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  • Symbolism and Truth

    hi, interested to hear others' opinions on the topic of truth and its relationship to any form of figurative language or symbolism...and ultimately, how this relationship relates to the nature of "hidden" or esoteric meaning.

    For example, when Jesus informed onlookers that He would rebuild the temple in three days (Jn 2:19), none of us (in retrospect) would accuse Him of lying. On the other hand, in what way was the truth of His statement hidden from His detractors? Is it reliable to say that truth spoken figuratively has a diminished effectiveness than if given specific application, i.e., if the temple had been literally destroyed and rebuilt in three days, would this truth outweigh or be more relevant than the figurative sense of it as seen in CHrist's death and resurrection? Is one form of truth more important or consequential than the other, and why? And, why does figurative truth seem to be not easily seen by the religious mind?

    Comments?

  • #2
    I believe what you see in the example you just gave, is that there are many different layers of revelation.

    One can read " If you destroy this temple it will be rebuilt in three day", and apply it literally, then run around saying 'Jesus is not God because the temple was not destroyed, thus not rebuilt in three days.' OR you can go into a deeper level of revelation and find that Jesus said "I am the chief corner stone"...and other such verses which tell us that Jesus is the temple of which he spoke.

    Deeper revelation and knowledge of God, comes with the willingness to dig deeper into His word and not rip single verses out of context and accept the superficial ; ie top level meaning, when it is clear logically that the top level meaning is not what is intended.

    Also, As one reads the word, one must already believe that God is not a liar and so, when you or I do not understand what the word is saying, we need lean not on our own lack of understanding and wait until God reveals the truth He is attempting to give us.

    Do you trust that Gods word is true? If yes, than when you do not quickly understand the initial level meaning.. Wait until he draws you deeper.

    dht

    Comment


    • #3
      He spoke of the temple of his body, as in this verse:

      1 Cor 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
      The LORD is my Miracle

      G_d was gracious He has shown favor


      Hope is a seed
      God plants in our hearts
      to remind us
      there are better things ahead.
      -Holley Gerth

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Bernie View Post
        For example, when Jesus informed onlookers that He would rebuild the temple in three days (Jn 2:19), none of us (in retrospect) would accuse Him of lying.
        It wasn't until after Jesus was raised from the dead that the apostles understood what Jesus meant. John wrote, "but He was speaking of the temple of His body." Jesus said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." His detractors started arguing with Him about it, but they completely missed the point. This comes out when Jesus was being falsely accused before the high priest.
        Mark 14:57-59
        Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, 58 "We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.'" 59 But not even then did their testimony agree.
        On the other hand, in what way was the truth of His statement hidden from His detractors?
        It was intentionally hidden from them by the fact that He didn't speak plainly to them. Because they rejected Him, it was not given to them to understand. His disciples didn't really understand either at that point but they believed Him anyway. Later when Jesus rose from the dead, they understood and believed.
        John 2:21-22

        21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.
        At the time, they were just as clueless. Even when Jesus told them plainly that He was going to be killed and that He would rise again the third day, they still didn't understand.
        Luke 18:31-34

        Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. 33 They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again."

        34 But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.
        The difference is that they believed Jesus even though they didn't always understand what He was saying.


        Is it reliable to say that truth spoken figuratively has a diminished effectiveness than if given specific application, i.e., if the temple had been literally destroyed and rebuilt in three days, would this truth outweigh or be more relevant than the figurative sense of it as seen in CHrist's death and resurrection?
        The application of what Jesus said was understood when it was fulfilled. Before that, only Jesus understood what He meant. He was speaking of the temple of His body, not about the one built by Herod.

        Is one form of truth more important or consequential than the other, and why? And, why does figurative truth seem to be not easily seen by the religious mind?
        I'm not sure I understand what you mean. The death, burial and resurrection is the most important truth that there is, and it is not a figurative truth. Jesus applied figurative language to a literal truth when speaking to those who rejected Him, but I don't think they didn't understand because of "the religious mind." They didn't understand because they rejected Him.
        Love In Christ,
        Tanya






        Comment


        • #5
          Hi all, thanks for responding.

          dht:
          I believe what you see in the example you just gave, is that there are many different layers of revelation.
          I agree.

          One can read " If you destroy this temple it will be rebuilt in three day", and apply it literally, then run around saying 'Jesus is not God because the temple was not destroyed, thus not rebuilt in three days.' OR you can go into a deeper level of revelation and find that Jesus said "I am the chief corner stone"...and other such verses which tell us that Jesus is the temple of which he spoke.
          Again, I agree.

          Deeper revelation and knowledge of God, comes with the willingness to dig deeper into His word and not rip single verses out of context and accept the superficial
          True...but it's also true, I think, that sometimes single verses are sufficient to stand on their own.

          ie top level meaning, when it is clear logically that the top level meaning is not what is intended.
          I'm not sure what you mean here, dht. Could you elaborate?

          Also, As one reads the word, one must already believe that God is not a liar and so, when you or I do not understand what the word is saying, we need lean not on our own lack of understanding and wait until God reveals the truth He is attempting to give us.
          Okay, but this takes us back to one of my original questions: assuming that there is truth "hidden" in the spiritual language of Scripture, why is it hidden and how? Is literal truth greater or smaller in value than figurative truth in your opinion, and why?

          Greetings, ACCM....

