relativism, in relationship, supplication, transgression.
Christian Spirituality > Spiritual Word Meanings > In Relationship.
relativism [ < Latin relātivus, adj. form of relātus (brought again) ppart. of referre : re- + lātus (to bring, carry)]. The idea that all truth is relative.
The scientific root of this is Einstein's theory of relativity, which states that the difference between mass and energy (which are all that materially exists) is just a conversion factor related to time via the speed of light. This means all that exists changes in relation to all else that exists. Treated as an -ism or ideology, this means the very idea of an absolute (even of an absolute, unconditional God, or a permanently definitive revelation from that God) is seen as a harmful fiction. In relativism, there can be one who is a 'god' when compared to you, and a briefly-effective revelation of how that god is or was at a given moment. But it's a sometimes-God who kind-of-reveals sort-of-truths, and loves us in widely-varied amounts most of the time, dependent on the situation. In relativism, there is no such thing as clear morality. Right and wrong are situational and utilitarian, with only a sorta/kinda meaning ('moral relativism'), and without a clear concept of truth. In our attempts to do best for others, we lose vision of what 'best' is ('ethical relativism').
If the Bible is right, then the word 'relative' is not quite the right way to go. It's better to say "all truth is in relationship". The God of the Bible is in a relationship with a people (the Jews), called a "covenant". The Torah was given so that nation might know what it takes to live in a society of relationships that are in accord with God. The actions of God's Son, Jesus Christ, are done to restore the broken relationship of all people and all creation with God. The Church is defined by that relationship, and is called to relate to everyone else with the love of Jesus. If God is a trinity, then there is a unique kind of relationship within God, though none of us are in any position to accurately describe it. (One of those big theological words, perichoresis, is often used when trying to describe God's inner relationship.) Also, it's said that "God is love", but 'love' itself is a relational term that is meaningless outside of relationship. (You don't just 'love'; you love someone or something.) God keeps working to bring us back to the relationship we had sundered.
The life of following Christ is about being in a one-to-one relationship with God and with each person, whom Jesus calls on us to love. While some in church circles speak too blithely about that one-on-one relationship, it is a critical one, both for you and for what God is doing. Having a relationship with someone who can't be heard or seen strikes many modern folks as being silly, a lot like the child who has an imaginary friend. But imaginary friends can't do what God does. Prayer is the communication through which the human-God relationship works; prayer (rightly understood) is the give-and-take between the best of friends.
You can also check the dictionary definition of 'relationship'.
discipleship : a disciple is one who undertakes the discipline of his/her teacher. Thus, discipleship is about learning what that discipline is, learning how to follow, to listen to the Story. Discipleship is part schooling, part mentoring, part apprenticeship, part service, but it goes a step beyond all of those. Disciples not only take in what they are taught and what they learn from being with the teacher, they take it into their core identity, so it defines who they are. In ancient times, the sages passed their wisdom on by discipling a small core of people. That is the main or core part of how Jesus taught; Jesus grew a circle of disciples. The Christian church was built from the efforts of his disciples to disciple others. The Church has a duty before God, a call to "make disciples of all nations". Evangelism is the beckoning, the calling in, and the opened door. Discipleship is the hallways inside.
You can also check the dictionary for 'discipleship'.
reincarnation: In this belief, the soul is a vagabond. It gets dis-embodied and re-embodied again and again in various sorts of creatureliness, until it is finally blown into the Absolute, whatever that is (which may indeed be nothing at all). The Asian idea of 'soul' (as distinct from Greek, Jewish, and African ideas) has some of the attributes of what in other ways of speaking would be called 'spirit' or 'personality'. But like the Greek idea (and not like Jewish or African or New Testament Christian), it is separate, the core of what makes someone a person.
Qoheleth ('the Teacher', in Ecclesiastes) teaches that life is brief, and then comes to an end. Ezekiel (chap.18) teaches that it is a sad loss when the wicked die, for that robs then of the chance of ever changing to follow God -- that's because there is no other field of play for one's faith in God than life. The scriptural picture of both Sheol and Hades are without return; they are cut off by a great vault and the door is locked. Resurrection is different from reincarnation in that there is only one death; Jesus opened the vault door to rescue His own, never to die again. Thus, there is no cycling of the soul, just a permanent death, and a permanent rescue followed by permanent life.
