Different Theologies Involve Different Paradigms

Many times there is confusion within Orthodox and western conversation that seems to be somewhat of bandit; that is, there is a problem that swiftly and frequently snatches an important state of solitude from the minds of those discussing and even considering Orthodoxy. What seems to happen is that the western Christian presupposes paradigms that use various words found in the Bible as if they were originally written as dogma words with exclusive meanings. Many times we begin to take on these presuppositions of the western Christian without even knowing we are doing such a thing. If not caught right away within conversations, this adoption of presuppositions creates this confusion.

Within western theology certain words are capitalized on to become dominant words, thus creating particular western paradigms, whereas other paradigms such as that of Eastern Orthodoxy use less of a “capitalistic” framework and rely more on layering information – more prerequisites to reach final points of dogma, which enables Orthodoxy to cover much more ground with much deeper concentration. But it does not fit in the pocket very well! This is the harsh reality of Orthodoxy. It is not your processed and packaged Christianity that so many western people adore. Many times, with Orthodoxy, you have to literally build a relationship with people to help layer the amounts of information for them to digest. There really is no condensed Bible paradigm that offers a quick  systematic theology. Our paradigms are wide and cease from placing too much weight on language itself, presupposing the concept and very doctrine of faith. The words we use within our theology do not carry the authority as many western Christians suppose they do.

As an example, when Orthodox pray within the liturgy: “Theotokos [Mary] save us,” we are not asking Mary to do what Christ does with us through his death and resurrection. There are multiple meanings to “save” found within the Bible and the history of the Church. I have given some examples below to peruse.

Orthodoxy uses the entire paradigm of the Canon. We do not capitalize on words to make systematic theologies out of them for the ignorant to feel like they are theologians. Often, when this “capitalizing” on words is done with western theology, it magnifies one word more than it should at the cost of their homonyms. The homonyms cannot be left out or explained away with some other systematic theology, which is often the case. Homonyms within theology point to a greater meaning of the word that is being emphasized; they point to the greater narrative of the New and Old Testament. The homonyms point to a theology that is built on the actions and content of the people’s lives, and not so much on some intellectual string of construct. The very fact that the homonym exists tells us that there is at least a very serious overemphasis of the word at hand (what I have been calling the “capitalization” of words). Take a look at the examples below of how many capitalized words have several homonyms that have forged little to no effect on western concepts of thought.

 

“Pray”

Gen 12:13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake, and that my soul may live because of thee. (Abraham speaking to Sarah)

 

This usage is also used in reference to God in the normal sense in which we were brought up:

 

Gen 24:12 And he said, O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, send me, I pray thee, good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.

 

Jos 7:19 And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.

 

1Sa 15:30 Then he (Saul) said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God.

 

1Sa 30:7 And David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David.

 

Job 33:1 Howbeit, Job, I pray thee, hear my speech, and hearken to all my words.

 

Jer 21:1-2 The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashhur the son of Malchijah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying,  Inquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us: peradventure the LORD will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us.

 

Act 8:34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other?

 

The word “pray” is NOT used exclusively for God in the Bible.

 

“Worship”

1Ch 29:20 And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the LORD your God. And all the congregation blessed the LORD, the God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the LORD, and the king.

 

Isa 49:23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and queens thy nurses: they shall worship thee with their face toward the earth, and they shall lick up the dust of thy feet. And thou shalt know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be confounded that wait for him.

 

Isa 60:14 And the children of them that afflict thee, shall come bowing down to thee, and all that slandered thee shall worship the steps of thy feet, and shall call thee the city of the Lord, the Sion of the Holy One of Israel.

 

Rev 3:9 Behold, I give of the synagogue of Satan, of them which say they are Jews, and they are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

 

Then shall they again loose their hands; and the Man shall give unto the Woman a Ring, laying the same upon the book with the accustomed duty to the Priest and Clerk. And the Priest, taking the Ring, shall deliver it unto the Man, to put it upon the fourth finger of the Woman’s left hand. And the Man holding the Ring there, and taught by the Priest, shall say,

In this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. (Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s marriage rite, which survives in large part in the English 1662 prayer book.)

 

The word “worship” is NOT used exclusively for God in the Bible, although there is definitely a worship belonging to God alone in the Bible.

 

“Save”

1Sa 9:16-17 “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.” When Samuel saw Saul, the LORD told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people.”

 

1Sa 10:26-7 Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched. But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” And they despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.

 

2Ki 13:4-5 Then Jehoahaz sought the favor of the LORD, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw the oppression of Israel, how the king of Syria oppressed them. Therefore the LORD gave Israel a savior, so that they escaped from the hand of the Syrians, and the people of Israel lived in their homes as formerly.

 

2Ki 14:27 But the LORD had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.

 

Neh 9:27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies.

 

Eze 3:19 But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

 

Oba 1:21 Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.

 

1Co 7:16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

 

1Co 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

 

1Ti 4:16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

 

Jas 5:15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

 

The same with the word “save”.

 

Thanks to Maximus for gathering these verses!

Comments

  1. Thanks for this article.

    I would say, though, that part of the problem here is what words are translated into “pray,” “worship,” and “save.” For all the prayer examples, the Hebrew word (I don’t have my LXX on hand, so I pray your indulgence) is not the same as the word for an actual religious act, but rather a simple word that can be translated as “please” or any other assortment of words — we translate it as “pray” in English because of our cultural and religious heritage with that word, not because it ever (in the Hebrew and I’m betting on the Greek) meant to “pray” in the religious sense. The original languages are important in our mutual dialogues.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Russ

  2. That’s a good point, Russ. Some of these particular words do not have the same root word. But a number of them do. “Save” is one that has the same root word in many areas, also other NT words such as “justification” have the same root word, yet are used in different context. The west camps on words like these in order to build a much louder theology, as I state in the article. This list could certainly be longer, but it could also be wider; that is, it could include the very fact that there is really no authority at all in the language itself, especially within the New Testament, where the authors borrowed the language of the pagans. Saint Paul states that the dogmatic language of the Church is angelic, and can literally be spoken by the enlightened Christian. Camping out on language (as do nearly all Protestants with the Greek, and Romans with the Latin) is a dangerous duty and should be avoided. This is not to say that studying language has no merit. On the contrary, it helps scholars help us figure the culture and particular settings of the conversations. But again, to speak of these languages as theological languages, many times, has led to heresy.

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