          He spoke of the temple of his body, as in this verse:
          True, Paul taught this, but it was considerably after the fact of Jesus declaring He'd rebuild the temple in three days. Why do you suppose Jesus chose not to tell His detractors that He was speaking figuratively? Was He being purposefully misleading, and if so, why? If you or I use this approach on someone, we'd likely be charged with being dishonest and evasive.

          Howdy TanyaP,

          It was intentionally hidden from them [Jesus' detractors] by the fact that He didn't speak plainly to them. Because they rejected Him, it was not given to them to understand. His disciples didn't really understand either at that point but they believed Him anyway. Later when Jesus rose from the dead, they understood and believed.
          Good point. What's interesting to me (re your last sentence in the aboe quote) is that the apostles accepted as truth that He was speaking figuratively. Many who do so today are often declared "spiritualizers" by fellow Christians. How do we know who is a spiritualizer [in its negative connotation as someone who twists truth to put forth his or her own interpretation] and who actually has spiritual understanding in your opinion? You noted that the apostles "believed Jesus even though they didn't always understand what He was saying." How do we know we might not hear truth framed in figurative language and not believe it? If so, what would the significance of this be in your opinion?

          Quote:
          Is one form of truth more important or consequential than the other, and why? And, why does figurative truth seem to be not easily seen by the religious mind?

          I'm not sure I understand what you mean. The death, burial and resurrection is the most important truth that there is, and it is not a figurative truth. Jesus applied figurative language to a literal truth when speaking to those who rejected Him, but I don't think they didn't understand because of "the religious mind." They didn't understand because they rejected Him.
          Well, those who opposed Jesus were the religious hierarchy of God's chosen people. They were very religious people, but received not the truth. I believe there is a powerful dualism in Scripture, and thus agree completely with you that the Lord's death and reurrection consisted in a literal truth. I believe the literal and spiritual compliment and agree with one another, as all truth should logically do. Yet you're correct that some heard and believed--and presumably their belief preceded the reception of His words--while others' hearts were set against Him and heard/believed not.

          In light of this, is it possible that Christians can be set harshly against certain truths and antagonistic toward it as many of the Jews were in Jesus' day? The phrase "religious mind" was merely a reference to the fact that those who opposed Christ publicly were decidedly religious in nature, but isn't it possible that this same spiritual "deafness" can afflict Christians as well?

          Comment


          • #6

            ie top level meaning, when it is clear logically that the top level meaning is not what is intended.
            I'm not sure what you mean here, dht. Could you elaborate?


            Also, As one reads the word, one must already believe that God is not a liar and so, when you or I do not understand what the word is saying, we need lean not on our own lack of understanding and wait until God reveals the truth He is attempting to give us.
            Okay, but this takes us back to one of my original questions: assuming that there is truth "hidden" in the spiritual language of Scripture, why is it hidden and how? Is literal truth greater or smaller in value than figurative truth in your opinion, and why?
            When I say "Top level" meaning, I am speaking of what you see is what you get. A person may read the verse which says "He gathers us under the shadow of his wing, as a mother hen gathers her chicks." and conclude that God has wings like a hen.
            We cannot always depend that everything in Gods word is literal. There are analogies, parables, figurative language... and levels upon level within each.

            I do believe this is why God said that we cannot live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Man has a tendency to be lazy and not search out the whole counsel. God's word is the tool we use to interpret God's word. Example, to understand the book of revelation properly, you must first know the other 65 books of the bible.

            The things of God are hidden from those who do not have God's Spirit in them. The things of God cannot be understood by a man in the flesh. Deep calls unto Deep. Spirit unto Spirit.

            God has given us His word and reveals it to us as He measure it. He will never give us more than we can handle so he slowly unfolds it over time, building upon a firm foundation , He will build a house. Little by Little.

            Have you not ever read a scripture that you have read many times before and suddenly that scripture or group of scriptures, takes on a new life. they become a rhema word, a living and powerful word... You are sudden thrust into a new understanding because what you once read as words only, become your experience. As you apply His word through faith, (it) grows like a watered seed and brings forth much fruit.


            dht
            Last edited by dhtraveler; Dec 4th 2007, 12:07 AM. Reason: added quotes

            Comment


            • #7
              What's interesting to me (re your last sentence in the aboe quote) is that the apostles accepted as truth that He was speaking figuratively.
              I don't think they understood it at all. They just plain didn't get it for a long time. There were times when Jesus spoke literally and they thought he must have been speaking figuratively. Case in point:
              Mark 9:9-10
              Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.
              Other times Jesus spoke figuratively and His disciples thought He meant it literally:
              John 6:53

              53 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.
              John 6:66-67
              From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"
              It wasn't because the apostles understood what Jesus was saying. They believed in Him and stuck by Him in spite of the fact that there was much they didn't understand. Peter articulated it, and showed that they understood the one necessary thing:
              John 6:68-69
              But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
              Many who do so today are often declared "spiritualizers" by fellow Christians. How do we know who is a spiritualizer [in its negative connotation as someone who twists truth to put forth his or her own interpretation] and who actually has spiritual understanding in your opinion?
              We would have to compare what they were saying with the Scriptures. Those who tend to over-spiritualize things usually take things completely out of context and make it say something wholly other than what the author obviously intended, sometimes contradicting the very passage they are using. True spiritual understanding will manifest in the truth. There will be no deceitful handling or other abuse of Scripture.

