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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Heaping Coals of Fire on their heads...which is a good thing?

Al Mohler's blog makes a strong point in that he asserts that the Christian is expected to be fully engaged intellectually with his God and the Bible and a man or woman of reason as well as faith.  Bolding done by me.

Intellectual Discipleship — Following Christ with Our Minds

A failure of Christian thinking is a failure of discipleship, for we are called to love God with our minds.

The biblical master narrative serves as a framework for the cognitive principles that allow the formation of an authentically Christian worldview. Many Christians rush to develop what they will call a “Christian worldview” by arranging isolated Christian truths, doctrines, and convictions in order to create formulas for Christian thinking. No doubt, this is a better approach than is found among so many believers who have very little concern for Christian thinking at all, but it is not enough.

A robust and rich model of Christian thinking—the quality of thinking that culminates in a God-centered worldview—requires that we see all truth as interconnected. Ultimately, the systematic wholeness of truth can be traced to the fact that God is himself the author of all truth. Christianity is not a set of doctrines in the sense that a mechanic operates with a set of tools. Instead, Christianity is a comprehensive worldview and way of life that grows out of Christian reflection on the Bible and the unfolding plan of God revealed in the unity of the Scriptures.

A God-centered worldview brings every issue, question, and cultural concern into submission to all that the Bible reveals and frames all understanding within the ultimate purpose of bringing greater glory to God. This task of bringing every thought captive to Christ requires more than episodic Christian thinking and is to be understood as the task of the Church, and not merely the concern of individual believers. The recovery of the Christian mind and the development of a comprehensive Christian worldview will require the deepest theological reflection, the most consecrated application of scholarship, the most sensitive commitment to compassion, and the courage to face all questions without fear.
Christianity brings the world a distinctive understanding of time, history, and the meaning of life. The Christian worldview contributes an understanding of the universe and all it contains that points us far beyond mere materialism and frees us from the intellectual imprisonment of naturalism. Christians understand that the world—including the material world—is dignified by the very fact that God has created it. At the same time, we understand that we are to be stewards of this creation and are not to worship what God has made. We understand that every single human being is made in the image of God and that God is the Lord of life at every stage of human development. We honor the sanctity of human life because we worship the Creator. From the Bible, we draw the essential insight that God takes delight in the ethnic and racial diversity of his human creatures, and so must we.

The Christian worldview contributes a distinctive understanding of beauty, truth, and goodness, understanding these to be transcendentals that, in the final analysis, are one and the same. Thus, the Christian worldview disallows the fragmentation that would sever the beautiful from the true or the good. Christians consider the stewardship of cultural gifts, ranging from music and visual art to drama and architecture, as a matter of spiritual responsibility.

The Christian worldview supplies authoritative resources for understanding our need for law and our proper respect for order. Informed by the Bible, Christians understand that God has invested government with an urgent and important responsibility. At the same time, Christians come to understand that idolatry and self-aggrandizement are the temptations that come to any regime. Drawing from the Bible’s rich teachings concerning money, greed, the dignity of labor, and the importance of work, Christians have much to contribute to a proper understanding of economics. Those who operate from an intentionally biblical worldview cannot reduce human beings to mere economic units, but must understand that our economic lives reflect the fact that we are made in God’s image and are thus invested with responsibility to be stewards of all the Creator has given us.

Christian faithfulness requires a deep commitment to serious moral reflection on matters of war and peace, justice and equity, and the proper operation of a system of laws. Our intentional effort to develop a Christian worldview requires us to return to first principles again and again in a constant and vigilant effort to ensure that the patterns of our thought are consistent with the Bible and its master narrative.

In the context of cultural conflict, the development of an authentic Christian worldview should enable the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ to maintain a responsible and courageous footing in any culture at any period of time. The stewardship of this responsibility is not merely an intellectual challenge, it determines, to a considerable degree, whether or not Christians live and act before the world in a way that brings glory to God and credibility to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Failure at this task represents an abdication of Christian responsibility that dishonors Christ, weakens the church, and compromises Christian witness.

