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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
        Wednesday, April 14 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Interpretations

One of the joys of my vocation as an editor is seeing a major alteration in meaning in a sentence or paragraph by changing a single word or phrase. It happens so often that most of the time I don't even notice; improving the wording is just part of the job and there's virtually no such thing as an article or story, or even a letter or a poem, that can't be improved. It can be tightened, brightened, illuminated, strengthened, clarified, and/or simplified.

But often, too, I realize that a "loaded" word can be changed to a less loaded one and someone who might have been turned off from reading an article all the way through may be kept as a reader by a softening of a choice of words. "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger," wrote Solomon (Proverbs 15:1). Such changing of single words can alter the meaning by softening or even strengthening it, but in most cases I marvel at the fact that even though the "sense" is changed, the original intent has not been destroyed but is even enhanced. In fact, by keeping both the "pro" and the "con" reader, the writer can make a more powerful point, most of the time.

Some people turn away from studying the Bible or Christian doctrine by the fact that they see "endless" possibilities of interpretation; everyone has a different understanding of every facet of religion. But despite my conservative leanings and my lifelong preference for small-"o" orthodoxy in my appraoch to religion, I've always been dismayed by people who say there are so many differences in interpretation of Christian teaching that there's little point trying to find common ground.

Having been a Protestant minister and author for over 25 years, then having immersed myself in the study of Orthodoxy (the variety of Christian teaching that is usually identified with the Greeks, Russians, and many Eastern European nationalities), I undertook a thorough reading of the Roman Catholic Catechism (a completely new volume attempting to summarize and set out the doctrine of the church, published in 1993).

I noted everything in the roughly 1000-page book that Protestants and/or Orthodox would have to dispute or flatly dispute. There were seven or eight such doctrines, the best known of which are Papal infallibility, the immaculate conception of Mary, and the transition stage between death and eternal destiny that Catholics call purgatory. These are not held by either Orthodox or Protestants, and there are several other teachings that overlap more with one communion than the other, in both cases.

For example, apart from the strictly Roman doctrine of Mary's conception, the high regard for her is very similar between Orthodox and Catholic traditions. But both Catholics and Protestants have a strong doctrine of "substitutional atonement" which is the bedrock for their understandings of Christ's work of salvation. Orthodox say both Catholics and Protestants are wrong on this; though there was an atoning aspect to Christ's death and resurrection, the greater work was His "destroying death by death," taking away the sting and the curse of death through His death and resurrection. Though there's a temptation here to go into more detail, that would take a long, long detour, and would not be to the immediate point.

The immediate point is that out of 1000 pages of catechecal teaching, there are only maybe five pages—certainly fewer than 10 pages—that members of the other major Christian communions would have to reject. Yet some find virtually no common ground.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Country wisdom

You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar, assuming you want to catch flies.

—Sent by Mary Ann Losiewicz 

Thought for today

I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

—Winston Churchill
Sent by Trudy Myers 

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