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“Show Me Mercy, My Companions, Show Me Mercy!” but They Show Him None: Job 19

Nobody has ever had a wish granted to them like Job:

“If only my words were written down, If only they could be inscribed in a book!” (Job 19:23)

Folded into the world’s all-time best seller, they now are, where they stand as the supreme example of a ‘theodicy,’ an exploration of the the problem of evil—or, define it as the question, ‘Why do the righteous suffer?’

The university-educated promptly shoot themselves in the foot by dividing the Book of Job into two books. The first, in their opinion, is a Jewish fable comprising what is now the first two and the last chapters of Job. The second consists of all the rest, the unending dialogue of Job, his three tormentors, Elihu, and God. You almost suspect that their goal is to flatter the intellect, and it matters not to them that they throw away the key to understanding—as they do with the early Genesis chapters that frame the overall theodicy of which the Book of Job is a subset.

Is it that those first two chapters read too ‘fundamentalist’ for them, they who are educated in critical thinking? They should waste their time on a silly little story of God and the Devil making a wager? As though, once they finish and the outcome with Job has been determined, they say, ‘Whoa! That was loads of fun! Let’s do it again with someone else!’ The notion (which every Jehovah’s Witness understands, even the children) that Job represents a test case of whether humans can keep integrity under trial, is lost upon them.

The other ‘benefit’ of divorcing Job’s trials from the opening chapters which frame it is that you get to spin the poetic dialogue any way you wish without regard to ever settling anything. A windy debate of philosophy—‘Yeah! That’s what I’m talkin about!’ Never mind if it doesn’t lead anywhere. It becomes one of those, ‘they are having their reward in full’ scenarios of which Jesus spoke at Matthew chapter 6.

But if you don’t cleave the book into two, you come away with some understanding. You come away with the knowledge that humans can maintain integrity to God under the most trying circumstances. They may give vent to plenty of ‘wild talk’ along the way, not being privy to the big picture, but eventually the dust settles, all is forgiven, and the louts that leaned into the righteous with their own smug theories of superiority get rebuked.

Those three interrogators do lean into Job, and Job says, ‘Why aren’t you ashamed?’ “These ten times you have rebuked me; You are not ashamed to deal harshly with me.“ (Job 19:3) They should be ashamed—using their robust health to pound an unfortunate into the ground. 

“Show me mercy, my companions, show me mercy, For God’s own hand has touched me,” Job pleads, but they show him none. Aggravated that their initial gentle accusations were rejected, they double down and turn vengeful. “It gets personal,” Kushner says. Gentle insinuations become harsh accusations. The three appoint themselves interrogators for God, though God has asked for no such interrogators, terrorists who will brook no ‘wild talk,’ who will regard it all as apostasy to be put down with machine gun fire. 

What they should do is ‘weep with those who weep.’ What they should do is quote Ecclesiastes 5:2: “Do not be quick with your mouth, nor let your heart speak rashly before the true God, for the true God is in the heavens but you are on the earth. That is why your words should be few.” Job’s three visitors do not use few words; they use many, although they can’t possibly know what they are talking about, since “the true God is in the heavens but you are on the earth.”

Horrific suffering happens today. Some months ago a young woman in a nearby circuit suffered vicious physical assault. Even Job was not physically assaulted. Nor did he suffer the complete betrayal of the human justice system when the perpetrator was brought to court. Her life irrevocably changed with scars that are not visible, she decided to go public, as a first step towards healing. She’s very brave. She also hopes, no doubt, to forestall any speculation from those who see her altered behavior but have not the facts to put it in context. It’s good congregations are in the Book of Job lately, from which we may draw the conclusion that we don’t need them.

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Cool Hand Luke: ‘He Beat You with Nothin!’ The Atheist Search for the Origin of Life, Part 5

For best results, see Part 1

This post is an aside. ‘Origin of Life’ science, as discussed in the lecture series, might easily strike a non-enthusiast as so speculative as to challenge the all-time king of speculation in the guise of science: evolutionary psychology. So it is that I diverge into that other cutting-edge field.


The circuit overseer was visiting. It was a week of special activity. We reconvened to plan our afternoon. Nosmo Jones had unexpectedly cancelled his study to bail one of his kids out of jail, so I was open. “Does anyone have any calls?” the circuit overseer asked. “I have - Mr. Strawman out on Pretensia Pond Road,” I said. “You remember him from your last visit.”