A failure of Christian thinking is a failure of discipleship, for we are called to love God with our minds. We cannot follow Christ faithfully without first thinking as Christians. Furthermore, believers are not to be isolated thinkers who bear this responsibility alone. We are called to be faithful together, as we learn intellectual discipleship within the believing community, the church.

By God’s grace, we are allowed to love God with our minds in order that we may serve him with our lives. Christian faithfulness requires the conscious development of a worldview that begins and ends with God at its center. We are only able to think as Christians because we belong to Christ, and the Christian worldview is, in the end, nothing more than seeking to think as Christ would have us to think, in order to be who Christ would call us to be.
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For background reading, see:
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Glory of God and the Life of the Mind,” Friday, November 12, 2010.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Knowledge of the Self-Revealing God: Starting Point for the Christian Worldview,” Friday, December 3, 2010.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Christian Worldview as Master Narrative: Creation,” Wednesday, December 15, 2010.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Christian Worldview as Master Narrative: Sin and its Consequences,” Friday, January 7, 2011.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Christian Worldview as Master Narrative: Redemption Accomplished,” Monday, January 10, 2011.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Christian Worldview as Master Narrative: The End that Is a Beginning,” Wednesday, January 12, 2011.

The real Christian life is one lived with brain and heart both turned on and active.  Truth and beauty and goodness belong together and should be found within the believer.  The normal Christian life in the USA is one that is pointed outwards in words and deeds.   Truth-telling is of utmost importance.  If you tell the truth, those who hate God will call you a liar.  Yet it is of utmost importance that you do not find yourself discouraged and it is necessary for you to keep on the path.  Remember, normal Christians in many countries are not simply jeered but sometimes beaten, robbed and murdered simply because they are Christians.   The Voice of the Martyrs is a website that has much information on this subject.  My world map shows me that sometimes readers are from countries that equate Christianity with criminality or are afraid of their message.  I applaud your courage, those of you who stand in the face of peril!

 Proverbs 25:21-22

 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
   if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
   and the LORD will reward you. 

Now if you don't get this Psalm, it illustrates one of the beauties of the scripture.   The lyrical poetry of the writing even when translated into a different language and an idiomatic expression that makes perfect sense if you are willing to be a student.   Ignorant people have suggested that by helping your enemy, he will be tormented by the thought of your incongruous kindness.  Not surprising, really.   But back in the days of the writer, a fire was a valuable commodity, the center of the home and necessary for the woman of the home to maintain.   Fires were allowed to be banked and then in the morning the embers would be urged back into a fire.  But sometimes the embers would die and then the woman of the house would take a jar and go to a neighbor and ask for some coals to renew her fire.

Women of the time (and to this day in large parts of the world) would carry their loads atop their heads, perfectly balanced.   It was less likely that a man would be the one to obtain the coals unless the neighbors were on poor terms, in which case perhaps...but then again in the Bible,  man is often used also for a person, a term that could apply to a woman. 

Heaping coals of fire on someone's head was a gesture of mercy and compassion.   God doesn't want our good deeds to cause people to grieve, he wants them to cause people to seek the One who provoked the good deed.

Can you take the understanding another way?   Is it true that good deeds done for those who hate you will increase their wrath?   God is pretty smart.   There are hundreds of scriptures that have more than one application.  The secondary thought of actually causing a pained reaction to a good deed has some validity but it is an observational one and not the intention of the Psalmist.  Some of those who are atheopathic will often be angry at the concept of a Christian doing ANYTHING to help them and would rather that all Christians stay away.

pot on head

Many of the readers of this blog cannot understand it.   They see no reason that I should continually go back and forth with people who are completely against my faith, insult my intelligence, malign and impugn my character and castigate my sources.   It is because some of them have no embers and there will be some who come with a pot that is empty and ready to be filled.   A few will walk away with at least a start for a burning, living faith in Jesus Christ. If even one reader finds faith because of this blog that will make it worthwhile. 

