Ah, Jared's Java. Pleasant taste. Slight Monsterism.

Welcome to the home of my mind, where I brew my intellectual and spiritual joe. Sit back and let me pour you a cup or two. I promise not to cut you off, even after you get the caffeine jitters.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Trouble with Certainty

(Click comic to enlarge)

A big part of being post-modern is finally being freed to address the uncertainties of faith. It is "faith" after all, isn't it? This is something that would not be allowed were I still in any of the evangelical settings I've been in during my previous many years of church-going. It is exhilarating and so freeing to discuss this now.

Language is an imperfect vehicle for communicating truth. One thing most people don't understand is that all knowledge and cognitive process exists in the framework of culture and time. It is constrained by the parameters in which it is expressed. Just think about it: how difficult of a time do foreigners who come to the US have trying to figure out not just the structure of the English language, but all of the idioms, dialects and regional variants of each. English expressed, even in on geographical location, changes radically over the course of even just half a century. Over the course of a century, it changes even more drastically.

That is the first hurdle we have in understanding Truth (not truth). We are translating Greek and Hebrew that were written millenia ago with radically different cultural contexts and time frames, let alone worldviews (as I have touched on in previous recent posts). There is so much loaded in these texts as far as terms, meanings and cultural understandings of the words in the languages.

Further, how do we define words? By more words, of course! We look up a word, and there are more words to explain it! Then, we look up those words and find more words. And so on, and so on, and so forth. Well, these words obviously carry essences that are ingrained into our understanding that require another level of interpretation. A level, I might add, that is terribly difficult to crack outside of existing naturally in that culture for an extended period of time.

I know, I know. I hear you saying (in the spirit of Monty Python), "Get on with it!"

What I'm saying is that language, any language, is incapable of perfectly communicating ultimate Truth. We will not know the ultimate Truth (the whole picture, that is) until we pass on to the Eternal Realms.

Am I saying I'm abandoning hope in Christ? In the words of Paul, "May it never be!" What have we in this life to hope for? To get the most toys? To do a little good before we kick the bucket? What the crap is any of that worth on its own? It certainly feels pretty empty to me. I have yet to see a better, more compassionate, more loving truth lived out than the gospel. Again, it goes back to the real issue: Is being right more important than being good? The evangelical church certainly prioritizes it that way. If we are good, questions, seeking and some answers about whether or not we are right will come along naturally. Forcing the rightness issue up front is an action that is without love. How can people be attracted to the gospel message without witnessing it's goodness first?

The gospel is not just some bullet points that we ascribe mental ascent to. (maybe I've already said this, I can't remember) The gospel is something real and radical that must be lived out. As a matter of fact, it'd take pages for me to lay out what the gospel looks like in my life, or rather what it is transforming my life into. It is something that commands living it out, which is much more than being nice, going to church on Sunday and paying your tithe.

I exhort again, let us put aside the pursuit of form and appearance and strive for what is. Let us be every day radicals in our faith.


Tomorrow: The mystical essence of Scripture


cathouse teri said...

You're working out your own salvation. That's good.

But the gospel is not about you. It's about Him. Get that totally straight, and you'll be on track.

MugwumpMom said...

Hmmmmm - food for thought.

I think I get what you are saying and totally agree that being right cannot overshadow being good - God said that too. He valued love over sacrifice...reconciliation over worship (if you are at the alter and there remember someone has something against you, go and be reconciled, and then come and worship) God is all about loving relationship, and why not, He is first and foremost a Father. I wonder though - there does not have to be such a deliniating line as in either be right, or be good. The true gospel knits both together so that rightness is good and goodness is right.

KingJaymz said...

Teri - I'm not saying that the gospel is about me. If you got that from my writing, you misread what I wrote. There is a difference between me saying "The gospel is all about me" and "The gospel is transforming me."

MWM - I don't think delineation is the right word. Separate, yes. Too many people over emphasize being "right" and it comes at the cost of being "good." They need to be considered on their own. One can not come at the cost of the other, but the modern evangelical church is rarely, if ever, accused of being good at the cost of being right, hence why I emphasized that one.

uberstrickenfrau said...

Hey, thanks for the kind words on my teens drawing, she has her own blog at jaylogan.blogspot.com where she has some of her cartoons.
Its called No name, No face.
And you know what? Its tough to write a intelligent response to your posts! So many issues! Yikes. I find myself thinking and thinking of how to respond, and everything I come up with sounds so trite and pat. I don't totally agree with you, but I don't know how to advoid senseless arguing that ruins the hearers, know what I mean jelly bean?

