The Euphemist

Reflections on Jewish Studies and many other subjects big and little, by a perpetual student who sometimes searches a little too long for just the right word ...

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Location: Minnesota, United States

Christian, truth seeker, husband, son, brother & uncle, Lutheran pastor, musician (cello, etc.), Jewish Studies grad student, intellectual historian, aquarium enthusiast & pet owner, philologist, astronomer, Norwegian-American, Ford pickup driver, buffoon.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The FreeCell challenge and me

Do any of you PC users out there spend a little too much time playing FreeCell, like me? When I first discovered it in about 2002, I became a quick devotee. It's not only a game, but has the quality of a problem-solving puzzle. I like puzzles. Furthermore, the standard-issue game that comes with Microsoft Windows has 32,000 different deals, each with its own number, so you can go back to the same deal if you didn't solve it the first (or 50th) time. Or you can do them in numerical order. Or you can just go with the random one that the machine picks for you.

For awhile I played lots & lots of it, and I think I got up into about the 300s doing the deals sequentially. Then I remembered that I had a life, and business to attend to. When I enrolled in the Jewish Studies grad program it naturally took over my FreeCell time, and the mental puzzle of my first choice is now my slow quest to master Hebrew. But I do still play the occasional FreeCell game (not to mention the occasional Minesweeper sortie), as it's a fun way to unwind, and the mental exercise is part of my ongoing campaign to avoid Alzheimer's.

These days if I play FreeCell, I just go with the deal the computer randomly gives me, but I usually try to figure out a deal before going on to another. I've been trying to improve my statistics as well - currently I'm up to a modest 45% win ratio, with my longest winning streak at 15, and losing streak of 22 (yeah, I know that's not genius level, but in baseball it wouldn't be bad). But the stats keeper somehow malfunctioned at a convenient time, because recently the computer dealt me Game #1941, and I'm sure I tried it about 25-30 times before I finally gave up and started looking for alternate routes around the obstacle. I started thinking, "is it just me, or is this the hardest deal?" So, I did a Yahoo! Search on "freecell 1941", which yielded 4090 hits. That was reassuring. The most useful link I found was Michael Keller's "Solitaire Laboratory", which has lots of good info on FreeCell, including lists of difficult deals and solutions written in an easy-to-understand notation. On this page Keller says, "From my own experience and reports from other solvers, I would nominate 1941 as the hardest solvable deal among the first 32,000." That was extremely reassuring. It wasn't just me.

That also made me wonder - how much time are people out there spending, playing FreeCell? "My own experience"? The first 32,000? If you spent 5 minutes solving each FreeCell game, you could spend 333 1/3 full eight-hour workdays doing nothing but playing FreeCell! And some of them take much longer than five minutes ... Like #1941 ... Keller also says, "Although there are many harder deals, I suspect that 617 is the first really difficult deal that many players encounter when playing the deals in sequence" and he goes on to say, "The first really hard deal past the first 32,000 deals is probably 35254. I've had seven people ask for a solution or ask whether it is solvable (it is; the next impossible is past 100,000). Danny A. Jones suggests 57148 and 739671 as two of the hardest in the first million." The first million?!? The first million? One million five-minute FreeCell games amounts to nearly 10,417 eight-hour work shifts! Forget about pajama-clad bloggers ... there's more to life than this ...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Merry Christmas from Pluto & us


Pluto in early 2002

Our dog Pluto is having a special Christmas this year, because it's his first in years as a partially inside dog. He's a well-travelled dog, born in the country just south of San Antonio, Texas, and as far as I know, he still has a sister Blondie and other relatives in South Texas. But he moved with me to Indiana, and then with us to Minnesota and finally to South Dakota. Now 10 years old, he's showing signs of becoming a geriatric dog, though he still has great bursts of energy when rabbits come within his field of view (kinda gives new meaning to the phrase "Energizer Bunny").

He had been strictly an outside dog for the last few years, as there is a rule that dogs aren't allowed inside the parsonage. Alas, a couple of pastors ago, a dog had caused some damage. But this past summer Pluto was so traumatized by thunder and fireworks that we had no choice but to let him come inside and escape from all those strange things going "boom" at him. So we approached the church council about the matter, and by God's grace Pluto is now a very privileged dog! Due to his known good behavior inside, he has a special dispensation to be inside. And it's specific to Pluto. The general no-dogs-allowed rule is still in place, but Pluto has his own special exception. I believe he's the only dog ever mentioned by name in the church minutes.