              You noted that the apostles "believed Jesus even though they didn't always understand what He was saying." How do we know we might not hear truth framed in figurative language and not believe it? If so, what would the significance of this be in your opinion?
              Maybe if you gave an example I could better understand the question. The double-negative throws me off a bit, and I'm having a difficult time getting your point.


              Well, those who opposed Jesus were the religious hierarchy of God's chosen people. They were very religious people, but received not the truth.
              Some, but not all, of those who oppose(d) Him are (were) religious. And some of the religious people received Him too, even though they didn't understand Him all that well either (cf. Nicodemus, John 3, 7:50; 19:39).

              It's true that the leadership in general did reject Jesus. But the general population also rejected Him, and the same is true today.

              I believe there is a powerful dualism in Scripture, and thus agree completely with you that the Lord's death and reurrection consisted in a literal truth.
              I'm not sure I understand what you mean by that. The death and resurrection was literal. I don't really understand what you mean by saying it "consisted in a literal truth."

              In light of this, is it possible that Christians can be set harshly against certain truths and antagonistic toward it as many of the Jews were in Jesus' day?
              Well like what, for example?
              Love In Christ,
              Tanya






              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bernie View Post
                And, why does figurative truth seem to be not easily seen by the religious mind?

                Comments?
                Because Jesus wanted to hide truth. Mark 4 tells us he spoke in parables in order to hide the truth. But those with a pure and humble heart, like his disciples (Matt 13), will understand because he will teach it to them.

                It is the glory of God to conceal a matter. But it is the glory of kings to search it out.
                Matt 9:13
                13 "But go and learn what this means: ' I DESIRE COMPASSION,AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
                NASU

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hello TanyaP,

                  Thanks for your response.
                  We would have to compare what they were saying with the Scriptures. Those who tend to over-spiritualize things usually take things completely out of context and make it say something wholly other than what the author obviously intended, sometimes contradicting the very passage they are using. True spiritual understanding will manifest in the truth. There will be no deceitful handling or other abuse of Scripture.
                  Interesting statement. A reasonable case can be made that those who claim truth lie only or even primarily in 'what the author intended' is itself the product of a faulty interpretive system. Harsh literalists typically impose this guideline, though it's not biblical.

                  Take for example the example of Moses as a symbolic Christ in the Exodus, a very common type generally recognized through much of Christianity. There's no evidence to suggest that author(s) of Numbers and Exodus had any inkling that God used Moses and historical circumstance to typify Moses as Christ reconcilliator and Redeemer. In fact, if we were to stick to the "author intent" principle, all types would have to be dismissed as figments of man's imaginations because typology, lying beyond the grasp and attention of the author of any Biblical work has been woven into the structure of history itself. If types are legitimately placed in Scripture by God, the tenets of popular, modern literalism must be called into question, as the two stand opposed.

                  This brings the demand that "We would have to compare what[spiritualizers] were saying with the Scriptures. Those who tend to over-spiritualize things usually take things completely out of context" into question. If man-made interpretive principles are flawed, how can one discern truth 'context'? If the rules of context are designed to control what Scripture is allowed to say, how can truth be properly discerned in a spiritual interpretation? Author intent can only be of only very limited value, if the Bible is an inspired, spiritual book.

                  Is it possible that demand for the most literal interpretation is itself of the same defective nature as that of the religious leaders of Jesus' day, who demanded strict literalism from the Lord? The Lord Himself suggests this when He told them, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others." (Mat 23:23)

                  Corruption is shown here to automatically tend toward literal particulars (the sacrifice of things) while the weightier provisions are by nature ethereal and spiritual (justice, mercy).

                  My attempt here is to explore the relationship between truth and meaning. My point in the above is that there seems to be an animosity between literal and spiritual, and IMO the power of this animosity itself is caused by the degradation of truth. Truth is a slippery thing, though, awfully hard to lay hands on.

                  Quote:
                  You noted that the apostles "believed Jesus even though they didn't always understand what He was saying." How do we know we might not hear truth framed in figurative language and not believe it? If so, what would the significance of this be in your opinion?

                  Maybe if you gave an example I could better understand the question. The double-negative throws me off a bit, and I'm having a difficult time getting your point.
                  Sorry, the above wasn't very clearly put. At base, I tend to think of all information as framed in some ratio of truth and falsity. Your, my and everyone's personal theology, for example, are particular systems of information existing in some unknown [to us, not to God] measure of each. Assuming the Bible to be wholly true and inerrant in some real sense, I'm curious to know to what degree any person is able to discern Scripture's truth.

                  Truth is changeable in particualrs, but seems to have the aspect of eternality in universals, as re Jesus' words above. Justice and mercy are universal qualities, while mint, dill and cummin are material particulars which the mind wrongly fastens on as 'good'. It's true to say an orange is round, but that truth doesn't stick around in particulars; the orange eventually rots and loses its attributes (shape, color, tartness, etc.) and the truth "the orange is round" becomes false in regard to that particular orange.

                  When we debate True and False meaning in Scripture, we use a combination of literal and spiritual components, which often seem at odds, as you appear to confirm in noting the errors of spiritualizing where it fails to conform to literal standards. In light of this, given that literal or spiritual meaning, both possessed or apprehended, exists in some combination of true and false, isn't it not merely possible but likely that the literalist who disbelieves the spiritualizer as well as the spiritualizer who disdains the literalist both stand in danger of missing truth the other (or Scriputre) has to say?

