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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On recent reading

            The last little while, I’ve been at least attempting to read a couple of books.  The first one, I’m not going to mention author and title, because, to my surprise, I wasn’t particularly impressed with it.  I forget whether the author had a masters or doctorate (probably doctorate), and is a respected figure within his flavor of the church.  He was #2 guy to one of the biggest name’s within the church a couple of decades ago.  Somehow, in spite of the branch of the church he’s part of being different from my background, I wound up with this book, and decided to read it one day where I knew I’d be stuck waiting for hours.  The subject he was writing on was the names of God in the Bible.  The book was written in 1991.  The flavor of the church he was in was not a Pentecostal/Charismatic one, which is important, as this subject was one consistently covered in those flavors, and emphasized through the Christian media via the songs “El Shaddai” and “Jehovah Jirah.”  In the introduction to the book, he said that his writing was not to encourage an infatuation with secret knowledge, but to assist those who receive it in prayer.  I found this troubling, for assuredly he knows that the phrase “secret knowledge” in the Bible referred to the early Gnostics (heretics) and not to proper knowledge of the Bible that somehow had been passed over with regard to its teaching, as is the case with this subject.  Further, assisting in prayer, albeit a valid goal, can also be a problem, in that much of what goes on with regard to prayer is never provable outside one’s own spirit. 

            Within a few pages, he states that Yhvh and Adonai are two different names in scripture, even to putting in a graph of qualities of various names of God, with a column being the word in Hebrew, with which there was a definition without a word in the space for Adonai.  Just to explain for anyone reading this who may not know, Yhvh is the main Hebrew word for God, translated The Lord in the KJV and many other English versions.  In ancient Hebrew practice, it came about that Yhvh was considered to be too holy to be pronounced, so Adonai was said in its place, but Adonai was not a separate word in the Old Testament.  This writer had to have known that, and I can’t picture what he was thinking, other than that those people who read his book would be persons who respected him, and would accept what he would write, but were “lay” persons who wouldn’t be all that involved in desiring to know details of God’s Word, which would be a shaky premise indeed in this day and age.  There were a few other more minor things that just weren’t quite factually right, and I quit reading after about 30 pages.  I also wonder what the editor at the publishing house (one of the major Christian publishers) was thinking to allow these ideas to be printed without explanation by means of footnotes, although I don’t believe there is a valid explanation.  Amazingly, a large Christian college now offers the contents of this book on their website.  Let’s just say I was disappointed.

            After that, I found that I was in possession of the book, “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ” by Jeanne Guyon.  Guyon was a housewife in Grenoble, France in 1685.  One can reasonably conclude, from what we know of history that the area she lived was dominated socially and politically by the Roman Catholic Church, and that she would not have had access to much information behind the Bible other than the Douay Bible.  Since this book was on the subject of prayer, and pretty much all churches, Catholic, Protestant, and other, institutional and not, tend to guide those not in leadership toward personal introspection, and the One who can rightly guide us in that most correctly is when we are in prayer, which we sometimes oversimplify as talking with God.  I find the few writings on prayer to be difficult to read, in that the writer is attempting to explain a thing which in some ways is impossible to put into words.  This everyday housewife from over 300 years ago also has problems with this, and the translator’s notes before and after the text imply that in the French some of what was said was even more difficult to understand.  Nonetheless, as I got near to the end of her writing, she made some conclusions about more mature stages of the life of following Jesus that resonate with me, given that I’ve been on this walk for over 40 years now, and that at least one of these conclusions is one I have never seen written or heard spoken before, but I can say that I have experienced.  I hope to comment on this writing in greater detail soon.

            Part of the reason for getting into reading this was that I accidentally opened the back cover, and saw that this was printed by Seedsowers, the publishing house connected to the writings of Gene Edwards.  Edwards is a controversial person in the house church branch of believers in Jesus, having added some writings at a time when almost no one was saying the teachings connected to this move of God, but has also said other things many disagree with (I am understating the case).  Bizarrely, in this copy, Seedsowers was listed as being based in Auburn, Maine, and I had only seen it as being credited with its being based in Jacksonville, Florida. 

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