“Does anyone else have any calls?” Silence. I knew Bill Ding had several, and also Sally Shinspits, but they would likely not be home at this time of day. “Are you sure nobody else has any calls?” the circuit overseer repeated. I reminded him again about Bernard Strawman. “He’s told me since our last call that he could believe in God!” I said. “We could build on that foundation.” He’d also said something about climate change in hell, but I hadn’t understood what he had meant by that.

“Check carefully. Nobody has any return visits?” the circuit overseer asked again, looking desperate. “Maybe we can do street work,” he pleaded. But Brother Bruno’s wife, Brunette, had done street work all morning and her feet were sore. She wanted to ride around for a while.

Twenty minutes later we pulled into Mr. Strawman’s driveway. A Mercedes was already there, in addition to the Jaguar that Mr. Strawman drove. I rang the doorbell with the circuit overseer in tow. Mr. Strawman answered. He invited us in, told us to take off our shoes, and introduced us to his visitor, Dr. Adhominem. I’d never met Dr. Adhominem, but I’d heard Mr. Strawman speak of him glowingly.

Mr. Strawman asked us to be seated. He asked us if we would like some orange juice. When we said yes, he explained that he didn’t have any. I settled in my chair for a stimulating discussion that was sure to come! The circuit overseer mentally reviewed his notes for the talk he would give that evening: “Are You Following the Lead of the Angel in Your Ministry?’

Mr. Strawman and his visitor explained to me the research paper they were preparing to submit to Wonderful Scientist Magazine. It was to be their contribution to the exciting field of evolutionary psychology. “Much of the cutting-edge work in science is in this field,” Mr. Strawman told me. The paper he was co-authoring with Dr. Adhominem, he explained, was on the evolutionary origin of boisterous flatulence. “Back in the stone-age eat-or-be-eaten days,” Mr. Strawman explained, putting the concept in a nutshell, “you wanted to evolve everything you possibly could to scare off predators. And nothing would do the job like boisterous flatulence. It quickly cleared the area, the same as it does in modern times.”

I was very impressed with this crock of insight. But the circuit overseer said: “Got any evidence of that?” He had heard of something called the Scientific Method. I was so embarrassed. Dr. Adhominem smiled and explained that to become obsessed with such matters was to chase a red herring. The very reason such rapid progress was being made in evolutionary psychology, he continued, was that researchers could work without that sort of distraction. He asserted the time for his breakthrough had come because similar research had been accepted by the scientific community. To tell the truth, I was becoming more than a little mortified by that circuit overseer. Clearly, the man doesn’t know much about science.

For example, Dr. Adhominem told us about the evolutionary origin of faulty reasoning, something which had long puzzled scientists because it seemed to fly in the face of survival of the fittest. But the April 5, 2010 issue of Newsweek summarized the latest scientific thinking. “Faulty reasoning is really our friend! It enabled our ancestors to learn argumentation!” If there was no cockeyed reasoning, Dr. Adhominem explained, nobody would have anything to argue about. Throw any issue before the masses, and they’d all instantly agree! How could survival of the fittest take place? Smart people can only evolve if they have blockheads to stomp into submission with their clever argumentation. So stupidity has proven to be essential to our evolutionary advancement!

The circuit overseer said: “That doesn’t make any sense to me at all.” Dr. Adhominem gently suggested the reason: evolution had selected people like the two of us to enable people like himself and Mr Strawman to become brilliant. I felt privileged to have such a role in science! The circuit overseer asked to use the bathroom. “Eighth door on the left,” Mr. Strawman said.

The three of us remaining strolled out into the back yard. Next door, Mr. Strawman’s neighbor was drooling over his curvaceous girlfriend prancing about in a micro-bikini. I instantly turned away. “Interesting how evolutionary psychology accounts for this phenomenon,” Mr. Strawman remarked. “Indeed,” Dr. Adhominem said. I drew a blank, so he patiently enlightened me. “You’re not going to get far in the struggle for survival if your wife keeps dropping your babies and killing them, are you? Decidedly not!” Pleased with himself, he continued: “But that knockout bombshell of a competitive wife has convenient shelves upon which she can balance as many babies as you can give her. Thus, over the eons, our ancestors began to prefer curvy women and to think them beautiful.” How could I have been so stupid for so long?

