that we have to start with a question that people are willing to discuss. Jesus didn't just blurt out to the Samaritan woman, "Hey, I'm the Messiah, what are you going to do with me?" He started off with an easy one, "May I have a drink of water?" Even though, culturally she may have been blown out of the water because he addressed her, at least the question was easy to respond to, yet it could easily be segued into the idea of "living water".

Joseph, hope you're well by the time you read this.

I leave tomorrow for a week in Vail Colorado with my son, David, who lives there. Don't know how much connectivity I'll have. If I do, I'll stay in touch. If not, that's where I am. Appreciate your prayers for our time together.

John M. said...

Brian, regarding the other blog. I've wondered, too, if I was missing something, but it looks as if no one has been talking over there -- until today when two or three comments were posted.

Jeremiah said...


I hope you are feeling better. I did pray for you. I appreciated your comment regarding my "...relentless pursuit of clarity, definition and agreement." I think it comes from my teacher/prophetic gifting mix combined with my engineers training. Plus there is the bit where Paul talks over and over about being called to "Make plain the mystery..." Also, whether you say you are influencing or contolling, is really just a matter of degree (and depending on how you view control, motive) I mean how much influence does an entity want or expect to have on a language? My perception is that civil governments (i.e. France's ministry of Language), mass media, political (in this country) action groups and parties, expect total influence over the language while often the Church expects none. We have both pretty much got what we expected. I don't personally think that is in GOD's heart to have His people licking the secular boot. I'm not advocating a particular method of influencing the language, but somehow we should be Salt, Light, & Yeast (I'm sure you agree on this) Where it appears we aren't going to converge is the Nature of Language and I'm not sure why not.


I've been thinking about the statement you made that "I am loved therefore I am". This seems contrary to the statement in Colossions (which Joseph referenced) about God holding all things in existance by HIS Word. I think things exist because there is an eternal conversation happening amongst the Trinity concerning that object. The Bible states clearly there are certain items/people GOD hates, yet they still exist. (The resolution of this may, however, be in one of the Mysteries of Christ). I'm not saying Love is not involved, just that I think Biblically it is subordinate the conversation GOD is having.

An Experiment.

I want to suggest that we perform an experiment. John seemed to like the phrase I coined "The Multiplication Mandate" We have also discussed in off handed and in passing manner how GOD might use this small blog to change the world. I thought we might do an experiment to see whether or not we can. I propose that we all agree to begin using that term, in whatever circles we have influence (small like mine or big like Joseph's), on a regular basis for six months. In six months (in the December thread(s)) we do something real scientific to measure whether we had any impact, we google it. (oh the violence to the scientific method is unspeakable) We simply google the term and (or use other search engines) and see if it shows up anywhere in the first 10 sheets. We'll count it up and see how we did. If we make CNN we get bonus points.

Is anyone willing to try this out with me?

steve H said...

You probably have already done so, Jeremiah, but you can already google multiplication mandate and get several links. Of the ones I glanced at the association seems to be with Matt 28. I did not go far enough to see how many may have made the connection between Genesis 1 and Matt 28.

josenmiami said...

jeremiah, if you think that there the difference between control and influence is only a matter of degree, then that is probably at the heart of our failure to come to mutual understanding. The difference between them is vast and significant, and in my opinion, goes to the heart of the teaching of Jesus. Control is coercive or manipulative, it violates God-given human will, and personal boundaries. Influence respects boundaries and free will and seeks a mutually respectful, two-way conversation..."come let us reason together".

(I understand the need to control criminals and children, that is not what I am talking about).

God could easily "control" us...but he chooses not to. Why should the church seek to control people when our Lord does not?

Brian gave a wonderful quote several threads ago about the futility of attempting to control things...I quoted Paul Petrie about the ilusion of control...

steve H said...

It seems that the use of the word "control" is part of communication gap that we have had in this thread. I can see, Joseph, that since you define "control" as coercive or manipulative, it carries negative connotations for you.

On the other hand, while I know "control" can involve coercion and manipulation, in my understanding there are also more positive meanings to the word -- meanings which my dictionary (which is 20 years old) still recognizes.

