Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Petrus@un mektubu, 1:12, 13

Melekler bu gerçekleri yanından büyük ölem duyarlar.

Bu nedenle zihinlerinizi eyleme hazırlayın. Ayık olun.
Let's look at a few more words.
  • melek -- angel
  • ölem -- longing, yearning, aspiration
  • duymak -- to hear, feel, sense
  • zihin -- mind, intellect
  • eylem -- action, operation
  • Ayık -- sober
We are those for whom the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. As Hebrews 1 points out, the Incarnation was not into angelic form, but into human. The angels had to sit this one out, for the most part. Stuff is going on today, in our lives, that they eagerly long to participate in, but it is our privilege, not their, to have God the Holy Spirit living within us.

Therefore, we need to get our brains in gear. The King James Bible translates this phase "Gird up the loins of your mind." The Turkish phrase commands us to "prepare your minds for action." This mandate starkly distinguishes real Christianity from mushy mysticism. It is a Hindu practice to endlessly chant a few nonsense syllables, until the brain checks out and direct experience checks in. Yes, you can generate apparently supernatural experiences by this means. Some scholars suspect that this is happening in various Christian circles. Get a few thousand people together, then saturate/marinate in the excitement, repeating endless simple-minded choruses until the brain goes offline, and Shazam! People have amazing experiences!

But are these experiences from the God Who strongly recommends wisdom? Who requires us to think through what we're doing?

Presuppositional apologetics asserts that Trinitarian Christianity is the ultimate basis for sanity. We, who experience a renewal of God's image in us, are equipped to think straight. The unbelievers need to steal our presuppositions to get anywhere.

Which reminds me -- I really do need to get a grip on where I'm going with my dissertation, this week!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The big picture

Yacub'un mektubu 4:8,9

Siz de sabredin. Yürekleriniz güçlendiren. Çünkü Rab'bın gelişi yakındır. Kardeşler, yargılanmamak için birbirinize karşı homurdanmayın. İşte, yargiç kapının önünde duruyor.

Be patient. Strengthen your hearts. For the Lord's coming is near. Brothers, don't judge one another, grumble against (one another). Watch out, the judge stands at the door.

Given the time when this letter was written, in the era leading up to the catastrophic destruction of Israel, the message is pretty clear. When major disaster is at the door, our petty nattering at each other is ludicrous. As the Russian Orthodox prelates discovered too late, and to their sorrow, the color of liturgical vestaments was not the most pressing issue on the agenda in 1917.

Siz ey vefasizlar ...

Yakub'un mektubu 4:4, 10

Siz ey vefasızlar, dünya ile dostluğun Tanrı'ya düşmanlık olduğunu bilmiyor musunuz? Dünya ile dost olmak isteyen, kendinini Tanrı'ya düşman eder.

Rab'bın önünde kendinizi alçaltın, O da sızı yüceltekectir.

  • vefa -- loyalty, faithfulness.
  • vefasız -- disloyalty, unfaithfullness.
  • vefasızlar -- those who are disloyal, unfaithful
And, three words that begin with d:

  • dünya --world
  • dost --friend
  • duşman --enemy
I have been giving a great deal of thought for many years to the issue of community. One useful insight is the sociological description of America as a "low-context" culture. People tned to keep to themselves. Other cultures around the world assume that everyone participates in the life of everyone else. An American lady in China who goes to the public bathing facility wonders why so many other ladies pick the same time to show up -- then discovers that she is the object of curiosity! On the other hand, if you have to move, a dozen neighbors show up without being asked. You need help, they assume it's their duty to offer it.

Over the last few years, I've eaten more frequently with Turkish Muslims than I have with Christians from my own church. You would think that we, who share the miracle of redemption, would be filled with eagerness to get together and compare notes. But, we were Americans before we were Christians, and our early programming is a challenge to overcome.

Muslims who become Christians lose their whole world. First, the job. Then, their family. Finally, in many occasions, their lives. Can we, as secularized and atomized Christians, invite these people over into our world? To be blunt, do we have a coherent world to invit them into? One Turkish Christian scholar cites research that suggests that around 70% of converts from Islam go back to their earlier faith. I grieve, when I realize how much of that can be blamed on our own shortcomings as Western Christians.

Yet, as these verses hammer home, everyone has to, at some point, "fish or cut bait." You can't be both the friend of God and the friend of the world that is fleeing from God's face. Granted, there is the "world that God so loved," the world of people and nature. Then, there is that elaborate scaffold of artifice and deception that we cherish as a shield from the face of God.

May God have mercy upon us all. As vs. 10 points out, we must humble ourselves in front of God -- who will then lift us up.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fussy, fastidious, nit-picking

The fun of reading one's scriptures in a different language is -- you see things with a slightly different perspective. For example, let's look at Yacub mektubu 3:1:

Kardeşlerim, biz öğreticilerin daha titiz bir yargılamadan geçeğimizi biliyorusunuz. Bu nedenle, çoğunuz öğretici olmayın.