So he has happily, legally, claimed the special "Pluto place" we made for him in the living room, complete with a big comfy dog pillow for him to sink into. He is a friendly, sincere, usually very sleepy presence in the living room. And he has acquired a taste for biscuits. Lots of biscuits. And ear massages. And he still likes to take his master on walks. Even in the cold. I let him out, and after a few minutes he barks to say "let me in". But sometimes he barks and then just stands out there, as if to say, "come join me on a walk." He's our personal trainer. He keeps us exercising.

So, Merry Christmas from the Euphemist & his wife, & from our dog and fishes, and from our cat who stays with my folks in Minnesota. And remember, "a righteous man hath regard for the life of his beast." (Proverbs 12:10)


C.S. Lewis & understanding one another's spiritual languages

I just found an interesting quote from C.S. Lewis, in this article:

However, Lewis possessed a strong reason for avoiding the subject of differences among Christians. He recognized that "we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. . . . Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son." What wisdom!

An interesting point for bloggers such as I to consider. I'm not sure that I agree 100% with Lewis, because there are times that our duty to the truth will require us to say things that not all Christians will agree with. But we ought to do it with as much love and gentleness as possible, displaying the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. So I agree over 95% with Lewis. Others are out there watching how Christians treat one another, especially on these web sites readable all over the world. I'm not so sure that I did all that well with the post previous to this one. Perhaps I should delete it. What do you think?

James 1:19,20 says, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." Many today are crying out and working for greater Christian unity, and I think that's a good pursuit. I wonder, if we only listened more carefully to one another as Christians, if we learned better to understand one another's differing spiritual languages, if we would discover that we're more unified already than we even realize? The above-linked article, in an Eastern Orthodox publication, explores the idea that Lewis was an "anonymous Orthodox" because of affinities with Eastern Orthodox thought. Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, a well-known British Orthodox leader and writer, is quoted as saying that there are "four significant points of convergence between Lewis and Orthodoxy", including that he was "acutely conscious of the hiddenness of God, of the inexhaustible mystery of the Divine." My only comment about that quote (& I'll leave it at that) is that the hiddenness & mystery of the God who has revealed Himself to us in Christ is something familiar, and not foreign, to my experience as a Christian who happens to be a Lutheran. Indeed, the deep, rich celebration of the mystery of the incarnation is part of what makes my college's Christmas concert such a rich experience. I have no resistance to the idea that Lewis had "points of convergence" with Orthodoxy, but I wonder how many of them are really simply "points of convergence" with the deep Christian faith of Christians from all parts of Christendom?

It was interesting to discover, as I read the above-linked article, that though it's on an Orthodox site, it was written by a Lutheran pastor! Maybe that's what I should do - write articles for publications of different types of Christian churches, and see how long it takes for people to figure out that I'm not "one of them." Awhile back my Town Church hosted a group of Seventh-Day Adventists for refreshments after they had held a graveside service at the local cemetery. I was invited to lead a prayer, and afterwards received some hearty thank-yous, both verbally and in a "thank you" note. In part I think it helped that I knew something about Adventist spiritual language, and I also knew better than to assert that the deceased was now "with God in heaven" in a disembodied existence (which isn't part of their belief system), but rather spoke of the hope of the Resurrection, and mostly just touched upon the deep truths of "mere Christianity" which I held in common with them.

The article also mentions that there have been "well-received" suggestions that "the writings of Lewis might provide a basis for Christian concord." I think that's putting it a bit too strongly. I don't think that any mere human writings (as I dare say he would characterize his own writings) could be the basis for Christian concord. At the "risk" of sounding Protestant, let me suggest that the best writings upon which to build Christian concord are the Old and New Testament Scriptures! But what C.S. Lewis shows us in his writings is an example of how to listen carefully to others and understand other spiritual languages. I think this is part of why so many different kinds of Christians see themselves in him - Orthodox think he was Orthodox, Lutherans think he was Lutheran (I've seen articles with both allegations), and so forth. Remember, his "day job" was as a literature professor - language was his thing, and as I've mentioned earlier, among his best books are ones in which he helps the writer to understand the conceptual language of earlier times periods such as the Medieval period.