"Words, words, words..." How important it is for me to make every effort to remember that what I mean by a word is not necessarily what another may hear in that word.

josenmiami said...

yes Steve, I realize that. There is legitimate social control in police work, laws, regulations, parental control and discipline of children. Above all, there is self-control.

After I make this point, I am going try to drop the subject and enjoy Rio while I wait for the next topic...I hate to keep beating a dead horse...

we are talking about controling something that cannot be controlled...language. Controling language, if it were even possible, would be equivalent to thought control. That is indeed coercive and manipulative.

Advertising attempts to do it and perhaps one could argue, with some success, but none the less at the price of being manipulative. The church in middle ages did it by having the mass in Latin, keeping Bibles out of the hands of people, and letting the clergy tell them what to think.

My point (by this time way beyond repetitive) is that for us to attempt to control the meaning for words, by any mechanism that I can think of other than personal influence, or the kind of thing Eugene Peterson has done with his writing and his translation of the Bible, would be indeed coercive and manipulative.

I am all in favor of "persuasive" dialogue to reason with others about the meaning of words...I am also in favor of letting our light shine through good works and thus filling words with fresh meaning as Mother Teresa did with compassion and mercy.

However, the context of our discussion was to establish an unchanging, fixed meaning in heaven for words and then to find a way to control or capture that meaning socially. I have simply argued that it is impossible at best, and at worst unethical.

I have already said it as well as i can about two or three posts ago. God gave men the freedom to create language -- we (the church, the Taliban or anyone else) cannot take the God-given freedom away. We can only reason with people, and as more people become connected with God, and surrendered to his will, the meaning of words will come more and more to resemble God´s higher thoughts and higher ways.

I will try to put this to rest, as I said earlier. However, if we are going to continue this line of discussion, I would be more impressed with two things rather than continued theoretical reasoning:

1) can someone show me scripture that indicates that God´s people on earth have a responsability to control language? (other than our own individually).

1b. and scripture that there is an absolute pre-established meaning in heaven for words that our own words and language should faithfully reflect?

2) Assuming that there is solid scripture for the two items above, I would appreciate a concrete example of how we could go about implementing these divine definitions on earth in society?

Obviously, it can be a challenge for us in this blog, even as like minded men who love Jesus, to agree on definitions of our own terms. If we cannot come up with the two items I suggest above, I would vote to agree to disagree and move on to a different topic.

John the Musician said...

Phew, I feel like I'm swimming in the proverbial pond of intellect. I can barely keep up with all the intense conversation. Keep it up though as I'm sure it is all worth while, I'll continue trying to keep up in the mean time and pitch in whenever I have something to say.

Patrick said...

Hey guys! I'm in town for a few days, so I'll be catching up as much as I can. Be blessed

steve H said...

ATTN: Does everyone receive the emails from the other blog page? Patrick has raised an excellent topic there -- community vs. solitude in the Christian walk.

josenmiami said...

the emails from the other blog go to my gmail account, which I rarely check...I will check it now.

by-the-way, I feel much better although I still have diarreah after 4 days...but the fever and achyness are gone.

we woke up this morning to see the Pan-American games going on under our huge picture window...not a 100 yards from us. yesterday was the swimming event off Copacabana at 9 was long distance running, and right now the cycling event is going on....we are watching and taking photos without leaving our room!

steve H said...

I thought I was done with the conversation about language. Then I opened and one of the books they were advertising to me was entitled "The Language of God." I read a couple of the recommendations and remembered that one of the most potent arguments for Intelligent Design is the "language" that is encoded in DNA. That brought to mind a book I bought a while back entitled "Essays in the Design of Language."

I have no desire to rehash the stuff we have been over -- just thought I'd suggest that the overall topic may be a lot more important with a lot more implications than the matter of meanings of specific words in specific languages.

Jeremiah said...

Wow, busy weekend.

John the M. your comments are always appreciated I'm glad you are still with us. Sorry I haven't posted anything, bringing Heaven to Earth can be exhausting. (i.e. putting gravel on my loooonnnnngggg driveway)


Yeah, I thought about checking it on the way home. The experirment still works, you just have to compare before and after.


