Monday, February 13, 2017

Be We Holy?

  I have not posted anything here for weeks now. A young fellow reminded me of this last Friday, and I "intended" (whatever that means) to do so over the weekend. Well, that didn't happen.
  Have you noticed how weekends fill up? There are errands to run, meetings to attend and movies to watch. By the way, you might want to just skip the opportunity to view the LEGO Batman thing. Anyhow, next thing you know, it's Monday. I sometimes mutter; "I need a day off from these days off!".
  As it turns out, today is that day. Old Señor Invierno showed up with rain, and instead of marching in and out of new houses, tracking in mud galore, I am taking the day off . . . we think. Something might come up later, but it surely is pleasant to be indoors on a work day with time to spare!
  There has been a topic sorta rolling around in the rear of my cranium off and on for several years now. It is possible that I have touched upon the theme elsewhere in this stack of essays, but (it would seem to me) that such treatment would have been a glancing blow. That is; I have no memory of directly addressing the idea bundle as a topic herein. Now, if I am wrong, feel free to scoff, exit the blog, and get back to playing video games like normal people!
  There was a guy. I think that his last name was "Otto", perhaps it was Rudolph? At any rate, this was the better part of a century ago. His big contribution to the world of theology/philosophy was to link two words. There is a word found in the Scriptures which (by in large) appears to have no good working definition, so Otto supplied one!
  He came up with a word (and may have coined it?), which he declared was the best working definition of the mystery word, and his word was "numinous".
  As I recall, there were two main aspects to the numinous. I don't know if you have ever been in the neighborhood of something deeply strange. People record sightings of ghosts at times. Others film odd objects moving through the sky. Perhaps at some point, you have been playing around with a Quija board (which is a bad idea by the way)? Anyway, there is a sensation, the small hairs at the back of the neck stand up, and an adrenaline rush places you in the fight/flight mode. There is "something there", and the alarms have been tripped!
  So, the concept that Otto was getting at was a (1.) Supernatural phenom and (2.) It was "other". That is, it does not fall cleanly into any known category. Well, I (for one) ain't too thrilled by that sort of definition for the word "holy".
  We see the problem immediately, in that we could (perhaps) attribute that "it creeps me out!" syndrome to the Almighty. But, there is a null set in the converse.
  I mean here, that not only is The Holy One holy, but we too are to (somehow or another) also be holy. So, if Otto is on page, then I should become very very strange indeed, so to trigger the hair on the back of your neck? I don't think so.
  We return thus to this very unusual word. I (in the imperative) announce "You (yes, you!) be holy!" . . . and simultaneously leave the word itself mainly undefined? What is up with that?
  Now, amid the Kirk are several working attempts along these lines, and we won't do well to skip those. As best as I know, the main filter here is to note that the base word means "to cut". We are to make a division between, to differ, to divide. Some things (or people) are holy, and some ain't, so line up already with the holy will ya?
  Along these lines then, we receive exhortation to "come out from", or to "be seperate". And it's not like this is a horrid mish-mash of some Bible teachings or some such. I am not saying that! But, rather, if we apply this sort of analysis "backwards" to the Almighty Who is Holy (In Person), what in the heck does it even mean? It would be affirming (perhaps?) that He is "seperate"? Uhm, not to rude or anything, but, so what?
  In that case, He would be seperate from sin (and hence, sinners I would infer?). So, we just established that the High King is removed from us, who are simultaneously attempting to be removed (at a much lessor range) from sin(ners)?
  There is an expression in English, "I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole!". I have often wondered if an eleven or twelve footer might do? But, to return to the discussion, it appears that holiness in this case is a "distancing". He is removed from sinners, and among that group, some have (somewhat) removed themselves from the more heinous offenders? Moreover, this is inherently a superior stance of some type?
  We could return to this perspective later, I just meant to mention it in passing, and kind of got carried away. . .
  Among the reformed presbyhoovians I associate most frequently with, the word "holy" is linked (in usage at least) with the word "pure". It would not be uncommon to hear us say something along the lines of; "He calls us to a pure and holy life". Well, guess what?
  I also have a beef with that angle.
  By our lights, it would appear (to me) that we are talking here about some aspect of the moral/ethical sphere of things? And, if that be a fair assessment, then the road block is that we already have a dandy word for just that sort of behavior. Correct me if I am wrong, but that word would be "righteous". Literally, "His ways are right and pure (which is true)" would mean that an odd duck is roaming the barnyard. It would fall out thereby that "holy" and "righteous" have the same meaning . . . So why use the second word?