KingJaymz said...

That's okay, frau. I totally understand what you mean. I would just remind everyone that just because I say that x is true, it does not mean that y is false or untrue or sin or etc. It just means that x is true.

Maybe you weren't even going there, but it made me think about that. People made those illogical leaps with the last few posts I did about post-modernism and (*gasp*) hugging.

Your teen's blog is called "the band" today. Maybe it will be something new tomorrow? ^_^

Oh, and about the whole "philosophy of language" thing, I have studied the biblical languages and done translation work, so it has put a lot of food for thought on the subject into my brain. Maybe I'll cover the "what we can know" of the subject in a later post, because that deserves attention, as well.

R said...

The gospel transforming you is what the gospel should do. Yes, the gospel is about the Lord, but the gospel is about repenting of sin because Christ has come. I just read Terri's comment and I did not gather that you said the gospel is about you, so I am just gathering what I thought you meant.

Besides, the gospel is sort of about us. He loved us enough to give us an out, to repent of our sins, so we can be with Him, which is yes, about Him. Isn't it about God's love of the world and how He is too holy to abide our sin, so He has rescued us from it (through God the Son's sacrifice) so we can eternally live with Him?

cathouse teri said...

Monsieur Jaymz: The gospel being about you and the gospel being about transforming you is still about you. Now take the "you" out of the formula and look at the scriptures as a way to knowing HIM better, rather than knowing yourself better, and you will see a whole new Jesus.

MugwumpMom said...

Ok now I got you! And this is a perfect illustration on how we (me)interpret with our own unique filters. When I read "right" vrs "good" I was thinking "do right" as opposed to "be right", and didn't see a separation between doing right and being good.

cathouse teri said...

See! See what's happened to the christian life! r wrote that whole second paragraph and has no clue that it is entirely self-centered. The gospel is about a Christ-centered life.

I know this is tricky, and I'm not trying to judge you all. Believe me, I am in no position to do such a thing. I'm trying to get you to expand your spiritual minds.

Dapoppins said...

lived out

But what if I am too lazy?

Hey, I think i understood most of this post. I am so proud of myself.

Dapoppins said...

My husband dislikes "modern" christian music because it is more about the ME than the HIM. So I think I understand what Teri is pointing out.

ER, maybe not.

Delia said...

Okay, I may be off track here...but I don't really mind. I'm off track a lot. Anyway, this post makes me think of John 13:34-35. (which I have posted on my sidebar in NIV, I think)

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

I know that isn't ALL that you are saying, but it's what's sticking to my mind today.

KingJaymz said...

Teri - I know you're good natured and well meaning. I won't take you as any different. Thanks for clarifying that you are not speaking judgmentally. :) It isn't always obvious when you can't read body language and hear tone of voice.

In its truest essence, part of the gospel is about transforming us as people into a people with hearts for what God's will and desires are. That isn't about us, it is about Him.

Romans 12:1-3
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

So, if that is about "me" or "us" or "you," then the apostle Paul has made the case himself it is.

Certainly the gospel is a way to understand God and Jesus even more, but it exists for so much more than that purpose. The issue isn't about knowing "us" better, but about the transformation of our lives into living sacrifices for Him. In that view (which I borrowed from Paul), there is no way to take the "you" or "us" out of the equation without weakening the gospel message.

I'm in agreement with R. You can't take "us" out of the picture because it was for "us" (lost humanity) He came. If there is a Christ-centered life to be live, whose job is it to live it? We become inextricably tied to the paradigm because of all this.

R - It's nice when someone "gets me." Thanks for the good words ^_^

MWM - If I sound like I'm off my rocker, please feel free to say "Are you nuts, or does this mean something different?" Your first inclination is likely usually right: I'm probably nuts. But I probably mean something different too ^_~

A further warning: I have no problem with people taking issue with what others have said, but I will not publish any other comments that contain personally directed references. I know we have remained civil to this point, and I'm enforcing this one before it becomes an issue (I've seen too much of this over the last week). Take issue with ideas, not people. If we are Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let us regard each other as we would our siblings born into our families. Those aren't just trite titles in the Bible. They are what God expects of us in word and deed toward one another. And, yes, that means I'd bail any of y'all out of jail at 2am if you called me or give you the shirt off my (hairy) back if you needed it. (^o^)

KingJaymz said...

Just so that there can be no misunderstanding, at least in regard to this:

I would just remind everyone that just because I say that I hold that x is true, it does not mean that I hold that y is false or untrue or sin or etc. It just means that I hold that x is true.

Modified from comment reply to usf

~*SilverNeurotic*~ said...

