mortification, numerology numinous, om,
pantheism paraclete, praxis, scholasticism,
prudence (with discretion and circumspection)? respect, temperance,
Spirithome > Spiritual-Word Meanings > define Temperance, Legalism, and Respect < read in your language
legalism [ < Latin legalis (legal) < lex (law); + Greek -ismos (as a practice, doctrine, principle) ] The practice, doctrine, or principle of living or acting in strict accord with a code of conduct, set of rules, or codified law. Legalism goes "by the book".
In the Christian context, legalism is the attitude that "acting in strict accord" with God's rules is how a person becomes accepted and loved by God. Break the rules, and you will be punished by God and God's own - and you are no longer God's own. But God says something different, in both Testaments. In the Hebrew Scriptures, God is a God of grace as well as law, forgiving, giving us enough rope to hang ourselves. God set down ways to clear the record, and give more chances. God accepted the covenant people and each person in it -- but a relationship does not live from only one side. In the New Testament, God takes the next step, to show us where the Almighty really wants us to be, by going out to be among us, to live and be executed and then to live again. There are now no barriers to the acceptance and the love of God. The door is flung open wide, and the Lord has even stepped through it to welcome us. The Law does not save, nor our obedience to it; God's gracious love does. "There is no condemnation". And thus, no room for legalism.
So then, what becomes of the call to follow Jesus, which is also clearly stated in those same pages by those same authors? Your behaviors become acts of love and gratitude, thank-yous to Jesus. You don't impose it on others, damning them to hell and instilling feelings of guilt and shame in them; they need to live by way of love and gratitude, too. (The society as a whole may find aspects of The Law as necessary to survive and thrive in a just manner, but it isn't a question of whether God accepts you.) In this strange form of holiness, you don't even impose The Law on yourself, because you are forgiven by God and free to surmise the best way to love as Jesus does, even if it means you'll act differently from The Law. In legalism, you use Law as a taskmaster when God intends it as a teacher. You are not chained to the letter of The Law, but are free to pursue its intended purpose. Once again, Jesus leaves no room for legalism.
You can also check the dictionary for legalism.
metempsychosis [ < Greek, < metempsukhousthai (to transmigrate, move from one to another) < meta- (after, beyond, later) + empsukhos (to animate; to put in (en-) soul (psukhō)) ]
Metempsychosis is older than recorded history, and was probably a feature of the early religions of the Indo-Europeans and South Asians. It is fully present in Hinduism and Buddhism. In Judaism, ancient proto-Kabbalists developed a limited form of it. In Greek philosophy, Plato was its best-known supporter; it was Plato's followers who first used the term. Through Plato, belief in metempsychosis influenced some early Christians, including Origen. Yet, Augustine of Hippo argued vigorously against it, and it was eventually condemned at the Council of Florence in 1439.
Metempsychosis conflicts with Christian belief in resurrection of the entire person, a belief which does not separate the body and the spirit from the soul. Metempsychosis treats the body as a 'container' that's not an essential part of who we are. Thus it stands with gnosticism in not treating the physical world and bodily life as being real or of any ultimate value. Its metaphysics goes in the wrong direction.
You can also check out 'metempsychosis' in the dictionary.
Mortification : [ Latin mortificare (to make dead), < Latin mors-/mort- (to die, be dead) < assumed Indo-European mer(t)- (death, or the act of dying), which in Germanic led to the English word 'murder'. ] The act or process of making someone or something dead. The verb form is 'to mortify' or cause to be dead.
There are a lot of strange ideas about mortification. One was held by most of the medieval Church in Europe, which acted as if the human being had so little positive value in them that the only thing a Christian should do is constantly tell themself how worthless they are and how little good can come of their life. Some of them even physically brutalized themselves with starvation, whippings, beatings, extra-long pilgrimages, extreme exertion, and such, to meet this supposed requirement for mortification, somehow hoping to find their release from the misery of sin by inflicting more misery on themselves. This created a lot of self-wounding people who lacked the courage, self-esteem, and sense of empowerment to do what the Spirit was trying to have them do. Mortification, done that way, was one of many ways the medieval Church was sucking the life out of itself. This way of imagining mortification is still found in a few parts of the Roman Catholic church, and is echoed in their own way by many Fundamentalist Protestants. This view was deeply rooted in much of Asia for over a thousand years before Christianity, and some parts of Islam still mortify this way.