We seated ourselves again inside and the circuit overseer said something about God. Mortified, I slid down into my chair! Mr. Strawman had already explained to me the evolutionary origin of God: “See, any group of individuals will have some riffraff who must be kept in check so as not to disrupt the clan. The trouble is, the riffraff doesn’t like being kept in check. They fight back, and this spills the primordial soup of even the most peaceful clan, spewing evolutionary ripples everywhere. What you need is a superhuman cop, one with whom you can’t fight back! Then those ne’er-do-wells will behave. That’s how the concept of God evolved, with all its quaint notions of right and wrong.”

“Homosexuality? Surely that has to be a fly in the ointment of your race to procreate,” the scientifically ignorant circuit overseer said, much to my dismay. “Not at all,” Bernard Strawman replied with a smile. “Homosexual men tend to be nurturing, and so they nurture everyone in the tribe, including themselves, giving the entire tribe a competitive advantage,” he said.

We discussed other interesting things as well. Seeing that he was getting underneath the circuit overseer’s skin, Mr. Strawman asked us as we were leaving how we knew that we were there? “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, how do we know that it makes a noise?” What a fascinating question! “Because the squirrels go crazy!” the circuit overseer said. “I’ll be in the car, Tom.” He’s a fine brother but he really doesn’t know anything about science.

“What a wonderful experience in the field ministry!” I exclaimed to all as we entered the Kingdom Hall after field service was over. I suggested that the circuit overseer might use it for his upcoming part in the circuit assembly, but he said he already had participants.

[The boisterous flatulence hypothesis is (for now) made-up nonsense, but all the other ideas have found acceptance among evolutionary psychologists. I predict boisterous flatulence will also be embraced one day soon, since it is only slightly more ridiculous than what has already been accepted by these characters.]

The circuit overseer said he would never ever EVER go back with me on this call and changed the title of his talk that evening from ‘Are You Following the Lead of the Angel in Your Ministry?’ to ‘Look, Sometimes You Have to Learn How to Take a Hint.’

However, three years have just about elapsed. He is soon to depart for a new assignment; a new circuit overseer will soon arrive, hopefully one with better appreciation for science. He will thus be the ninth one to aid me in assisting Mr. Strawman in his progress.]

“The first effect of not believing in God, is that you lose your common sense.” G K Chesterton

To be continued:


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Don’t Go Talking Adam and Eve at the Zoo Reptile House

Eve found plenty of fault with Adam during their sabotaged marriage but one charge she was never able to make stick was, ‘You never listen to me.’ Nor, for that matter, was a certain snake ever able to say that of her.

It’s not every day that a snake talks. Even if you are new on the planet, encountering surprises each day, it still seems that a talking snake would knock your socks off, assuming you were wearing any. It’s why I like the snake depiction in Paradise Lost, by the poet John Milton, published in 1667.

It’s not really the snake speaking; it is a rebellious spirit creature using it as though a ventriloquist his dummy. Milton’s twist on the snake is that it is anything but dumb. Persuading Eve to eat from the forbidden tree, it says, ‘Look what it did for me. And if it can give speech to me, a common snake, just think what it can do for you!’ Oh, yeah. It’s all speculative; you can’t go there with any certainty, but it does make good sense. You can picture it happening this way.

At the reptile house of any modern zoo, however, you will find no attendants to tell about Eve and the snake. They would be fired if they did, most likely, though it’s a little hard to tell; probably that statement has never been tested. They’ve all been through college and have emerged with degrees in zoology, marine biology, conservation biology, wildlife management, and animal behavior, and the like. They are all strictly evolution-oriented. Every vestige of creation-belief has been pounded out of them. Don’t go telling them about Eve.

Not that the animals suffer on that account. They do far better than when I found a downed robin chick as a boy and tried to nurse it back to health with grass to sit on, hot dogs to eat, and a few twigs to remind them of trees. The zoo care is first rate, and it was not long ago that I heard a tiny child discussing with its mother about ‘habitat’—a word I certainly never knew as a child. But don’t even think about original serpents pulling the wool over Eve’s eyes here. It is not allowed.

