Help Me With My Word Search

I’m looking for a word whose definition I remember.

The word refers to a teaching practice. When a teacher is introducing an extremely difficult subject that is really entirely beyond the abilities of her students, she may sometimes present introductory material that, from the perspective of an expert in that field, is not strictly correct. She does this so that her students can begin their investigations – can have “something to go on.” Later, when they have progressed and acquired some precise knowledge, she must go back and correct that intitial necessary fatuity.

We sometimes see this in the introduction to books, so it could also be considered a literary technique.

What is the name of this pedagogical or literary technique? Anyone?


    • Perfect! Thank you, Matt.

      And yes to Bohr, Newton, and…

      not penal substitutionary atonement, because I don’t find that taught in the Bible and I see no reason to teach it to tender-hearted children who could only be horrified, traumatized, and de-sensitized to all genuine Christian sentiment by it.

      But, retributive justice in general, yes. I’m looking at this pedagogical method as a possible explanation for passages in the scriptures which speak of God as wrathful and vengeful toward evil-doers.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Another idea: “readiness” is a pedagogical term sometimes invoked at early stages. Maybe it applies here as well as in school. I do not know when children are ready to learn about evil, but I am sure that I wouldn’t want to show them pictures of concentration camps or lynchings too soon; that is, until they would not be overwhelmed with fear, horror, or hatred of the perpetrators. Like James Joyce in is “Portrait of. . . ” I was traumatized at young age by descriptions of hell. When I read Jonathan Edwards much later I wanted to dump much of Christianity I had learned into one trash bag. Much later, as a parent, I could not grasp a meaning (other than allegorical) in the story of Abraham and his son. And now that I am learning that the concept of emotions, such as anger, don’t even apply in a discussion of God, I realize how difficult it can be to teach these things to children in any way other than modeling, reinforcing, and listening for their questions. I am not saying that children should be kept from biblical stories or theological concepts. It’s just that I keep hearing from various Orthodox sources about how the best instruction in theology is prayer and that the liturgy itself presents a learning experience at whatever stage of readiness each

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    • When I first ran across Jonathon Edwards my initial reaction was “Whaat?” That does not sound Christian to me or at all attractive.

      From an Orthodox perspective, the Old Testament, the Scriptures referred to in the Creed, is about Jesus Christ. That is what He taught the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

      Thus when Marcion taught that the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) was to be rejected and only the New Testament was for Christians, he was condemned as a heretic and his teaching as heresy.

      Nevertheless, I find myself quite uncomfortable with the trend to see Hell as something that will pass away or be emptied eventually. We are not meant for Hell, that is clear. It is not God’s will that any dwell in Hell but that all be saved. Yet, there are conditions for salvation–a contrite and broken heart.

      Children, perhaps, don’t need to learn of hell because personal sin and evil has not yet taken as deep a hold on them as on we adults, although that seems to be changing.

      I am for telling the truth, if not the entire truth. Children are capable of knowing much more than we usually give them credit for, just in a different manner.


      • Michael, Jonathan Edwards was honest. He took the Augustinian strain of thought to its logical end. He was a sytematic and careful thinker who was not only a theologian but a scientist. He is most famous for his early sermons, preached before and during the Great Awakening. These sermons are admittedly hysterical in their rhetoric – but on the other hand they explore, rather than veil, the full implications of original sin and eternal retributive damnation.

        The excesses of the revival, and his own life experience, caused him to modify and further develop his doctrine. Later in life his understanding of santification came to resemble theosis in some particulars.

        There is nothing in Edwards’ preaching that is particularly un-Christian. Many Catholic and Orthodox preachers and theologians – more than not – have used similar language, threats, and characterizations of God to spur people to dread damnation and seek salvation. John Chrysostom was famous for it. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is kind of the default religious approach, as far as I can tell.

        Nowadays preachers use all sorts of equivocations to veil the true nature of the doctrines of eternal retributive justice. They are soft-spoken but hard-hearted.

        Suppose that Jesus Christ appeared to me in person and said, “You know, they’re right. I have indeed decreed that everyone who doesn’t die believing in me will suffer forever, infinitely, in retribution for that failure.” What do you think I would do?

        I would spend the rest of my life, and eternity if need be, beseeching him to change his mind. God is merciful. Who knows whether he may yet spare someone?

