30 December 2009

Dichotomy of Language

As a people, we enjoy classification. Look at our music: alternative, rock, hip-hop, r&b, reggae, classical, pop, etc. Each of those can then be broken down into sub-genres like hard rock, classic rock, new rock & pop rock.

Unlike music, other areas of life that are, in fact, more complicated than a string of notes and chords are classified much more succinctly.

We talk a lot about black and white but very little about the infinite shades of grey in between.

Your gender is male or female; if you have aspects of both, you are a girlie man or a tomboy.

The news speaks much of the rich and the poor, democrats and republicans, liberals and conservatives.

Why do we talk this way? Authors of The Story of English Robert McCrum, William Cran & Robert MacNeil write, 'Of all the world's languages (which now number some 2,700), it is arguably the richest in vocabulary.' They list the number of words in English as over one million. (This is unique words, not counting various verb tenses or word forms.) Within this number are over half a million technical and scientific terms, which leaves 500,000 words that aren't specialized. (Neither do they count words of slang, having gathered their number from the Oxford English Dictionary, which does not catalogue the newest slang.)

We have the words. There is no need to speak in dichotomy, yet we are trapped by the language that surrounds us.

The real problem with this dichotomy is not that it limits how effectively we communicate, but how it creates the mentality that it is Us versus Them. 'If i am a male, then i must not display any feminine traits or i will be seen as less than a man and a traitor to all men.'

Not everything is a war and can be described as Us vs. Them. When we focus so much on what we belong to and what other people don't, or what makes each of us different from the people around us, we lose something. We lose the ability to interact with them fairly, without any prejudice.

I think this is especially damaging in the Church. What Paul describes as the Body of Christ should display unity and be less concerned with whether or not each individual subscribes to a certain and specific viewpoint.

Look how we describe ourselves. We are the Saved; the world is Lost.

Saved vs. Lost (The ultimate brawl will happen Sunday night on Pay Per View! Tune in or be left in the dark!)

When did our battle become with the people we are attempting to show the Light?

17 December 2009

Speaking of the Trinity

As a people, as followers of God, we believe that God is represented by three distinct beings, even as those three beings are still manifestations of a single entity, YHWH. The three personalities of God, if i may describe this idea as such, are the Father, Jesus, & the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, as it were.

As believers, this is part of our doctrine. It's my understanding that doctrine exists with purpose. If you believe eggs are divine symbols of purity, wholeness and the direct inspiration of God, then eating them would either be a religious experience or sacrilege. Denny's would either be your temple or your den of iniquity. There cannot be an in between.

So why do we have this view that author and speaker Phyllis Tickle talks of as 'an upside-down triangle?' Check out the image to the right. That's the typical representation of the concept we call the Trinity. Image if it were flipped, to have two spokes on top and one, the Spirit, seeming to trickle from the other two. As Tickle puts it, 'It wasn't long before it became God the Father gave rise to God the Son, who gave rise to God the Holy Spirit, a kind of totem pole or hierarchy in which the Spirit mattered less than did the other two.'

This is reflected in our prayers.

Think back. When did you last pray to 'God' or 'Father' or 'Jesus'? Now, when was the last time the Spirit entered your prayers?

In theory, God is three in One: Father, Son, Spirit. In our language and how we talk about them, they are Father, then Son, then Spirit.

What if, instead, when we talked about God, we used the name appropriate to the conversation.

If you think about your life, your every day life amongst friends and colleagues, you talk with people and refer to them with the appropriate title, the correct name for the occasion. Not having ever met him, it would be ill-advised to greet the President with a hearty 'Barry! Nice to meet you.' Instead, we address him as either Mr. President or President Obama.

Let's look at another example: My friend Tim is an athlete as well as a gamer. If i asked him 'As a gamer, what would you recommend to help me get into shape,' i'm attempting humor. However, if i ask him the same question as an athlete, it becomes an honest question.

In the same manner, when addressing God, or speaking of God, we need to attribute the qualities we speak of to the proper aspect of his character. In coming to an understanding about this, i realized i know very little about the difference between the three persons. Obviously, Jesus saves. Further thinking came up with the Spirit acting as the empowering aspect of God. The Father, well, the Father is the provider, right?

We need to know who it is we speak to. We need to know more about our God and who he is, and we must use that knowledge to direct our language.