I will try to respond to each point you raise in order, hopefully I won't miss any.


I'm struggling with how to respond. There are several dictionary definitions which I could use, all of them are fairly consistent and all of them point to "control" being an amoral (without moral connotation) word which is simply very synonomous with "regulate". But based on previous discussions, I'm not sure you will accept any definition I use. Since I don't know what your definition is, I don't know how to proceed. maybe one of the problems is that based on the defininitions I am aware of, in the business community and especially the engineering section of that community (which I am a part of) control is considered a very positive and necessary thing. I understand that you guys are mainly preachers from the specific subset of the shepherding movement where control was used in many instances in the worst possible way (I have read the history of our movement as much as anyone can). I'm sorry you guys got blown up, and I don't mean that in a trite patronizing way, my heart really does grieve over the abuses, but that doesn't mean control or authority or any of the rest of the stuff that was abused are "off limits" for forever. I do believe that true authority always manifests as service, and I think we agree here.

for now I will use "regulate" in place of "control" hoping that no one is offended by that word.

Biblical "Back up"

I've listed your request with my response immediately after

Q. "1) can someone show me scripture that indicates that God´s people on earth have a responsability to control language? (other than our own individually)."

A. This question is a generic question that could be applied to any behavior. The question is,(in its generic form) "where does the Bible say we are to apply Christian rules of behaviour to the Unbelievers." The first reference that comes to mind is Mt. 28:19 "make disciples of all nations" The next are the Psalms, specifically, Ps 149:7, Ps 47:3, Ps 94:10, Ps 118:10 (keep in mind that the hebrew word the NIV translates as nations is better translated as "Gentile"

The specific verse related to speech would have to be II Cor. 10:4-6. I maintain that you cannot take captive thoughts without seriously addressing speech.

Q "1b. and scripture that there is an absolute pre-established meaning in heaven for words that our own words and language should faithfully reflect?"

A John 1

Q "2) Assuming that there is solid scripture for the two items above, I would appreciate a concrete example of how we could go about implementing these divine definitions on earth in society?"

A. This is the same question I was hoping we could put our collective heads together and work out. Beyond my "experiment" I don't really have an idea.


as they say turnabout is fair play so I would like the following answered:

1) Where the scripture says GOD gave man the ability to create language.

2) Where the scripture says that speech cannot be controlled.

3) Where GOD gave man the ability to do anything that HE did not expect man to discipline and be accountable for.

4) The scripture that indicates words have variable meanings.

5) Any kind of logic that relates any Bible verse to these ideas.

I would say more, but I'm 15 minutes over lunch break and gotta run.

Glad you are over your sickness and can enjoy your vacation.

josenmiami said...

Hey Jeremiah,

I really appreciate you and the labor you have put into this. Nevertheless, I have already grown tired of this particular line of discussion (no reflection on you, my weakness). The only reason I re-engaged it was because you thought we were all in agreement, and I was not.

So here goes my last response (for the 2nd or 3rd time ;-)

Jeremiah: Since I don't know what your definition is, I don't know how to proceed.

Joseph: I have already said that I accept the validity of legal control, police control, parental control. I might add “control” groups in science or engineering…and above I am in favor of self-control (I already said that, right?)

My definition of attempting to control language or thoughts: coercion or manipulation. I said that in the last post. My objection is not to all control, it is to the idea that we can control or should control the words or thoughts of others, since God does not and did not attempt to control our thoughts or words. He gave us free will. This has nothing to do with the shepherding history. It is more of a philosophical conviction for me.

In your answer to Q1, you generalize from other behaviors. That is very debatable. I agree that murder should be controlled, based on the Ten Commandments. I don’t see any basis for controlling language.

Government has the authority to control any behavior of anyone (unbelievers or believers), if their behavior has harmful consequences for others. That might include language in the case of sedition or treason. Might also include porno.

However, I see nowhere that "Christians" (or the Church) are given the right to control the behavior, actions or thoughts of unbelievers. Check out 1 Cor. 5 and 6. Our judgments and authority is only to be applied to those within the church who call themselves “brothers.”