Evolutionists Admit It’s About Mistakes     01/26/2011    
Jan 26, 2011 — “Evolution by Mistake” is the headline of an article about evolution on Science Daily.  Can the protagonists get mistakes to create eyes, wings, and brains?

    The rest of the headline reads: “Major Driving Force Comes from How Organisms Cope With Errors at Cellular Level.”  Right off the bat, a tension seems set up between errors, which are directionless and purposeless, and how organisms cope with them, which at first glance seems a matter of design and purpose (as in a corporate security policy or anti-virus software).  But this is not an appeal to intelligent design.  “Charles Darwin based his groundbreaking theory of natural selection on the realization that genetic variation among organisms is the key to evolution,” the opening sentence declared.  The tip of the hat to Darwin means they intend to explain all of the wonders of the living world by descent with modification from bacteria to man.  Can they pull it off with “evolution by mistake”?

    Like Darwin, Joanna Masel and Etienne Rajon at University of Arizona (smiling at the whiteboard in a photo), recognize the exquisite adaptation of organisms to their environment.  “But exactly how nature creates variation in the first place still poses somewhat of a puzzle to evolutionary biologists,” the article admitted.  That may appear strange to readers who thought Darwin or the neo-Darwinists had that issue wrapped up long ago.

    Masel and Rajon “discovered the ways organisms deal with mistakes that occur while the genetic code in their cells is being interpreted greatly influences their ability to adapt to new environmental conditions – in other words, their ability to evolve.”  They are implying that ability to evolve will lead to innovation (wings, eyes, brains), because later, the phrase “how nature creates innovation” appears.  Can they get from errors to innovation?  If so, they need to do it without personifying evolution, so readers had best forgive this line that mixes up personified evolution with intelligent design: 

Evolution needs a playground in order to try things out,” Masel said  “It’s like in competitive business: New products and ideas have to be tested to see whether they can live up to the challenge.”
Overlooking that slip, they delved into the details of their idea:
In nature, it turns out, many new traits that, for example, enable their bearers to conquer new habitats, start out as blunders: mistakes made by cells that result in altered proteins with changed properties or functions that are new altogether, even when there is nothing wrong with the gene itself.  Sometime later, one of these mistakes can get into the gene and become more permanent.
Keep your eyes on the ball.  The reader wants to see innovation, like an eye, or a wing, or a brain, where it didn’t exist before.  So far we have blunders that alter proteins.  The gene was fine, but something happened downstream.  “Sometime later, one of these mistakes can get back into the gene,” they claimed.  Any evidence?  None in the article.

    They next distinguished between global and local solutions.  The global solution, they said, is “to avoid making errors in the first place, for example by having a proofreading mechanism to spot and fix errors as they arise.”  Something “watches over the entire process,” they said, begging the question again of how an entire process that watches for errors and fixes them could itself be a product of mistakes.  Regardless, global solutions are about preserving integrity of the genome, not innovating wings, eyes, and brains.  Innovation will have to be local:
The alternative is to allow errors to happen, but evolve robustness to the effects of each of them.  Masel and Rajon call this strategy a local solution, because in the absence of a global proofreading mechanism, it requires an organism to be resilient to each and every mistake that pops up.

    “We discovered that extremely small populations will evolve global solutions, while very large populations will evolve local solutions,” Masel said.  “Most realistically sized populations can go either direction but will gravitate toward one or the other.  But once they do, they rarely switch, even over the course of evolutionary time.”
This paragraph is full of strategy – another ostensibly purposeful concept.  If an organism has a strategy to allow some errors to creep in, but then “evolve robustness” to their effects, did that strategy itself evolve by mistake?  They didn’t say.

    Next, they introduced a contrast between “regular variation, which is generally bad most of the time, since the odds of a genetic mutation leading to something useful or even better are pretty slim,” (see online book for calculation), “and what they call cryptic variation, which is less likely to be deadly, and more likely to be mostly harmless.”  Even so, a poison pill and a placebo are not likely to produce wings, eyes, and brains.  If you have an antidote to the poison pill, or a process to avoid swallowing it in the first place, it won’t kill you, but the placebo (cryptic variation), even if it is “mostly harmless,” contains no power to innovate.  You are not likely to get a third eye from it. 
So how does cryptic variation work and why is it so important for understanding evolution?

