paradox and paradoxical tension, synergism, theodicy,
theophany, tradition, trauma, yogi.
Spirithome > Spiritual Word Definitions > Theophany and Tradition
paradox [ < Greek paradoxôs, < para- (beyond) + doxa (opinion, thought, idea; < dokhein (to think))].
A 'paradoxical tension' is when the two contradictory truths hold each other accountable; each keeps the other true. For example, one truth is that we are called on to be excellent, to do the best we can, to stretch our abilities for our own good and for others. If we don't, it renders us unable to be much help for anyone, no matter what is going on inside us. Another truth, though, is that we are not to measure our worth or our relationship with God by what we do or how well we do it. If we value ourselves on how well we do things, we'd have cause to be ashamed or self-righteously proud. If we see others on such a scale, we pass judgement or idolize. The two paradoxical truths (about excellence and true worth) hold each other in balance, giving us an attitude that is balanced and real.
One of the toughest parts for religious people everywhere is to recognize that God is, within Godself, a paradox. Trinitarian Christians embrace this. God is One but three persons in a mysterious inner relationship. Christ is God, but fully human. And because He is human, and sent His Spirit into those who follow Him, there is something new of His divine nature brewing in each Christian. To babble for long about such things inevitably leads even the wisest of us to say something seriously wrong; so I'll stop there and move on. Others will speak the unspeakable, and fail, but there is still gain in their speaking.
There are paradoxes that are more speakable than that. For instance, the paradox that Christians are called to be holy (separate, or distinct), yet be involved in the lives of others in order to love them ('in the world' around us, open to them as people). Or, there are methods to prayer, yet prayer is not at all about method. Spirituality deeply engages the mind, with sound logic and pursuit of knowledge, yet for each and all of us it is rooted in subjectives, passions, unprovables -- and paradoxes.
"A real Christian is an odd number. He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen; talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see; expects to
go to heaven on the virtue of Another; empties himself in order to be
filled; admits he is wrong so he cannot be declared right; goes down in
order to get up; is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest
and happiest when he feels the worst. He dies so he can live; forsakes in
order to have; gives away so he can keep; sees the invisible; hears the
inaudible; and knows that which passes knowledge."
"If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says, Drive carefully - the life you save may be your own - and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, 'Get' and Jesus says, 'Give'. In terms of the world's sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion."
"Nature trembled and said with astonishment: What new mystery is this?
You can also check the dictionary for 'paradox'.
synergism [ < Greek sun- (together) + ergos (working)].
Synergists believe that in spiritual things humans are not wholly dead to being good, even if perhaps almost so; that human beings have a limited but nonetheless natural -- not Spirit-given -- capacity to work with God to make themselves holy. For them, the Spirit helps us to make ourselves like Christ in this life. This makes salvation at least partly into a work of the human will rather than solely a free gift of grace from God. Synergism may convey what a person senses is happening to them, but it does not convey what is actually happening. It is what inner change looks like from where we're at. But we're too close to what's going on to be able to see the real picture. In order to get beyond this, we must get outside of ourselves and into the full biblical vision of what God is working on. One of the best and most faithfully Christian synergists was the great Catholic scholar Erasmus, who lived in Reformation times and got into a famous (and nasty) dispute with Martin Luther over the powers and freedom of the human will.
Synergy, in a less-religious sense, is when what people do together add up to more than the sum of the work of each. 1+1 equals 3, or 4, or even 4 x 4. When used in the business world, synergy produces greater effectiveness, and thus a business can do more for less. It is said of many a corporate merger that the merger was done to create 'synergies'; this is usually a fig leaf to cover up an otherwise naked power grab and explain why so many people are being fired. Synergy is one of the characteristics that marks a work as being the Spirit's. The Spirit gave gifts with 'working together' in mind, and provides the 'flow' to make it much more effective.
theodicy [ the title of a written work by Leibnitz; < Greek theos (God) + dikê (order, justice, rule of law)]. The attempt to rationally justify the belief that God is good and just despite the presence and strength of malice, evil and injustice in the world.