The wildlife graduates that don’t find zoo employment find it instead in video production. There, they employ powerful AI tools to detect just when you are about to cry out in astonishment ‘Creation!’ ‘Design!’ at some breathtakingly dazzling animal behavior. Heading off the words while they are yet in your throat, the narrator gushes: “How absolutely incredible that natural selection works to produce such amazing behavior!”

Others present animal packs and herds as though criminal gangs, killing, maiming, and eating each other. ‘Don’t you dare even think of Bambi!’ they glower. ‘The fight for survival is all you need to know about.’

All the same, zoos are light years ahead of what they were when I was a boy, back when they were essentially jails for animals. ‘They are still jails for animals,’ my brother mutters, who will not visit on that account. But if you take into account their endeavor to save the nature that their fellows destroy, they’re earn one’s appreciation. It’s not everything, but it’s a fine stopgap until Revelation 11:18 is realized and the time comes for God to “bring to ruin those who are ruining the earth.” Zoos slow them down a little bit. Just like my cousin says about the vintage Mustangs he restores. If you put such-and-such a price on them, people come beating down your door, but if you add 20K to it, “that slows them down a little.”

At the Columbus zoo, the elephants roam through a huge U-shaped enclosure, with spectators peering from the peninsula thus formed in the middle. Zoo workers call them from one end of the enclosure to another—keep them moving, is the idea, just like in the wilds. Also like in the wild is food that requires them to use their ‘problem-solving skills.’ Some is suspended. Some must be unraveled or opened in various tricky ways. They will show their feet on command, and the idea here is so those foot bottoms may be inspected for health. They all respond to their names. The elephant named Rudy has a slinking aspect to its gait that, combined with a bobbing head, makes him look like a teenager trying to act cool. Just a mannerism, the volunteer told me. He does it especially when excited or glad.

Creative people are hard at work. “How do you know if an animal is venomous?” asks posters in the Columbus reptile house. “If it bites you and you get sick, the animal is venomous” is the chipper heads-up. And when workman were building something or other at the Syracuse zoo, the accompanying legend described their habitat: coffee and donuts during the day; television in the family room during the evening.

They’ll tempt you with zoo membership upon entering most of them. The fee is more than for a single entrance, but you afterwards get in as many times as you like for free. Moreover, half-price is the fee at any other participating zoo. That’s how we came to be in both Columbus and Syracuse. Periodically, my wife and I have to get away and plot a course to some new locale. We don’t go just for the zoo, but while there we always check out that zoo.

Are we the only ones to ever have had that idea? Not at all. Here is a site that even undertakes to rate all the zoos.


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Cool Hand Luke: ‘He Beat You with Nothin!’ Atheist search for the Origin of Life. Part 4

For best results, begin with Part 1.

One of my car group came across a “trained scientist” in the ministry. Alas, I was not with her. Had I been, I would have probed the meaning of “trained.” Time was when a scientists would just introduce him/herself as a scientist. Is the “trained” preface just there to lend prestige? Or does it really mean something? How is a trained scientist different from a regular scientist? Has he (my sneaking suspicion, though I could be wrong) been “trained” that atheism is required to be a real scientist, whereas it once was that scientists saw no inherent conflict with belief in God—some did and some didn’t, but it was not a requirement for the job? The ones who saw no conflict kept the two disciplines on separate realms, with the conviction that each provides unique tools for interpreting life and neither negates the other. Pew Research says (in 2009) that about half of American scientists believe in God or a higher power, and half do not

Who are these origin-of-life scientists whose experiments have verified a few islands, so they are confident that enough others will emerge for a shore-to-shore waltz across the ocean? I breezily suggested in Part 1 that they were motivated by a desire to disprove God? Can that really be?

No, probably not. That was just poetic license on my part. Maybe a few here and there do it, but for the most part, disproving God would be a consequence were they to strike pay dirt; it’s not their motivation. They just do science because it’s their discipline. Don’t take any cheap shots at them. Don’t for instance, play the Psalm 14:1 card: “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’” The fool may say it, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who says it is a fool. Besides, he says it in his heart. He may well believe it, but acts as though he does not.