Making disciples of the nations is NOT equivalent to controlling the behavior of unbelievers. It is calling people to follow Jesus, and teaching them. If they respond, they develop self-control and enter into the community of faith. Then, they are no longer unbelievers. I don~t have the Psalms with me. I´ll look them up later.

II Cor. 10:4-6. is most emphatically bringing MY own thoughts captive to Christ, not my brother´s, not my neighbor´s. Self control is a wonderful thing.

Regarding John 1, that is not a sufficient answer. I believe that Jesus is the Logos, but if you look at my question, I was asking for evidence that there is a pre-established, fixed meaning in heaven for English (or Spanish) words, such as "door," "tree", "liberal", "discipleship", "control", "culture". The fact that Jesus is the word of God does not really help you and me arrive at a fixed, unchanging definition for the word "control".

Q "2) My point here is there is no way to do what I think you are suggesting (If I understand you right) without violating the free will of unbelievers (and probably believers also, like me). Coercion or manipulation. My point is that the only control we can exersize in this area is our own self control, bringing our own thought captive to his higher ways and thoughts. I cannot think of any other way.

Of course, to repeat, the State has the authority to control words in cases of porno, or national security.


1) Where the scripture says GOD gave man the ability to create language.
(Joseph) Genesis. God authorized Adam to name the animals. We already covered that, and I was under the impression that you agreed.

2) Where the scripture says that speech cannot be controlled. (Joseph) Genesis 11, when God scattered and multiplied language. At that point, language could no longer be centrally controlled by human authority.

3) Where GOD gave man the ability to do anything that HE did not expect man to discipline and be accountable for.
(Joseph) God expects us individually to be accountable for our thoughts and actions and to exercise self control. I am responsible for the words that I use and their meaning. You provided the scripture: II Cor. 10:4-6.

4) The scripture that indicates words have variable meanings. (Joseph) Genesis 11 again. That was the conundrum (God authored and initiated) at the Tower.
“Dog”, “Coffee” and “where the heck is the bathroom?” suddenly took on a variety of sounds and meanings.

5) Any kind of logic that relates any Bible verse to these ideas.(I don’t understand this question).

Forgive me friends, but any further questions or challenges put to me on this, I will either probably ignore, or differ to Steve, John or Brian (or Patrick, William, Jthemuscians, or Michael) or if I have already commented on it, I will point you to the previous post where I feel that I have already responded. I am ready to talk about something else. Today is debbies b-day...going to take her out somewhere.

steve H said...

I'll be away a few days. We have to move my mother into and Alzhiemer's unit for care that Dad and my sister who lives nearby cannot give.

I'm sure the summer schedule is why there has been so little action here.

Joseph, please wish Debbie a belated "Happy Birthday" for Patricia and I. In fact, celebrate another day for us -- Debbie deserves it!

Jeremiah said...


I'm sorry to hear that, I'll pray for you guys. If you get a chance and have the energy swing by and visit.


This is not a response, rebuttal, etc. but an addition to yesterday's comment, I ran out of time and left an item incomplete. In addition to John 1 I would submit the references in Pr. regarding the perfection of the words spoken by GOD along with Jesus' statement that "heaven and earth may pass away but my words will never fail" I was running short on time and couldn't get those added, sorry.

To all:

My last thought on all of this is as follows and then I too will slip into silence. I am, by trade, an engineer. There are many things engineers are not good at, but one thing we do well is serve as a bridge between the scientist (pure theory) and the laborer (pure practicality) I can't help but notice the complete headaches that erupt when definitions can't be agreed upon. I know utilitarianism is not a complete test for truth, but it has its moments and in that vein, I leave it to whoever reads these words to ponder what system of thought produces the most efficient method of communicating.


I think I've run off everybody and I don't think I made a very good moderator. I'm done now, and I'll wait until you start a new thread.

Thanks for the opportunity and indulging me with the topic. I do think it achieved your aim of controversy! :)

josenmiami said...

jeremiah, thank you for suggesting the topic and presenting your point of view so well and so passionately. It is not a topic that I particularly like, but I believe it has been fruitful to get us all to think more deeply on scripture, and I know that it has left me thinking. I think there is some truth in what you are saying, i just disagree with certain aspects. Because of our discussion, I will ponder the issue of the word/language of God more deeply. I think a good follow-up discussion might be human free will, or perhaps God´s soveriegnty versus human free will.

these are complex and deep issues, but surely important for us to consider and converse.