                  I'm not sure I understand what you mean by that. The death and resurrection was literal. I don't really understand what you mean by saying it "consisted in a literal truth."
                  I meant exactly what you stated here, that death and resurrection was literal...no more or less.

                  Quote:
                  In light of this, is it possible that Christians can be set harshly against certain truths and antagonistic toward it as many of the Jews were in Jesus' day?

                  Well like what, for example?
                  To delve into particular examples would be detrimental to the purpose of the thread. It'd take us off into debate about this or that particular belief and lose sight of the more important questions, imo. What I'm interested in investigating is the nature of our own standards of testing truth claims and their effectiveness or lack thereof. This seems to me to go hand in hand with one's affiliation to truth itself. I.e., what makes one person "hear" a truth while another "hears" something very different?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Bernie View Post
                    Interesting statement. A reasonable case can be made that those who claim truth lie only or even primarily in 'what the author intended' is itself the product of a faulty interpretive system. Harsh literalists typically impose this guideline, though it's not biblical.
                    What is a "harsh" literalist?

                    Take for example the example of Moses as a symbolic Christ in the Exodus, a very common type generally recognized through much of Christianity.
                    Seeing Moses as a type of Christ isn't the same as spiritualizing, for example, the story of the Exodus. One can see the story of the exodus of the children of Israel as literal history, while also recognizing that Moses acted in the role of savior to the Israelites and thus was a type of Christ.

                    Seeing Moses as a type of Christ comes from noting the similarities between the two, not spiritualizing the story.

                    There's no evidence to suggest that author(s) of Numbers and Exodus had any inkling that God used Moses and historical circumstance to typify Moses as Christ reconcilliator and Redeemer. In fact, if we were to stick to the "author intent" principle, all types would have to be dismissed as figments of man's imaginations because typology, lying beyond the grasp and attention of the author of any Biblical work has been woven into the structure of history itself.
                    The idea of typology is Biblical. I think it's a different issue than spiritualizing. A type is a prophetic symbol that isn't revealed until the antitype or fulfillment occurs. It is a foreshadowing of something, but not the thing itself. Adam was a type of Christ but not Christ Himself. Adam was a literal historical person, and so was Christ.

                    If types are legitimately placed in Scripture by God, the tenets of popular, modern literalism must be called into question, as the two stand opposed.
                    I don't know what you mean by popular modern literalism. The grammatical historical hermeneutic is not in opposition to typology, because literalness is not in conflict with the idea of a type. Moses was a real person as well as a type of Christ. Spiritualizing is when one rejects the idea of Moses as a literal historical person, but only as a story symbolizing Christ.

                    This brings the demand that "We would have to compare what[spiritualizers] were saying with the Scriptures. Those who tend to over-spiritualize things usually take things completely out of context" into question. If man-made interpretive principles are flawed, how can one discern truth 'context'?
                    The context is the setting of the particular passage. It is the whole passage and the book, other writings of the author, the language, the geographical, cultural, and historical setting.


                    If the rules of context are designed to control what Scripture is allowed to say, how can truth be properly discerned in a spiritual interpretation? Author intent can only be of only very limited value, if the Bible is an inspired, spiritual book.
                    Context isn't to put restraints on what Scripture "is allowed to say," it provides a framework in which it can be understood by all. This is why when Paul went to Berea, the Jews there were able to hear what he had to say, searched the Scriptures to see if what he said was true, and as a result, many of them believed.

                    Is it possible that demand for the most literal interpretation is itself of the same defective nature as that of the religious leaders of Jesus' day, who demanded strict literalism from the Lord?
                    I don't agree with your premise. Their problem wasn't that they demanded strict literalism. He came against their traditions and their hypocrisy. They were whitewashed tombs, looking good on the outside but being full of evil inside.

                    The Lord Himself suggests this when He told them, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others." (Mat 23:23)
                    The problem wasn't that they were literal. The weightier matters of the law were not hidden in spiritualized interpretations of the law of tithing. The commands about justice, mercy, and faithfulness were plainly set forth in the law.

                    Corruption is shown here to automatically tend toward literal particulars (the sacrifice of things) while the weightier provisions are by nature ethereal and spiritual (justice, mercy).
                    Jesus was not charging them with being too literal. He charged them with hypocrisy. They made a big show of certain aspects of the law where it suited them, and neglected those aspects of the law that required them to treat others the same way they would want to be treated.

                    My attempt here is to explore the relationship between truth and meaning. My point in the above is that there seems to be an animosity between literal and spiritual, and IMO the power of this animosity itself is caused by the degradation of truth. Truth is a slippery thing, though, awfully hard to lay hands on.
                    I don't see any animosity between literal and spiritual. I don't see any slipperiness in the truth. That which is spiritual has its basis in that which is literal. The literal truth of Jesus' death and bodily resurrection, for example, is not in conflict with the spiritual reality that through faith in Him, we can live a new life of godliness. And this spiritual truth is not in conflict with the hope of a future resurrection of our bodies and glorification with Him.