        I am astounded to hear that your “comfort” couches your expectation that your fellow human beings will suffer unbounded torment, forever and ever, with no hope of escape, at the hands of the God you worship. How can that be comfortable for you?


    • Hell was traumatic for me as a child, too. And I think you’re right about an age of readiness to introduce children to difficult concepts. However, I’m saying more than that. I’m saying that the scriptural passages about Hell and wrath are not even true in the same way that the passages about forgiveness and Love are true – at least, not insofar as they make God the cause of such things.

      I’m saying that just as we tell children (or beginners) such simplicistic things that they are barely even true, so God’s prophets may have told brutal and vengeful people that he would take brutal revenge on the wicked, in order to help His people in leaving vengeance to God (or in order to help them take the first steps of obedience, since they had never learned to obey without beatings and threates of death.) Likewise, when the prophets were speaking to people who had no concept of authority or of being a judge that did not include brutally destroying the disloyal and the disobedient, they may have needed to indicate that God would eventually rescue them from their brutal enemies and persecutors in a similar fashion. How many of them would have been able to grasp what to us, so many centuries later, seems obvious: that there is no point to such brutal punishments in an eternal economy, or where Christ is King? That he can rescue us, and end evil, without all that? That forgiveness and mercy is truly more divine than judgment and retribution? That it is genuinely possible to love one’s enemies and forgive one’s persecutors – even for God? I think some early Christians understood that, but the scriptures were written (at least on the surface) to believers in general, from the most advanced to the least canny.

      Unfortunately, if a person is committed to a treatment of scriptures in which “every word is true” in the most obvious and literal sense, and in which every verse is “God’s message directly to me” and in which there is only one sense, the historical-grammatical, then that person is not going to be able to consider such arguments – for these arguments require treating scripture as the sacred literature of the church, and not as something “inerrant.”

      What is difficult is that theological “liberals” also attack innerancy, and evangelicals mostly believe that the reason they do it is because they are against miracles and an inerrant Bible would be a miracle. I seriously question inerrancy, but for a different reason: simply because I have developed, through my involvement in the spiritual life of the Orthodox Church, a sense of God’s reality and presence, and the character of Jesus Christ, that is independent from the Bible. If all the Bibles disappeared I would be untroubled in my faith. I don’t believe our religion is contained in the scriptures – I believe that our religion curates the scriptures.

      So yes – involvement in the Liturgy and prayer is the Orthodox way to cultivate theological awareness. And no, I don’t allow my son to feel threatened by Hell. He hears about it from other people, but I tell him that spirits who have no body couldn’t possibly feel fire anyway, so the whole thing is silly and not to worry about it. I tell him that sin feels like fire, because it eats away at our souls. I tell him that when we lose our bodies in death and go into God’s presence, his light has to burn away that sin so that we can be healthy and live with Him. Later, I will read the sermon on the mount to him and explain that the Jews to whom Christ preached believed in Gehenna as a place that God would throw people to judge them, but Christ knew that the fires of Gehenna are really our own hatred, wrong desires, and lies. He told them as much as they could handle.

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  2. Slow is me. I didn’t get the drift of your question, Alana, until now.

    Once again I have the urge to copy & print out your reflections – for rereading & maybe passing on when “it seems good.” if only I had access to your insights years ago! Often I find myself wallowing in guilt (I know better, but still) because I deliberately kept my children from church and especially church schools so they would not pick up the negatives that I had developed.

    Now as adults they are relatively free from poorly transmitted doctrine, but they are also “free” from the desire to join with others in traditional liturgical prayer. I don’t know how to make up for that. I don’t think I can. Fr. M. says that I shouldn’t try. He tells me that “God can write straight with a crooked line.” Nevertheless, I can’t help wondering.


    • No, I understand. I didn’t really stop to explain because I knew that Matt had followed me from another blog and would know what I was talking about.

      Albert… when so much of religion depends upon childhood circumstances and cultivation, how can we expect God to judge anyone as if they should have just come up with a religious consciousness out of thin air? God keeps all that in mind, I’m certain of it. He knows why you did what you did and how you regret aspects of it now… and he knows why your kids are the way they are, too. Priests have to be carefuly what they say because they represent the church and their bishops in an official capacity so they can’t be seen to go out on a limb and preach their own ideas. They can only give the vaguest reassurance most of the time. Still I imagine Fr. M is expressing a very healthy sense of confidence in the goodness and understanding and mercy of God.

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