Pardon if at any point, I came across as cranky or less than gracious. My digestive problems probably did not help.

I trust that you or I did not drive anyone away...this is the season of family vacations and travel.



josenmiami said...

PS: Patrick started a topic on the other thinklings gmail discussoin group about the relative merit and role of the spiritual disciplines of community and solitude. So far, Steve and I have responded. Good topic!

Yesterday was Deb´s b-day...we would appreciate your prayers, she has been experiencing some pain under her left arm.

we have photos and her updates posted on


Brian Emmet said...

Hey, guys, I'm using the i-net service at the public library in Peterborough, NH. Kath and I have a little lake cottage in the nearby town of Greenfield, and we're up for some r-n-r following our son's wonderful wedding last Saturday. All three of our kids are now married--two weddings in the past six weeks!--so Kath and I are both full of gratitude and feeling a bit strange that the major task of the last 28 years--parenting--has now reached a kind of summation. None of which has anything to do with language and control, but I'm on vacation and have not a controversial thought in my mind!

I tend to agree that we've covered the current topic, and my thanks to Jeremiah for hosting the current firestorm [wink wink]. In addition to Joseph's suggestion about freewill, are there other topic suggestion, or other hopeful moderators waiting in the wings to try their wings?

I'm home on Friday, so I may not have a chance to check back in with y'all till then.

Final comment on language: as that famous linguist William Jefferson Clinton famously said, "It all depends on what the definition of 'is' is." I don't think he was supporting Jeremiah's position (and now I'm just having fun, not trying to stir up the hornets)--then again, he might not be the sort of spokesman Jose would like on his side (kidding, honest, I'm kidding!)

Jeremiah said...


That dark cloud you see is 10,000 angry honets who are wondering why you kicked their nest over!



I'll pray for Debbieas I wish her happy birthday. You didn't necessarily come across as cranky as much as you just didn't seem too willing to entertain other options. But an upset stomach and distaste for the subject matter tend to do that. No harm no foul. I didn't think about others being gone w/ vacation etc. I've got to say you have definitely made me think harder on these things than I have in a long, long time and I am enjoying it immensely. This is the first time I've tried to categorize my basic presuppositions and lay them out and that alone was worth the price of admission. (although I suppose lots of folks aren't even aware of what their aximatic truths are, much less be able to categorize them). Anyway I'm all for doing the free will/Sovereignty discussion next, that one is always good for a few laps.

John M. said...

Hey all. I'm at a Starbucks in Vail, CO suffering through viewing incredible vista's of God's creation with my Son. A couple days ago, I had a juicy post ready to go on a weak "pirated" signnal, but when I tried to publish it, it evaporated into cyber space. Quite tramatic. By the time I got back the thread had ended. Oh well, only words!

I echo what has been said about making the free-will/sovereignty discussion our next thread. Personally I think our understanding of that issue is at the root of our "words/language" discussion. I, too, have been affected by the discussion. All of these threads have caused me to think more deeply about the issues raised, and each post has had an impact on my thinking. I think what we're doing is very healthy.

Brian, congratulations on the "latest" wedding! You have definitely entered a new phase of parenting, and hopefully in the not too distant future, grandparenting!
Highly recommended by the way.

The Clinton guy also seemed to rely on the idea that it all depends on what your definition of "sex" is, or else he was a liar...or both. :) Sorry all,I'm on vacation too!

Jeremiah, I ditto Joseph's comments. Thanks for stirring up our thinking. See you in the next thread.

Joseph, Happy B-Day to Debbie. Hope she had a good one. We're standing with you all in prayer. Give her mine and Vicki's love.

josenmiami said...

good one Brian! I was trying to think of a counter-example to one-up your great story about Mr. Clinton´s angst over the word "is" but I could only think of one in cinelandia...fictional.