                    Sorry, the above wasn't very clearly put. At base, I tend to think of all information as framed in some ratio of truth and falsity. Your, my and everyone's personal theology, for example, are particular systems of information existing in some unknown [to us, not to God] measure of each. Assuming the Bible to be wholly true and inerrant in some real sense, I'm curious to know to what degree any person is able to discern Scripture's truth.
                    1 Cor 13:12
                    For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
                    NKJV


                    Truth is changeable in particualrs, but seems to have the aspect of eternality in universals, as re Jesus' words above. Justice and mercy are universal qualities, while mint, dill and cummin are material particulars which the mind wrongly fastens on as 'good'.
                    Things like justice, mercy, and faithfulness have no reality in themselves unless there is some kind of framework in which they can be manifested. You're trying to divorce what you call 'spiritual' from 'literal' but one can't have justice in a purely 'spiritual' (as you seem to be defining it) sense. Justice is a literal thing, it just happens to be abstract. People cry out for justice because some wrong has been done. The wrong that has been done was not done in the abstract. Literal things happen, and someone is wronged, so justice needs to be executed against the person who wronged the victim. In order to execute justice, some literal things have to occur. The perpetrator has to be punished in some way. These things don't happen in a vacuum, in a spiritual realm apart from some kind of physically manifest action.

                    Mercy is the same thing. One shows mercy in physical, literal ways. A suffering person needs assistance. The assistance isn't a spiritual (as in non-literal or immaterial) thing. Mercy is shown when the suffering person is given some kind of aid. For example, the blind Bartimaeus who cried out to Jesus, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
                    Mark 10:51-52

                    51 So Jesus answered and said to him, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

                    The blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, that I may receive my sight."

                    52 Then Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.
                    Mercy was manifested to Bartimaeus very literally. He was given his sight. This miracle can also bear great spiritual truth, speaking to our own spiritual blindness. We cry out to Him; we are like blind Bartimaeus. We also plead with Him, "Rabboni, that I may receive my sight." This is what is in your heart, if my judgment of what you have written is correct. We want to be able to see the truth, that which is spiritual, but we are blind.

                    Bartimaeus was a literal person, and the miracle of his healing was literal and physical, and that was the manifestation of Jesus' mercy. Yet at the same time we can glean spiritual understanding and application from the story, without doing violence to the historicity of the record as it is written.

                    The problem I have with 'spiritualizing' is when a passage is denied its proper contextual interpretation.

                    Faithfulness also, while another abstract concept, nevertheless is not manifested apart from literal action. Israel was unfaithful to God as seen in their persistent idolatry. Those among them who were faithful, demonstrated their faithfulness in literal, tangible ways.

                    When we debate True and False meaning in Scripture, we use a combination of literal and spiritual components, which often seem at odds, as you appear to confirm in noting the errors of spiritualizing where it fails to conform to literal standards. In light of this, given that literal or spiritual meaning, both possessed or apprehended, exists in some combination of true and false, isn't it not merely possible but likely that the literalist who disbelieves the spiritualizer as well as the spiritualizer who disdains the literalist both stand in danger of missing truth the other (or Scriputre) has to say?
                    I don't believe truth is that hard to apprehend. We can only know in part, but the part that we can know, is still knowable. I don't think literal and spiritual truth will be in conflict with one another. If there is conflict, then one or the other is being wrongly understood -- either on the spiritual or the literal side. When the understanding is on the mark, there will be no conflict.

                    What I'm interested in investigating is the nature of our own standards of testing truth claims and their effectiveness or lack thereof. This seems to me to go hand in hand with one's affiliation to truth itself. I.e., what makes one person "hear" a truth while another "hears" something very different?
                    In the case of those to whom Jesus spoke, those who heard were those who were receptive to Him. They are the ones who have ears to hear spiritually.
                    Love In Christ,
                    Tanya






                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hello TanyaP,

                      Thanks for responding.

                      What is a "harsh" literalist?
                      One who contends for harsh literalism as the only or primary form of proper Bibical interpretation.

                      Seeing Moses as a type of Christ isn't the same as spiritualizing....The idea of typology is Biblical. I think it's a different issue than spiritualizing....Moses was a real person as well as a type of Christ. Spiritualizing is when one rejects the idea of Moses as a literal historical person, but only as a story symbolizing Christ.
                      I beg to differ. Methinks you define 'spiritualizing' to narrowly. I believe the case can be made that the intellectual power (targeted succinctly by Hume's statement, "The brute abstracts not") itself is a spiritual capacity. To merely discern and discuss Moses as a symbol of Christ or any other type is by nature a power made possible by spiritual capacity. Discerning spiritual meaning/truth from Scripture, whether in its base literal or deeper spiritual forms is discernment of prescriptive truth....and I believe this

                      I find it ironic that the modern literalist concedes types and symbolism, then relegates those they discern to the realm of the obvious to the exclusion of all else, depsite the fact that a rational study of the Lord's words and the principles they embrace almost universally point away from the literal and toward the abstract and spiritual (as noted in my previous post). Literalism is by its nature narrow controlling. Many of Jesus' criticisms of the religious hierarchy of His day speak directly to this point.

                      The following quote is from the site Biblical Typology: An Introduction:
                      "Typology (or typological symbolism) is a Christian form of biblical interpretation that proceeds on the assumption that God placed anticipations of Christ in the laws, events, and people of the Old Testament."
                      ( http://www.victorianweb.org/religion/type/typo11.html)

                      The point I was making in my previous post, illustrated in the quote above, is that strict adherence to manmade standards of interpretation are immediately thrown into question by the very idea that God has manipulated circumstances in time to paint typological/figurative references throughout the Bible. This is about as far from author intent as one can get.