So, as Christians let's celebrate the unity in Christ that we already have, and when we do have differences, let's discuss them very carefully and lovingly, keeping in mind that there's a non-Christian audience watching how we treat one another. Let me be the first to admit that I fail in this rather often. And let's be quick to listen and learn one another's spiritual languages - more often than we think, we may be saying the same things in different languages.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mass defection, Mere Christianity, and The Post That Ate Touchstone

A lively discussion recently ensued when S.M. Hutchens of Touchstone Magazine blogged on the subject of On "Using the Greekā€ (Why Evangelicalism is Falling Apart)
His general point is that Evangelicalism as a movement would gain greater coherence if it would make a "general movement away from self-assertion and self-definition towards shutting up and listening to older authorities, a re-entry into the life and mind of the Church as it was before Evangelicalism came along, and will exist when the movement is only a footnote to its history."

Somehow he touched a nerve among his readers, who have left 75 comments to that post, as well as a total of 84 more at follow-up posts here, here (by Russell D. Moore), and here (by James M. Kushiner).

I won't even try to dissect the multiple strands of argument that ensued, but I'll attempt a few highlights - like the Coming of Christ, this post definitely caused the thoughts of many hearts to be revealed (cf. Luke 2:35). Some debated the merits and demerits of "Evangelical bashing" while others discussed the pros and cons of Sola Scriptura. Still others, especially one or two very young female commentators, lamented that a magazine & blog dedicated to "Mere Christianity" had a definite leaning against certain positions such as the ordination of women. Still another thread of discussion concerned lingustic issues concerning the generic use of the word "man". Somehow the Philokalia came into the discussion, and a few who seemed to have read it started quoting Philokalia passages at one another. One young Orthodox man, very knowledgable in Linguistics, made this pronouncement: "... those not yet deep in the bosom of Orthodoxy are warned away from it left and right because in spite of how plain you think the meaning is, it is too rich to be of use to non-Orthodox and can only lead astray. Quite a pity to see Bishop Kallistos' translation available for all and sundry at bookstores." I have a (little-used) copy of the Third Volume on my office shelf, which I may eventually actually read after I've spent years studying the Christian and Jewish thought of earlier centuries. A thought - Bishop Kallistos Ware is himself an Orthodox spiritual elder, and yet by being an editor of a published edition he is (gasp!) a party to the exposure of the Philokalia to "all and sundry" people like me. How is that justified?

One of the Philokalia experts also blamed the alleged errors of a significant "Emergent/Emerging guru" on his being a former "'technical writer,'" that is, a professional dilettante." I don't know much about the "Emerging Church", and this "guru", whoever he is, may indeed be a poor theologian. But if being steeped in the Philokalia results in judging perfectly honorable professions such as technical writing to be inherently amateurish and unworthy of a theologian, then I think I'll find something else to study. (Update: that may have been a bit harsh - I don't mean to imply in any way that study of the Philokalia caused this attitude, only that Christians should do better.)

Well, there's more, but I'll let you discover on your own, if you're so inclined. My understanding of "Mere Comments" is that all are given a place at the discussion table who share in "mere Christianity" in the sense of adherence to the central teachings of Christianity such as the Trinity, Divine/Human natures of Christ, etc. "Mere Christians" in this sense are found in Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox churches alike, but the discussion certainly showed that "mere Christians" aren't "merely mere" - nor should they be.

In other news, this past Sunday I participated in the defection of 7 former Catholics to Lutheranism, in the process of the welcoming of 10 members into the Country Church. All three families represented were part of one extended family, and each had formerly been a Catholic/Lutheran blended family. I suppose Jack T. Chick would applaud, though not for long, because I somehow suspect that Lutheranism isn't his favorite brand of Protestantism. Furthermore, the fact is, I'm one of the very least pugnacious toward Catholicism of anyone in my church body. If someone asks, I'll certainly tell you forthrightly what my differences are with Catholicism - and they are true, significant differences. But to me the thing I found most positive about our recent admission of new members is simply that these are families becoming more active in their faith as families, finding a place where they are spiritually fed through Scripture, sacrament and fellowship, and making use of their spiritual gifts.

The flow hasn't been entirely in one direction, of course. Just this summer two young ladies married into Catholicism, one from the Town Church and one from the Country Church. The mother of the bride from the Country Church herself had been Catholic before marriage. This kind of thing happens all the time these days, and flows in both directions. My main concern is that people are fed with the spiritual food of Scripture. I've heard this indictment from several former Catholics in our churches, that they were never taught the Bible. Of course there are Catholics who do teach the Bible and some Protestants who don't. But it seems to me that even those (Orthodox and Catholics) who would place Tradition alongside Scripture as authorities would have to say that Scripture is the most primary of primary sources (*alert - bait for discussion - we'll see if anyone bites*).