    By allowing for a certain amount of mistakes to occur instead of quenching them with global proofreading machinery, organisms gain the advantage of allowing for what Masel calls pre-selection: It provides an opportunity for natural selection to act on sequences even before mutations occur.
The critical reader of this paragraph is going to want to know not just whether their theory can produce innovation from mistakes, but how their theory itself arose from mistakes.  In other words, they talked about cryptic variation working, about importance, about understanding, about strategies of allowing some mistakes but not others – who or what decides?  They swept right past the question of how “global proofreading machinery” could ever arise from mistakes, to the grand fallacy (see Weinberg’s Corollary) of pre-selection as “an opportunity for natural selection to act”.  Is natural selection a person?  Does it have a plan?  How would natural selection have any precognition of the need for an eye, a wing, or a brain?

    A mistake that leads to a misfolded protein, they admitted, could be “very toxic to the organism.”  Creationists would agree that “In this case of a misfolded protein, selection would favor mutations causing that genetic sequence to not be translated into protein or it would favor sequences in which there is a change so that even if that protein is made by accident, the altered sequence would be harmless.”  Purifying selection (eliminating mistakes) and compensating selection (tolerating mistakes) are not controversial: unless you avoid taking the poison pill, or have no antidote, you die without passing on your genes.  Having those protections still won’t give you a wing, an eye, or a brain.  But if you just had the opportunity to get them, wouldn’t you want them?
Pre-selection puts that cryptic variation in a state of readiness,” Masel said.  “One could think of local solutions as natural selection going on behind the scenes, weeding out variations that are going to be catastrophic, and enriching others that are only slightly bad or even harmless.

    “Whatever is left after this process of pre-selection has to be better,” she pointed out.  “Therefore, populations relying on this strategy have a greater capability to evolve in response to new challenges.  With too much proofreading, that pre-selection can’t happen.
Masel’s wording recalls Darwin’s personified depiction of his theory: “Natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life.”  But even Darwin might have balked at the idea of pre-selection, that natural selection would keep harmless variations in a junkyard for scrutinizing later.  Masel argued that “the organism doesn’t pay a large cost for it, but it’s still there if it needs it.

    How big a junkyard can an organism afford to keep around?  Masel and Rajon recognized the cost of error correction:
Avoiding or fixing errors comes at a cost, they pointed out.  If it didn’t, organisms would have evolved nearly error-free accuracy in translating genetic information into proteins.  Instead, there is a trade-off between the cost of keeping proteins free of errors and the risk of allowing potentially deleterious mistakes.
The accuracy of error correction is indeed surprisingly high, but there is also a cost of hanging onto useless junk.  All the junk has to be copied every time a cell divides, and transported in a dynamic environment where the need to eat, eliminate, defend and adapt are ever present.  It may be that some organisms carrying around huge genomes are at a disadvantage and are headed for extinction.  Maybe they still need time to sift through their junk for parts of eyes, wings, and brains.

    The authors ended on a biomimetic theme.  Engineers, too, may want to imitate the practice of evolution by mistake:
“We find that biology has a clever solution.  It lets lots of ideas flourish, but only in a cryptic form and even while it’s cryptic, it weeds out the worst ideas.  This is an extremely powerful and successful strategy.  I think companies, governments, economics in general can learn a lot on how to foster innovation from understanding how biological innovation works.
Most entrepreneurs, while admitting the value of brainstorming, trial and error, and even “evolutionary algorithms” (10/04/2005, 04/18/2009) will recognize that what they do has purpose and intent.  The same cannot be said of mistakes in yeast cells that Masel and Rajon studied.
Paper View

It might be said in the authors’ defense that the popular press had to oversimplify and personify their ideas for the lay public; the original paper in PNAS is where the goods are.1  A look at the abstract, though, shows a strong requirement: “The local solution requires powerful selection acting on every cryptic site and so evolves only in large populations.”  Yet the local solution is the only one pregnant with innovating potential, because “Strongly deleterious effects can be avoided globally by avoiding making errors (e.g., via proofreading machinery) or locally by ensuring that each error has a relatively benign effect.”  If large populations with mistakes of “relatively benign effect” is the best one can hope for, will wings, eyes, and brains follow?

