aim Definition: a determined, deliberate, focused effort to get some specific thing done (such as a goal or purpose). [ < Old French (a)esmer < Latin aestimare (to estimate)]
Without aim, you go nowhere special. You have somewhere you want to go (a goal, a dream, a vision), but you get there by aiming for it. It's much better than random action, but on spiritual matters your aim still cannot stand on its own. Think of an arrow; we aim, we try, but no matter how hard we pull back on the bow or how well we aim, our vision wobbles, the gravity of sin pulls downward, the target is often missed. Our efforts need to be part of something bigger, aimed not by us but by the Spirit who can figure the right trajectory, supply the right power, and aim at the right target. Holiness is not about succeeding at a spiritual goal or in avoiding a sinful deed. It is about aiming for the right target, and trusting God to give the grace needed to overcome the misses.
beatification: Recognition by the Roman Catholic Church of the accession to Heaven of a past leading figure in the Catholic faith. Someone who is beatified is seen as being able to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his/her name. This is done by an act of the Pope declaring that the person's holy life makes them worthy of ritual acts of devotion and respect (veneration). The beatified can be venerated in places connected with them. However, they are not canonized into sainthood just yet; there are more processes along that road. The proper Catholic title for them is 'Blessed', not 'Saint'. [< Latin beatus (blessed), used as equivalent of Greek makarios; + Latin facere (to make)]
A Protestant View
Protestants do not give anyone beatification or sainthood, though there are prayers of thanks offered for many great Christians by Anglican and Lutheran churches (as well as by many congregations of other denominations, and by the 'New Monastics') on their assigned feast days, and their lives and deeds are remembered. We also pray with then and they alongside us, in their part of the cloud of witnesses that make up the Church. The believers of old are a part of the same Church Universal we are, and await the day when all becomes new. For all Protestants, this is a matter of honoring and respecting those that have shown themselves worthy of honor and respect, not done as any form of worship or part of any supposed eternal pecking-order that determines the power of a prayer. Protestants almost never call anyone 'the Blessed' or 'Makarios'.
What Is Escape?
escape [ < Old North French escaper, < Vulgar Latin excappare (to get out of one's cape) < cappa (cape, cloak)] To get away from, break loose, avoid capture. Synonyms for escape include aversion, avoidance, or evasion. Also, to elude, flee, dodge, or deke. An act of metaphoric escape from one's usual life, an adventure or shenanigans, is called an escapade.
When used in matters of faith, the meaning of escape is much the same as in psychology and self-help. There are some things which may cause pain or loss, but which are ours to face up to. Things like truth, responsibility, and our own death. Because they are often painful, we'll go to great lengths to escape having to face them; we run away, dump them on someone else, or dope ourselves into artificial bliss. But it catches up to us, and becomes all the more painful because of the attempt to escape. God usually gives little nuggets of joy or reward to those who take their part in such things instead of making their escape. Indeed, often the only way past is through; when that is true, escape becomes ruin.
Escapism is the point of view that the real world is so much of a burden that one's sanity depends on spending a lot of time in fantasy. Fantasy is a good outlet for those burdens, in small doses. But escape becomes escapism when you flee what must be faced, or when so much time is spent in fantasy that its framework becomes the way you view real life. That is a distortion that repeatedly has led to ruin. Unfortunately, societies and sub-groups within societies also would rather escape it than deal with it; this helps us to ignore the poor, fail to let go of our hatreds, and hold onto possible solutions that don't work. Thus, we are called to escape the world's escapism, as if we were escaping a prison.
You can escape this site to find 'escape' in the dictionary.
When you go to the Wikipedia article on escapism (mostly regarding entertainment, fiction, and media), take note of the views of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis regarding the positive side of escape.