Because of that gruesome record, many people have come to believe that the core of the Christian faith actually teaches people to mortify themselves that way. After all, the apostle Paul brings up the subject. He said that the believer is to die to sin, so they can live in Christ. But he was talking about sucking the life out of the desire to do what God says is wrong, moment by moment. Paul was not saying "destroy all creativity, deviations from the rules, fun, personality, feelings, etc.", because that was not what Jesus or Paul meant by 'sin' or by 'rebellion against God', or even by 'mortification'. In fact, Paul writes about the great freedom of action which comes from trusting in what Christ did. But there is something about each of us that insists on being our own worst enemy, and an opponent of God. That is what is to be killed, or 'mortified', because in the long run, when it's all over, that is what can mortify us forever. You mortify in order to really live. Mortification is never itself a goal. It's needed so we can keep the goal in sight.
It's hard to get people to know the true story about mortification when so many of them have met Christians who insist on a false story. The self-torturing version of mortification must itself be mortified, so God's grace can be in full force.
(Another meaning of 'mortify' is to make someone more like Mort; for more, see 'edify'. 'Mortification' is one of those death-words used in the youth subcultures of death-metal and goth. They'd be mortified to find out how far it could really go.)
You can find 'mortification' in the dictionary.
temperance [ < Latin temperare (to stabilize by adding something to modify it) < tempus (season)] doing things in moderation; not being at a fevered emotional pitch; responding in a measured and reasonable manner; done with self-restraint and modesty.
Where is temperance found?
Where is temperance absent?
Temperance is one of the seven classic virtues, and also a spiritual practice which reflects the spiritual fruit of self-control. Temperance is about being in enough control of our lives that we can dedicate it to God, rather than the pursuit of addictions or excess or whatever someone else is coaxing us into craving. An absence of temperance leads to death, injustice, fear, and loss of control. A system of law is, among other things, a way for people in a society to be temperate with each other when dealing with injustices and with people who can't be trusted. They trust the temperate responses of law in part because they know that doing otherwise would create far more injustice by creating a spiral of rising vengeance. Without temperance, we do extreme and unloving actions to each other, which cause other extreme and unloving actions to happen, and so on, until it reaches people who are determined to be temperate. When we give temperate responses to those who challenge up, it prevents matters from escalating into a war of words, then a battle of one-upsmanship, until someone gets physical about it. The Christian works to encourage (in a temperate way) moral awareness so that people of the faith, and hopefully others, will choose not to do wrong.
In some traditions, 'temperance' has meant refusing to drink alcohol, as in the US Temperance movement to ban alcoholic drink. That movement was intemperate about its war against alcohol, by seeking to use the blunt force of law to drive people away from sin. Prohibition failed; it was a legalistic approach that couldn't address the real problems of attitude and culture that led to a drunken public. Ending Prohibition did not resolve the real problems that led to the campaign against a drunken public. In both ways, the story of the US Temperance Movement teaches us about the limits of Law in dealing with human foolishness.
In the Revelation passages against the Laodicean church, it says God will spit them out because they are lukewarm. This is not about temperance, but about indifference and lack of caring. Temperance is about passionately caring, but also caring enough to do it in a Christlike manner that doesn't do more harm than good. When it comes to God or love, it's great to have energetic passion. Yet, it's best most of the time to express that passion through temperate words and actions, lest it bring about an un-temperate response.
