What Lights You Up?

22 04 2014

Enjoying the sunWhat lights a fire in your gut? And no, we’re not talking about indigestion from too much Thai cuisine last night.  What drives you to get out of your comfort zone and set off into the dangerous unknown?  What is that inward power, that energy that gets a man or a woman out of their seats and into action–the kind of action that protects life and brings lasting change and good to society?  Where does that kind of heat come from?

The ancient Greeks had very rich languages and dialects.  Greek is a lot like math with its precision.  Many of us are familiar with the many Greek words for love, one of the most common and oft-misunderstood words we use.  Storge.  Phileo.  Agape.  And, of course, eros.  These words talk about the various manifestations of love.

They also gave us the word thumos.  Doctors and nurses will recognize its kinship with thymus, one of the organs in our immune system.  It is not a common word when used in the world of biblical studies—an area very important to many of us.

Thumos may be described as “an inner fire that motivates action.”  It is used of the soul, but, unlike psuche—from which we get words like “psychology”—it describes the soul with a fire lit under its seat.  It is protective by nature.

I first came into contact with writer Paul Coughlin a few years back.  His book No More Christian Nice Guy radically took apart my idea of virtue, namely, that being nice and being good are not necessarily the same thing.  Jesus is the embodiment of goodness.  But he wasn’t always nice.  And He didn’t always play nicey-nice.  He would get into a lot of trouble today, upsetting the applecart.  Being good, rather than just nice, has a way of doing that.

Thumos is the fire, the motivation that enabled Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to champion civil rights—a fight that ended in his death.  It enabled Martin Luther to challenge a corrupt and ossifying Church with the need of reform.  It enables people to defend those who are bullied.  It is that intangible quality that stimulates action—change of behaviour—not simply a change in an intellectual position, a modified idea.  It’s what pushes Popeye to say, “That’s alls I can take; I can’t takes it no more.”  Then out comes the spinach, the muscle and the bad guys are put in their place.

So….how’s your thumos level today?  That fire inside your gut?

Listen to it.  It has something important to tell you.

Image Credit

Advertisements




From The Horse’s Mouth

23 09 2012

I had an interesting discussion with a friend this afternoon.  He is trained and makes his living in the biological sciences.  We discussed a variety of topics related to his discipline—Charles Darwin, natural selection, evolution, Intelligent Design and the book of Genesis.

I told him that one of the things that bothers me—a pet peeve, to be honest—is the way in which people comment upon and dismiss out of hand concepts about which they know little or nothing.  Most of the people I know who eschew anything remotely connected to Charles Darwin and evolution have probably never read On The Origin of Species.  If you mentioned the word “beagle” to them in context of a discussion about Darwin, they’d think you were talking about a dog rather than a ship.

Disclaimer: I’ve never read On The Origin of Species, though I’d like to in order to hear Darwin on his own merits.  And for my purposes here, I’m not even discussing my own personal beliefs about how the universe came to be.

What I’m after is giving people a fair hearing on every matter rather than going on hearsay.  This leads to libel, slander and all sorts of misunderstanding.   And it gives ignorance a platform it doesn’t deserve.

When I attended seminary years ago, one of the strengths of the program in which I was enrolled was its insistence on reading primary sources.  In other words, we got our information from the horse’s mouth, rather than from those who kept—or thought they kept—the horses.  For example, we didn’t read an analysis about Clement of Alexandria; we read Clement of Alexandria.  You encounter trouble rapidly when you get your information second-, third-, or fourth-hand.

So……..

  • How much do you know about President Barack Obama or Governor Mitt Romney from a) their own writings, b) their public lives and service, c) their respective voting and executive records, and d) their tax returns? You get this from going to the source.  And that source is their own lives, their tax returns, public records and writings, not necessarily mainstream media.
  • Where, in the Scriptures, is the verse “God helps those who help themselves?”
  • What did C.S. Lewis and Martin Luther believe about the Virgin Mary, the Lord’s Supper and the communion of the saints? (You will be surprised!)

These are some teasers.  You can find your own.  You must do your homework–you can’t outsmart the work.  But whatever you do, have the integrity to get your information first-hand.  From the principals themselves, not their defenders or critics.

That is, from the horse’s mouth.

Image Credit





Got Thumos?

1 09 2012

What lights a fire in your heart? What drives you to get out of your comfort zone and set off into the dangerous unknown?  What is that inward power, that energy that gets a man or a woman out of their seats and into action–the kind of action that protects life and brings lasting change and good to society?  Where does that kind of heat come from?

The ancient Greeks had very rich languages and dialects.  Greek is a lot like math with its precision.  Many of us are familiar with the many Greek words for love, one of the most common and oft-misunderstood words we use.  Storge.  Phileo.  Agape.  And, of course, eros.  These words talk about the various manifestations of love.

They also gave us the word thumos.  Doctors and nurses will recognize its kinship with thymus, one of the organs in our immune system.  It is not a common word when used in the world of biblical studies—an area very important to many of us.

Thumos may be described as “an inner fire that motivates action.”  It is used of the soul, but, unlike psuche—from which we get words like “psychology”—it describes the soul with a fire lit under its seat.  It is protective by nature.

I first came into contact with writer Paul Coughlin a few years back.  His book No More Christian Nice Guy radically took apart my idea of virtue, namely, that being nice and being good are not necessarily the same thing.  Jesus is the embodiment of goodness.  But he wasn’t always nice.  And He didn’t always play nicey-nice.  He would get into a lot of trouble today, upsetting the applecart.  Being good, rather than just nice, has a way of doing that.

I’ve been reading another of Coughlin’s books lately.  Unleashing Courageous Faith: The Hidden Power Of A Man’s Soul picks up on the themes introduced in NMCNG.

Thumos is the fire, the motivation that enabled Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to champion civil rights—a fight that ended in his death.  It enabled Martin Luther to challenge a corrupt and ossifying Church with the need of reform.  It enables people to defend those who are bullied.  It is the enables action—change of behaviour—not simply a change in an intellectual position, a modified idea.  To use one of Bill Hybels’s favorite metaphors, it’s what pushes Popeye to say, “That’s alls I can take; I can’t takes it no more.”  Then out comes the spinach, the muscle and the bad guys are put in their place.

So….how’s your thumos level today?

Image Credit