Holistic approaches envision a person or thing as a whole rather than examining its parts as if they were separate things. God treats us in that way. Paul looked at the Church holistically, by likening it to a whole body in which the parts have to work together in order for it to function. In that sense the church is one whole life, or "one body". There are some activities, ways of thinking, and ways of living that do harm to the whole. For instance, pollution of one place is pollution of the whole earth, and it eventually starts spreading around. Some amount of tension and disbalance can be holistic; a tooth is 'disbalanced' in favor of calcium and hard materials, but that makes it able to do a task that is healthy for the whole body. We can appreciate difference as potentially healthy, but some kinds of difference are not; for instance, cancerous cells will kill the whole, as will cells that have taken in certain viruses, and invader cells from the outside that have no commitment to the whole. You can't be holistic (or even wholesome) just by adding an herb to your diet or taking a 'natural' supplement. Holism is about not one or two things, but the whole thing including its relationship with other whole things. In history, God works mostly through little things whose effects add up holistically.
You can also check the dictionary on the meaning of 'holism'.
'Wholesome' is not used often enough in this word-field.
What Is Irenic?
irenic : bringing or causing peace [ < Greek eirene]. Also : peace-making, bridging, frithening, shalom, reconciliation. When something is done in an irenic way, it is being done in a way that helps find common ground, creates understanding and appreciation, or soothes sore points of dispute. Paul was calling Christians to be irenic when he wrote of his ministry as a "ministry of reconciliation". There are times when irenic is not what is needed; there's a time to break eggs to make the meal. Sometimes being irenic will prove to be a temporary way of putting off really facing up to a matter. But an irenic approach is usually more helpful and more in line with the ways of the Kingdom.
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 and ideology 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, and should 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, enabling us to come back from it. God set down ways to clear the record, and gives more chances to go a different way. 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. Your behavior can't earn you (or cost you!) God's love. You are loved whether you want it or not, or think you are loved or not, or whether you are obedient or not. God loves us first; that sets the table for everything else. The Law does not save, nor do the Scriptures that hold the Law, nor does our obedience to it. God's gracious love does. "There is no condemnation". And thus, no room for legalism.
How Legalism Gets It Wrong
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 too need to be given room for change by way of love and gratitude. (The society as a whole finds laws and rules necessary to survive and thrive in a just manner, but it isn't a question of whether God accepts you - or them.) 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 won't follow the rules. 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. God did not create us to fit a system, but to live a life of responsible freedom.
Notes on Legalism
You can also check the dictionary for legalism. Sean Palmer writes here of his journey into (and out of) legalism. You'll find that almost no one openly defends legalism, because almost everyone knows it doesn't help, it always makes things worse. However, some people speak against legalism but then talk about behavior in such a rigid way that there is no life-effective difference between them and the legalist. Others attack legalism legalistically, or worse, dogmatically, by driving folks who (in their mind) practice legalism out with a bullwhip. Also, where legalism exists, there is nearly always an institution (or another -ism) that carries out its power through those rules. Laws and rules are usually meant for good. They can teach us about justice, effectiveness, and responsibility, and remind us that there are always other people to consider. But the moment they become an -ism, an enforced way of life and frame of mind, they become the chains of manipulation and slavery. This often happens to people who throw themselves into a cause bigger than they are. Read Rebecca Miller's review of Jonathan Hollingsworth's book *Runaway Radical*", and also read the book itself.
What Is Numerology?
Numerology is based on the idea that numbers (like words) bear powerful symbolic, mystical, or supernatural meanings. Numerology claims that the number itself bears the actual power of the One (or Force) that lies behind the symbol. [ < Latin numerus (number) ]
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 The 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.
Superstition and Numerology
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). Thus numerology is not at all Christian. It is trust in one or more machine-Gods whose buttons are pushed by you, instead of a living God who has a very different mind and purpose from yours. Therefore it is also a form of idolatry. There are no evil or lucky numbers, and there's 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'.
Numerology as Symbolism
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'. That 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.
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 (that's a parakeet). However, the Spirit is sometimes symbolized as a dove, and sometimes as a wild goose.
It's also not what's left of your shoes after a hard game of soccer (that's a pair of cleats).