One thing I like about our Town and Country Church environments is that, since the Town Church is the only one in our tiny town, and the Country Church is the only church open within a 12-mile radius, that there gets to be a certain "Village Church" atmosphere in which we're simply the Christian Church in our localities, rather than the "Lutheran as opposed to __________" in town. We are Lutheran of course, and the preaching and teaching that happens conforms to Lutheran teaching. Furthermore, I would welcome the opening of other Christian churches in our localities. Indeed, would that there would be such a revival that we had to open 4-5 new churches just to hold everybody! But we have a little taste of what it would be like if there were no denominations, but just Christian churches. Know what I'm saying?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ah, yes, the Christmas Concert!

Concordia Christmas Concert 2005

This last Saturday we headed up to my beloved alma mater to attend the annual Concordia Christmas Concert. It was good, as always. It's always a treat to experience a sea of sacred Christmas music well done by hundreds of young musicians, and one of the trademarks of the Concordia concert is the mural designed by alum liturgical artist David Hetland. During the program various parts of the mural are illuminated to highlight the theme (this year's mural had everything from the Nativity scene to a woman in a wheelchair to an elephant and giraffe), and at times unexpected new designs are brought out of the mural by a change in the color of the lighting.

I wouldn't say that this year's concert was my favorite, though it wasn't at all bad. The 2000 & 2001 concerts were especially stirring, and the 2002 one was nice in a more subdued way. Then we didn't make to the concert again until this year. Usually there are a few more selections of "music from around the world", as well as 2-3 Afro-American spirituals and at least one Russian piece, and I missed those things this year. Oh well, it can't be perfect all the time.

The Christmas concert always brings to mind the one year that I was in it, 1986. My senior year was the first year that Dr. René Clausen was the conductor - perfect timing, because 49-year conductor Paul J. Christiansen (son of F. Melius Christiansen) had never included the orchestra in the Christmas concert, only a brass choir along with the vocal choirs. But Clausen introduced the orchestra, so for one grand year I actually had the opportunity to be in the concert (not that the orchestras didn't have grand concerts of our own, of course).

This concert, and others like it, highlight a great Lutheran choral tradition which is an example of what I call "Lutheranism at its best". Lutheranism isn't always at it's best, of course (But as someone has said, only the mediocre are always at their best ... ) "Lutheranism at its worst" can be narrowly and even willfully ignorant of other spiritual traditions, but happily Lutheranism isn't always at its worst, either! "Lutheranism at its best" is a very open tradition to the best influences from all of christendom and all the world's great cultures. Though Lutheran chorale singing is certainly a key element in the Lutheran choral tradition, another thing that makes it strong is a genius for taking the best of many traditions and internalizing it. For example, a major influence in the "Christiansen style" is Russian choral music, and our lily-white upper-midwestern Scandinavian kids have been singing Afro-American spirituals for many years now, thanks in part to the Christiansens. That's part of why I missed those two things in particular this year, though there was one spiritual.

Clausen has done a good job of putting his own stamp on the concert and the tradition, without uprooting the foundations laid in the past. A ticklish thing, because Paul J. Christiansen had left big footprints during his 49 years as conductor of the Concordia Concert Choir. But Clausen pulled it off. I remember hearing this anecdote from Clausen's first day at his new job, back in 1986: he walked into the rehearsal hall and told the gathered choir, "My name is René Clausen, and I got this job because my name starts with C and ends in -sen! Now we've got lots of work to do, so let's get started ... "

It occurred to me during the concert that things have come full circle, as I was on campus during 1983-1987, and probably at least 90% of the student musicians in the concert were born during those exact years. Ah, yes, the passage of time!

For those with access to USA public broadcasting, watch for broadcasts of the Concordia concert, and ones like it (St. Olaf College, Luther College, Augsburg College, etc.). I highly recommend any of them.

