Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Case of Melancholia

I've a tendency to be depressed.  Although I think that word - depression -  is too strong.  I'd rather use the word, "melancholy".  However, when I looked up "melancholy" in an online dictionary, it seemed to connote even worse things rather than mere depression.  For depression we read things like "sadness; gloom; dejection."  For melancholy, "the condition of having too much black bile, considered in ancient and medieval medicine to cause gloominess and depression."  Even though this is an archaic meaning, still...black bile!  Yucky!

Be that as it may, I'd still rather use the word "melancholy"; it's kind of soothing to say the word.  Besides, "depression" is used with so many negative connotations, too many to suit me...but then again, that's what melancholy is all about, being "negative" (or, so we think).

That's one of the reasons why I don't write too much on my blog concerning my personal life.  I think too much, my mind whirls with this and that in silent conversations with God all day long of things not inclined to being joyful.  If I were honest (and I hope I am being honest), most of my thoughts are complaints, questions, challenges to God.  Not that I nag God or I get into prayerful fisticuffs, but there's so much going on that is not the way it's supposed to be or, as the title of my daughter Sarah's blog suggests, "Not the Way I Planned It" (by the way, if any woman wants encouragement when things don't go exactly as expected, she should read Sarah's blog; it's gritty, funny, yet real, see: http://notthewayiplannedit.blogspot.com/; but if you're of the melancholy sort, well, you can finish reading my blog here and check out Sarah's later).

My daughter's kind of laugh at my demonstrations of melancholia...

like reciting one of my favorite Bible verses: "It is better to go in the house of mourning rather than into the house of feasting"...

or, suggesting to my grandchildren, Josiah and Ella, a DVD to watch like "the Jim Elliot Story" or "The Perpetua Story" about Christian martyrs (these cartoon DVD's are excellent to teach children about the cost paid  by some for their faith in Christ, see: http://www.persecution.com/).  Of course, let me not neglect to say that Josiah is 6 and Ella is 5 years old (a little to young to learn about persecution, you think?)...

or, how about the time when Sarah and Amy were little girls I walked them through a cemetery talking about death and how we will all someday die (of course, not long afterwards, Clare, their Mom, died).  And that wasn't the first time I talked to them about death...

or, how about just now when after receiving a phone call from Sarah who, visiting in New York, tells me she's driving by the house I grew up in, 106 Grattan St., in Brooklyn.  She explains how it now looks and I shared with her a few tidbits of when I was a child, like where stood the corner grocery store (the prices of each item we bought was added up on a brown paper bag - without a calculator) and the candy store where I bought all my comics (I once had all the #1's of Marvel comics like Spiderman, X-men, Hulk, Fantastic Four, Submariner, etc.).  After we hung up, I cried...literally cried...recalling childhood memories, especially of my parents (now both deceased).

How about a few examples of my melancholia in relation to my faith in God?

Sometimes I'll go to pray and feel like it's not worth the effort since I'm not really trusting God to answer and end up just sitting on my chair.  Other times, I'll go to read my Bible or books on theology and then just lay back on my chair and say to God, "What the heck am I doing?  Is this all relevant to me?"  I feel as if all I read has nothing to do with me.

God seems to have a hard time pleasing those who oftentimes succumb to melancholy moments. 

A few months ago I needed a job and prayed, 

"God, if you don't get me a job by the end of the month, I'm not going to have the finances necessary to pay the bills.  But even more important than that, I cannot give to ministries like Voice of Martyrs and Care-Net, two ministries that concern me the most.  Yet, if you want me to go without my needs being met, if you want me to eventually give my dogs to be put down, lose my home, and wander the streets, fail to take care of Celia, my wife, (who can always find someone else to live with), which would, nevertheless, be very embarrassing to a person who believes God shall 'supply all your needs according to his riches' (I realize You're not concerned about being embarrassed so I guess I'll need to learn humility via embarrassment on my own), well, I leave it up to you.  Whatever you think is best.  But, just so you know, you may look bad; not me.  It's your reputation at stake, not mine."

The very next day I received a call from an employment agency (note: I received maybe one or two calls for jobs too far away to take them in the 5 months prior to this one) for a job 12 minutes away and in the first Friday of the next month I started working.  God is the God of the Last Minute.

But, now I tell God, "Please, give me time to read and study your Word.  I come home so tired and things that need to be done get in the way.  This job is stealing all my time away."

