the weblog of Alan Knox

Connecting the dots…

Posted by on Apr 9, 2007 in scripture | 23 comments

Have you ever completed a “connect-the-dots” picture? Usually, the dots are so close together that the final picture is fairly obvious before you even begin. Thus, you know the picture is a rabbit even before you draw a line from dot 1 to dot 2.

Sometimes, studying Scripture is much like connecting the dots. The biblical writers did not write complete theological treatises to their recipients. They wrote occasional letters to deal with specific problems. True, some of the books are more general. However, Scripture does not give us a complete picture of many aspects of living the Christian life.

Through exegesis (see a post by Steve, at “Theological Musings“, called “Exegesis vs. Eisegesis“) we can attempt to understand what the authors of Scripture were teaching in a certain passage. This understanding becomes our point of reference. This point of reference is based strictly on the the text of Scripture, not on what we believe, but on what the text actually says.

By exegeting other related passages we can beging to add other points of reference. But, once we have exegeted all of the passages of Scripture related to a certain topic, we have many points of reference: some fairly close together, others are not as close. The question now becomes, how are we going to connect those points of reference? How are we going to connect the dots?

For example, my favorite topic is the meeting of the church. What should happen when the church gathers together? There is no book or even chapter that tells us exactly what should happen and how it should happen, who does what and who doesn’t, where can we meet, when do we meet… None of the biblical authors wrote a complete description of the gathering of the church. However, we do have points of reference. As we exegete 1 Corinthians 14, Hebrews 10:24-25, several passages in Acts, etc. we find points of reference about the gathering of the church. Now, what do we do with these points of reference?

How do we live in the space between the dots? I’m not talking about the points of reference themselves. If Scripture speaks to a certain issue, then we, as servants of our Lord, should obey. So, I am not talking about living around the dots; I’m talking about living in the space between the points of reference – in the spaces where Scripture does not specifically speak, or if it does speak, it seems incomplete.

It is normal for us to draw lines connecting the dots. We like to have everything spelled out for us. In fact, for the past two thousand years, many systematic theologians have attempted to do just that: connect the dots. Many of these systems have been very complete, spelling out exactly how a believer should live and believe in any circumstance. Many of these systems are also quite true to Scripture: that is, where Scripture speaks to an issue, many systems intersect Scripture. But, what about an issues where Scripture does not speak? Or what about the spaces “between the dots” where Scripture speaks?

My next post will continue to examine this issue of hermeneutics. In the meantime, I ask you, how do we live in the space between the dots? How do we live in the areas between the points of reference that Scripture gives us? Or, are there no spaces between the points of reference?

“Connecting the Dots” Series:

  1. Connecting the Dots
  2. Adding more Dots
  3. Living between the Dots
  4. Blurring the Dots
  5. Discussing the Dots

23 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-9-2007

    Alan,

    You have written an excellent post, with an outstanding question that you have raised. Before I make my “simple” comment, I believe the “anonymous” poster above is SPAM — just wanted to alert you to it, in case you desire to delete it from your page.

    Regard living “between the dots,” I see exactly where you’re coming from. This is why I believe the “vision” that God has given a local pastor for the local body is SOOOOO important, because it DOES fill in the gaps between the dots, at least for the specific local congregation. That’s my answer, the vision given by the Holy Spirit to the local pastor for the local body.

    What do you think?

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  2. 4-9-2007

    Alan,

    I think that the “dot” analogy is a good one. Problems arise when we look at the spaces between the dots and make subjective assessments regarding their content.

    The whole group of local Body parts functioning as one living unit must be involved in filling in the gaps, with EACH PART, “hearing” the voice of God in the Scriptures, in “the still small voice”, and in discussion with each other, checking whether what they “hear” or “see” is truly in accord with the Scriptures. Then, and only then, will there be a reasonable understanding of “the vision” for the local assembly. It will be a corporate vision,not always instigated by the elder/s, and all will run with it!