    In the body of the paper, the words innovate or innovation are nowhere to be found.  The stem improve is only found in reference to “improved proofreading machinery,” which they assume already existed.  There are equations about fitness, but with apparently no linkage to innovation: “components of fitness associated, respectively, with the expression of cryptic sequences, with deleterious sequences becoming permanently expressed through new mutations and with the cost of proofreading during protein synthesis.”  But cryptic sequences, remember, are only variations that do not kill the organism.  They are mistakes that are tolerated and kept in store.  Other mentions of fitness concern deleterious mutations, loss of function, and null fitness, except where additive fitness is offered hopefully: “Fitness in the additive scenario depends on the total concentration of all deleterious products within the cell and on their toxicity.”  It sounds more like a bomb shelter than a lab for innovation.  The authors use fitness primarily as a measure of mutations that assimilate in a population without getting edited out.  The last paragraph sums it up:
Our core result is that a solution acting at many sites at once evolves in small populations, and local solutions at each independent site evolve in large populations, whereas either outcome is possible in populations of intermediate size.  Local solutions, associated with large populations, have both higher mean fitness and greater evolvability.
Again, though, the authors never linked “higher mean fitness” with anything better than assimilation of harmless mutations.  In fact, what they present as a “positive feedback loop” is merely a loophole for mutations to escape the scrutiny of the editing machines: “This positive feedback loop between accuracy and the proportion of cryptic sequences that are strongly deleterious would ultimately lead to the evolution of an infinitely small error rate if avoiding errors did not come at a cost, resulting in a trade-off between the cost of expressing deleterious sequences and the cost of accuracy.”  Tolerance for harmless mutations was never linked to the innovation of wings, eyes, or brains, or anything even simply adding a new function to a cell – no matter how small – except for one vague reference in a table to “subfunctionalization” (split of functions between copies)2 or “neofunctionalization” (no examples provided; cf. 10/24/2003).

    Apparently, then, all the authors hope for is the opportunity for evolution to work its magic (see 01/23/2011): “The local solution facilitates the genetic assimilation of cryptic genetic variation and therefore substantially increases evolvability” – i.e., the opportunity to innovate.  But they cannot assume that evolvability entails the ability to innovate new organs of extreme perfection without begging the very question Darwin’s original idea proposed 150 years ago.3  They lead the reader to hope that evolution may “tinker” with the assimilated junk: “cryptic sequences that are not strongly deleterious may tinker with rather than destroy function and so contribute to adaptation.” 

1.  Etienne Rajon and Joanna Masel, “Evolution of molecular error rates and the consequences for evolvability,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print January 3, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1012918108 PNAS January 3, 2011.
2.  On subfunctionalization, see 06/20/2005, 07/26/2006, 10/17/2007, and 01/03/2011. 3.  For previous attempts to explain “evolvability,” see 08/04/2004, 10/04/2005, 10/16/2006 bullet 3, 02/05/2007, 10/17/2007 bullet 4, 03/20/2008 commentary, 02/18/2009, and 01/05/2010.
It may seem like this long entry was like a cruel cat playing with its captive mouse, or the hangman letting the victim draw his own rope, but it was necessary to give them all the space they wanted before showing there is no escape.  They chose to bounce on the cat’s paws; they built their own gallows.  We wanted them to have the space to make their case and try to escape, but they should have known it was doomed from the start.  Can you get wings, eyes, and brains by mistake?  Intuitively, none of us could ever believe that.  Yet academia presents that weird idea as unquestionable scientific truth.