You can also see what the dictionary says about 'temperance'. But do it in moderation.
numerology [ < Latin numerus (number) ] This belief is based on the truth that numbers (like words) bear powerful symbolic, mystical, or supernatural meanings. Numerology pushes this so far as to claim that the number itself bears the actual power of the One (or the Force) that lies behind the symbol. Numerologists are, of course, numerous. According to numerologists, if you know how to use the numbers, you know how to control that force. Those who dabble in the magical side of Jewish Qabbalah or are immersed in the Hal Lindsay method of interpreting Revelation and Daniel are heavily influenced by numerology. So are many gambling addicts and Powerball freaks. Some folks also look at patterns and counts to help decipher words, stories, and prophecies. That is a different form of numbers game.
Most numerologies assign (by tradition or method) a general meaning for each digit. For instance in Western systems 9 means 'the highest level of spiritual advance', while in Chinese systems it means 'enduring, lasting a long time'. One common numerological method is that of digit summing, where 243 becomes 2+4+3 which equals 9, and 9 has a general meaning in whatever number system is being used.
Belief in any degree of real actual power behind any number or letter or combination is a form of superstition and even of augury (turning to 'help' from supposed divinities or powers to determine a future course of action), and thus numerology is not at all Christian. It is trust in one or more machine-Gods whose buttons are pushed by you, not a living God who has a very different mind and purpose from yours. Thus it is also a form of idolatry. There are no evil or lucky numbers, and there is no number specific to you that has any numerological or magical bearing on your life. Thus, no one's got your number, and your number is not 'up'.
Intentional use of numbers to communicate something is found throughout Christian history, even in Scripture (for instance, in the Revelation to John). That is a form of code, usually used during times of persecution. In ancient times, many numbers in Scripture were interpreted as code where no such code was intended. This kind of numerology led to some very complex (and frankly, loony) theologies and practices, and created a frame of mind much like the occultists that the prophets and the church were opposing. Such methods often make the Scripture seem to mean something far afield from what it directly says, instead of being in step with it. Numerology also lead to a class distinction of those who 'know' vs. those who 'don't', which twists the faith into something it is opposed to at its very core. Thus, it is a very bad idea to use numerology to find meaning in the Bible or any other literature, except where a number's literary placement tells us that some sort of simple code was directly intended by the author.
You can also check the dictionary for 'numerology'.
numinous [ Latin numen (spiritual force of a place/object/being < a head-nod) ] filled with the sense of the presence of spirit or divinity.
In Christianity, God is everywhere, but there are certain places at certain times where the sense of God's presence, and its mystical special-ness, is stronger than at other times and places. This is expressed as God's being 'more present' or 'more potent'. Those moments are numinous. (There is also the sense of God's deliberate absence, which the Lord sometimes does to remind people of God's usual presence.) Numinous moments are felt instead of figured out. Numinousness has also been expressed by some Christian authors, including C.S. Lewis, as being where the separation of material reality from the spiritual reality is 'thin', to the point where one can 'see' through it. Of course, all descriptions of numinous encounters fail to catch all of it; they are an attempt to describe that which by definition can't be described or measured.
You can also look up 'numinous' in the dictionary.
It's hard to find a real future in pantheism -- it's a different version of the same thing, since all are one divine entity anyway, only they'll be more enlightened by the fading away of the illusion of separateness. Christians, however, believe in a personal future with the One who loves us.
You can also check the dictionary for 'pantheism'.
Paraclete [ Gk paracletos < parakalein (to call to the side of)] In the New Testament, 'paraclete' is a descriptive title for the Holy Spirit. The meaning of the Greek word differs in context. The basic root meaning is "one who is called to the side of". From there, 'paraclete' took on a public meaning of "advocate" or "defender", and a private-setting meaning of "one who supports another in difficult moments". The New Testament used both meanings of paraclete, though the primary one is the public meaning. The original root meaning may actually have been a part of what Jesus intended (even though it was detached from the word generations earlier): Jesus left this life, and called on the Holy Spirit to come in His stead to be by our side, working for us.