    After all, the elder is only one part, whether he’s called “pastor” or something else. He’s certainly not the Head. He could be any one of the other parts, a tongue maybe, an arm, or an ear. It’s even possible that he might be one of the “less honourable parts”, of which Paul spoke to the Corinthians, but on which “we bestow more abundant honour”. He will never be the THE visionary. He may possibly sow a seed amongst the brethren, and find himself a co-visionary.

    Martin Luther discovered the Biblical difficulties with the magisterial ideas about pastoral ministry, which relegate catching the vision and knowing God’s will, to the magisterium.

    Congregations I ministered to over the years, got used to me saying to them, “If you believe what I tell you without checking it out for yourself, you are fools”. The day in which we live demands that we be “more noble-minded than the Thessalonians”.

    Aussie John

  3. 4-9-2007

    Alan -

    These are great questions you have asked. You have articulately verbalized something that I have thought about off and on for a few years now. But I have only thought about it, I have not come up with any “answers” to your questions you asked.

    You asked, “… how do we live in the space between the dots? How do we live in the areas between the points of reference that Scripture gives us? Or, are there no spaces between the points of reference?

    What comes to my mind is walking by the Spirit vs. walking by the flesh. Galatians 5 is a great passage that Paul has written dealing with what happens when we walk by the flesh rather than by the Spirit. He begins by telling us that if we do not stand firm in our freedom then we can/will return to a yoke of slavery. Who wants that? Yet that is what you and I do when we walk by the flesh. And it does happen all to often I’m afraid.

    Verses 16-17 say “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

    We all have seen it and done it, to be sure. Walking by the flesh rather than by the Spirit just seems easier, it’s like walking by sight rather than by faith. I think when we are having a hard time connecting the dots we have a tendency to begin (or continue, as the case may be) walking by the flesh and by sight, because of our finite minds.

    The other thing we have a tendency to do is follow other people rather than God Himself. Again, I think it comes from walking by sight being seemingly easier (although it’s really not in the long run). I think it also comes from fear and lack of trust in God and lack of understanding of who He is. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. We need to wait, trust, believe, and follow Him.

    I think, honestly, that people would rather God just spelled it ALL out or they would rather have someone else (i.e. a pastor) spell it all out for them. We’ve become lazy and fearful (on many levels) and we have a lack of understand of who God is … because of that we would rather not invest the time and energy that it takes to walk by the Spirit. We’d rather not wait, we’d rather not walk by faith. We’re afraid that we might make the wrong decisions or even have to question some things we’ve always believed.

    That may not even come close to answering your questions, but it’s what I thought about when I read your post.

    So how do I live between the dots? As best I can (and believe me when I say I do my fair share of all the things I talked about above) I walk by the Spirit … I trust God to show me what He wants to show me. I don’t think it’s easy, at least not for me yet since for much of my life I was living independently of God. But it’s worth it.

    I hope I didn’t miss the point of your post, but this is just what came to my mind when I read it.

    Blessings!

  4. 4-9-2007

    Alan,

    Good post … I’m inclined to think that Heather has hit on something in her comment, when she spoke of the need to ‘walk by the Spirit’.

    This started me thinking about relationships. Now, this is not well formed (as yet) but I wonder whether we inherently look for ‘guidelines’ etc, to eliminate certain (often unknown) risks that might otherwise be involved.

    Consider for a moment, if we ‘knew’ God well, i.e. really knew Him; not just knew about Him. Then we would be more inclined to ‘know’ what he wanted of us (whether individually or corporately) far more readily.

    I can’t help but wonder whether a large part of the problem lies in our inability to relate well to others and especially to God on a level of intimacy that would equate to such ‘knowing’?

    We seem to be able to relate reasonably well within the (known) boundaries of certain relational structures. Take the IC for example, where the need (or even the opportunity) for more meaningful relationships which embody trust, vulnerability, transparency and mutual accountabilty etc, is reduced; how many intimate realtionship are fostered in such an environment. This of course begs the question is this one of the ‘strengths’ of the IC?

