Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Shibboleth –noun

a peculiarity of pronunciation, behavior, mode of dress, etc., that distinguishes a particular class or set of persons.
From Hebrew shibboleth, "stream, flood," from the use of this word in the Bible (Judges 12:4-6) as a test to distinguish Gileadites from Ephraimites, who could not say 'sh' but only 's' as in 'sibboleth'. (taken from Dictionary.com)

...and so it goes. Humans have their vocal signals that delineate groups and establish both simple regions and lines of demarcation of profound political division (the division around language is more complicated than simple pronunciation, of course). We humans function along lines of creating culture--both broadly within large political boundaries and site specific as in the "corporate culture" of business. Culture leads to lines of thought around who is part of us and who is not. In the broadest application of this idea, we confront ethnocentrism or a tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one's own. However, within site specific cultural identities the same group-think takes shape of who is and is not part of the culture.
Denominations and independent churches alike are subject to this dynamic.

When the Christian school I served for seventeen years determined to more aggressively recruit its student body from a broader base in the community than simply the church group which started the school, we immediately had to leap the hurdle of how our group was considered "different" and market our "sameness" with "traditional" Christian thought and practice. Getting people of different backgrounds together is not an easy task. The culture of cooperation I hoped to engender among the broad spectrum of the larger community had to reflect who we were within our school culture first. In pursuit of that goal, I added a section to the teacher application wherein the applicant had to express their willingness to reach across boundaries within the broad spectrum of Christianity. In this section, an applicant from the Pentecostal Holiness tradition stated that she followed this teaching believing it closest to the Truth.

Isn't that why any of us practice what we practice? Yet all women do not wear their long hair as a bun across the top of the head swirled out of never-cut locks. Which brings up a tantalizing (possibly tiresome to some) array of questions over the analysis of what is "True" Christian expression.

Oh! ... that IS why we separate within the Body of Christ, isn't it?

Postulate: a Christian will function in life something like the O blood type. That is he or she will be emotionally and intellectually equipped to give to all others and to receive all others. This ability will include being able to relate practically with both those in darkness and those who are redeemed and renewed in the light of Jesus Christ.

I described cause for disunity among believers in the last post over knowing God or knowing one's own self righteousness.

This leaves me two areas of understanding to explore:

  • What is knowledge? (Since "knowing" God is a prerequisite for unity.)
  • What is the righteousness upon which we must agree to be unified? (Since reasons for practicing anything as a function of our Christianity, like piling hair on the head if one is feminine, are rooted in our seeking of what is right according to Truth.)

If you care to, leave a thought about other topics you see as salient to a discussion on unity.


craig v. said...

In your examples it almost seems like we control truth. We don't see it that way, but we live that way. So each group decides what constitutes righteousness for itself.

My answer is that we need to listen rather than dictate. That, of course, is very easy to type and yet still somewhat rare.

ded said...

craig v.,

How Christians perceive themselves and how they speak and act have too often been out of sync.

I agree with you, we do live as if we control truth. When are, however, called to live in it. The Truth being already established.

Listening to others and dictating not at all is a better path.

Oh but how I long for myself and those around me to witness of the Truth in which we abide, as opposed to being apologists for a belief system--deaf apologists at that sometimes!

Christy said...

This may be a simplistic answer to your question(s), but I do tend to like the simple answers ;)

It seems to me that knowledge is the ability to experience a certain topic, person, etc., with a confidence of knowing it (them) completely. So, if we know God completely (have intimate and close relationship) with Him, then, in my opinion, we have basis for fellowship with those who also know Him.

To me, coming to Him as a child, means just that, we come to Him completely trusting and expecting His love is there. And I believe that love is there in the lives and hearts of the ones who follow Him.

I hope this makes sense---it's midnight and I am running on very little sleep. But I really wanted to respond to your very thoughtful questions.

As always, great thoughts :)

ded said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ded said...


I like the way your thoughts immediately went to knowledge as a function of knowing God and then to us being little children toward Him.

Yea and amen!