Archive for August, 2011

The Most Confusing Word

Hypostasis.

If you thought δικαιοσύνη was confusing, try ὑπόστασις…

Here are all 5 times the word appears in the New Testament, with the word hypostasis substituted for it’s translated equivalent:

  • 2 Cor. 9:4 “Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so hypostatic.”
  • 2 Cor. 11:17 “What I am saying with this boastful hypostasis, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool.”
  • Heb. 1:3 “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his hypostasis, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”
  • Heb. 3:14 “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original hypostasis firm to the end.”
  • Heb. 11:1 “Now faith is the hypostasis of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

I’m definitely in the stage where I know just enough Greek to be dangerous, but not enough to actually be helpful, so don’t try to draw any conclusions from these hypostatic observations. Hypostasis is just a really confusing word, that’s all.

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Atheistic Parables

British philosopher of religion Antony Flew (1923-2010), writing as an atheist in 1955, expanded upon a parable designed to show that there is no difference between (God as) an “invisible gardener” and there being “no gardener at all.”

Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds.

One explorer says, “Some gardener must tend this plot.”

The other disagrees, “There is no gardener.”

So they pitch their tents and set a watch.

No gardener is ever seen.

“But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.”

So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Well’s The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.)

But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry.

Yet still the Believer is not convinced. “But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible, to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.”

At last the Skeptic despairs, “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?”

John Frame counters with a parable of his own:

Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle.

A man was there, pulling weeds, applying fertilizer, trimming branches. The man turned to the explorers and introduced himself as the royal gardener. One explorer shook his hand and exchanged pleasantries.

The other ignored the gardener and turned away: “There can be no gardener in this part of the jungle,” he said; “this must be some trick.”

They pitch camp. Every day the gardener arrives, tends the plot. Soon the plot is bursting with perfectly arranged blooms.

“He’s only doing it because we’re here—to fool us into thinking this is a royal garden.”

The gardener takes them to a royal palace, introduces the explorers to a score of officials who verify the gardener’s status.

Then the skeptic tries a last resort: “Our senses are deceiving us. There is no gardener, no blooms, no palace, no officials. It’s still a hoax!”

Finally the believer despairs: “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does this mirage, as you call it, differ from a real gardener?”

—John M. Frame, “God and Biblical Language: Transcendence and Immanence,” God’s Inerrant Word, ed. J. W. Montgomery (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1974), p. 171.

HT: Justin Taylor

Harry Potter and the Alchemical Rings

Since Will is not one to toot his own horn (who am I trying to fool?), I thought I should point out that the first of two guest posts written by our very own William Sprague has been published here at the Hogwarts Professor. Hogwarts Professor is the blog of John Granger, who is a literary critic, Harry Potter scholar extraordinaire, and author of several books such as How Harry Cast His Spell: The Meaning Behind the Mania for J. K. Rowling’s Bestselling Books and Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle. I highly recommend his books; How Harry Cast His Spell has been a great help to me both in seeing the wonderful complexities and structure of the Harry Potter series and in interpreting literature in general.

The title of Will’s post at Hogwarts Professor is “The Connection of Ring Composition and Literary Alchemy in the Layout of the Seven Book Harry Potter Series.” While the title may be daunting, and the post may primarily be of interest to people who are familiar with the Harry Potter series (although a little familiarity with literary alchemy might help), Will makes some great points, and I for one am very excited to see them published.

Maybe a brief overview of literary alchemy is a good topic for a future post here at Getting Legs. We’ll see…

Apologetics in Perspective

John Frame is known for his triperspectival approach to knowledge, treated extensively in his Doctrine of the Knowledge of God: there is one Truth, but it can be viewed from different perspectives. These perspectives are:

  1. the normative,
  2. the situational, and
  3. the existential.

In brief, the normative perspective is God’s revealed truth: his Word, his Law. The situational perspective is the truth presented in the world around us, the situation in which we find ourselves. The existential perspective is how we experience the truth.

In his book Apologetics to the Glory of God, Frame presents three different aspects of apologetics:

  1. apologetics as proof,
  2. apologetics as defense, and
  3. apologetics as offense.

In a footnote, he equates these aspects of apologetics with his three perspectives of knowledge: apologetics as proof corresponds to the normative perspective, apologetics as defense corresponds to the situational perspective, and apologetics as offense corresponds to the existential perspective. He rather humorously concludes the footnote with, “You figure it out!”

While I have some preliminary ideas as to how these concepts might be related, I am going to give myself some time to think it over. Any thoughts?

Team Praha 2011 – Concluding Thoughts

Today is the last day of my team’s short term mission trip to Prague. I had hoped to do more regular updates throughout the trip here, but that would have been difficult with our schedule. So instead I would like to venture some concluding thoughts.

Erin Blake pointed out an important point while we were reading the Bible this afternoon that has stuck with me for a few hours. While reading Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, she noted that the Apostle must have made so many good Christian friends (not to mention met so many lost and hard hearted) yet had to always leave them behind after a relatively short while to fulfill his calling. She pointed out that we are similarly broken-hearted at leaving after so much edifying service in His name with so many amazing and faithful Christians in these foreign lands, and for a similar reason: we have been called home to fulfill our ministry.

We were sent here for a short while, and now we are going back home. It breaks our hearts to have made so many unbelieving friends and have to leave while they are yet in their sins. Moreover, the team itself has achieved a real unity in the Spirit that I have not experienced before in my life with a group this size. Days and nights were filled with stomachache-inducing laughter, boisterous public humiliation in the streets with musical theatre songs playing a prominent role, dancing in the rain in the mountains with the familiar voice of the dance teacher’s “never mind!”, for lack of a better word, ringing a seemingly constant refrain, jokes with merciless bites, and skipping through the streets of Prague while jumping in circles. More telling than the youthful abandon has been the times of weeping over the lost friends we made and over the hardness of the human heart. The extended and heartfelt prayers for strength in our joint service, and for each other’s particular burdens. The telling times were when we read an 8 year old’s confession that he hadn’t previously believed in God or His Kingdom, but that he did after the lessons this week. The telling times were the hours of honest and difficult questions that come from the mouths of babes. The telling times were the out of breath conversations while hiking with unbelieving teens through mountains more beautiful than words can describe and answering questions about the artistry of God’s hand in Creation. The telling times were sitting with a few team members on a bench at 10 at night looking over at the Charles Bridge and the Cathedral and the Castle and the river that separated us from them with the brilliant dancing lights on its surface while singing hymns to God and praying because of the awe inspiring and breathtaking beauty of the city. Some things you cannot capture with a camera. The telling times were so perfectly complete, that only the sort of God that we serve could have made them happen.

Today is the Sabbath of the Lord our God. When I look back on the weeks spent on this trip and the fruitfulness of the ministry that God had placed in front of us and the Spirit-filled joyful faithfulness with which my team had taken up the challenge, I could not have imagined a more glorious experience and my gratitude to God for all of it is genuine. This Sabbath is the day that we see that God’s work through our team on this trip is done. It has indeed been very good.

-To Him Who called us out of the darkness to the inheritance in light, to the praise of His glorious grace in the Church, be glory, and honor both now and forevermore. Amen