  So far then, we either possess a command to get distant or alternatively be something we (by definition) are not? That is; "Be righteous ye sinner!" kinda flies in the face of itself, don't ya think? Be what you ain't! Okay! Will do. Hey, let me get back to you on that eh?
  Don't we have enough fakery, and make believe nice-guy theory out there already? So now, we are ordered to manufacture the stuff?
  Moving right along, we note that I keep getting sidetracked eh? There is a third angle that I am only dimly aware of. Some branches of the Kirk seem to specialize in "holiness" per se. Now, not wishing to brand such with any unfair or untrue accusations, I nonetheless think that these folks go one of two routes.
  There is the (for lack of vocabulary) "metaphysical" leg, and then there is the "perfectionist". The meta-p folk are big time into what might be thought of as a "sacred magic". The eucharist, high liturgy and tradition generate the ideal of a semi-glow-in-the-dark idea. Here, we would note the veil over the face of Moses as "the type". So here, we observe ritual and such things as monks, priests and the like as generating a spin on the holy which hinges mainly upon the concept of "expert opinion".
  It is believed in this school of thought to be an inarguable stance, in that it deflects away critique by re-affirming tradition, the saints of old, and generally speaking offers a "shut your face, Bozo" defense.
  If holiness (in us at least) be nothing more than a "sacred magic", then we must immediately inquire if it be necessary for salvation? If so, then the cadre of the saved would be a very small minority indeed! This would appear to conflict (I would think) with both the Abrahamic covenant ("Go number the stars!") and with that countless throng surrounding the Lamb as viewed by John in The Apocalypse. Somehow (if magic be the case), these many were saved out of earth without holiness, in that they were neither monk nor nun, nor priest nor saint in that system? Well, how did they get there anyhow?
  The final group, those "perfectionists" I dismiss as simply deluded. Perhaps that is harsh sounding to you? But, I have no time here to entertain fairy tales. One of the holiest guys of all time, one of the true heavy hitters in this system (speaking of himself), calls his own self "chief of sinners". So I figure, if he is chief, maybe I could be one of the head flunkies of sinners . . . maybe?
  The clever reader will (by now) be aware that Mike the plumber has yet to unveil his oh-so-superior take on this. I mean, all we have done is go around shooting the competition in the head so far. If I'm writing a crazy pants essay about "be holy"; ought not I have an idea or two to pitch into the mix?
  Well, it just so happens that I do! Uhm, this would be your lucky day then?
  This would be how a fat old plumber in the desert views the topic. In the first place, this whole rant has been (largely) about our lack of a working synonym for the word "holy" (especially as it applies to the Most High). Well, such a word does exist. The single time that I ever saw it in print, I had to go look it up! Guess what, my lousy dictionary did not include it . . .
  The word we search for is "aseity". If you Google it, it will pop right up. It has to do with existence, but a special kind of "is". Okay, are you back from Google yet?
  Did you note the diffrence? Everything, and everyone, and every star and all bacteria, those and uncountable other things and persons fall into the category "extant". But only One falls into the other category!
  I am certainly not the grammarian around here to state (correctly) whether the fuzzy and perpetually out of focus nature of the verb "to be" (in English) is typical of human languages or not. But, my point is (and hear me!), we already know that "The Name is Holy". Uhm, so what would be that Name then? In English, it comes out as "I Am". His is an "Is-ness", an "Am-ness" clean outside of creation, while operating through and in it. And in fact, the am-ness of it (creation I mean), is entirely dependant upon both His generative and supportive Word Author-ity.
  There are only two kinds of "is", He Who Is, and that which is. And that which is, is His doing, His making and coheres due precisely in that He "supplies" the "glue" holding it all together! Aseity is definitely our word here!
  And here, we can begin to view things differently than the four views I so graciously demolished above.
  We mean then, that there are two "holies". There is the genuine article, He Who Be, and then a deriviative, a creaturely reflection or participation in that astonishing reality. He is utterly unique, the True One of the Kind. He ALONE is Holy, and also, there is a counterpart, a response which creatures display which is aligned.
  Are we making any headway? I (for one) think so.
  So then, in response to The Holy (One), how best to lay-out what we mean by our intra-cosmic assertions to each other to "so also be holy"? And (you're not going to like my answer here!), I cannot see how this could escape or go around or forget "Covenant". You just knew that was coming didn't you?
