Surely you set them in slippery places; you cast them down into ruin.  How they are brought into desolation in a moment, utterly consumed with terrors!  Psalm 73:18-19  Hebrew World translation

Surely – What do you know for sure?  What is it that absolutely cannot be doubted?  That is a question that has plagued the Western Greek-based paradigm for 2500 years.  That answer from the Greek worldview is this:  “Nothing.”  If we had the time, I would take you through the progressive devolution of Western thinking and show you that the quest for certainty ends in despair and utter relativism.  In fact, unless you realize that this slippery slope must end in epistemological anarchy, you won’t understand why today’s Western society is in such a mess.  It isn’t moral corruption.  It isn’t failed economics.  It isn’t lack of leadership.  It is the nightmare of not knowing anything for sure.  By the way, Islam does not share this hopelessness.  Consequently, Islam moves ahead on a completely different paradigm about what is true.  Since the West doesn’t share this paradigm, the Western view of the world is not simply incompatible with Islam; it is incomprehensible to Islam.  The idea of a negotiated peace between the West and Islam is myopically imbecilic.  Hebraic thinking is much closer to Islam than the West will ever be.

The opening word of Asaph’s verse is ‘ak.  This particle (the very smallest meaningful part of a language) covers such a wide range of uses and expressions that a translator must determine by context how it should be expressed.  Quite often, it is simply not translated at all.  In this verse, ‘ak is used like an exclamation point.  It underlines the thought.  Asaph doesn’t merely say that the wicked are on a slippery slope.  He says that God has absolutely put them there!

Now we can see the difference between the Greek worldview and the Hebrew worldview.  From Asaph’s perspective, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever because God has said so.  From the perspective of the West, we would ask, “How does Asaph know this is true?”  We want evidence.  Asaph is epistemologically content with revelation.  That’s the big difference (put as ‘ak before this sentence).  Because the Western closed universe of cause and effect has eliminated revelation as a legitimate form of knowledge, the West has no assurances about anything.  Even the history of science shows us that one theory is replaced by another, one explanation gives way to another.  Everything is constantly changing.  But Asaph doesn’t share this closed universe point of view.  God reveals truth from outside.  To ask, “How do I know?” is to disclose your commitment to the wrong paradigm.  How did Hosea know that the word of the Lord became in him?  How did Yeshua know that He was the Son?  How do you and I know that the Spirit is involved in our lives?  Cause and effect explanations fail.  There is knowing that goes beyond their limitations.

Hebrew thinking is a world of revelation, not a world of gathering information.  Islam shares this same epistemological view, as do most of the ancient near-Eastern cultures.  Some questions simply aren’t asked in these worldviews because the questions don’t make any sense.  One of those questions is, “How do I know God said so?”  Asaph answers the only way he can.  ‘ak.

What kind of questions are you asking?  Are they the questions asked in a paradigm that is already bankrupt?  Or are they questions that are underlined with ‘ak?

Topical Index: surely, ‘ak, epistemology, Islam, closed universe, Psalm 73:18-19

  • Michael March 25, 2012 at 10:44 am

    “Hebrew Certainty” Psalm 73


    I might prefer to call it, a word I rarely use, Hebrew “faith” 🙂

    you plague me all day long
    and discipline me every morning

    until the day I pierced the mystery
    they are on a slippery slope, you put them there
    you urge them on to ruin

    When you wake up Lord, you shrug them off
    like the phantoms of a morning dream

    I had simply failed to understand
    my stupid attitude toward you was brutish

    Even so, I stayed in your presence
    you held my right hand

    I look to no one else in heaven
    My heart’s Rock …

    • Michael March 25, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      oops, I forgot my one of my favorite parts ….

      Psalm 73:10 – 12

      “This is why my people turn to them
      and lap up all they say
      Asking, “How will God find out?
      Does the Most High know everything?
      Look at them: these are the wicked,
      well-off and still getting richer!”

  • Gabe March 25, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    If cause and effect are all there is — then what we call Free Will is nothing more than a biological random pattern generator. I love science,… but in it’s proper place.

    Tangentially, I have been fascinated by the “new” versions of what a perfect, futuristic, and sustainable city would look like — more and more the concepts look like an agricultural country-side,… as prescribed in the Torah.

  • Curtis Hildebrand March 25, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    One of those questions is, “How do I know God said so?” Asaph answers the only way he can. ‘ak.

    This part made me laugh. 🙂 In computer networking, when a signal is sent from one location to another, the receiver responds with an ACK signal. It tells the sender that the message was received without errors and that it will process it. The an analogy doesn’t totally match, but it gave the computer geek side of me a chuckle.

  • Andrew March 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Hebrew thinking is a world of revelation, not a world of gathering information. Islam shares this same epistemological view, as do most of the ancient near-Eastern cultures. Some questions simply aren’t asked in these worldviews because the questions don’t make any sense. One of those questions is, “How do I know God said so?” Asaph answers the only way he can. ‘ak.

    There are some of us who don’t feel satisfied with Asaph’s answer. How does one acquire this certainty?

    Skip, I’ve talked with you in the past about these things. You said that the Hebrew way is to do first, then to understand, and that the Greek way is to understand first, and then to do.

    But the Hebrew way seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy to me. It’s not like I do nothing—I don’t eat pork or shellfish and I don’t work on Saturday. In fact, the idea of eating pork has become habitually distasteful to me. But isn’t that true of any habit someone can develop?

    If you put time and effort into dedicating yourself to a way of life, you will eventually grow to like it or find it meaningful, like a gas filling the shape of its container. But I could do that with any number of religions or philosophies. In the end, what does that prove?

    Yes, there is no “justified true belief”. It is not possible to avoid mistakes when evaluating evidence or making decisions in life. But progress is possible and it is better to try than to do nothing and accept a way of life unthinkingly.

    • Skip Moen April 1, 2012 at 7:06 am

      In at least this sense you are correct. It is possible to accommodate yourself to just about any worldview. Some, however, are more robust and comprehensive that others. A materialist worldview is not very satisfying in the end. So with others. The claim is that the Hebraic worldview is the most robust and the most satisfying. But it is still a choice. Some choose not to embrace it for their own reasons. I do not believe that one can be rationally compelled to accept this view, but I do believe that once you adopt it seriously, you then begin to see its elegance, comprehensiveness and depth. Again, a choice. Life is like that. You choose, then you see what happens. The Greek way is to suspend decision until all the facts have been evaluated. That, of course, is an impossible position. It is in fact a choice too.

  • carl roberts April 4, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Surely – What do you know for sure? What is it that absolutely cannot be doubted?

    Oh, how I look forward to commenting on this! This, dear friends, is what I absolutely, positively know for sure- when G-d speaks, He never lies.

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