(You might come back as a dictionary, so you can hold within you the meaning of 'reincarnation'.)
material [ Latin māteria (matter, solid, stuff) ] made up of matter or that which can be felt; stuff-ness, object-ness; being of a tangible/physical nature. Related words include corporeal, object (n.), and substantial. It's often said to be opposed to 'spiritual', 'supernatural', 'ideal', 'emotional', or 'intellectual'. To Christians, there is no wall of separation between material and spiritual; they draw life from each other. Indeed, if that wasn't so, we'd be wasting our time with all this 'spirituality' because we'd have no way to really get at it. All that lives is in some sense spiritual, yet also in some sense material. In that way, we're not different than Jesus. When the Kingdom comes, it is a material Kingdom (a 'new earth' and a 'new Jerusalem') as well as a spiritual one.
You can also check for 'material' in the dictionary.
materialism: the belief that matter (or, in some forms, matter/energy as in the theory of relativity) is all there is. The main practical corollary is physicalism, which holds that all that exists is made solely of the interactions of matter, and thus the bodily senses, used with their technological extensions and human reasoning, can discover everything that exists. (Except that other glove you lost....) Materialism is not new. Thoroughly non-religious thinkers have held some form of it since before recorded history. Several of India's philosophers held a so-called 'atomistic' materialism around 500 BC, and ancient Greek philosophers developed many versions of materialism. Materialistic philosophies abounded during the Enlightenment, and even today are most commonly found among scholars. Indeed, in many educated circles, those who don't think in terms of some form of materialism are not taken seriously as thinkers. However, today's "postmodernist" youths are skeptical not only of religion but also of materialism, physicalism, or any other such points of view.
Spiritual-talk is without meaning to a true materialist, because 'spirituality' is about the undetectable and the invisible, and there are no such things for a materialist. There is only matter, so everything has to be seen in terms of some form of matter. The physical world is all that matters. A materialist considers us to be material beings and nothing more or less. A materialist can have values, and can have an ethic and can live according to it. (Some radio preachers miss this truth when they criticize materialists.) However, in the end life loses meaning because there is nothing ultimate. Material just is, and because there's nothing else to measure it by, it can only have the value you attach to it. Pursued to its end, materialism is lonely, cold, and fatalistic. There's no 'underlying', and getting 'deep' means merely to acquire a more detailed level of knowledge.
No religion is truly materialistic, though philosophies like Marxism tried to be. Any spirituality worth bothering with is either anti- or un-materialist -- spirituality comes from reaching for the realm of the unseen and the ultimate. It grows from the sense that there's more to life than meets the eye. Christian spirituality springs from understanding that nothing is purely material, yet all that we encounter is in some way material. God, who is spirit, loves us through material things (or 'means'), and material beings (like you and I). (This view is sometimes called 'incarnational' or 'sacramental'.) We experience the immaterial through material. So real Christianity can be both fully 'spiritual', and honestly, fully, and positively 'material' -- but not really material-ist. Even so, there is such a strange creature as "Christian materialism", in some Pentecostal, Catholic, and Reformed circles.
You can check the dictionary for 'materialism'. Remember, as you read about it, there are many kinds of materialism, just as there are many kinds of spirituality. Wikipedia has articles on materialism in philosophy, Marxism, and economics.
"The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible."
---- Oscar Wilde
supplication [ < Latin supplex (suppliant, to ask humbly; to beseech, implore)] to ask humbly and earnestly. 'Supplication' is almost always used for requests to royalty or deity. The term implies that the asker understands themselves to be of much lower rank, and is unable to address the matter themselves. So 'to supplicate' is sometimes seen as a sophisticated way of saying 'to beg, grovel'. A supplication is a form of prayer, mostly for oneself.
An adjective form of the term is "suppliant", which also infers begging and submission; the one who asks is a 'supplicant'. God does not particularly want us to grovel, but to ask trustingly - the groveling is left for those whose pride has to be broken first. Muslims have an extensive tradition of written duas or supplication prayers.
transgression [ < Latin transgredi, past tense transgress- (to step or pass across) < trans- (across, through, beyond) + gradi (to go, walk, step)] to step over the line, to go past the boundary limits of the law, duty, or moral principle.
In common-talk, transgression has come to mean the same thing as 'sin', though the words point to very different things. To visualize 'sin', one thinks of an archer with careless aim, who not only misses the target, but hits a person in the process; or, someone who chooses to aim at the person instead of the legitimate target. To picture 'transgression', think of someone who chooses to walk into someone else's property, despite the signs warning of danger.
Also in common-talk, it is used for acts that cross against social or cultural bounds, or a public sense of the profane, though it is best reserved for more serious matters. In culture, crossing the bounds is usually a good thing, because it widens our range of thought and practice. It can become bad, though, when the social bounds are put there to keep us from having social war, which can quickly become hateful and bloody. Even then, it may be necessary, but by far most of the time it's best to find other ways to do it.
You can also check the dictionary definition of 'transgression'.
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|ver.: 11 April 2012|
In Relationship. Copyright © 2004-2012 by Robert Longman.