    By contrast then, when engaged in close community, or more intimate relationships many people tend to baulk; making not only friendships, but even Home (or Simple) Churches more threatening / demanding! could this be one of the more significant hurdles we need to overcome address in the HC?

    Just some food for thought …

    John

  5. 4-9-2007

    I appreciate all of the comments. Many of your are thinking in the direction that I am heading. I am not going to make specific comments here, as I am still working on the last part of this series.

    Please, continue commenting and interacting with one another. I may add another post to this series in order to include some of your comments and thoughts.

    -Alan

  6. 4-9-2007

    I look forward to this. As a reference to something I’ve written that is at least partially connected, I recently asked about how hermeneutics and the Holy Spirit relate at this post.

  7. 4-9-2007

    Bryan,

    You’ve written some great posts and hosted some great conversations on the work of the Holy Spirit. I hope people take the time the read some of your posts.

    -Alan

  8. 4-9-2007

    John Purcell-
    You said, “…if we ‘knew’ God well, i.e. really knew Him; not just knew about Him. Then we would be more inclined to ‘know’ what he wanted of us…” That, I believe, is so true.

    I’ve always loved the phrase, “knew her”, in the KJV that denoted the intimate physical and emotional aspect of marriage. Sometimes it meant just sex, but I think it went far beyond that physical bond.

    I keep going back to my favorite verse, Phil. 3:10 “…that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…” To know Christ, really know Him would mean a far deeper bond than any marriage could ever have.

    My husband and I have been married 40+ years, and every day I know him better and better. We love to talk because our interests have become more and more aligned. I know what he like to eat and how he likes to relax and what kind of music/books he enjoys and what makes him cry/laugh. A single word or phrase brings back shared memories. Sometimes, we don’t even have to say a word, and we know what the other is thinking…and sometimes we finish each other’s sentences. That’s knowing another person.

    God knows me (and I can’t imagine why He still loves me!), but I don’t know nearly enough of Him. I want to be able to know Him well enough to finish His sentences.

    That, I think, is living between the dots.

    Kat

  9. 4-9-2007

    John Purcell-
    You said, “…if we ‘knew’ God well, i.e. really knew Him; not just knew about Him. Then we would be more inclined to ‘know’ what he wanted of us…” That, I believe, is so true.

    I’ve always loved the phrase, “knew her”, in the KJV that denoted the intimate physical and emotional aspect of marriage. Sometimes it meant just sex, but I think it went far beyond that physical bond.

    I keep going back to my favorite verse, Phil. 3:10 “…that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…” To know Christ, really know Him would mean a far deeper bond than any marriage could ever have.

    My husband and I have been married 40+ years, and every day I know him better and better. We love to talk because our interests have become more and more aligned. I know what he like to eat and how he likes to relax and what kind of music/books he enjoys and what makes him cry/laugh. A single word or phrase brings back shared memories. Sometimes, we don’t even have to say a word, and we know what the other is thinking…and sometimes we finish each other’s sentences. That’s knowing another person.

    God knows me (and I can’t imagine why He still loves me!), but I don’t know nearly enough of Him. I want to be able to know Him well enough to finish His sentences.

    That, I think, is living between the dots.

    Kat

  10. 4-9-2007

    John Purcell-
    You said, “…if we ‘knew’ God well, i.e. really knew Him; not just knew about Him. Then we would be more inclined to ‘know’ what he wanted of us…” That, I believe, is so true.

    I’ve always loved the phrase, “knew her”, in the KJV that denoted the intimate physical and emotional aspect of marriage. Sometimes it meant just sex, but I think it went far beyond that physical bond.

    I keep going back to my favorite verse, Phil. 3:10 “…that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…” To know Christ, really know Him would mean a far deeper bond than any marriage could ever have.

