January 6, 2013
In this issue: Different by Design by Dee Bowman | CENI or Tell, Show and Imply? Author Unknown
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By Dee Bowman
Peter, inspired by the Spirit, tells us that Christians are "a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). When I was just a little fellow, I remember hearing sermons about Christians being "peculiar" people, and how they were to be different from other folks around—even if it meant being odd or irregular. I have since learned that the word peculiar means more than being different or odd – though we may seem to be that. This peculiarity has to do with our being "a people for God's own possession." In fact, our word peculiar has its source in Latin and is a close translation of the Greek word. The Latin word is peculium and means "private property." Even before that it meant a person's "personal cattle."
However, there is still a connotation in the word that expresses a setting apart, being different or distinctive. The Christian is a saint and the word “saint” means "called out,” or separated, and speaks to that same peculiarity or separation, as well. Even the Greek word translated "church," in the New Testament, ekklesia, had reference to an assembly of called out people, again describing a people separated from the world, who have been made the property of the Heavenly Father.
As a matter of fact, no person can be a follower of Christ who is not willing to suffer the badge of being different. He must be willing even to suffer an amount of abuse for having become so. It takes considerable courage, wisdom, patience, and dedication to be different. As my favorite frog Kermit says, "It's not easy being green." But different we are. Different by design.
You can tell a Christian by where he goes. A good Christian will not deliberately frequent certain places–places where he knows ungodly things are taking place. He will not be found in dance halls, bars, or in gambling houses because he knows that what's going on in those places is not in his best spiritual interests. He will not accept invitations to gatherings where he knows the crowd will be comprised of those who are not concerned for moral values – places where he knows his spiritual influences might be blunted. The Christian feels out of place in such gatherings.
You can tell a Christian by who he's with. He knows his associations say something about his character, his moral values, as well as his interests in life. True, he has to live in the world around people who don't share his code of morality and who are not interested in God, but he does not choose deliberately to surround himself with people of low morality. He may not be very popular because of having separated himself from such people, but he is disposed to courageously define his choice of friends even in the face of such rejections. Paul says, "Be not deceived; evil companions corrupt good morals" (1 Cor. 15:33). I don't know how many times people have come to me to straighten out their lives and when asked how they got so far off course, they remarked: "Well, I just got in with the wrong crowd."
You can tell a Christian by how he talks. It’s amazing to me how rapidly this country’s language has plummeted into a filthy bog of putridity. Words that once were used only in gutter conversations just a few years ago are now being used in general conversations – and without a blush of embarrassment. Words men would not say in the presence of women just a few years ago are now used by the women themselves–in a pitiful and painful desecration of femininity. The Christian will be noticeably different in this area. You will not hear him cursing, using the name of the Lord flippantly or otherwise using language disrespectful of his Father. You will not hear him telling smutty stories or relaying filthy gossip. Conversely, his speech will be "seasoned with salt" (Col. 4:6), designed to enhance the conversation and promote a righteous life. He will speak words of encouragement and edification, in an effort to encourage those to whom he speaks, words that build confidence in God. Sometimes he will be conscientiously constrained to speak out against ungodliness and evil, but even then, he will do it with concern for those to whom he must address those corrections, and will do so "in the spirit of meekness" (Gal. 6:1). And you will notice by his speech the things that are of interest to him: things like Christ and His church, salvation, heaven – different things like that.
You can tell a Christian by what he is. Building character is what Christianity is all about. God gives ample information as to how he can mold the kind of character that is fit for His approval. As this is being done, he becomes more and more distinctive, sometimes even seemingly odd. It becomes apparent to people that he is more interested in the hereafter than in the here, that his affections are on things above, not on things on the earth (Col. 3:1-2), that the time spent here however long it may be—is merely a probationary period while he equips himself for the home his Lord has prepared for him (Col. 3:20-21). He is a pilgrim, a sojourner. He has taken, as best as he can, complete control of his life and given himself entirely to God. In short, he's just different about things. ~
[The following was sent to me by Lucas Ward, a brother who has been a lot of help to us at the Navarre congregation. His brother, Nathan, is a professor of Biblical Studies at Florida College, and has visited with and preached for us a couple of times, always with clear and insightful biblical lessons. I knew that there was a raging debate among some brethren about the command, example, necessary inference approach to understanding God’s will, and figured also that it was more prevalent in younger or more “scholarly” circles. This item supplied by Nathan to Lucas provides some proof of that view, but it is also one of the most succinct presentations and defenses of the necessity of using this approach I have ever seen. Please take the time to read and you’ll see what I mean. Roger Lindsey—editor]
We need to get past the constant criticism of CENI (Command, Example, Necessary Inference).