                      The grammatical historical hermeneutic is not in opposition to typology, because literalness is not in conflict with the idea of a type.
                      Perhaps more accurately, popular grammatical historical hermeneutics allows those basic, most easily seen types because they do not interfere with it's structure? But we're getting off topic....

                      I don't see any animosity between literal and spiritual.
                      Neither do I, at base. I probably didn't word this as clearly as I could have. Animosity at base level is between truth and falsehood. The literal is the weakest form of truth and is subject to change (which fact the atheist mind fastens on and tries to drag all reality toward the literal and particuar (read material). He does so because he finds comfort there (read absence of normative standards). I believe all religion, Christianity included, tend toward the literal as a means escape from the same pressure (Truth) the atheist hates. This said, there does exist animosity between literal and spiritual because the natural bent of the religious mind toward the stricter forms of literalism creates a blockage of truth...and this adherence becomes, to varying degrees, a falsehood of its own. Hence, the animosity, which again boils down to the antithesis between true and fasle.

                      Their problem wasn't that they demanded strict literalism. He came against their traditions and their hypocrisy. They were whitewashed tombs, looking good on the outside but being full of evil inside.
                      And here is an example of what I'm talking about. The focus of the literalist is on PARTICULARS, in which he sees Jesus' detractors as evil individuals. On a broader, more abstract and spiritual level, Christ was not showing us in those who opposed Him bad people, He was holding a mirror up to all who read the Bible. Those who read the NT and see "those bad Pharisees" stand condemned, because the great type here is of the human heart (spirit) itself. He wasn't showing us bad people, He was showing us ourselves. Bad people didn't murder Christ, you and I did. This is an example of the animosity between the literal and spiritual.

                      Listen: "Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man." (Mat 15:17-20)
                      Note the comparison of literal to universal. First reference is to particuar reality (eating of 'wrong' foods) while Jesus leads away from this to spiritaul causes welling up from within, which have nothing to do with food itself.

                      Things like justice, mercy, and faithfulness have no reality in themselves unless there is some kind of framework in which they can be manifested. You're trying to divorce what you call 'spiritual' from 'literal' but one can't have justice in a purely 'spiritual' (as you seem to be defining it) sense.
                      You're not understanding me. I accept as necessary that literal and spiritual are manifestations of the same reality. Aquinas and the medievals taught this and I draw a good portion of my own theology from them.

                      People cry out for justice because some wrong has been done. The wrong that has been done was not done in the abstract.
                      Read the Mat 15 quote above....it claims the opposite. Sin merely finds its expression in literal particulars, but is actually from evil in the spirit. Don't believe me if you wish, but believe the Son of God who taught it.

                      If there is conflict, then one or the other is being wrongly understood -- either on the spiritual or the literal side. When the understanding is on the mark, there will be no conflict.
                      Precisely as I see it. In the end, the perfection and unity of truth will rule the day.

                      In the case of those to whom Jesus spoke, those who heard were those who were receptive to Him. They are the ones who have ears to hear spiritually.
                      Agreed. What were the prerequisites of those who heard? What causes hearing? Is the hearing physical (sound waves striking ear drums, translated into concepts in consciousness) or spiritual? What do you think is truth's relationship to hearing in either sense?

                      Btw, thanks for the lively exchange, TanyaP.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        [quote=Bernie;1461450]
                        One who contends for harsh literalism as the only or primary form of proper Bibical interpretation.
                        What I am trying to get at is, what do you mean by HARSH literalism? Do you mean extreme literalism, as in nothing in Scripture can be understood figuratively?

                        Discerning spiritual meaning/truth from Scripture, whether in its base literal or deeper spiritual forms is discernment of prescriptive truth
                        I don't have any problem with that. I believe in understanding Scripture spiritually. In fact unless one has the Holy Spirit and is thus spiritual, one cannot understand Scripture, even if one can understand the sentences.

                        I find it ironic that the modern literalist concedes types and symbolism, then relegates those they discern to the realm of the obvious to the exclusion of all else, depsite the fact that a rational study of the Lord's words and the principles they embrace almost universally point away from the literal and toward the abstract and spiritual (as noted in my previous post).
                        All of what Jesus said was spiritual.
                        John 6:63-64
                        It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
                        Literalism is by its nature narrow controlling. Many of Jesus' criticisms of the religious hierarchy of His day speak directly to this point.
                        Well maybe if you define what you mean by literalism I will understand better what it is you're trying to say. I can't really tell what it is you're rejecting. You believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead, yet you're saying that literalism is narrow and controlling. Is it wrong to believe that there are things in Scripture that should be understood literally?

                        When Jesus spoke in parables, He wasn't really talking about soil and seeds, dough and leaven, birds and trees. Are you saying that a "harsh literalist" doesn't recognize Jesus' figurative language?