    OK, give it your best shot.  Here you had it – one of the most optimistic explications of evolutionary innovation you could ever find, by trained Darwin Party sophists, letting us all know why our intuitions are misguided.  And all they could do was tell us the old “If you build it, they will come” theory of evolution (03/29/2007, 10/31/2010, 11/29/2010 commentaries).  Merely give Tinker Bell the tools (08/30/2006, 11/29/2010), and wings, eyes, and brains are sure to follow.  Impressed by the song and dance?

    This series of remakes about evolvability is like American Idol with never a star.  It didn’t help change the judges’ decision when they tiptoed offstage with a little biomimetics flower toss.  Entrepreneurs, before taking their business advice, realize that this weird science show would probably never have been produced without your tax money from the National Institutes of Health.  The government always has your business interest in mind.
Next headline on:  Darwin and EvolutionDumb Ideas
Why science should have stuck a stake in the ground in the mid-19th Century and decided that they would not be moved from the Darwin hypothesis is completely beyond reason.   Organisms and the Universe are simply NOTHING like Darwin and Huxley and Lyell and Hutton and Haeckel anticipated.   When will reason expel superstition in science?  Psssst!   Wanna know a secret?  Darwinism is preposterous...pass it on!


Jon Woolf said...

So many times over the same ground, and still you trip with every step.

Most of the problems you claim to find in Masel and Rajon's piece, and the accompanying Science Daily article, are either the product of miscommunication, or invented by you in a desperate attempt to create controversy where none actually exists.

radar said...

Bathybius redux

Jon Woolf said...


Do you really want to engage on that field, radar? Where the best attack you can muster is snarking about an honest mistake by a couple of men who could be a tenth as smart and knowledgeable as they actually were, and still be ten times as smart and knowledgeable as you? When I can counter by pointing out how you continue to defend proven, wilful, malicious lies about evolutionary theory, the people who support it, and the science on which it's based?

No, I don't think you do.


OTOH, on the rare occasions you've attempted honest discussion of the issues, you've been taken down like a hamstrung elephant. I guess snark and sneering at your betters are all you have left. Ah well. Better luck in your next life.

Chaos Engineer said...

The secondary thought of actually causing a pained reaction to a good deed has some validity but it is an observational one and not the intention of the Psalmist.

OK, I'll bite. How do you know which interpretation the Psalmist intended?

I did a quick googling and found three different interpretations right off.

You and some other people think that "heaping coals of fire" means "give them coals to carry in a jar", but that seems like a broken analogy...if you're giving your enemies food or water, then they're already got one jar to balance, so they'll probably set aside the unwanted jar of coals.

The interpretation I learned in my misspent youth was that "heaping coals of fire" means "make them burn with embarrassment", by responding to their hatred with compassion.

And I see that some other people interpret it as "transform", in the sense of using coal to forge base metal into iron. That actually seems like it makes the most an ideal world, you don't want to reward or punish your enemies; you want to win them over to your side. But it's a bit of a stretch; I think if the Psalmist had meant that he would have made it clear that it was a metalworking analogy.

radar said...

Chaos? Googling for interpretations? Hey, research! What a refreshing twist. If you dig deep, you will discover that women of Africa and the Middle East carry loads on their heads and not with their arms in most cases. You will also find that in the time of the writing of Psalms, coals or embers were of utmost importance and that it was customary to go to a neighbor's home with a jar or pot to receive a few coals to relight the family's fire. There was quite a shortage of BIC lighters in those days. The heaping of coals on the head is still understood in the Middle East as I explained it.

As to Jon Woolf, King of snark, the article exposing the character of both Huxley and especially the wicked Haeckel speaks to the evil underpinnings of Darwinism. Lyell lied about Niagara Falls. Darwin stole his material from Wallace, among others. The concept of primordial goo and lightning dates back to primitive Greek culture, by the way. Then Darwinism produced Eugenics which gave us aboriginals murdered like animals and ethnic cleansing and abortion and death panels and men like Stalin and Hitler and Mao. Francis Galton and George Bernard Shaw would like to interview you to determine your worthiness to live. But, ooops, they are dead and discovered a Higher Judge.