Remember when Crockadile Dundee went into a rough bar in the Bronx and was introduced to a tough inner city black guy? The Black guy said something like "hey dawg, hows your hammer be bad!" And after a moment of linguistic uncertainty (A tower of Babel moment) Dundee said, "Thanks mate! You´re bad too" (thats not exactly right, but you get the idea).

Congrats Brian on the wedding, I have two more to go.

John, enjoy the rockies..., although, I think I like Rio better. I agree that there are probably deeper, underlying issues that go along with our discussion of language. I confess that I view many of these things through the eyes of unchurched secular people (or perhaps hear them through their ears) and that gives me a distinctly different point of view than I used to have. Somehow, we need to broaden our conversation to include the point of view of unchurched and secular people if we ever hope to persuade them that we have something valuable to offer them. It is too easy to leave our assumptions unchallenged when we spend all of our time circulating in a "Christian" sub-culture (no criticism of anyone in here intended--just a generic statement).

Jeremiah said...


I share your angst over the post "evaporating". Anymore if I suspect that might happen I copy it first to MS Word or wordpad or something like that (select what you want to copy and then ctrl+C and Ctrl+V) that way if the connection gets lost you still have the post on your local machine.


It is one of the great difficulties in life to focus on two separate things at the same time. It is the point behind the incarnation of Christ. It enabled HIM to carry Heaven's perspective and Earth's perspective at the same time making HIM the perfect High Priest. It seems to me that the Pastoral gifting is the best at seeing where the people are and the Prophetic gifting is the best at seeing where GOD is coming from. It is one of the unfortunate aspects of the current Church environment we live in that we expect our Minister's of Grace to carry all 5 governmental giftings instead of freeing them to function in the one or two they are best at and then letting the "balance" come from another guy who is good in the other's. You seem to be heavy in the Pastoral/Evangelism gifting mix, I don't know you well, that is just what I've observed from the little we've conversed in the last 3 months. Nonetheless, if that is true, it is good for you to see clearly from the people's perspective who you minister to. Hopefully there are those around you who are different enough so that, like the great sage Rocky Balboa said "you got gaps, I got gaps, you gotta fill my gaps and I gotta fill yours" and they can fill where you lack so you in turn can do that for them. Obviously, as I stated at the beginning of this (again eggregiously long) post, you have to focus on two different things simultaneously if you don't have that. I'm rambling now and I'm sure you guys already know this basic stuff, this is just my long winded, round about, painfully long, way of saying I fully appreciate your "differentness" and am grateful for your perspective.

I get the longwindedness from my Preacher lineage.

Have fun on vacation guys, come back soon to the land of stable IP connections.

Steve & Debbie we're praying for you guys.

Brian Emmet said...

Jose, I thought where you would head with the Crocodile Dundee reference was the scene where he and the girl are jumped by some muggers, one of whom brandishes a switchblade knife. Dundee looks at it, smiles, and says something like, "That's not a knife, mate" (and then draws from the sling on his back his 18-inch death-weapon)--"this is a knife." The muggers flee, of course.

So, Jeremiah, does "knife" have a fixed meaning in Heaven... or are you ready to retreat just a bit from your Platonic construal of language and its relationship the "reality"?

I'm kidding again, honest--I'm still on vacation and up here I have lots of hornet spray!

steve H said...

I'm back from the trip to Ohio. It wasn't pleasant, but was necessary to make the change for Dad's sake as well as Mom's.

If there is such as thing as a hellish disease, it has to be Alzheimer's. To watch a person disappear with the body still present over many years is excruciating!

Thanks for praying.

josenmiami said...

Steve, I am so sorry to hear that. My heart is moved with the pain you must feel. I will lift up a prayer for your mom and dad.

Jeremiah...well put! I think you make an excellent point about the need for us to focus on our unique gifting and allow our relationships to balance us out. (Steve: a good example of the need for community).

You are pretty accurate when you say that I lean toward the "pastoral/evangelistic" ...although I have been known to slide toward the prophetic when there are none around (like in ACM council meetings). When Brian and I are balancing one another, he takes the pastoral end, and I slide over to evangelistic/missional.

