Many ideas for blog posts are formed in my mind first thing in the morning, usually while showering. They say your brain is sharpest when you first wake up. Probably true, but more likely that I had been dreaming about reforming worship minutes earlier while sleeping, and so I brain-shower.

Well, this morning my shower thoughts were on my personal prayer life. I was thinking not only about how I can improve in this area, but how it is connected with Christ's prayer life and that of His body, the Church. I thought of how my private spiritual formation is part of the whole of the Church's, how Christ is the Mediator of all true spiritual formation and how the Spirit brings all of us, the Father's children, into one in Christ, and how much different this holistic understanding of spirituality is from a merely individualistic one.

And so as I was washing my hair in deep contemplation I got to thinking about how often I have used the term "holistic" when describing my desired form of worship, prayer, view of man, etc. I have probably used this adjective dozens of times here at Reform worship. But does anyone really know what it means? Do I know what it means? The word "holistic" is one of those postmodern hot and catchy words, like...postmodern, vintage, intentional, emerging, relevant, etc. Notice all of these words are adjectives, but what are they describing? You might say they are describing a desired trait of the Church, or church worship. And in keeping with the postmodern refusal to define anything, I'll leave it at that.

No, I'll give Wikipedia a chance to explain. Come on, Wiki friend, pull through for us:

Holism (from ὅλος holos, a Greek word meaning all, entire, total) is the idea that all the properties of a given system (physical, biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) cannot be determined or explained by its component parts alone. Instead, the system as a whole determines in an important way how the parts behave.

The general principle of holism was concisely summarized by Aristotle in the Metaphysics: "The whole is more than the sum of its parts" (1045a10).

Reductionism is sometimes seen as the opposite of holism. Reductionism in science says that a complex system can be explained by reduction to its fundamental parts. For example, the processes of biology are reducible to chemistry and the laws of chemistry are explained by physics.

On the other hand, holism and reductionism can also be regarded as complementary viewpoints, in which case they both would be needed to get a proper account of a given system.

How are we Platonic, Enlightened, Modernist Westerners supposed to wrap our brains around such an Eastern, Aristotelian concept as holism? Truth be told, we in America are bred and taught Reductionism. It plays out in the rampant narcissism in our culture, the worship of the individual self-god (see Oprah), and ultimately the denial that anything incomprehensible can be true and real. And it naturally carries over into the American church, our theology and practice of worship. But God is beyond our understanding. God is whole and cannot be reduced. We can add up all that we know of God, all that He has revealed of Himself to us, and it won't even come close to the infinite totality of who He is. He is that He is, and I, like a good Easterner, exult in that mystery.

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