  You'll be glad to know that I will not burden you here with some crazy rambling monologue. Suffice it to say, that the foundation of things, the structure of reality is "contractual"! Moreover, the contracting parties are not some remote "God" contracting with a diffuse "humanity" at the other end. Rather, The Father contracts with The Son, and you are part of "the goods" tossed in to sweeten the deal!
  Legal Ownership of "is" was handed over to God (the Son) if you'd care to know. When once all the cats are herded into their proper spot, the Son presents it all back as a "finished product" to The Father.
  The entire holdup in the affair is that certain blockheads (who shall remain nameless) are being obtuse, and have a remarkably slow learning curve to boot! But as those blockheaded cats are (indeed) being herded the correct direction, they begin to "participate", they reflect a pattern in their lives which inheres and coheres with the much much larger pattern of the Covenant. Have I lost ya?
  Well, let's go back to Leviticus 19. I'm not going to cite the verses for you. Get off your duff already, and go read for yourself! My pont here? I believe that it was Saint Peter who repeats a small section of Lev. 19 as in "Be ye holy, as He is Holy". Now, I might be freely hallucinating there as to whom it is citing this passage in the N.T., but that is neither here nor there to the point we are currently making.
  I (as a journeyman plumber) hereby affirm that "be we holy" has a context, a framework, a regular pattern we might say. And it is NOT a form of magic. It is NOT a nice-guy delusion of having "quit sinning". Nor is it a further nagging about "right living". And it sure as heck has nothing to do with creepy ghost type junk!
  My first grade teacher (God rest her soul!) was Mrs. Corey. What a grand old lady! She must have been by my five year old estimate, about a million years old back in 1963. It was amazing how well she could still get around eh? But that is neither here nor there. . . My point about her, was that she would draw these swell five pointed stars on work well done. It really is too bad that I am so cyber-dense as to have not a clue as to how to insert a star diagram in this essay. Oh well, draw your own!
  The Lev. passage works fairly well with a five point diagram.
  The v2 command "You (yes you!) shall be holy" draws to mind the "volitional". That is you do have skin in the game. If you wish to play, you ante up. We begin by saying "yes Sir!". Now, there is an aspect here which needs correction right away in myself, and I think many others also.
  We have an extended view of monergism in that salvation is not something we contribute to. No sane person (nor I for that matter) have a beef with that, but who is talking about salvation here anyhow? Simply, there is visible in the Church; an unhealthy passivity, a type of drifting along with "the flow", which (although we are not eager to say it) is closely linked with our estimate of "what it means" to be holy. For Him to be saying (in essence) "Get off the fence, and stick your foot in it!" might sound like "a work" to some ears, and as such, to be avoided like the plague.
  And this is why covenant (big C) is so basic here!
  It is speaking an Oath! Upon His Honor, and for His Glory, a vast people from around the world, and across the age SHALL be gathered! The Lev. passage ain't about "coming to Jesus", you've done been drafted already. So, get the lead out! The transfer of goods (you) was negotiated "above your head", and your belief of this, is signal for you to begin to participate. There is an application of "try! do! fulfill!" for us, which is a dim reflection of the actual. So the first step is for us to quit our lousy denial. Your efforts are significant! Deal with it.
  Moving right along with Mrs. Corey then, Item 2 on the agenda is for us to treasure, to revere, to honor our parents? What in heck is that all about?
  You didn't get here from "nowhere" pal. And no matter how screwed up or weird Mom and Dad are (or were), the entry into this world was birth! This means that human institutions of lawful authority (Church, Family and State) are to be acknowledged, as having their set point "above". I think that it was John Cougar Melonhead who sung "I fight authority . . . authority always wins!". So page one says "I'm in!", whereas page two says "I buy the pattern".
  You see? Our problem is that we are in nearly constant denial about reality ITSELF!. We keep thinking that authority is itself nothing but a human tradition which was once upon a time built upon the premise "My war club is bigger than yours!". This aspect of (little h) holy affirms instead, that history is not an accident, and that the lawful structures of governance are truly binding upon conscience and life. So pay your taxes already and quit bellyaching about government, for such behavior is (technically) "unholy" in that it defies the "is" of "am", down in this neck of the woods.
  First "Oath", then "Hierarchy", what would be dinner item number three? Well, according to the text in question, it would be to "keep sabbaths". Uh, do what?
  Well, this might well be the Ethics/Morals area of the big Cov. which we were looking for earlier. After all, it draws us to Law. It reminds us of special creation and destroys the moronic assertions of "chance plus time equals reality". But it also speaks of "rest", and to be fair to those I was just hounding concerning "passivity" that might belong just about here.