It seems like I have always had strong prophetic types around Paul said, I have the "wounds to show it" ;-)

my great disappointment in life has been that I have not had the opportunity to hook up with other "apostolic" types (read: missionary church planters) to work as a team locally. I guess God has had other priorities.

Brian, good one again. Here is another movie clip: for those who have seen the "gods must be crazy"...when the bushman is explaining in court that he has to take the curse of the gods (a coke bottle) to the end of the earth and throw it away... and it is being translated twice by the time it reaches English.



Jeremiah said...

well since Brian isn't giving us our new thread yet, here is something I've been thinking about today that is pretty neat. It is what separates what I believe from platonism (neo or otherwise). Three points stand.

1) God is unchanging
2) God created man in His image
3) Jesus is 100% GOD and 100% Man, without mixture.

The incarnation of Christ is therefore not GOD becoming something He was not, but a just an unveiling of His Eternal Nature in this space time continuum. He has always been Man just as much as He has always been GOD. Obviously a mystery, but obviously true (Not my idea btw, see a book by an eastern guy named "the rape of man and nature")

The implications are profound. Platonism elevates the value of the spiritual over the physical because of its assetion that the spiritual came first. This otherway way of thinking that I am following leads to the spiritual and physical being equal in substance but unequal in station. This flows directly out of orthodox understanding of the trinity where each element of the trinity is equal in substance but unequal in function. It is this recognition of the eternal dual nature of Christ that allows the recognition that all of creation reflects the creator WITHOUT falling into the platonic trap of dualism where, essentially, the physical is bad and spiritual is good leading to the abandonment of physical things in the pursuit of the spiritual (i.e. this is basically what much of the western church has fallen into in the pursuit of the rapture escapism. i do believe in the perusia, I just don't believe in the rapture theology ala "left behind" etc.)

So we are left with the physical being equal to the spiritual in value, but the spiritual having "authority" over the physical. This explains why miracles work. In the same way that the Law of Aerodynamics always takes precedence over the Law of Gravity when certain conditions are met, so to the spiritual laws take precedence over the physical laws when certain conditions are met.

Well, as fun as this is I'm going to head on to bed.

John the Musician said...

I would tend to agree with most that the free will discussion would be interesting. I feel like lately we have been leaning more on the "head knowledge" end of things, and I would dearly enjoy reverting to being led by the spirit. It of course could just be me, but it seems like I just haven't felt a desire to partake in the conversation over the last week or so, and nothing has really been thought provoking.

John M. said...

Hey Everyone! I have a stable IP today, at a local restaurant/hotel in Minturn, CO where David lives.

Joseph, I agree that we need to broaden our thinking and try to see/hear things through the eyes and ears of those outside the Christian bubble. I am attempting to do this as much as possible, and consequently in the "words" discussion, although in my comments I tried to maintain neutrality, I essentially fell toward agreement with your comments.

Jeremiah, I have done what you suggested in the past, (ie copying my post), but totally didn't think about it the other night. Thanks for the reminder.

Regarding your "recent thoughts" post. The idea that the incarnation (Jesus being man) existed in eternity past is a new one to me. Right now as I process it, it seems to me to be not just a new thought to me, but "novel" in the sense of being a departure from orthodox understanding of the incarnation. Am I alone in this, or did anyone else wonder about the idea that Jesus was MAN before he was incarnated in Mary's womb? I've always viewed the incarnation as being a unique historical event that had its beginning in time and space in Mary's womb, rather than an "unveiling" of what had always existed; i.e. Jesus' humanity. I would be interested in your all's thoughts. Jeremiah, given the "babel factor" it's possible I misunderstood you.

Steve, I'm glad you accomplished your difficult mission. I can and can't imagine what you're going through. Having a Mother (86 yrs and with some dementia/memory issues) and a Mother-in-law (88 yrs, with multiple physical infirmities) living in our household definitely presents day-to-day challenges that make me acutely aware that old-age is no walk in the park.