A paraclete is not a colorful tropical bird. However, the Spirit is sometimes symbolized as a dove, and sometimes as a wild goose. It's also not what's left on your shoes after a hard game of soccer.
praxis: [ < Latin < Greek (action) < Gk prattein (to do, take action).] The art of applying what you've learned. In many cases it means custom, habit, or established practice. But more correctly, in a religious or sociological sense, it is taking action in a way that's guided or led by the theoretical framework that develops from your study of Scripture, history, and the world around you - that is, praxis is doing/living the truth. Since the framework changes over time and place, so does your praxis. 'Praxis' is Greek, but Latin and then English adopted it as-is. The word 'praxis' itself has no place outside of theological shop talk, since those are the only ones familiar with it.
For your theology to be fertile in your life, you'll have to set up a game plan: what do my theology or faith practices say about how I am to order my life? What do I do each day to keep me on this track? A theology you don't act upon in ways large and small is one you don't really believe or trust. The reasons behind your devotional behaviors must show up in your life choices. A faith (or, for that matter, a moral approach, philosophy, or political vision) that is without active consequences is a fraud. If this Christian stuff is really so important, then it must show up in how you relate to the world around you -- that is, by way of love. It determines, guides, and fills each thing you do, especially what you do regularly. If not, it is vapor.
scholasticism: Any school of thought which stresses human reasoning, scholarship, and study for shaping theology and practice, often right to the brink of worshipping it. 'Scholasticism' most often refers to a movement which was strong among Catholics just before the Reformation. Other scholasticisms influenced Lutherans two or three generations after Luther, and still another became prominent for nineteenth-century Presbyterians. In a scholasticism, theology and church life are justified through patterns that can be taught and learned, where one thing follows on another. Even if life is not like that. Even if God wants us to do it differently. Even if our ability to understand such things is limited. When a scholasticism takes hold, a pietism which gives an overly-low value to systems of thought will soon follow.
Prudence : [originally a contraction of the past participle form of Lat. providere (to provide for)] Taking care, using good sense or judgement. The adjective/adverbial form is 'prudent'. Other words like 'prudence' include discretion (actions made of sound judgement and self-restraint, especially about maintaining privacy) and circumspection (acting prudently in order to avoid social, cultural, or moral consequences). A person shows imprudence when they make snap judgements and act rashly, without thought or consideration. Greed, lust or fear trigger imprudence, while a deeper love causes us to stop and consider the thoughts of, and the effects on, other people. People tend to distrust those with a track record of imprudence, because they may change their actions without warning. Prudence is considered one of the classic 'cardinal' virtues, in which the person takes the time and effort before making a decision, to discern what the best goal is and the best course of action to reach it. In that way, prudence is like a fruit of the Spirit. One problem with prudence is when it becomes like circumspection. The person acts solely to avoid the appearance of cultural or moral misbehavior, and demands that others do the same. Such a person is called a 'prude', and that term carries with it a strongly-negative image.
"Affairs are easier of entrance than of exit; and it is but common prudence to see our way out before we venture in."
---- Aesop (620 BC-560 BC)
It would be prudent of you to look up the definition of ' prudence' in the dictionary.
respect. [< Latin re- (back, again) + specere (to look)] to look back on or refer back to > to be worth looking back at or returning to > to be worthy of special attention > to be esteemed. Opposites of 'respect' include 'contempt' and 'disrespect' (and the verb forms 'diss' and 'dissing'). One form of respect is to give someone their 'propers' (their due, in the form of actions) or 'props' (proper acknowledgement in front of others, usually verbal).
As a noun, respect is the quality of being held to be of high value or esteem. The term is usually used for finding high value in the lasting elements of someone's good character or excellence in a task. You act differently with people you respect; you heed, pay attention, and listen to them, and try to be more like them. If that respect is very high, you honor, regard, and even pay homage to them (in the modern sense of homage, instead of the rather pricy ancient sense). It would be easy to say that you should show respect to everyone, because Christians are called to love them. But some people's actions are worthy of disrespect. In that case, they are still to be treated with some level of respect due to their high value as a person loved by God, but their actions must be rejected, opposed, and even forcibly stopped. In the English phrase "no respecter of persons", it means that no one person is treated as being more worthy than another.
You can also check for 'respect' in the dictionary. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me.
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Metaphysics and Legalism. Copyright © 1996-2012 By Robert Longman.