Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Concerning the Greek Verb

As a student of the Greek language, I read and am taught things that make sense, but I often wonder: Was this really how the original speakers thought about their language? For instance, I am reading Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek by Constantine Campbell. He argues that Greek verbs do not have tense (past, present, future, perfect) contained in the words themselves. Only when the verbs are in a context that calls for tense do the verbs show tense. What the verbs do have is aspect, i.e. how the action is viewed, and remoteness, i.e. how close the viewer is to the action. While I am not trying to reproduce his book here and so this might not make much sense, it really does make a lot of linguistic sense to me. The scheme fits well.

However, is this how the Greeks viewed their verbs? Well, at least according to one of their grammarians, Dionysios Thrax, not really. He says (my translation), "There are three times: present, past (having gone by), and future (about to be). The past has four different sections: imperfect, perfect, pluperfect, and aorist. There are three relationships between these: present to imperfect, perfect to pluperfect, aorist to future" (the original). He views the verbs more in terms of time (though, that last line is interesting...I might return to that sometime).

The next question is whether or not the Greeks' own view is important. If someone calls all trees trees without recognizing the distinction between the different types of trees, he isn't completely wrong but he lacks the botanical sophistication to point the distinctions out. Or maybe a better example might be the difference between an interior decorator and a normal guy. To the normal guy there is just green, maybe a dark and a light green, but green nonetheless. To the interior decorator, though, there is forest green, jade green, emerald green, sea green (I am a normal guy; those were the only crayons I could think of). The interior decorator has an increased sophistication when dealing with colors.

So maybe, the Ancient Greek grammarians lacked the needed sophistication to recognize what was truly occuring in their language. Maybe they only saw the verbs in context and, therefore, drew conclusions only from the context, which usually showed tense, but they did not have the linguistic sophistication that we have now to look at unaffected meanings.

We have two views (there are other views out there as well). One uses modern linguistic tools to examine what authors have written and considers what might be occurring in the text. The other is looking at the language from within but without the current linguistic tools and discussions.

Which is correct?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Taste of Church Politics

I have been experiencing church politics lately. At the church I grew up in, I was too far removed from anything to see what goes on, but at my current church, I have had my eyes opened. We have been in the process of finding a new pastor. We brought in a really good guy for the interim position that has preached very biblically, and as a result, most of the church loves him. Notice the word "most." There are a couple in the church who...I can't say they are about Anti-Calvinist? I don't know that they have a really good idea why they believe what they believe because they never seem to bring up their points and support them.

Our interim pastor, on whom the church will vote in a couple weeks, is a Calvinist, but he is well-spoken and biblically grounded, loving man. I find myself likewise in the Reformed tradition, but I don't think that a pastor's ability as a pastor is hindered by their position on this matter. If a pastor was recommended that was an Arminian who preached the Bible faithfully, being true to the text, wrestled honestly with what the Bible says and still came out as an Arminian, then by all means, let him preach. But for this couple, I don't think it matters how biblical someone is as long as they are not Calvinist.

We had a business meeting last night. One of the couple brought up the pastor's view of free will. He has been going through systematic theology and started last week on the Providence of God. The one who asked the question wanted to hear the rest of the discussion before she voted (It won't be until the night of the voting that he can continue the Systematic theology). That wouldn't have been so bad except he has never been silent on his views. Last Sunday, he preached a wonderful sermon on the kingship of Christ, and his views came out. Several other times, it has been brought up. There was no question for any other member in the church as to what he believed.

It was actually amazing because the whole church, mostly not we younger Reformed guys but the older members, stood up for the pastor and said that he has stated his views and basically, we have been given all the information on this topic to make a decision. To see people think through things and be open-minded and greatly-loving solid preaching is a wonderful thing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Food. Fridays. Fathers.

I love it when my roommates get food from family. It means I get food.

Also, Fridays always start out at bad days but somehow I end up enjoying them.

I mostly don't mind turning into my father except for the fact that he always falls asleep when he reads. I am starting to do that. I have too much reading I want to do in life to have that characteristic.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Jesus of Invitation Hymns

Here is a John Donne sonnet I was introduced my Freshman year in Written Comp II:

Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

I thought of this again after we sang The Savior Is Waiting at church last night:

The Savior is waiting to enter your heart,
Why don’t you let Him come in?
There’s nothing in this world to keep you apart,
What is your answer to Him?

Refrain: Time after time he has waited before,
And now He is waiting again
To see if you’re willing to open the door,
O, how He wants to come in.

If you’ll take one step t’ward the Savior, my friend,
You’ll find His arms open wide;
Receive him, and all of your darkness will end,
Within your heart He’ll abide.

These two things paint two completely different pictures of our Savior. John Donne shows God violently taking us out of our bondage to sin. He uses a couple of strong images: a town that has usurped against the rightful ruler and an unwanted betrothal to the desired man's enemy. Donne desires God to restore the rightful rule to the town and reclaim him from the marriage. The Savior Is Waiting displays Jesus standing outside our hearts hoping that we might open the door. He wants to come in but he is powerless to do anything about it. Time after time, he has waited and so far you have said no, but he is still waiting, hoping fingers crossed that this time you might say yes. That song hurts my heart. On the other hand, Donne's poem causes me to rejoice. How amazing it is that God has rescued us from sin.