Science fixated on the origin of life has soared in importance. (or is it just the atheists trying to convince me that has happened?) Nobody gets their articles into Science or Nature more quickly than the origin-of-life scientists—Robert Hazen said so in his first lecture. That doesn’t show ascendancy? Whereas James Watson (co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix structure) wrote in 1968 that botanists and zoologists of his day couldn’t even be depended upon to do “clean science [italics mine]; some actually wasted their efforts on useless polemics about the origin of life.”* It's not a condemnation so much as a witticism; Watson writes in snappy, tongue-in-cheek style. Still, it indicates that origin-of-life science had not the respectability it enjoys today. It was not then “clean science.”

Nor is it “clean” now, in my estimation. It is rife with speculation (see previous post) that will convince few beyond true believers--fueled by the assumption that one need not look elsewhere. It presents with almost as much wishful thinking as does evolutionary psychology (see next post), which turns Darwin inside out in its mission to present every aspect of human nature, be it mundane or bizarre, as stemming from our cavemen ancestors beating out the competition with whatever quirk is under consideration.

So, they’re neither hypocrites nor fools, those origin-of-life scientists. Even though you might think they are upon reading what they release, they’re not. They are no more hypocrites and fools than can be found in general society; probably less. They live in a world of their own, I suspect, and are largely oblivious to implications their work may prove or disprove God. One may take at face value Hazen’s explanation for why he doesn’t even consider what is common sense to most others: that God created all things, even if by incorporating the ability to adapt over time through genetic mutation. Why doesn’t he go there? Because he is neither theologian nor a philosopher, he says in Lecture 1. Okay? He’s not trying to bamboozle us. That’s just how it is with him and his crowd. One may accept his explanation as genuine.

But that doesn’t mean it makes any sense. Why am I reminded of the G K Chesterton line, “The first effect of not believing in God is that you lose your common sense?" What is it with a society in which people are expert in their chosen field, but if you nudge them even a tiny bit outside it, they are clueless? Of course he should incorporate those two other disciplines! But science has evolved in recent decades to convince him he doesn’t have to. ‘I don’t do theology or philosophy,’ he says, just as the cleaning woman says, ‘I don’t do windows.’ Alas, just as not doing windows results in a restricted view, so does not doing theology or philosophy. In the hands of atheists, that’s what science has become.

To test my hypothesis that scientists live in a world of their own, I read The Code Breakers: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race to see how often Anthony Fauci was mentioned. (Okay, so I didn’t read it with that intent. I just noticed it as I was reading.) Though it is not the starting point, an end point is how newly-discovered CRISPR technology** led to COVID-19 research and a resultant vaccination campaign. To the layman, Anthony Fauci is the top name encountered, the government superstar who night after night appeared on TV next to the president to urge what must be done to beat the virus. Anthony Fauci—the touchstone for all things COVID--spun by some a saint, by others a villain. How large a role does he play in Isaacson’s book on the scientific development of CRISPR technology? He gets two single-sentence mentions!

To the great unwashed, Fauci IS Covid-19 science! In fact, he even said so when opponents were trying to make it hot for him: “Attacks on me, quite frankly, are attacks on science.” Science doesn’t work that way. He knows it doesn’t work that way, most likely. It’s a cry to rally the troops and get detractors off his back. But the great atheist unwashed who have God overboard but not their instinct to worship one eat up this statement. ‘Criticize Fauci?’ they say. ‘Not on my watch! I believe in science and he is science! He said so!’ Yet, to the scientists who actually do the research, Fauci barely appears on their radar. He thus represents the great divide.

They live in a world of their own, these scientists. Hazen tells us: “Most scientists take a pretty straight path from high school to college to grad school to postdoc to tenure-track job; if you make it through, you're pretty much guaranteed a satisfying life in science,” (22nd lecture). Insulated much? one might ask. Most of them have never done anything else!

Read the words of scientists. Events that have all the world abuzz barely register with them. Watson writes in The Double Helix of how his mock-super-villain, Linus Pauling, so presented for his competition to discover the DNA structure, continually breathing down Watson’s neck (and that of co-discoverer, Crick), presented much the way I present Vic Vomodog, as a sort of ever-scheming but ever-frustrated Wily E Coyote—this Pauling was denied passport to England due to American suspicion of anyone who would speak too ‘subversively’ about peace during the McCarthy era. It’s all foolishness to Watson, as though it only exists to thwart science. Even though Cold War tensions captivated the rank and file, he is beyond it. Continue reading narratives on science, Isaacson’s Einstein, for instance, and you get the impression that they regard even world wars as little more than nettlesome interruptions to their research.

