–By Ben Gilmore
This is the “Introduction” to the book I am writing, “Principles of American Government” (© Ben Gilmore) I think you will enjoy reading it. Ben
Words of “Wisdom” –
Koiné Greek, the common language at the time of the New Testament, is reputed to be the most succinct1 language ever created. Alexander the Great, between the Old and New Testaments, is credited with development of this language.
Alexander was a general from Greece who conquered most of the (then) known world – the Near and Middle East, Egypt, … all the way to India. He wanted a military language that would be very clear, so that tactical instructions would not be misunderstood.
Isn’t it interesting that God would choose to use this “most succinct language” to write the New Testament!
Were you to research the NT era words translated “wisdom” in English. You would find three words: sophia, phronesis, sunesis2. Suppose little “Spiro” came home to mother. “Mom, I saw the wise man down at the mall.” She might reply, “That’s interesting. Was it the sophist, the phronesist, or the sunesist?”
Let’s bring these definitions down to our level –
- Sophia = “big-picture wisdom.” An umbrella word that contains the meaning of the other two.
- Phronesis = “practical wisdom.” Understanding how to do things.
- Sunesis = “mechanical wisdom.” Understanding how things work.
I like to illustrate the difference with my watch. If I’m in front of a store window with all kinds of watches and I’m comparing my watch to all of them, that is “big picture wisdom” (sophia).
If I show you the watch face and explain how to interpret the display to tell the date and time, whether I am late for dinner, or oversleeping – That is “practical wisdom.” (phronesis)
If I turn the watch over and remove the back so that I can explain how it does what it does – That is “mechanical wisdom.” (sunesis)
A visiting preacher who is a sophist might speak on the “Authority of the Bible” and how 66 books, written by many authors, centuries apart – Authors who were shepherds, kings, poets, prophets and the like, writing on subjects that span the life experience, managed to produce a book without error, or contradiction! Big-picture stuff.
A pulpit guest in your church who is a phronesist might speak on “How to write a letter of restitution to your parents,” or “How to lead someone to a salvation prayer.” Practical things.
A visiting sunesist might point out that justice and mercy cannot coexist (i.e. The guilty wants mercy. The innocent wants justice.) Then he would show how the atonement of Christ reconciles justice with mercy. The mechanics of things.
I nominate the leading sophist of my generation to be Francis Schaeffer (“How Should We Then Live”). Bill Gothard (“Basic Youth Conflicts”) is the leading phronesist. I’ll chicken out in nominating the sunesist. (It depends upon which school of theology you attended!)
We are about to study “Biblical Principles of Government.” As illustrated in America. Sophia, phronesis and sunesist break down into Biblical, Historical, Governmental. Certainly “Biblical” is an authoritative, big-picture topic. God is interested in History. (“Remember this event with a marker”, “Celebrate this day each year.”) History takes something out of speculation and makes it fact. History is all about practics. Investigating how and why Biblical principles work and all others fail, focuses on the Governmental or logical structure.
ALL THAT TO SAY THIS:
In the “Biblical Principles of Government” field, the most gifted sophist, master-teacher I have found, is James Rose of American Christian History Institute.
Among master-teachers who are gifted phronesists, there is none better than the world’s most talented story teller, Beth Ballenger of Noah Webster Educational Foundation.
For the present, I’ll be your sunesist. All through this work, you will see me teaching from the mechanical viewpoint.
For a “stereo” teaching on these subjects, I recommend attending an “American History and Government Study Seminar”.
When I speak of “master-teachers” I am not referring to motivational speakers, or intellectual giants who feed giraffes rather than sheep. A “master-teacher” is one with the gift of planting seeds of comprehension that will take root and grow for a lifetime.
For His-story & Government!!!
ACH Study Groups
1. SUCCINCT’, a. [L. succinctus; sub and cingo, to surround.] … … Compressed into a narrow compass; short; brief; concise; as a succinct account of the proceedings of the council. Let all your precepts be succinct and clear. [Webster’s 1828 Dictionary]
2. While Sophia is insight into the true nature of things, phronesis is the ability to discern modes of action with a view to their results; While Sophia is theoretical, phronesis is practical … . Sunesis, understanding, intelligence, is the critical faculty; this and phronesis are particular applications of sophia. [W.E. Vines, Dictionary of N.T. Words]