Friday, December 02, 2005

This week in SD; why I do this pastoring thing; angelfish eulogy; medieval Jewish postmodernism in Iraq

Eastern South Dakota is still in the process of emerging from a crisis. It began on Sunday with freezing drizzle, followed by high winds and snow in the night. About 11:00 AM Monday the power went out, and at first I thought it might be for 3-4 hours (it's happened before in storms), but instead, we went through the entire night and next day without electricity. Soon on Tuesday it became clear that the crisis was regionwide, with over 50,000 without power for that first night (7% of the entire population of our sparsely-populated state). Just as we were settling in for a second dark, cold night of sleeping with eight blankets and our winter coats on, the lights came on again at about 5:35 PM Tuesday. Praise the LORD, and thanks to the hardworking linesmen! We were among the fortunate first 1/5 to get power back. Some localities still are waiting, even very nearby. It's doubtful that we will have worship at the Country Church this Sunday, as they probably won't be reelectrified until next week. Transportation, communication, even the US Mail have been disrupted this week. Big holes in our infrastructure's safety net have been exposed. South Dakotans as a whole are resilient and able to handle a crisis like this, and there have been few casualties, but we've learned how much we take our power, heat, water, etc. for granted.

The other day a 17-year-old girl was tragically killed in an auto accident due to slippery conditions, and I was called into the school yesterday to be available for any grief counseling needs. I ended up visiting with three close friends of the deceased. I mostly just listened to their stories and prayed with them, not feeling like a very sharp theologian. But it reminded me of why I do this pastoring stuff. It has to do with being useful to God. I got into it in a messy sort of way, feeling like I was going to seminary to satisfy the expectations of other people besides myself. I really would have rather been an academic, soaking in a lifetime spent in the college environment, and/or else a sort of rebel disestablishment Christian hippie like Francis Schaeffer. Instead I did the "establishment thing" and became a pastor. I bristle inside whenever I hear someone speaking of pastoral ministry as an "aspiration" or "career", because my experience is that the pastoral call hunted down and killed my life aspirations, rather than fulfilling them. "Pastor Michael" conceals "The Real Michael" from people's field of vision in a way that sometimes makes me feel lonely and misunderstood even when surrounded by people who love and appreciate me. (Not that I'm not willing to claim the honorific side of being a pastor when it makes me a kind of Bigwig - I'm sadly not immune to that temptation) Furthermore, my attempts to leave it behind and flee to Tarshish proved fruitless. I think I know how Jonah felt.

But, you know what, I've made my peace with it. At a personal low point a few years back, while taking a break from pastoral ministry, I found myself useful to God in a grand way when I was asked to preside at my sister's wedding. One thing led to another, and I found myself back in a pulpit again. Thousands of churches need spiritual leadership, and I can't help them all, but by God's grace I'm helping two churches get taken care of. It's funny how well things go considering my shortcomings, but it's all part of God's big joke on the devil, who thought he was so wise and strong (I Corinthians 1:25-31). A teenager at the Country church made a "Reserved for pastor" parking sign in wood shop class - no pastor there was ever honored in that way before. I received an authentic handmade Dakota star quilt from someone in the Town Church because I had baptized her grandson who later died as an infant. As I was leaving my first church in Texas, an older man told me I was the one who "got him on the straight and narrow." It doesn't get better than that.

Back to the crisis in South Dakota. I'm glad that tragedies were few, though it doesn't seem like "few" for the family and friends of the young lady who died. Pray for them. Pray for us.

We had a minor bit of sadness in our home, as our angelfish and two of my corydoras catfish succombed to the severe dip in water temperature. I still have 13 fish who are doing fine (the goldfish are coldwater fish anyway with an unheated tank, and the danios, though "tropicals", were pretty active even when their tank dipped below 50F). I sure feel bad about the angelfish, though. From now on I'll be prepared with a plan to keep the tropical tank from dipping too low - I'd had him for three years, and all indications were that he would live a few more years. Angelfish are among the most intelligent of all fish, and he knew us personally in a way that's beyond most fish, a true "pet." This isn't a picture of "Angey" as my wife called him (hard g as in "Angus"), but he looked much like this:

Goodbye, Angey and friends, we miss you, and we're so sorry. We didn't mean for you to suffer. "A righteous man hath regard for the life of his beast" Proverbs 12:10

Fascinating lecture in my "Medieval Judaism" video last night. Dr. Sherwin was introducing the class to Saadya Gaon (892-942), the first great medieval Jewish philosopher, who was responding to these four schools of thought current in the medieval Islamic world (he lived in what's now Iraq), and which were influencing the thoughts of Jewish people:

1. Materialists: essentially the same as later "empiricists"
2. Relativists: no knowledge of objective truth
3. Eclecticists: if we have no knowledge of objective truth, we therefore suspend judgment and have "no opinion"
4. Agnosticists: we're not able to ask the question "what is truth" because there is no truth

To me options 2,3, and 4, and especially the Eclecticists, seem rather reminiscent of "Postmodernism". As Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, "there is nothing new under the sun." Dr. Sherwin commented that part of what he was trying to illustrate was that "the Middle Ages are not simply then but now", and the class chuckled when he said, "Like the old saying goes, the future is not what it used to be." it seems to me that "Postmodernism" is essentially what Francis Schaeffer was talking about 40 years ago with the "Line of Despair", but that's for another post.

Putting this all in one big post might not have been the brightest. Feel free to read any of my posts in installments, or, as Lemony Snicket might say, feel free to ignore my blog completely and go walk your dog instead. In fact, it looks like our dog wants a walk right now.

More about Lewis

A recent post at Brandywine Books reminded me of an anecdote I learned about someone I knew during college, who had met C.S. Lewis. A lady called Mrs. King, a professor of music, for many years was principal viola in the local symphony, in which I played cello. She was originally from Belfast, and a very colorful lady. As a young woman she had met C.S. Lewis personally (I don't know if it happened in England or Northern Ireland) when he knocked on her door. For a period of time the young Lewis was fascinated with the pseudoscience of phrenology, and was going door-to-door asking people if they wanted him to read the bumps on their head. She politely refused, but I get the feeling she may have been candid about her low opinion of phrenology (or it may simply have not been a very good pick-up line ...). Somewhere in his writings Lewis mentions that such-and such a thing is as ridiculous as trying to read people's personalities by the bumps on their heads! Mrs. King liked to think that he was thinking of her when he wrote that!

C.S. Lewis is the kind of person that lots of people want a piece of. I have read a piece by an Orthodox writer who argues that he adopted the Eastern Orthodox view of salvation as theosis or "deification". I have read another piece by a Lutheran writer who argues that Lewis had a Lutheran view of salvation. Both articles had evidences to cite in their favor. Conservatives like him, though some of his theological views wouldn't hold up to conservative critique. Many liberals like him, though he doesn't exactly fit that camp either. Lots of different people see themselves in him. He was a flawed human being, who lived through a lot and whose lifestyle didn't always reflect the Christian ideal. Yet I believe he was a man "after God's own heart." He said something to the effect of this (I'll have to track down the exact quote): People in various churches ultimately are brought the closest together as they draw close to Christ. I think this is why so many different people relate to C.S. Lewis - because he himself sought to draw near to Christ. It's as simple as that.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"Two or three witnesses", apologetics, epistemology, primary sources

Lately I've been reflecting upon an important, recurring theme in Biblical literature, expressed in Deuteronomy 19:15: (Biblical quotes from ESV)

A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.

And in Matthew 18:16:

But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

And in I Timothy 5:19:

Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

There are many other verses on this order as well. There are the two witnesses in Revelation 11:1-3. There are the "three who testify" in I John 5:6ff. This is an important biblical theme, and it seems to me that it has a bearing upon apologetics and epistemology. It seems to me that if someone is attempting to discover a biblical epistemology, one would need to be informed by these verses. There's a claim that there's truth which can be "established" upon the testimony of several witnesses. More than one witness is needed. Two or three are necessary to establish truth. This truth is "established" and can be relied upon.

When I was working on my essays for my first Spertus course, I submitted drafts to the professor for feedback. She strongly emphasized the importance of primary sources such as "the Bible or ANET." Commentaries are important, she said, but interaction with primary sources (witnesses) is essential.

So, what are some examples of "two or three witnesses?" Here are some ideas. What do you think?

Old Testament and New Testament

Four Gospels

The Bible and one's own experience

"Heavens" and "the law of the LORD" (Psalm 19)

The "Book of God's Word" (Scripture) and the "Book of God's Works" (The Universe) (early modern scientists who were Christians, according to Francis Schaeffer in How Should We Then Live)

The Bible and Tradition (Catholic and Orthodox view)

The Bible and the Church

Presuppositionalist and Evidentialist apologetics

Various Christian denominations (considering the myriad denominational divisions, it's interesting how much unity there actually is on certain key issues such as the Trinity, the divine/human natures of Christ, etc.)

Any thoughts, comments, corrections, rebuttals, suggestions?