They are their own class, entirely separate from the philosopher/scientism/ philosophers/atheists who troll the internet, ever eager to call someone who doesn’t fall into line stupid. There may be a few losers among these real scientists who lead double lives, mixing test tubes by day and scouring social media by night, but for the most part, I am convinced they are two separate groups with little interaction.

It's a good gig to be a scientist. You don’t see poverty. You don’t see dirt. You get to hang out with smart people at the university. Everyone you meet likes to read. To be sure, you do see plenty of proud and stubborn people, but as a fellow scientist, they admit you into the club. What’s not to like? You get to hang up in your lab Far Side cartoons, such as the one of the scientists fleeing the lab like kids in frock coats upon hearing the ting-a-ling of the ice cream man—nobody enjoys those cartoons more than scientists, I am told.

I’m envious—make no mistake. But I still prefer my present life. “A physical man does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually. However, the spiritual man examines all things, but he himself is not examined by any man.” It works for me. Like the time, just after the Columbine school shooting, before school shootings became the new normal, that I commented to a woman at the door about how “grief counselors” had been summoned to the school, with the air of calling the fire department to put out the fire—the term was new, then, not common-place, as it is today. “I’d love to hear what they have to say,” I commented. Her eyes widened. “You have an interesting job!” she exclaimed.


*The Double Helix, Jas D Watson, 1968, p72

**Sean B. Carrol thought CRISPR represented “fossil DNA” in his 2007 book, The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, just garbage that might have been useful at one time but no longer was—whereas it has since been revealed to be the central mechanism of the immune system. Sean B. Carroll is not to be confused with Sean M. Carroll, and easily might be, since they are both active figures in contemporary science. You really not should confuse either with Sean Carroll, the area broadcaster however, to whom I introduced the two luminaries and they hit it off. In no time at all they were talking baseball.

to be continued: here


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Psalm 76

It almost starts out as though a legend and his home base:

“God is known in Judah; In Israel his name is great. His shelter is in Saʹlem, And his dwelling is in Zion.” (Psalm 76:1-2)

From that home base he has built a reputation:

“There he broke the flaming arrows of the bow, The shield and the sword and the weapons of war. You shine brightly; You are more majestic than the mountains of prey.” (vs 3-4)

Some have messed with him in the past. They’ve come to regret it:

“The courageous of heart have been plundered. They have fallen asleep; The warriors were all helpless. From your rebuke, O God of Jacob, Both the charioteer and the horse have fallen fast asleep.” (Psalm 5-6)

In death, that is. Yet one more passage likening death to sleep, the most well-known being John 11. Horses, updated to the present, would be the modern vehicles of war.

Okay, so say it already:

“You alone are awe-inspiring. Who can withstand your intense anger? From heaven you pronounced judgment; The earth was afraid and was silent.” (vs 7-8)

This next bit is reassuring. For what does he use his power?

“When God rose up to execute judgment, To save all the meek of the earth.” (vs 9)

Does this next passage tell a “hooks in the jaw” scenario? The nations gather up for attack on the great day?

“For the rage of man will serve to your praise; With the remnants of their rage you will adorn yourself.” (vs 10)

Is that what verse 10 is? The final battle of Revelation 19?

“I saw heaven opened, and look! a white horse. And the one seated on it is called Faithful and True, and he judges and carries on war in righteousness. His eyes are a fiery flame, and on his head are many diadems. He has a name written that no one knows but he himself, and he is clothed with an outer garment stained with blood, and he is called by the name The Word of God. Also, the armies in heaven were following him on white horses, and they were clothed in white, clean, fine linen. And out of his mouth protrudes a sharp, long sword with which to strike the nations, and he will shepherd them with a rod of iron. Moreover, he treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his outer garment, yes, on his thigh, he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (11-16)

For now, the Research Guide goes light, confining itself to when God has used nations to discipline his people to the proper degree and they end up refined by the experience. Probably you could extend it to when human courts of justice put on the squeeze, and in adapting to it the copper becomes gold, the iron silver, the wood copper, the stones iron—making for better “peace” and “righteousness.”