Today men produce the Pakicetus or Arsenic bacteria and make totally false claims about them to promote Darwinism.

I don't care what you think of my intellect, Jon, so you are wasting your time. It might be better to check your own. You have fallen for some pretty lame concepts and when challenged do not seem to have the ability to comprehend.

This blog is where I post articles and allow for comments. Comments do not run the blog, but rather the other way around. Free speech is great. Don't expect me to spend hours answering every comment. More fun when commenters joust anyway.

Anonymous said...

...and especially the wicked Haeckel.

There's that name AGAIN! Why do you accuse people of having an obsession when they mention Hartnett a few times when you yourself can't seem to resist mentioning Haeckel in just about every article?

Jon Woolf said...

"It might be better to check your own. You have fallen for some pretty lame concepts and when challenged do not seem to have the ability to comprehend."


A clue for you, Radar free of charge: a failure to agree with your arguments doesn't always mean a failure to comprehend those arguments.

Or do you really think that your little dreams about creation are beyond someone who groks Godel's Incompleteness Theorem?

Chaos Engineer said...

The heaping of coals on the head is still understood in the Middle East as I explained it.

But is that the only possible understanding? Like I said, I found three different interpretations pretty quickly. We can paraphrase them as:

(1) "You should help your enemies, because that will benefit them." (2) "You should help your enemies, because that will make them ashamed." (3) "You should help your enemies, because that will transform them." My gut instinct is that (2) is probably closest to the author's intent.

Why do you think (1) is better? Is it just instinct, or is it based on study of the actual culture? If it's based on cultural knowledge, then is it your own research, or are you just repeating something somebody else told you?

I think the moral is that if someone is writing Holy Scripture, they should use simple descriptive sentences and not put in a lot of culture-specific metaphors that might get misinterpreted by future generations.

radar said...

Chaos, you get better with time. Unlike some comments that are authoritative emptiness or gorilla-like chest beating, you are conversant!

I did do my own study of the language and culture of the people. There was a terrific book on the cultural heritage of the people of the region that I read very early in my seminary days. It is quite easy to learn the cultural ways of people in differing times of the Bible because the Bible is so ubiquitous in literary references, in commentaries, in so many ways.

God would have inspired men to write clearly to the people of the time and in ways that could be understood by succeeding generations. For English-speaking people to read the Bible requires translation. For those translate languages there is a need to redo translations over time as phrases and spelling and idiomatic language change. Before the advent of dictionaries English works of literature were all over the map in spelling and word usage. Continued...

radar said...

So I do not expect God to have inspired men to write the Bible in 21st Century English, as it would have been no good to Aramaic or Hebrew or Greek or Latin readers. Neither do I expect God to use idioms of modern times. Good students learn the ways of what they study. I therefore studied the ways of the Palestinian peoples.

The Psalmist is doing as God often inspired writers to do, which was to repeat the same idea in two ways. This method was useful in memorization and much of the Bible is more lyrical in the original tongue. This is because there were few written copies of anything and the Bible was memorized by students rather than having entire copies of the Bible available at home.

So one was not being told to give food and water and coals all at the same time. God was urging the reader to give what was needed. Food was something you grew or bred or bought for yourself and water was usually drawn by the women at a well and carried back home in a pot atop their heads. Coals would also be placed in a container atop their heads.

Knowing this, you see that God urges people to 1) meet their need and then 2) this may draw them to God because of your kindness or 3) this possibly could be an annoyance to them that would hopefully turn into a seeking of that God that tells you to love your enemies.

Try reading English from around 1200 AD. One great thing about the Bible was that Hebrew did not change much from possibly it's inception in the Garden until modern times. For the longest time no vowels were written but the basic language remained largely intact and thus the Old Testament was preserved. God had no problem getting the message clearly to me or to very likely the average Jewish student, so the Psalms is clear to those who take a close look.

