Establishing the Boundaries of a Biblical Worldview

symbols

ARE YOU A NOMINALIST OR A REALIST?

Since the Protestant Reformation there has been a growth of Nominalism in Christian communities. What is this?

In its historical context it arose in philosophy from the time of Plato. The discussion arises when you try to determine if things in the mind, such as beauty and strength, have an objective existence. You can find plenty of information online for a more detailed discussion. My purpose here is to get you thinking about the church and its eventual politicization.

The Positivist philosophers, Hume, Mill, and Spencer, for example, and later Immanual Kant, could not put the jigsaw puzzle of mind and matter together. For Kant, the noumenal realm (the mind) had no correlation to the phenomenal (external) world. There is no contact between the mental constructs of the mind with external things. And our postmodern world is primarily nominalist as a result — especially large portions of Protestant Christianity.

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DO YOU BELIEVE IN SPIRITUAL POWER?

In part 3 of this series, I explored the idea of the church as the body of Christ. Not in a nominalist sense, but somehow in a real sense. I noted some indicators of this in contemporary Christian thought as it pertains to politics.

It seems the only valid reason to seek change in the nation through political means is because the political realm has the power to change things. Now this concept of power is a compelling one and often mistakenly applied.

In the Bible power and authority are connected. To have authority was to have power. Jesus said, “All authority is given to Me” (Matt. 28:18). Was he speaking as the Triune God in general, or more specifically as the second Person of the Trinity? There is a fine difference, because Jesus and the Father are One, in essence if not in their functions. But Jesus appears to indicate all authority belongs to Him as Second Person of the Trinity.

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Do You Believe in the Power of Symbols?

I’ve come to a conclusion about the general response to some issues I have raised in the broader Christian community, and the response is nuts. It’s like staring at a business which is losing money, yet the business owner won’t make the changes necessary to plug up the holes. You tell him what needs to be done, but he can’t make the decision to invest the time and money to fix the problems. That decision doesn’t make sense. It’s nuts. With that in mind, read on.

Are you a nominalist or a realist? Have you figured that one out yet? Consider this.

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Have you figured it out yet?

“Figured what?” are you asking?

Have you figured out that symbols are a more powerful medium of communication than words?

It has been said that a pictures paints a thousand words, and that actions speak louder than words. And that’s because pictures are symbols. They represent something.

If you haven’t figured it out, let me encourage you to think about it like this. People remember only 20% of what they hear, but 70% of what they see.

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Do You Believe in the Power of Symbols?

As I’ve thought about the issues which have been the topic of the last few e-zines, I’ve come to a conclusion about the general response to those issues in the broader Christian community, and the response is nuts. It’s like staring at a business which is losing money, yet the business owner won’t make the changes necessary to plug up the holes. You tell him what needs to be done, but he can’t make the decision to invest the time and money to fix the problems. That decision doesn’t make sense. It’s nuts. With that in mind, read on.

Are you a nominalist or a realist? Have you figured that one out yet? Consider this.

In my last e-zine, I mentioned the older practice of symbols. For a nominalist, symbols and symbolism can appear to be strange. There are some personality styles that struggle with symbolism, but there are others who appreciate and understand symbols and their meaning.

Recently, on assignment in Calgary, I was helping a business owner make some changes to improve the business. He said his was a quality business, and he did make beautiful cabinet work in his kitchens. But I asked him about the symbols in his business that would indicate quality. The showroom was dusty and things left lying around. His personal dress was very casual, his hair was longish and somewhat untidy. His language was coarse except in front of the clients. These, I indicated, were the symbols of his business. I asked him which ones would tell people this was a quality business. He understood very well what I meant.

I made mention of the fact that at one time the baptismal font was at the doorway of the church. I remember seeing this as a teenager on the one occasion I visited the local Catholic Church to play organ for a wedding. It was not the first time I had seen a baptismal font — rather than a baptismal bathtub big enough for immersion to take place — but it was the first time I saw it at the doorway of the church.

Now a good part of my problem was that I was raised as a nominalist — not to believe in symbols. We had no cross in our little Baptist church. The only thing we had was a banner across the front that said “Be still and know that I am God.” I always figured that was there for us kids to keep us quiet during the service. It worked. While that text was up there, I wasn’t about to raise my voice unless I had an invitation.

But there was something else of significance which I did not realize at the time. The pulpit was off to the left-hand side of the building up against the wall. At the center was the communion table on which was prominently displayed a large open Bible.

It was many years before I understood the significance of the positioning of these items. I had been in an evangelical Anglican church at one time and also saw the pulpit on the side, the communion table and Bible in the center, and the lectern right beside it. When the pastor read the Scripture passages for the service, he always stepped to the lectern — front and center — but when he spoke he went back to the pulpit — right-hand side on this occasion. His movement from one spot to the other was strange, because I did not understand the significance of what he was doing and why he did it.

What picture do you get from these descriptions? If you just stop for a moment and think, it becomes evident that the centrality of the church service is the Bible and the communion table. They occupy center stage. The pulpit, the place where teaching is done, is not held in the same regard as the Scriptures themselves. Preaching — man’s word — cannot be the center of the church. Only God and His Word occupy that space. So the pulpit is over to the side.

Well, you don’t need to see what happens in many churches today. Center stage is for the preacher or the song leader. The communion table is probably nowhere to be seen. Anyway, the auditorium is too large to see anything except what’s displayed on the large screens.

What may be center is the lectern where not only the reading of Scripture is done, but also the preaching. In one church I’ve been in, one of the largest conservative Presbyterian churches in the US, a stool appears when the pastor’s ready to preach, and he’ll sit casually on the stool and speak just as if he’s in your living room. Great style! But no communion table and no Bible. Before the preacher gets on center stage, the space is occupied by the worship leader and musicians.

Symbolically, however, the message is that man’s word and God’s word occupy the same space at the center. This indicates not only the center of the church, but also the center of life. This is what the symbol means. And this is nuts!

Can you see why we cannot change the culture? Our symbols and the message they convey are all wrong. In the mind of many people man is already center stage. They have no need to go to church to get the same message. And to expect them to do otherwise is a greatly misplaced expectation.

God bless you as you serve Him this week.