  Now, the Adventists and the Jews buy the premise of the O.T. sabbaths as morally binding, whereas sane people affirm a new thing in earth!
  For t'was upon "the eighth day", the day of new beginnings(!); in which our Champion emerged from the dead. His rising is the dime upon which the sum total of "is" rotates! And so, Christians set aside Sunday as a kind of "sabbath", but it speaks of a "rest" from our works, a joining and uniting with The King in both life and death (and life again!). The ethic involved then, is a kind of gladness, a sense of release and a strangely heart-warming sense of being welcomed.
  Have you ever gone to somebodies' house and you are "on egshells"? Don't touch that vase! It is worth a small fortune (and so, apparently more than you are worth at least . . .) The sabbath then, is a kicking down of doors, a forced entry into the prison of my own rotten making. I built walls so to keep you out, and find (incidentally) that they also keep me in? So, there is a renewal, a reviving, a refreshing of which "keeping sabbath" is token. It is but the sane response (on our part) to His going enormously out of His way, so to find, so to call, so to retrieve traitors and fools like you and me!
  Mrs. Corey would be proud, we are already hitting the fourth corner of the star! Our small enactments of oath, authority and ethic has not gone unnoticed! We move then (via the Lev. text) onto the fun part.
  Demolition baby! We are tearing the house down! Okay, maybe I overstated it. I think (personally) that my "dream job" would be to blow stuff up, and so, am a tad biased here.
  We are not to serve, nor bend before, nor grant any validity to "idols". Our problem here is that we ain't got none . . . or so we say, at least! I have harped enough upon this particular topic elsewhere in this collection of essays. I will not weary you further today with yet another round of blather. Rather, and instead, I (today) simply point out that (if I am not freebasing just now), this would line up with the "Transcendant" element of Covenant (big C again).
  It would be just here that I most surely defy Otto.  There are some very real (and might I add disgusting?) entities "out there". No sane human ought be trafficking with these wrecks, who were once a part of "the hosts above". Simply, to run across these monstrosities is NOT to experience the holy! In fact, they are about as far from that as can be.
  These airish "daemons" are real, and they are damned. And we mean that literally by the way. The thing is, with a view to the Cov., The Maker has "found" the only way there could be, so to both condemn these enemies "above" (to below), plus shearing off their human slaves in the process. Uh, that would be the Cross of Jesus then?
  The prohibition against idols is thus an element of focus. That True Covenant affirms, and means to say that; "The I Am (Who Is, and Was, and Ever shall Be) has no true "rival", and certainly no equal nor "opposite"!". On his very best day, the devil of hell is but a sawed-off runt, a true nobody by comparison!
  The gap, the crevass between the loftiest angel, and the lowliest bacteria does not begin to describe the actual gap between The Holy One, and all of creation combined. He is "greater" at an infinite range? Wow.
  So, our participation in the pattern means that we take this distancing seriously, and then gasp at how He has chosen to bridge that very divide! There's your "seperation" pal, and; (It marvelously rejoined, and all to His praise.) say the faithful sons gathered!
  We sum up then, with chow time! The fifth point would be "Sanction", the blessings and the cursings of the Covenant. And at the heart of it, a tremendous "switch"! We, the lawfully accursed, receive the welcome due to the Loyal Son, and He (The Blessed) is sent packing; bearing our condemnation. The picture here in Lev. is "a meal". The offering having been accepted, they extended welcome (by Him) accept it, and so we view a "meal-eaten-together" as our fifth picture of the holy (little h).
  The Apostle determined to preach nothing but Christ, and Him crucified. We might add Him raised, Him ascended, and Him (one day) returning. But we do not wander from the marvel of Calvary and still do well.
  There are consequences, there are repercussions to any and all acts. Our problem is that we could never survive those consequences, and by that; I mean (plainly) Judgement. It is not only then, that our sin is placed upon Him. That to be sure! But His loyalty, His goodness, His clean heart and perfect track record is declared as ours? It is a gift. Or perhaps better, it is THE gift!
  Do you see what this means? Even those loyal champions who of old tossed the foe and his slaves out, and chained them down, (here), even those guys shield their eyes in the stupendous brilliance of "the Presence". We are being "made strong". Uh, why so?
  Believe me pal, you'll be wanting a serious dose of strength and perseverance . . . in order to stand where we are being drawn to.
  And that would be at His side!
  And that is how plumbers (or this one at least) view "be we holy!"

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