    My husband and I have been married 40+ years, and every day I know him better and better. We love to talk because our interests have become more and more aligned. I know what he like to eat and how he likes to relax and what kind of music/books he enjoys and what makes him cry/laugh. A single word or phrase brings back shared memories. Sometimes, we don’t even have to say a word, and we know what the other is thinking…and sometimes we finish each other’s sentences. That’s knowing another person.

    God knows me (and I can’t imagine why He still loves me!), but I don’t know nearly enough of Him. I want to be able to know Him well enough to finish His sentences.

    That, I think, is living between the dots.

    Kat

  11. 4-9-2007

    John Purcell-
    You said, “…if we ‘knew’ God well, i.e. really knew Him; not just knew about Him. Then we would be more inclined to ‘know’ what he wanted of us…” That, I believe, is so true.

    I’ve always loved the phrase, “knew her”, in the KJV that denoted the intimate physical and emotional aspect of marriage. Sometimes it meant just sex, but I think it went far beyond that physical bond.

    I keep going back to my favorite verse, Phil. 3:10 “…that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…” To know Christ, really know Him would mean a far deeper bond than any marriage could ever have.

    My husband and I have been married 40+ years, and every day I know him better and better. We love to talk because our interests have become more and more aligned. I know what he like to eat and how he likes to relax and what kind of music/books he enjoys and what makes him cry/laugh. A single word or phrase brings back shared memories. Sometimes, we don’t even have to say a word, and we know what the other is thinking…and sometimes we finish each other’s sentences. That’s knowing another person.

    God knows me (and I can’t imagine why He still loves me!), but I don’t know nearly enough of Him. I want to be able to know Him well enough to finish His sentences.

    That, I think, is living between the dots.

    Kat

  12. 4-9-2007

    John Purcell-
    You said, “…if we ‘knew’ God well, i.e. really knew Him; not just knew about Him. Then we would be more inclined to ‘know’ what he wanted of us…” That, I believe, is so true.

    I’ve always loved the phrase, “knew her”, in the KJV that denoted the intimate physical and emotional aspect of marriage. Sometimes it meant just sex, but I think it went far beyond that physical bond.

    I keep going back to my favorite verse, Phil. 3:10 “…that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…” To know Christ, really know Him would mean a far deeper bond than any marriage could ever have.

    My husband and I have been married 40+ years, and every day I know him better and better. We love to talk because our interests have become more and more aligned. I know what he like to eat and how he likes to relax and what kind of music/books he enjoys and what makes him cry/laugh. A single word or phrase brings back shared memories. Sometimes, we don’t even have to say a word, and we know what the other is thinking…and sometimes we finish each other’s sentences. That’s knowing another person.

    God knows me (and I can’t imagine why He still loves me!), but I don’t know nearly enough of Him. I want to be able to know Him well enough to finish His sentences.

    That, I think, is living between the dots.

    Kat

  13. 4-9-2007

    John Purcell-
    You said, “…if we ‘knew’ God well, i.e. really knew Him; not just knew about Him. Then we would be more inclined to ‘know’ what he wanted of us…” That, I believe, is so true.

    I’ve always loved the phrase, “knew her”, in the KJV that denoted the intimate physical and emotional aspect of marriage. Sometimes it meant just sex, but I think it went far beyond that physical bond.

    I keep going back to my favorite verse, Phil. 3:10 “…that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…” To know Christ, really know Him would mean a far deeper bond than any marriage could ever have.

    My husband and I have been married 40+ years, and every day I know him better and better. We love to talk because our interests have become more and more aligned. I know what he like to eat and how he likes to relax and what kind of music/books he enjoys and what makes him cry/laugh. A single word or phrase brings back shared memories. Sometimes, we don’t even have to say a word, and we know what the other is thinking…and sometimes we finish each other’s sentences. That’s knowing another person.

