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Dynamite is dynamite; power is power

The Greek word δυναμις (dunamis) means power. It is also sounds a lot like the English word "dynamite," and it is indeed the source of the English word. Have you ever been in Sunday school lessons or sermons where much is made of the relationship between dynamite and power? I have. Of course, that is not what the original authors envisioned. They had no inkling of dynamite.

Reading contemporary meanings into words can be entertaining, but it's not sound exegesis. Grant Osborne, in his The Hermeneutical Spiral comments:

". . . beware at all times of the tendency on the part of both you and your listeners or readers to read modern meanings into ancient meanings. It is the author's intended meaning that is paramount at this stage. We cannot transform the context crossculturally until we have determined first of all its meaning in the original context. This becomes the basis for the dynamite transference of that meaning into our modern context. Good expository preaching will always blend what is meant with what it means and will seek to unite the hearer with the message of God in the text.


The Dying Christian to His Soul

Vital spark of heavenly flame!
Quit, O quit, this mortal frame;
O the pain, the bliss of dying!
Cease, fond Nature, cease thy strife,
And let me languish into life.

Hark! They whisper; angels say,
Sister Spirit, come away!
What is this absorbs me quite?
Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
Drowns my spirits, draws my breath?
Tell me, my soul, can this be death?

The world recedes; it disappears!
Heaven opens on my eyes! My ears
With sounds seraphic ring!
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O Grave! Where is thy victory?
O Death! Where is thy sting?

~ Alexander Pope (1688-1744)


What do women lose in seminary?

When I first began to contemplate seminary, a well-meaning women suggested to me that it would be dangerous for me to put myself under the authority of professors rather than my husband. I did not point out to her that I basically did that every Sunday when my pastor preached. But I understood her concern. I dismissed them, but I understood them, and I knew she only raised the question because she cared about me.

I was having a conversation with a friend about some of the things I was learning, and it really troubled her that in one of my classes, we discussed the ending of Mark. To her, the fact that it is in her New King James Bible means it is meant to be there. It also bothered her a great deal to know that professors I have don't believe in the rapture. It was shocking to her that an evangelical could possibly not believe it. I didn't have the heart to tell her that in the last year, I have had conversations with at least four young men (under 35) who have put aside their dispensational roots and begun to ask questions.

I have had at least one older woman tell me that I don't need to know Greek and Hebrew, and that by discussing things too deeply, I could lose my faith. I need a "simple faith."

There is something that I have lost since beginning seminary, and it isn't my faith. I am more sure of my need for Christ than ever. I am more certain that he is the author of my salvation; that I am powerless on my own. I am more amazed than ever about what it really means to believe in a God who created me and this world. But I have lost one thing: my fear of asking questions.

When I moved here to southern Ontario in 1996, I wanted very desperately to fit in; to have a community of support. I had left my family behind and put myself in a place where I had to start over again, building relationships. There was a particular view of womanhood in my church. The thought of a woman getting up on the platform to make an announcement was an anathema, never mind a woman song leader. When I became a Bible study leader with Precept Ministries, my pastor asked me if I was aware that Kay Arthur taught men, and did I want to put myself there?

Homeschooling, Growing Kids God's Way, courtship; all of it. I accepted it without question. And a lot of it blew up in my face when my children began to question what I had been too afraid to ask. I was more concerned about fitting in. And of course, all these years, I have never felt like I fit in unless I was conforming to whatever group I had aligned myself with. It even happened when I began blogging.

I'm tired of working to fit in with other people. When I think back to the woman I was in 1996, I realize I have re-made myself into something that isn't entirely me. While I have grown and matured (thankfully), and put aside some things which needed to be discarded, I had begun to fear asking questions, and I was careful where I asked them. 

It is fear that keeps us from asking questions. We fear that we are wrong in our core belief systems. We are afraid that our faith isn't strong enough. We are afraid to seem vulnerable or dependent. But the reality is that we are dependent. We are weak. We are limited.

This past semester, I had a class in the Pentateuch. The prof is wonderful. He is sharp, articulate, passionate, encouraging, and a very conservative complementarian. I asked him a question about the meaning of the words in Genesis 3:16, that verse that supposedly tells me I want to control my husband. There was a bit of awkwardness at first, but he answered it, and we moved on. I drove home agonizing over even asking it. He was going to think I was crazy or apostate. But it was okay in the end. Having the space to ask questions is a huge relief.

So, no seminary won't make me lose my faith. If I can lose it, did I ever have it? When people ask me that question, do they know what they mean? Maybe they should ask themselves.