The problem with CENI is not that it is a failed hermeneutic. The problem is that we have clouded the terminology so much that we have forgotten what basic communication is all about. CENI is fancy talk for the basic principles of communication—what we use anywhere at any time for everyone. How so?
When you want to make your will known, how do you do it? May I suggest one of three ways? 1) You tell someone; 2) You show someone; 3) You imply something you expect people to get. This, of course, is the simplified version of CENI. When people disparage CENI, I don’t think they’ve really thought this point through. Attacking CENI is attacking the foundation of communication. And it won’t logically stand.
Here’s the kicker: the whole principle (what I refer to more appropriately as “tell, show, and imply”) is self-evident. Anyone who wants to deny this is free to try it. But if you do, please do not tell me anything about it, show me anything about it, or imply anything about it. To do so would be self-defeating.
In other words, “tell, show, and imply” is logically necessary. It is the way we communicate anything. Now I realize that this doesn’t get to the nuts and bolts of application, but I do think we need to get past this constant criticism of CENI. Perhaps we should lose the CENI terminology, but the principle that underlies it is logically necessary. In my opinion, our mistake has been that we haven’t explained that fundamental communication process — we’ve skipped right to the fancy talk and left people wondering, “where do you find that the in Bible?” You find it right where you find it anytime someone communicates anything. It is a fundamental starting point, and I don’t believe anyone can logically deny it without defeating their own denial.
As a follow up to my previous post regarding CENI, I wanted to say a couple of things about CENI as a hermeneutic (a method of interpretation). Let me reiterate first:
CENI (Command, Example, Necessary Inference or Implication) is simply the formalized way of stating how ALL communication works. Simplified, and more obvious, is that if we are going to communicate our will to anyone, we will either 1) tell what we want, 2) show what we want, or 3) imply what we expect others to get. This is, I have argued, self-evident because no one can deny this without using it. In other words, just try to deny “tell, show, or imply” without telling me, showing me, or implying something about it. CENI may seem more complicated, but it is the very same thing in fancier talk. My recommendation is to simplify, and no one can really argue against it.
But is CENI or TSI (as I’ll refer to it) a hermeneutical method? I sometimes see the criticism of it as a failed hermeneutic (method of interpretation), but I believe this misses the point of it. Let me elaborate.
TSI is foundational to any form of communication. There is no communication without it (again, just try denying it and you’ll only affirm it). So it is inherent in any spoken or written communication (not just in studying the Bible). It is not, in itself, a hermeneutic, but is rather foundational to any hermeneutic. Any hermeneutic will already assume the reality of TSI.
Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation. It is what we as the recipients (readers, hearers) bring to the communication process. TSI, on the other hand, is inherent in what the communicator gives. That is, we, the readers or listeners, do not provide the TSI; we take the TSI that is given to us and try to understand what that means. TSI, then, is not a method of interpretation; it is the material that we try to interpret. We might misinterpret it. We might fail to get out of it what is intended. But it is nevertheless the raw material that we use in order to understand what the author or speaker intends. There is no getting around this. No one interprets anything that is not first told, shown, or implied.
So, CENI (TSI) is not a hermeneutic. It is the bare bones of what we work with when we do interpret. Thus, criticizing it as a failed hermeneutic is to misunderstand it at the most basic level. Instead of criticizing it, let’s recognize it for what it is (inherent in the communication process) and then deal with how we should properly understand the statements, examples, and implications. As I previously argued, we need to get past the criticism of CENI. ~