Of course, when I do get the time, I waste it away watching a movie, or sitting at my desk wondering what I should read (too many books makes decision-making harder).  If I do start to read or go to pray, my eyes and body miraculously get heavy and I need to stop and rest and end up falling asleep.

So now I get into my "What's the Use?" mode and, too discouraged to do anything, I do nothing.

Through a google group I received an email that a member's newborn child is very sick and they're requesting prayer.  I email that I will pray.  Then, I go to pray in a "What's the Use?" mode.  My mind has no vision of the child recovering.  I cannot conjure up the faith to believe God will heal the child.  All my heart believes in is that the child will not make it.

I receive another email notifying me that the newborn has died...and I cry.  I cry because the child did not live, because the parents must be heartbroken, because neither child nor parent will have the opportunity to experience the joys of knowing each other like I know my daughters, Sarah and Amy.  I cry because God grieves over one's death.  And I cry because I failed to pray and to pray effectively with the faith that obtains the answer.

Whatever God is doing in the world, He's not doing it here and He seems to have counted me out.

I oftentimes remember an old Motown song, which lyrics are:

"I want to go outside in the rain.
It may sound crazy but
I want to go outside in the rain.
Once the rain starts falling on my face
No, you won't see a single trace
Of these tears I'm crying
Because of you I'm crying
Don't want you to see me cry;
Let me go, let me go, let me go,
Go outside in the rain."

So, with such a flimsy faith as I possess, the least I am able to do is rehearse the psalmist's line:
"Why are you cast down my soul,
     why disquieted within me?
Have hope in God;
     I will yet praise Him,
     my ever-present help, my God." 
It may not be exactly the kind of faith that stops the mouth's of lions, moves mountains, or heals the sick, but it's all I have; and if those past examples in Scripture of saints who trusted God experienced a faith that "against hope believed in hope", maybe...just maybe...if I lay out my heart to God just the way it is, without pretension - with all its melancholia - God might decide to grace me with the kind of faith Jesus possessed, that faith which obtained healing for others, His own resurrection from the dead, and in the end makes sorrow and sighing to flee away.

Psalm 42:12
 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Swordfight: "kosmos" in John 3:16

The “Greek Experts Themselves” Disagree with Kielar

On YouTube there is a 3 part video series entitled, “Does John 3:16 Refute Calvinism?  (Part 2 of 3)”, taught by Mark Kielar and presented by LanesCh (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yqwg1y6aF8&feature=PlayList&p=1B23AEFD77CCD609&index=1&playnext=2&playnext_from=PL

My concern is the first 37 seconds where Mr. Kielar makes the claim that...

The Assertion Made

“The Greek experts themselves, Strong, Thayer, and so on…specifically cite John 3:16 as an example of when kosmos or ‘world’ is referring to ‘believers only’.”

Kosmos is the Greek word translated “world” in our English Bibles in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world (kosmos) that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (NASB).

Clarification of My Argument

Let’s first begin with what I am not arguing:
  • I am not arguing that kosmos has various nuances of meanings.
  • I am not arguing for any particular doctrinal system of belief.
Rather, I am challenging the assertion made by Kielar that the Greek experts define kosmos as "believers only" when referencing specifically John 3:16. 

I argue that:
  • The Greek experts neither define “world” as having reference to “believer’s only” nor cite John 3:16 as an example of such a definition.
  • On the contrary, wherever John 3:16 is cited it is concerning a definition or reference that clearly contradicts the Kielar's assertion.

My Objection as Follows

A.   A look at the language references Mr. Kielar specifically mentioned shows that his assertion is incorrect:
  1. The New Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon: (coded under Strong’s #2889) p.357, point #5 reads - “the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human race” citing John 3:16.  No definition of “believers only” is found or even implicated.
  2. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance: #2889 for John 3:16, “the world (in a wide or narrow sense, incl. it’s inhab., lit. or fig.)”.  No definition of “believers only” is found or even implicated.
B.   Two other reputable language resources disprove Kielar:
  1. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: vol.1, p.524-525, states the meaning of “kosmos in the inclusive sense of “world” under three connotations: (1) the universe, (2) as earth, and (3) humanity, “the place and object of God’s saving activity” (p.524).  Respecting the Gospel of John in particular, it states that the predominant meaning of kosmos is “the world of men…under different aspects.”  No definition of “of believers only” is found or even implicated.
  2. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament: vol.5, p.50, “The world (ton kosmon).  The whole cosmos of men, including Gentiles, the whole human race.”  No definition of “believers only” is found or even implicated.
Failure to Perform Proper and Thorough Research

