Genius revisited

Now that I’ve shared the insights of my contrarian friend on the word “genius” and whether it can be applied to me, or to God, I wish to add some thoughts of my own.  But cautiously, for Paul  warned Timothy  against quarreling about words which in his opinion is valueless.  (2. Timothy 2:14)

First: I agree that a dictionary is a good first place to study a word. However, there are differences among dictionaries. Some are collegiate, others are on a high school level with simpler definitions.  Dictionaries like translations of the Bible should be compared and contrasted.

The compilers of  dictionaries are aware that the context shapes the meaning to a word. That is true of all words; no final meaning without a context. So my anonimos friend had his dictionary, but he did ask me what I meant by genius, and it did not occur to me to ask the man who called me an old genius what he meant by the term.

I accept the verdict that I am a follower. I don’t think it is a bad thing to be a follower especially if it means that I am able to adopt and adapt to those to whom I am accountable.  I was somewhat submissive to and honored my father and the Lancaster Conference bishop board.  I was more attentive to the wishes of the local congregations in my district than to a Bishop Board a thousand miles away.  A conservative bishop traveled to the Southeast and reported to another that the farther south you go the worse it gets.

More than any other motivation, I have wanted to be a follower of Jesus.  My text for my first florida sermon centered on what is found in 2. Corinthians 2:2   Paul was determined to know nothing in Corinth except Jesus Christ.  In this I have followed Paul as he followed Jesus.  This is the theme of my life and like Paul, I am counted a fool by the world for doing so.

Now as for the God of the Bible, no idol image was allowed, yet many anthropomorphisms were needed  to make an Unknowable One more understandable. An anthropomorphism is the attribution of a human form, human characteristics, or human behavior to nonhuman things as  to a deity or an animal.   To say that God has a better than genius-like brain is not more blasphemous than to speak of the face of God is blasphemy.

I send this out on MLK day after attending the Goshen College Convocation on this morning.  The speaker was Leonard dow from eastern Pennsylvania.  You may hear his Sunday morning sermon at College Mennonite Church by clicking here.  Scroll forward for 38 minutes to enter at the beginning of the sermon.

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Who and What is a Genius?

I have a friend who is appropriately an0nymous to all but me.  He writes letters to me and sends them by snail mail.  I honor him for being an honest and faithful friend and the forthright critic that he is.  He wrote the following to me:

May the Lord fill your life with love, joy, peace, and grace.

The subject today is genius.  Specifically, in what way it might apply to you.  Let us begin with a definition, in this case from the New Oxford American Dictionary.

“GENIUS: exceptional intellectual or creative power of other natural ability; a person who is exceptionally intelligent or creative, either generally or in some particular respect.”

Certainly, no serious observer would contest that your intelligence is clearly above average.  But exceptional?  Hardly.  Then, can you be classified as exceptionally creative? You know, someone who has proposed whole new ways of viewing and/or understanding the universe and all that is in it (or at the least some significant part of parts thereof). Einstein and Darwin are extreme examples.

Or even John Howard Yoder, who for decades was considered the world’s premier Anabaptist theologian, but whose “genius” may in fact have been more the ability to wrap his notions in such obtuse and convoluted verbiage that he seemed to be saying things extremely profound.

My take on Martin Lehman  is one more of a follower, a person who adopts and adapts his thinking to those who he believes at any one time to have a hold on the ‘truth’.  Thus, you  were a once a staunch defender of the beliefs of your father.  And then of the Lancaster Conference bishop board.  And now you identify with so-called intellectuals and academics who reject as utter foolishness most of what you formerly believed, taught, and defended.

Sorry, but there seems to be nothing in the writings of the Old Fool (in my memories of your preaching) that in any way plows new ground, but instead has been proposed and developed previously by others.  There’s nothing necessarily wrong about that, but it is not genius as defined above.

While to your credit, you rejected the title of genius, your re-visiting of the concept in several columns suggest you enjoy, at least a bit, the thought that someone might think you are one.

Now to the question of whether God can be rightly called a genius?  And thus, whether all humans, since the Bible says we are created in God’s image, can in some sense be said to be geniuses?  First of all, ‘genius’ is a human attribute and to apply it to God seems to me somewhat anthropomorphic and thus at the least inappropriate.  And  second, doing so may even be blasphemous.  Thus, I think not.

A joyous 2018 to you and yours.   (S) by my an0nymous friend

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Be prepared to dream

If you live into your nineties be prepared to dream dreams. Be sure of this because you will then be old, and the prophet Joel foretold it. He said that when the Holy Spirit came that young men and women would prophecy and young men would see visions and old men would dream dreams. I am not sure if Joel could see as far as to our day and this time.  If he had seen accurately he would surely have included young women among the visionaries and old women among the dreamers.

Don’t be concerned with the limitations of the prophet.  If you are a young woman or a young man do not fear a vision given you.  Tell the church about it and seek to fulfill it.  You will not be sorry for when you are  old your dreams will be filled with the litter of visions that guided you when you were young.

Now that I am ninety and may rightly be considered an old man, I believe that I have dreams generated by both my age and the Spirit.

A few nights ago I dreamed that I was in Tampa/Sarasota where Rhoda and I had lived for 56 years. I mention both cities because sometimes in the dream I was with Tampa people and other times I was with Sarasota friends. In my dream we were strategizing for church planting or conference formation.  My Greencroft Goshen Indiana dreams are often about the vision that gave direction to my life in the Southeast.

What seems wise to me now moves me to suggest to you who are young that the stuff of your future dreams will be a rehearsal of what you are doing now.  If you want pleasant dreams pursue your better visions.

Most of my dreams are pleasant, but not all because unpleasant activities of the past intrude.  Just last night my dream was obnoxious. It seemed that I was leaving Tampa and was required to dispose of two dogs and a cat.  I had the captive critters in the back seat of a car and was driving North on Nebraska Avenue in search of the pound where they could be put down.  But the going was very difficult because the avenue was under construction.  I can’t describe my frustration.  I finally released the dogs.  What happened to  the cat I don’t know.  Perhaps I’ll learn more about the cat in another dream.  Dreams are that way.



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