                        The point I was making in my previous post, illustrated in the quote above, is that strict adherence to manmade standards of interpretation are immediately thrown into question by the very idea that God has manipulated circumstances in time to paint typological/figurative references throughout the Bible. This is about as far from author intent as one can get.
                        1 Peter 1:10-12
                        Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven things which angels desire to look into.
                        I probably didn't word this as clearly as I could have. Animosity at base level is between truth and falsehood. The literal is the weakest form of truth
                        How is the literal the weakest form of truth? Jesus died and rose again. He literally died, and He literally came back to life physically. That is the most powerful truth in all of human history. Truth ultimately manifests in some way. If there is no manifestation of truth, then how can it have any power? But manifestation requires something that is literal, no matter how figuratively that truth is expressed or taught.


                        And here is an example of what I'm talking about. The focus of the literalist is on PARTICULARS, in which he sees Jesus' detractors as evil individuals. On a broader, more abstract and spiritual level, Christ was not showing us in those who opposed Him bad people, He was holding a mirror up to all who read the Bible. Those who read the NT and see "those bad Pharisees" stand condemned, because the great type here is of the human heart (spirit) itself. He wasn't showing us bad people, He was showing us ourselves. Bad people didn't murder Christ, you and I did. This is an example of the animosity between the literal and spiritual.
                        Excellent point. I agree. Yet I also believe that there were literal Pharisees and Sadduccees, and there were also was a literal Mary who was not one of them. If one looks at the Pharisee and sees himself, he will either be convicted and repent, or he will refuse to see it. Each character in Scripture can be seen in an archetypal sense, and we can indeed see ourselves in them. If the shoe fits... repent.
                        Heb 4:12-13
                        12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
                        2 Tim 3:16-17
                        16 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.
                        It sounds to me as if you want to completely dispense with any literal understanding of Scripture, but I think by doing so, you become guilty of the very thing you accuse these so-called "harsh literalists" of doing, but on the flip-side. It's like the Pharisees vs. the Sadducees. They were both wrong, albeit in different ways.


                        Listen: "Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man." (Mat 15:17-20)
                        Note the comparison of literal to universal. First reference is to particuar reality (eating of 'wrong' foods) while Jesus leads away from this to spiritaul causes welling up from within, which have nothing to do with food itself.
                        Yes, that's easy to see, as Jesus plainly explains Himself in the passage. When I think of people who wrongly "spiritualize" things, it isn't when they understand the things that are spiritual. It is when they take something that is meant one way, as if it is meant a completely different way, twisting the Scripture to prove their own points, handling the word of God in a deceitful way in order to accomplish some goal that they have.
                        Love In Christ,
                        Tanya






                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Hi TanyaP,

                          Is it wrong to believe that there are things in Scripture that should be understood literally? .....It sounds to me as if you want to completely dispense with any literal understanding of Scripture, but I think by doing so, you become guilty of the very thing you accuse these so-called "harsh literalists" of doing, but on the flip-side.
                          The 'sound' you hear of me wanting to dispense with any literal understanding of Scripture may be due to some bias in your perception, TanyaP. You appear to have missed my addressing this issue in my last post....
                          "You're not understanding me. I accept as necessary that literal and spiritual are manifestations of the same reality. Aquinas and the medievals taught this and I draw a good portion of my own theology from them." Not only the medieval theologians, but most of the older mystics also maintained (which I accept) that literal and spiritual are necessary constituents of a single reality. I'm not against literal interpretation, I'm against the degree to which modern literalism tends to be controlling, often (certainly not always...I hold orthodoxy in high respect) to the detriment of truth. How this is so Jesus shows us in the NT. I'm not criticising you, I'm criticising us. When Christianity reaches the day we can no longer criticize ourselves, we're in trouble... "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?" (2Cor 13:5)

                          The term harsh literalism is another way of saying excessive literalism.

                          If one looks at the Pharisee and sees himself, he will either be convicted and repent, or he will refuse to see it. Each character in Scripture can be seen in an archetypal sense, and we can indeed see ourselves in them. If the shoe fits... repent.
                          Well put. But we often repent of some things while holding to other evils. And if we extrapolate this out, the particular elements of most facets of the faith disolve into a fragmented mass of saved/not saved elements within every individual. I.e., we stuggle with some things and stand strong in others. Every individual is, at any particular moment in time, a fragmented conglomerate of true and false, hearing and not hearing, illumination and failed understanding, good and evil, truth and falsehood, etc.

                          When I think of people who wrongly "spiritualize" things, it isn't when they understand the things that are spiritual. It is when they take something that is meant one way, as if it is meant a completely different way, twisting the Scripture to prove their own points, handling the word of God in a deceitful way in order to accomplish some goal that they have.
                          In the spirit of the OP, let's address on this. How do you or I know that when someone spiritualizes he or she is actually out in left field? The Pharisees undoubtedly all got together shook their heads at the heretic from Nazareth, sure of themselves to the point of arogance re their standing with God and in truth, that this upstart was of the devil (which, of course, they accused Him of).

                          In the set of circumstances in which "A" offers a spiritual proposition/interpretation of Scripture and "B" denounces the interpretation as false, what is the proper test for correctly determining who is right? Within Christianity, Calvinists and Arminians have been going at one another for over 400 years. Both use generally the same interpretive methodology (heavily literal), yet they arrive at very different salvational pictures. Both claim to be more true than the other. We have in either instance three players, Truth "A" and "B", or Truth Calvinist or Arminian. Because truth logically attains the perfection of pure unity, and there is disunity in either set, from whence arises the disunity or falsity...and how is unity with absolute Truth attained?