Apparently, Kielar’s erroneous assertion seems to demonstrate a failure to properly and adequately research the issue to verify just how scholars in NT Greek define kosmos, especially in relation to its appearance in John 3:16.  If one would carefully research the issue, he would find that:
  1. The definition for kosmos, which Kielar claims as defined by all the “Greek experts”, is actually found verbatim not by any NT Greek scholar or resource but in a Bible “study” by Calvinist, A.W Pink.  As you can see when accessing the link, the definition shown on a computer in the video reads the same as what Pink states in his “study”, word for word and verse for verse (see: htmhttp://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Miscellaneous/kosmos.htm).
  2. On the Youtube video, Kielar attempts to substantiate his claim by showing a copy of what may be mistaken to be Thayer’s or Strong’s since it is not made clear as to what is the resource being used.  As far as I have been able to discover, Kielar obtained his information regarding kosmos from only one source, an electronic “language” resource, which uses Pink's definition of kosmos under the subheadings of 8a[i] and 8b.  If I am correct, this is available in the eSword as Strong’s Enhanced Concordance distributed by Logos and is not necessarily put together by a NT Greek scholar.  Apparently, this online source (as shown in the video) follows Thayer’s list of definitions for kosmos.  However, Pink's definitions are added without warrant and are not Thayer's original entry.
  3. Thayer does not cite John 3:16 under definition #8 but under definition #5, where we read, “the inhabitants of the earth; mankind”.  There is no numbered definition listed as “8b: believers only” (or 8a for that matter).  To verify, you can view Thayer’s original list of meanings for kosmos here: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=G2889.  Scroll down to the "Thayer's Lexicon (Help)" box  and click underneath where it reads, "Click Here for the Rest of the Entry".
  4. This definition “of believers only” for kosmos is not found in any of the various and many reputable Biblical language lexicons, dictionaries, and Biblical resources in book form, at least, that I have in my library.  It seems to be only in the electronic “lexicon” alone mentioned above. Unfortunately, this electronic resource is found in many online Bible Study web sites and it's definition for kosmos, as here argued, is assumed correct without question by many believers.[ii]  A NT Greek scholar advised that any serious study of the Bible should not be conducted via electronic resources,[iii] since those who make them can easily manipulate the information in support of any theological bias they may hold.
  5. It should be noted that once the Blue Letter Bible website was informed of the erroneous entry, they deleted it off their website: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=G2889 and compare it with this website: http://www.studylight.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=2889).  In a personal Email to me, an administrator for the BLB stated, "I reviewed the remarks of yourself and [name of Greek scholar] and consulted with Brandon, another of our team members, and we've come to agree with you that the 'of believers only' doesn't belong in the lexicon entry for kosmos."
Conclusion

Contrary to the assertion made in the video, “the Greek Experts”, whom Kielar mentions, do not refer to or define kosmos as “believers only”and with specific reference to John 3:16 as an example of such usage either explicitly or implicitly.

The only way I see to correct the statement is to either:
  • Show exactly where these “Greek experts themselves”, especially Thayer and Strong, “cite Jn 3:16 as an example of when kosmos or world is referring to ‘believers only’.”
  Or...
  • Retract the whole statement in question and provide a correction.[iv]
Refusing to do either would necessarily turn the question Kielar posed back to him: If we can’t trust Mark Kielar's definition here, why would we trust him elsewhere?


Endnotes 
[i] Although my focus is on 8b, the definition for kosmos shown under 8a is also untenable according to a NT Scholar via personal email correspondence.
[ii] I have contacted some web sites informing them of the erroneous definition included in the Greek lexicon provided by their website.  Only one website responded, researched it, and concluded that there is no warrant for it and removed that particular definition (“8b. believers only”) from their copy of the electronic language resource.
[iii] This was actually the opinion of a Logos administrator and Bible scholar who did not like the lexicon portion of eSword and would rather remove it from their software.
[iv] I have emailed Kielar informing him of his error.  He refuses to acknowledge it and insists what he states is accurate and true.  From my perspective, it is one thing to mistakenly disseminate wrong information and another thing to dismiss correction once received and continue to knowingly advance the error; and, of course, it is still another thing to advance what you have convinced yourself is true when in reality it is false.  The former is to be deceiving, the latter is to be deluded.