    God knows me (and I can’t imagine why He still loves me!), but I don’t know nearly enough of Him. I want to be able to know Him well enough to finish His sentences.

    That, I think, is living between the dots.

    Kat

  14. 4-9-2007

    John Purcell-
    You said, “…if we ‘knew’ God well, i.e. really knew Him; not just knew about Him. Then we would be more inclined to ‘know’ what he wanted of us…” That, I believe, is so true.

    I’ve always loved the phrase, “knew her”, in the KJV that denoted the intimate physical and emotional aspect of marriage. Sometimes it meant just sex, but I think it went far beyond that physical bond.

    I keep going back to my favorite verse, Phil. 3:10 “…that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…” To know Christ, really know Him would mean a far deeper bond than any marriage could ever have.

    My husband and I have been married 40+ years, and every day I know him better and better. We love to talk because our interests have become more and more aligned. I know what he like to eat and how he likes to relax and what kind of music/books he enjoys and what makes him cry/laugh. A single word or phrase brings back shared memories. Sometimes, we don’t even have to say a word, and we know what the other is thinking…and sometimes we finish each other’s sentences. That’s knowing another person.

    God knows me (and I can’t imagine why He still loves me!), but I don’t know nearly enough of Him. I want to be able to know Him well enough to finish His sentences.

    That, I think, is living between the dots.

    Kat

  15. 4-9-2007

    John Purcell-
    You said, “…if we ‘knew’ God well, i.e. really knew Him; not just knew about Him. Then we would be more inclined to ‘know’ what he wanted of us…” That, I believe, is so true.

    I’ve always loved the phrase, “knew her”, in the KJV that denoted the intimate physical and emotional aspect of marriage. Sometimes it meant just sex, but I think it went far beyond that physical bond.

    I keep going back to my favorite verse, Phil. 3:10 “…that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…” To know Christ, really know Him would mean a far deeper bond than any marriage could ever have.

    My husband and I have been married 40+ years, and every day I know him better and better. We love to talk because our interests have become more and more aligned. I know what he like to eat and how he likes to relax and what kind of music/books he enjoys and what makes him cry/laugh. A single word or phrase brings back shared memories. Sometimes, we don’t even have to say a word, and we know what the other is thinking…and sometimes we finish each other’s sentences. That’s knowing another person.

    God knows me (and I can’t imagine why He still loves me!), but I don’t know nearly enough of Him. I want to be able to know Him well enough to finish His sentences.

    That, I think, is living between the dots.

    Kat

  16. 4-9-2007

    Kat,

    I think you are right about “knowing Him”. Everything we do and believe should start with that. It is also important for knowing how to live “between the dots”.

    -Alan

  17. 4-9-2007

    Kat,

    Thankyou, for your thoughts and for sharing some of the richness of your relationship with your husband. I do think that this is one key to knowing how to live amid the vagaries of life. I too confess to a passionate desire to ‘know Him more’ and like yourself, Phil 3:10 is not only a favourite verse, but a cry from my heart.

    Thankyou for sharing as you did and congratulations on the ’40 plus years’ a great testimony.

    John

  18. 4-10-2007

    Alan,

    I liked Heather’s answer…

    Since we are all priest, we do not have to rely on a Pope or Pastor to fill in the dots for us. We need to rely on our High Priest, who is Jesus the Christ. So my short and sweet answer is this… The way I walk in-between the dots is by much prayer, discussion with other brothers and sisters, and personally reflecting on what I am being shown.

    I look forward to the rest of this series.

    God’s Glory,
    Lew

  19. 4-10-2007

    Lew,

    Thanks for the comment. I am enjoying your blog posts about “ministry” and “ordination”. I agree that living between the dots takes much prayer. Wise friends also help.