                          What blocked the "hearing" of the Pharisees? This is actually the same state of affairs as the above sets of circumstances...there is in the equation a lack of the internal (meaning in the human intellect) uniting with external truth. How is this overcome?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Hi Bernie,

                            Originally posted by Bernie View Post
                            I'm not against literal interpretation, I'm against the degree to which modern literalism tends to be controlling, often (certainly not always...I hold orthodoxy in high respect) to the detriment of truth. How this is so Jesus shows us in the NT. I'm not criticising you, I'm criticising us. When Christianity reaches the day we can no longer criticize ourselves, we're in trouble... "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?" (2Cor 13:5)

                            The term harsh literalism is another way of saying excessive literalism.
                            Please help me out here! What do you mean by excessive literalism? Can you provide an example of someone using excessive literalism so I can understand what you're against?


                            But we often repent of some things while holding to other evils.
                            Well that's true, but I'm not sure what that has to do with excessive literalism. I know people who excessively spiritualize, who do not repent.

                            And if we extrapolate this out, the particular elements of most facets of the faith disolve into a fragmented mass of saved/not saved elements within every individual. I.e., we stuggle with some things and stand strong in others. Every individual is, at any particular moment in time, a fragmented conglomerate of true and false, hearing and not hearing, illumination and failed understanding, good and evil, truth and falsehood, etc.
                            Methinks thou dost overthink it. Each of us is growing in our faith and to the extent that we are able to hear, that we receive and use, God gives us more. This is how we grow. If we will not hear, then even what we have will be taken away. But I still don't know what that has to do with excessive literalism. Maybe it's because I still don't know what you mean by it. I do wish you would give me a clear definition.

                            In the spirit of the OP, let's address on this. How do you or I know that when someone spiritualizes he or she is actually out in left field? The Pharisees undoubtedly all got together shook their heads at the heretic from Nazareth, sure of themselves to the point of arogance re their standing with God and in truth, that this upstart was of the devil (which, of course, they accused Him of).
                            The problem though, wasn't that they failed to 'spiritualize' but that they didn't have the love of God in them.

                            In the set of circumstances in which "A" offers a spiritual proposition/interpretation of Scripture and "B" denounces the interpretation as false, what is the proper test for correctly determining who is right?
                            In some cases things are argued that really have no relevance one way or the other. The truth of Christ is what is essential, and if something is contrary to the revealed truth in Christ, then it is to be rejected.


                            Within Christianity, Calvinists and Arminians have been going at one another for over 400 years. Both use generally the same interpretive methodology (heavily literal), yet they arrive at very different salvational pictures. Both claim to be more true than the other. We have in either instance three players, Truth "A" and "B", or Truth Calvinist or Arminian. Because truth logically attains the perfection of pure unity, and there is disunity in either set, from whence arises the disunity or falsity...and how is unity with absolute Truth attained?
                            Unity is in Christ. Whether Calvinist or Arminian or something other than either, the end result for each believer is the same. Christ is not divided. The Calvinist argues that nobody can believe unless God makes him believe. The Arminian argues that man has free will and can choose to believe. Yet with both, those who believe the gospel are in Christ. Paul said something interesting about factions in the church:
                            1 Cor 11:18-19
                            18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.
                            What blocked the "hearing" of the Pharisees? This is actually the same state of affairs as the above sets of circumstances...there is in the equation a lack of the internal (meaning in the human intellect) uniting with external truth. How is this overcome?
                            Jesus tells us how it is overcome:
                            Mark 4:24-25
                            24 Then He said to them, "Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. 25 For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him."
                            Love In Christ,
                            Tanya






                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hi TanyaP,

                              The literalism thing is peripheral and irrelevant to the intent of the thread.

                              Methinks thou dost overthink it.
                              Possibly. Or perhaps the average Christian becomes content with what's taught and doesn't think these things through as thoroughly as they should.

                              The problem though, wasn't that they failed to 'spiritualize' but that they didn't have the love of God in them.
                              Okay, but you sidestepped the question: "How do you or I know that when someone spiritualizes he or she is actually out in left field?" This is about testing truth claims. Where and how, in disputed theologies/interpretations, do truth and falsity exist? What role do they play in the exchange?

                              The truth of Christ is what is essential, and if something is contrary to the revealed truth in Christ, then it is to be rejected.
                              Okay, how do you know when you have the truth of Christ and the other guy doesn't? When he fails to agree with you?

                              Unity is in Christ.
                              What does this statement mean in real terms?

                              Christ is not divided. The Calvinist argues that nobody can believe unless God makes him believe. The Arminian argues that man has free will and can choose to believe. Yet with both, those who believe the gospel are in Christ.
                              So would you 'overthink' this with me for a bit and agree that the information contained by either C or A can be said to be fragmented into subsets of information, some true and some false using as a point of reference, absolute Truth (meaning pure truth, or God's essence)?

                              Jesus tells us how it is overcome:

                              Mark 4:24-25
                              24 Then He said to them, "Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. 25 For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him."
                              What sort of "hearing" is the Lord talking about? What does He mean when He says "more will be given"? More what? What will be taken from the one who does not have? Try not to answer this from the doctrine you've been taught, think about it and use your own words and ideas.

                              I'm enjoying our exchange, TanyaP. You're an honorable correspondent, as re the saying 'honorable men (and women) may both agree and disagree honorably'.

                              Comment

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