I'm finding that I understand you perfectly in this post. I know exactly what you mean about the interpretations. I understand exactly what you mean between the "right and good".

I'm not going to put my thoughts into words, as, well, physically I don't think I can. I won't quote the Bible because I don't know any passages (it was not how I was raised). But I just wanted you to know that I understand what you were trying to convey in this post.

Perhaps it's because I'm "an outsider". I think that not having any kind of back ground in the Protestant Christianity faith allows me a clearer vision as it's not something I've really ever experienced before. Therefore, I'm reading this post without any kinds of outside influences that some of the other commenter's are. They are interpreting this based on what they have been taught their entire life. It's no fault of their own, it's how they were raised and once you learn something to be "the right way", it's really hard to break that and be able to accept a different view.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I "get you", and I really appreciate you writing this post that I could really read, comprehend (to myself anyway) and understand.

So thank you. I know we don't always see eye to eye either...lol...but I do enjoy learning another point of view and it's always nice when you write in a way that even an "outsider" like me can understand the basic concepts that you are presenting.

cathouse teri said...

Did my last post get lost, or have you had enough of me?

KingJaymz said...

Your last post got lost. If I found it to be too much, I would have resubmitted it to you for editing.

As the Pepsi caps always tell me "Please Try Again."

Anne said...

"Language is an imperfect vehicle for communicating truth."

Words (language) are how He communicates with us. His written Word. I trust it is written for my learning.

Romans 15:4 "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." NKJV

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." NKJV

"There is so much loaded in these texts as far as terms, meanings and cultural understandings of the words in the languages."

I agree. I have a friend who just opens her Bible and reads whatever she closes her eyes and points at. While I'm glad she is reading her Bible, it's hard to understand the true meaning of ANYTHING when read out of context. I never read random paragraphs of a card or letter that was written to me.

"What I'm saying is that language, any language, is incapable of perfectly communicating ultimate Truth."

I disagree. It apparently IS able to communicate ultimate Truth or the Lord would not have chosen it as a vehicle for our learning. We know what we know about God and His Son because of a written "language". I became a Christian because of this very "language" that I chose to pick up and study.

I believe that what we need to know has been revealed.

I hope I'm not having the appearence of falling into your catagory of being "right".

Your Sister

KingJaymz said...

No, Anne, I don't believe that there is a malicious bone in your body. You didn't come across that way at all to me.

I agree that God communicates to us through words. The Bible certainly is for our learning. If you're thinking I stated the opposite, then you misunderstood me.

Understanding Scripture is like understanding other historical works (of course, Scripture is a Special historical work). There's cultural meaning in some of those words that we will never get. Does that mean we can't understand the essence of things? No, but we cannot understand the full essence of certain things because of the limits that communication within a culture puts on language.

Also, I didn't say language was incapable of communicating ultimate truth. I said it is incapable of perfectly communicating ultimate truth. Language has limits. This is part of what keeps us in the realm of seeing in a mirror darkly, because we only know in part (1 Corinthians 13).

We live in a fallen world where nothing is perfect. God chose to use an imperfect vehicle (language) to communicate to us His story for us. I'm not trying to impugn the Truth contained in Scriptures by saying this. I'm saying that there are a lot of valid questions about the "what of"s and "what if"s regarding the language used to communicate Scripture to us.

I'm not saying I'm abandoning confidence in Scripture, either. But that is for today's post.

Anne said...


I had a huge comment and lost it - I give Him the glory for that.

I believe we can think too much and talk too much. Scripture clearly states this.

I believe it would serve us well to stick to the scriptures and discount the outside influences. All we need to know is contained within It.

Your Sister in Him

Lea (Anne)

The Family Jewels said...

I like that you live out your interpretation of the Truth and you don't apologize for that. I find myself being more worried about being or doing good as I am being called by God. I know that He will keep me in the right if I am obedient to His calling. I tried for a while doing things on my own because I was certain that I knew better...God knocked me on my butt and told me better.

Thank you for having the guts to live your faith through your words and actions...I believe that is the best way to spread the Truth. I do not appreciate others cramming their own beliefs down my throat when they think that theirs is the right way.

I was recently freed from the imprisonment that I put on myself and it was only through the Truth in my interpretation that I was finally able to be freed.

I must now go find a translation of the Truth to use as a theme verse for the memorial service for the baby I lost who is now in God's arms, then off to the studio to continue the work on the memorial artwork I am creating in remembrance of the angel that God requested.

cathouse teri said...

All hearts are with you, the family jewels, to be sure.