    -Alan

  20. 8-15-2012

    To be honest, it really cheeses my chives when people do not consider the full counsel of scripture. People come up with doctrines and streams of thinking based on one or a portion of one passage, without solid support from other portions of scripture. Worse, is when they take a portion, out of context and refuse to consider the passages that counteract what they claim to be solid and true. Many of these same people claim they believe in the full counsel of scripture, yet are content to walk in half truths.

    I appreciate your “dots” metaphor. It really is a matter of connecting the dots, rather than just concentrating on one or a few dots.

    For fun, here is something I wrote on my thoughts on truth.

    http://wp.me/pxy7r-3i

  21. 8-15-2012

    John,

    Ah, yes, considering all the dots… that’s huge.

    -Alan

  22. 7-2-2013

    As we have heard and repeated several tiimes over, indeed “God is a Spirit , and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth”.
    Are human beings mere flesh? no, what characterizes us is our spirits within us and hence the statement above is asking us to worship God Spiritually AND in truth.
    Seeing that a man is composed of a BODY , SPIRIT and SOUL , why does the bible passage above seek to point out that God who is a Spirit can ONLY be worshipped in SPIRIT and in TRUTH ? Does this mean that there is a FLESHLY form of worshipping God which is not the most important form of worship ? Yes there is. Alright if there is ;
    1. A FLESHLY worship of God
    2. A SPIRITUAL worship of God
    3. A TRUTHFUL worship of God,
    what are the DETAILS of each of the three ?

    In antiquity , long before The Christ appeared in flesh God had already given His Commandments to help man re-connect to God within , but man was not grasping God’s proffered hands of salvation. Through Moses however , the Father Himself impressed upon man the concept of LIVE AND LET LIVE….OR…….JUSTICE. This basic principle of life was established by God Himself to serve as a platform for peace BETWEEN MEN. Now , does the worship of God END with upholding JUSTICE between a man and his fellow man ( love thy neighbour as thyself) ? Hardly so. So what next?
    We should LOVE GOD. The ONLY WAY to love God is to cleanse our SPIRITS in preparation to receiving the Presence of the Holy and Righteous Spirit of God within us. We are the TRUE TEMPLE of the Spirit of God ( Holy Spirit) hence we should not commit certain sins of the flesh which militates against the Spirit of God taking up His rightful abode within us ; did God not create us for His Own habitation? The sins of the flesh AGAINST THE SPIRIT OF GOD, and against our own spirits are as follows; SMOKING(including narcotics), DRINKING OF ALCOHOL, FORNICATION/ADULTERY and sins as revealed in
    Galatians 5 : 19-21. These are the sins of the flesh that wars against the Holy Spirit and the health of our own spirits. Thus , when the bible cautions man to worship God in SPIRIT , its a trumpet call to avoid these sins which can be collectively termed…..THE ABOMINATIONS.

    In brief, worshipping God “IN TRUTH” constitutes the TOTALITY of the Gospel of God to man , i.e the Gospel of the Kingdom of God which is descended this day. This Gospel defines the TOTAL life-style of Jesus which God revealed and empowered Him to live , in order that all who tread in His footsteps would be resurrected from their carnal mindsets into the mindset of God ( THE SOUL). Our spirit within has a Godly mindset which connects us to God and this is what we term THE SOUL, and this is the Holy Breath that God breathed into us at the beginning , but which we lost through SIN.
    Worshipping “in truth” or Living the TOTAL GOSPEL of the Kingdom of God therefore requires that we uphold ;

    1. JUSTICE
    2. shunning THE ABOMINATIONS.
    3. shunning THE OSTRACISMS.
    The ostracisms is all forms of UNHOLINESS TO GOD , as explained in the Laws of God. I would explain this later.

    The whole duty of man on earth is to learn to 1. LOVE MAN ( JUSTICE)…..and ……2. LOVE GOD ( avoid the ABOMINATIONS and ;OSTRACISMS).

  23. 7-2-2013

    Franklin,

    I appreciate the comment, but I’m trying to figure out how it ties into this post. Perhaps you can help me understand?

    -Alan