A theodicy asks a most stubborn question: why would such a good God allow such deep evil, such searing pain, such powerful oppression, such subtle deception, such waste of time, resources, and lives, such murder and mayhem? Theodicy is a mystery that has eluded the very best of logicians. It's even used as an argument against the existence of God. Even the most blissful of Christians has to deal with this, eventually. It is, as Mr. Spock would say, illogical. Yet it is precisely this belief that God is good and is working for good in a world full of evil that is core to the Christian's belief. And there are so many signs of goodness, and even of a good God, that an honest non-believer has to deal with it eventually. Forgiveness is illogical. It is also present and available.
Many Christians take the question of theodicy as a call to action. If it were a simple thing to explain why there is suffering, it would also be a simple thing to explain it away. Once that happens, the compassion we might have for suffering would not push ahead into acts of mercy. The mystery of suffering forces us either to shrug our shoulders and walk away, or to follow the course Jesus called us to take and do something about it when we can.
You can also check the dictionary for theodicy.
theophany [ Greek, < theo- (God) + phanein (to show oneself, appear)]. A theophany is when God shows up, mostly in a majestic, Almighty-ish manner. That is, in a theophany it is rather impossible to miss that it is God who is there, and not a stand-in or a projected image. In the ancient world, the appearances of gods was said to provoke awe, quivering, total fear, and falling as if dead, preceded by earthquakes and thunderstorms. The small quiet voice that Elijah heard qualifies as a theophany for the Jewish or Christian or Sufi-Muslim God, as do other small-scale personal encounters; but even there, it is not what the term usually means.
For Eastern Orthodox Christians, theophany also refers to the holy day of the Baptism of Jesus. At that time, the Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove, and a voice from God spoke: This is my son. Thus, it was God showing Himself in human form, Jesus. Reflecting back on that, church thinkers noticed that the entire Trinity showed itself to those present (and to us who read it in the Gospel) at that moment, in some way, and thus is a unique theophany. For all Christians, that is when we saw not just God's purpose, but God Himself.
You can also check the dictionary for 'theophany'. But when you get there, bolts won't come out of the sky, the earth won't quake, and the sky won't open up for herald angels coming down and blowing trumpets.
tradition : [ < Latin trans- (crossing, spanning, going beyond) + dare (to give)] that which is handed down from generation to generation; a characteristic manner, method, style, or way of life that is not new with the generation that is doing it. Hebrew qabbalâ; Greek paradosis.
Christian tradition is founded on Jesus Christ, as described and told about in the New Testament. (Not that it begins there; Christian tradition begins where Jewish tradition begins, with Abraham. And it still draws from Jewish tradition, even today.) The core tradition is fixed. It's called the 'apostolic tradition' because it is the story of Jesus that the apostles, His closest associates, handed down to us. (Whether they themselves actually wrote it down or not, they were the sources of both the story and its meaning.) From that foundation, other traditions developed : schools of thought, approaches to the faith, various forms of worship, morals, and lifestyle. Some of these developments have been rejected on the basis of the apostolic tradition; other developments have made the apostolic traditions fresh for changing times. Tradition is not all bad or good. As each generation adds its own layer of tradition, the new tradition might get in the way of seeing the original work, like layers of grime on the Sistine Chapel, pre-cleaning. Or it can enlighten and energize the original, like when a great storyteller passes along a great story.
"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around."
The dictionary is a traditional place to find a definition for tradition.
trauma [ Greek trauma ]. Experience of injury or a loss of control due to sudden or extreme circumstances; a shock to the body or mind; the lasting psychological after-effects of such an extreme circumstance.
In a state of trauma, you feel you're at the mercy of something else around you. This can make you think and act weird, or to not think much at all and just react. We call what happened 'traumatic'. We usually sort ourselves out after a short while, but often the effects linger. Trauma comes from the fear, the anger, the raw overload of trying to get enough control of your situation to make sure it stops happening. The healing that you need is often physical and psychological, but your spirit needs healing too. Key to that is the fact that God loves you. God doesn't want you to go around numbed by what has happened to you. The shellshock eventually fades; the overload eventually loads under again. Through people who care, those who enter trauma can learn to trust and to assert one's responsibility over life again. Through them, God restores the fruit of self-control.
You can also check for 'trauma' in the dictionary.
yogi [Sanskrit, < assumed Indo-European yeug- (to join together), akin to English 'yoke']:
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|ver.: 14 February 2012|
Paradox and Trauma. Copyright © 1997-2012 by Robert Longman.