My friends, you know that we teachers are subject to a stricter judgement. For this reason (bu nedenle), many of us (çoğunuz) teachers (öğretici) should not become (olmayın).

Daha titiz was the phrase that caught my attention this morning. Daha, of course, means "more." Titiz, "fussy, fastidious, particular." I'd been thinking for 38 years that the "stricter judgement" teachers struggled with was God's severe restraints upon those who would be shepherds of His flock. This morning, though, I got to wondering -- are would-be teachers and guides also setting themselves up as targets for petty sniping from other people?

In either case, painting a target on one's chest may not be the wisest course of action.

The problem in American Protestant culture is, the notion that the vocational ministry is somehow a superior calling, the badge of true and total commitment to the Lord and His Kingdom. I was talking to a young man the other day who is earning a four-year Batchelor of Divinity degree. Joining the ranks of those two freshly minted preacher boys who graduate every year for each available pulpit. If you are a guy who is lacking in tact, you ask such an one, "But what can you actually do? What kind of useful work are you trained for?"

My ambition is to remind folks that God's Kingdom is at least as big as His universe. Every worthy vocation, every honest line of endeavor, contributes to the honor of His Name, when we do it well.

Vincent Van Gogh would have been far happier had he realized that he could be more fruitful as a good painter than as a lousy preacher.

Soulless faith

In Turkish, the -s_z suffix means "without." If you like black coffee, no milk, you ask for "Sütsüz kahve, lütfen." No sugar? That would be şekersiz. Today's thought from İncil is from Yacub (James) 2:26:

Ruhsuz beden nasil ölüyse, eylemsiz iman da ölüdür.
Ruh is, I believe, a cognate with the Hebrew word for spirit. That's what it means, anyhow. As a body (beden) sans spirit is dead, even so faith sans works is dead.

Which means -- for those of us who live in terms of our faith, it is way too easy to slip into a fantasy world. If we are not acting on what we believe, we are amusing ourselves within the playgrounds of our imaginations. You may have seen the movie A Beautiful Mind. The protagonist took vacations into a parallel universe, wherein he was at the center of a global conspiracy, and the world depended on what he did next. He was also schizophrenic.

May God have mercy upon us.

Inappropriate suspician (James 1:6-9)

Hello again, fans and friends. Sorry to be away so long -- winding up course work while working full time soaked up a considerable amount of attention. Now, thank God, I "only" have a dissertation to complete -- and then, loans to pay off!

I was reading the first chapter of James (Yakub'un mektubu) this morning. Verse 6 (and a few after) especially impressed me:

Yalnız hiç kuşku duymadan, imanla istesin. Çünkü kuşku duyan kisi rüzgarın sürükleyip savurduğu deniz dalgasına benzer. Tüm yaşamında böyle deüişken, karasız olan adam Rab'den bir şey alacaüın, ummasşn.
Key words this morning -- kuşku duyan.
  • Kuşku -- suspician, doubt.
  • Kuşkusuz -- doubtlessly, beyond suspician.
  • Kuşku duymak -- to feel suspicious.
When we approach God in prayer, we must do so in faith. The natural thing, alas, is to feel suspicious of our God's motivations and reasons. After all, the serpent began undermining Eve's faith by questioning God's good intentions, and suggesting that the Almighty was stingy, withholding good things from mankind. How do we know that God has our best interests at heart, and is not just using us as pawns in some cosmic chess game?[1]

That's the adventure of faith -- coming to terms with an invisible, but very present, deity. Asking boldly, assuming, on the basis of what we know, of what has been revealed, that our requests will be heard, and answered in the best possible way.

Exegeting humble pie

Many amateur linguists use John’s gospel as their first extended text in a target language. John’s imagery is concrete, the language simple, and the repetitive, poetic style makes it easier to master new vocabulary words. You reach the end of Yuhanna, finding yourself able to comprehend more and more entire sentences, and pat yourself on the back. "Wow! I’m actually able to read this new language!"

For a dose of reality, turn the page. Luke, native speaker of Greek, master stylist, author of the longest gospel, the Acts of the Apostles, and perhaps of the Epistle to the Hebrews, promptly punctures pretensions. The percentage of readable sentences plummets, the dictionary gets a workout, and all the new words create severe speed bumps.

Why does Luke have to use so many synonyms?

Then, there’s the problem of word usage across three languages (Luke’s Greek, your English, and the target language). For example, in Acts 18:26, we encounter the word biçim, which is defined as "form, shape, manner, way." Then, in Acts 18:28 we meet şekil, which is defined as "form, shape, diagram, illustration."

Say what?

A quick look at the original text reveals that, in both cases, the word in question needs to be combined in thought with the verb immediately following it to approximate the meaning of a single Greek verb.

Oh. Young reader, you have much further to go than you had planned on!

Bit of trivia thrown in just for fun. There is only one Malay word that got adopted into English. It has two correct spellings, and is always combined with the English verb run.

The word? amok/amuck.