300 versus 800? Because the Septuagint is a translation of a translation there are sometimes mistakes made by the translators as some have said about the 300 versus 800 warriors slain. But when you know how the Bible uses language, you see that the addition of the spear makes the 300 both specific in terms of how they were slain but personally ascribed to one victor. The link to The Berean's website was quite good.

radar said...

I do wish that one of my commenters would investigate the meaning of "transference" and also provide documentation that assigns grades to individuals so that we can clearly see who amongst us are "betters"?

If Jon Woolf is the judge of the world and all mankind, then I am doubtless in big trouble. On the other hand, if God is the Judge, I suspect it is Jon who needs to review his situation.

The Bible tells me that I cannot depend upon myself and that I have the option of being judged by God or throwing myself on the mercy of the court by having Jesus Christ stand in my place. Jesus has agreed to take my place and has already taken my judgment upon Himself, thus allowing me to be set free. I cannot be called innocent but rather acquitted. I did have the best possible Lawyer. I am more than willing and in fact proclaim that Jesus Christ is my better in every possible way.

Who, Jon Woolf, is standing for you?

Jon Woolf said...

Pascal's Wager again, Radar? That argument is flawed for both logical and theological reasons. I'll look elsewhere for my inspiration, thanks.

"If Jon Woolf is the judge of the world and all mankind, then I am doubtless in big trouble."

Doubt it. Tell us, why do you assume that those who disagree with you must be evil? Not simply wrong, but evil? Unlike you (and, apparently, your god), I have enough sense to tell malice from folly. Folly doesn't deserve punishment. Only malice does.

"The Bible tells me that I cannot depend upon myself "

Of course it does. It was written by men who needed you to believe that, so you would instead depend upon them, and so increase their power.

radar said...

"Doubt it. Tell us, why do you assume that those who disagree with you must be evil? Not simply wrong, but evil? Unlike you (and, apparently, your god), I have enough sense to tell malice from folly. Folly doesn't deserve punishment. Only malice does."

Thus saith Woolf. God says otherwise. Folly is disobedience to God as I clearly defined it using the Bible.

'"The Bible tells me that I cannot depend upon myself "

Of course it does. It was written by men who needed you to believe that, so you would instead depend upon them, and so increase their power.'

Men need me to believe the Bible now because they wrote it? No one living now wrote the Bible, but rather it was written long ago.

Anonymous said...

"Men need me to believe the Bible now because they wrote it? No one living now wrote the Bible, but rather it was written long ago."

Obviously not, but the Bible is part of a social control system in which it is useful that people obey and live in hope of an amazing afterlife if they behave here and now. It's a good slogan to draw people in and it keeps communities docile. A Bible that taught you to think for yourself would hardly have found much favor in the Roman empire.

Anonymous said...

"Folly is disobedience to God as I clearly defined it using the Bible."

Does the Bible draw a distinction between folly and evil?

Jon Woolf said...

"God says otherwise."

Did he? Or did someone tell you he said that? You see, you have no way to tell.

"Folly is disobedience to God as I clearly defined it using the Bible."

Reckon you need a refresher in basic symbolic logic. "A is a subset of B" doesn't necessarily equate to "A and B are identical." I think if you check, you'll find the Bible says something like "disobedience to God is folly." Doesn't mean there aren't other kinds of folly too. Like sneering and snarking at someone who knows more than you do about certain subjects.

Anonymous said...

Further to Radar's comment, "Men need me to believe the Bible now because they wrote it? No one living now wrote the Bible, but rather it was written long ago.", I'll just leave this here,

By-the-way, the subtitle of this article is "It Sucks That You Don't Know Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic".

No doubt, if hb were to see this, he'd just write it off as weak argument's he's dealt with "billions" of times but, what else is he going to say, really? He has painted himself into a corner with his whole denial-of-ANY-biblical-contradictions thing, and in the end, it's essentially his Job to say that stuff anyway (I mean what else is he going to do with that bible college education of his).

- Canucklehead.