John the M,
Could you be a bit more specific in what thread you would like to pursue? I understand your desire to move away from a theoretical/intellectual discussion, but I don't understand where you would like to go. Perhaps the community/solitude discussion on the other blog can help balance the headiness of the thread on this site. The sovereignty/free will discussion can certainly be theoretical and heady, (and I doubt we will resolve the universal debate), but what one believes about these issues affects almost every facet of our approach to the Lord and to other people in our daily lives. That's why I think it would be helpful to stir up our thinking about that topic.

I'll end on a personal note. I'm going with my son and his girlfriend to Red Rocks Ampitheater tonight to hear Bobby Dylan in concert. I'm pretty pumped about it. I've passed up a number of opportunities to hear Dylan in Lex. and now I get to hear him live for the first time in my life with my son at Red Rocks.
Eat your heart out Joseph! Just kidding!

steve H said...

Jeremiah, I applaud your efforts to expose and to reject dualism. I do wonder, however, if in your discussion of the "mystery" of the incarnation you have gone too far -- or at least further than the inadequacies of language will allow some of us to go.

While we must reject dualism, we also must distinguish between God and His creation. In the incarnation God entered into or joined Himself to His own creation in the person of His Son. This testifies to the reality that there is no intrinsic division between the "spiritual" and "material." But to say that Jesus was always both God and man,for one thing does not fit with Philippians 2.6-11 in my understanding.

You wrote, "The incarnation of Christ is therefore not GOD becoming something He was not, but a just an unveiling of His Eternal Nature in this space time continuum. He has always been Man just as much as He has always been GOD." I might be able to agree with your statement if you were attempting to distinguish between time and the "nowness" of eternity -- that which allowed Jesus to say, "...before Abraham was, I am." Even then, I think you would need to put up some "fences" around your words.

josenmiami said...

oops... it looks like thread picked up momentum over the last 24 hours. I thought we were winding down, so I copied and pasted the thread onto a word document (at about 75 pages after I reduced the font to 11) and indexed it and did a little analysis. I also pulled out my favorite quotes and put them at the end of the document. I am right now uploading it to the other gmail site.

here are my personal AWARDS for this thread as it stood last night:

The award for the first post: Johnthemusician.

The award for the last post: “To be announced.”

The award for the least posts: Sean and William tied (unless we include those who never posted such as Jimmy).

The award for the most posts: Joseph and Steve tied at 20 each (although Steve may have passed me today).

The award for the shortest post: Joseph – post #51 “ditto”.

The award for the longest post: John Meadows walked away with it in post #44 at an impressive 1,486 words. Joseph came in at a distant second in post #81 at 824.

Best written post (IMHO) Brian Emmet, post #60 at an elegant 378 words.

Most thoughtful posts (I know this is subjective and cannot be quantified…it is just a feeling) Michael Tomko.

Most passionate presentation: Jeremiah.

Most obstinate willful resistance: Joseph

Most practical post: Patrick, thanks for checking in and letting us know you were reading.

Most humorous post: has to be Brian´s comment about Clinton and what the meaning of "is" is.

I thought about doing some other awards, such as most "humanistic", most "Neo-Platonic", Most "idealistic" and most "cynical" ...but thought it would stir up too much controversy.

Jeremiah said...

Ha Ha! Here we go again!

John have fun at the concert. Steve words can't express the sorrow and grief I feel for you.
Joseph, I am surprised I didn't get longest or most, but that is good.


I am NOT saying the incarnation is eternal. I am challenging what we think the incarnation is. I do believe it was a discreet event in time and space. That is unavoidable. However, for the most part, I believe our understanding of the Nature of Christ is Platonic. Most of us view the incarnation as Christ becoming something He wasn't before.


Good point. Phillipians 2 is the strongest challenge to this and it all hinges on the word "Made". Now assuming that words have objective meaning to some degree and you all will accept Strong's as the standard here is what I found. Ref. 1096. "Used with great latitude"..."be fulfilled" all of these and more can describe "being made in human likeness" without limiting the making to a discreet point in time.

I have guests arriving so I'll have to address John's excellent request for practicallity later.

josenmiami said...

Jeremiah, why are you addressing your comments about the incarnation to me? I believe that was Steve...I have not said anything about it.

Jeremiah said...

I meant John M. but my fingers typed Joseph.


John the Musician said...

Bad fingers Bad!