It's not the writing; it's the drama

Yesterday, I checked in to the blog to find a link I had saved in draft. I was met with a WHOOPS! Something was amiss. My blog was not accessible. Squarespace had some glitches, but here we are, back again.

I thought it was kind of funny that while I was peeved that I couldn't access my blog, I was not all that concerned. It may have been fun to start all over. And I would have had my little blog vanished.

After thinking a lot about blogging (and reading a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with blogging) I decided that what bothers me about blogging isn't the medium. What begins to disturb me is the conduct of people on social media. It's the drama. 

Christian men and women behave badly. We are arrogant, boorish, and worst of all, we often act as if we are entitled to an audience. Twitter has made us believe that we deserve a hearing. But we don't. Twitter has also  exacerbated an unhealthy fascination with people we don't know personally. It has fooled us into thinking we have a relationship with someone when we don't really know that person. It isn't healthy for us.

When children are small, and they are in a conversation, vying for the attention of an adult, often what they will do if they aren't being heard is start to talk louder. And louder. That is what happens on Twitter. Someone doesn't get an audience, so she will speak louder. Or say more extreme things. Or more controversial things. Or compose longer threads. That is the kind of thing I just don't have time for. But I can't change people, and I need to get over that and worry more about how I conduct myself online.

I love to write. It is who I am, even if I'm not published or famous. On the 22nd of May, i was cleaning out a drawer, and I came across two handwritten pages on stationery which came from the Best Western Rainbow Inn in Grand Rapids, Minnestoa. It was dated (quite co-incidentally) May 23rd, 1996. It was the day after I had left my family behind to move here to Ontario. It was a sad, poignant couple of pages. I had sat in my hotel room that night, needing to process what was going on, and lacking a journal in my suitcase, I wrote those two pages. Yes; writing is part of me.

Drama, on the other hand, is not. Vying to attention from others on social media cannot be. It isn't good for me. Frankly, it isn't good for anyone. That is not what Christ expects from me. Yes, he asks me to stand for truth and speak it when it's difficult. But he doesn't ask me to offend others, to treat others with condescension and often hatred; yes, hatred. I see a lot of tha on Twitter.

This month, I read four books and one third of Bavinck's second volume of Dogmatics. I knitted. I watched hockey. I exercised. I shopped. I read a very pared down Twitter feed. It was wonderful. I'm getting better at ignoring. 

Ignoring is a valuable skill, and one I hope to foster more.

This blog comes to you mostly unedited, and not because I want to be more "authentic," but because my coffee maker just beeped, and I have a date with some books.


Do we know what "meaning" means?

Earlier this month, I read Ed Hirsch's seminal work Validity in Interpretation. It was one of those books I had to read in small portions because the principles were ones I had to stop and think through. A lot of what he talked about had to do with how we understanding meaning. How do we determine what something means? Do words have an intrinsic meaning? This approach, of course, assumes some authorial control. Meaning originates in the author. That is not a universal sentiment, as we know. Much has been made of the principle that meaning is what the reader makes of it. I'm not on board with that idea.

When it comes to Bible study material, we often see a focus on what a word means. It's an interesting diversion in a study to talk about what the original meaning of the word is, and how that may (probably does NOT) affect our understanding. D.A. Carson has written a whole book about fallacies we engage in as we study Scripture. It's a short read, and worthwhile. I've read books by Christian authors who would have benefitted greatly from having read the book before writing.

I like what Grant Osborne has to say in his book The Hermeneutical Spiral about meaning:

. . . terms have meaning only as part of the larger structure. Naturally, "love of God" does have meaning as a technical phrase; however, a better label is "potential meaning" . . . I can only know what it does mean when I see it as part of a larger context like Romans 8:39.

The problem with too much focus on word studies is that it does rip the word out of its larger context. If it's one thing I've learned over the past year it is that the layers of context within a Scripture passage are really crucial. The biblical authors didn't just write dictation style, with someone whispering in their ears with the content. They planned things; just like writers today do. Rather than spending a lot of time in individual word meanings, looking at the grammar of passages is more fruitful, even if it is harder work.

Too much focus on word studies is definitely an error I made far too often as a younger teacher. I was copying what I heard from other teachers and from the pulpit. I'm thankful for God's mercy. I didn't really know better. And that just reminds me again of the need to study in order to be an effective teacher. I've been teaching for 23 years, and at this point in my life, I feel more inadequate than ever to the task. Praise God for the presence of the Holy Spirit and for the reality that he will cover our shortcomings.