At any rate—another reference to bringing one’s gift to the altar:

“Make your vows to Jehovah your God and pay them, Let all who are around him bring their gift in fear.” (vs 11)

“He will humble the pride of leaders; He inspires fear in the kings of the earth.” (vs 12)

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Psalm 49–the Limitations of Wealth

Hear this, all you peoples. Pay attention, all you inhabitants of the world.” (Psalm 49:1)

Okay. It better be good.

Both small and great, Rich and poor alike. My own mouth will speak wisdom, And the meditation of my heart will show understanding.” (vs 2-3).

More of the same. You could even take it for immodesty, if you hadn’t already decided it’s not going to be that way.

I will pay attention to a proverb; I will expound my riddle with the harp.” (vs 4)

There will be music.

Why should I fear during times of trouble, When I am surrounded by the evil of those trying to overthrow me?” (vs 5)

Okay, now we’re getting down to it. And it looks like it is going to be a good, fine way to counter anxiety.

Those who are trusting in their wealth And who boast about their great riches,” (vs 6)

People do tend to be like this. What makes the world go round? What trail should do they say you should always follow to see how things are happening? The ‘money trail?’ Not that it’s bad stuff. ‘A protection’ is what Ecclesiastes 7:12 calls it, even as it says ‘wisdom’ is a better protection, since it “preserves the life of its owner.” What can money do and what can’t it do?

None of them can ever redeem a brother Or give to God a ransom for him, (The ransom price for their life is so precious That it is always beyond their reach); That he should live forever and not see the pit.” (7-9)

Here are verses that are such a slam-dunk for explaining the ransom of Christ—how the death of one man can redeem a brother by giving a ransom for him, in fact not just one, but countless ones: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16)—that we usually go straight there, such as here in the Enjoy Life Forever guide.

Let’s stay more on the lines of what the psalmist would have thought. He wouldn’t have known of that future application. He would have confined his observations to the ‘here and now’ limitations of money. Here’s an article that goes that way.

On a street of massively imposing homes, one householder assured me that, “You have no idea what goes on behind these doors.” Money may hide woes, but it by no means alleviates them. ‘They’re lives are a mess,’ one hairdresser told me—to whom they unhesitatingly spill. Expand the list of how the wealthy cannot ‘redeem even a brother’ to destruction from drugs, alcohol, or depravity. Often wealth better enables those paths.

Alas, the wealthy one, who has bought university wisdom with his wealth, “sees that even wise people die; The stupid and the unreasoning perish together, And they must leave their wealth to others. Their inner wish is that their houses will last forever, Their tents to generation after generation. They have named their estates after themselves.” (vs 10-11)

Even park benches they name after themselves, I reflect, as I set my rear end on one. Maybe not the ‘wealthy’ do this as much as the ‘wannabe wealthiest.’ Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, for otherwise I would be standing, but—talk about a meager consolation prize!

But man, although honored, will not remain; He is no better than the beasts that perish. This is the way of the stupid ones And of those who follow them, who take pleasure in their empty words. (vs 12-13)

Whoa! Why not say what you think? For the first time, the wisdom of the wise, who ‘boast of their great riches,’ is likened to ‘the way of the stupid ones’ spewing ‘empty words!’—words to the effect that this life is all there is.

They overlook that “They are assigned like sheep to the Grave. Death will shepherd them; The upright will rule over them in the morning. Every trace of them will fade away; The Grave rather than a palace will be their home.” (vs 14)

Whereas, for the one who puts his trust in God? “God will redeem me from the power of the Grave, For he will take hold of me.” (15)

Do not be afraid because a man becomes rich, Because the splendor of his house increases,” (vs 16)

The words would not be here if they didn’t reflect a truth—that people do become afraid. I am in awe of the publishers of the city congregation I once attended who would screw up every ounce of their courage to chase out to the suburbs and witness to ones of staggering  wealth compared to theirs. They could have sat it out. Everyone would have understood. But they didn’t.

Sometimes there was even a racial component to it. Larry King interviewed someone who recalled his liberal background as one who would ‘call a charity if he saw Blacks on TV but call a cop if he saw one on his street.’ I think too of Bobby, a white man as uneducated as could be—even by our standards—who regularly placed magazines with a lofty fellow out in the burbs. Send a more educated brother out there and the fellow wouldn’t give him the time of day. ‘Yeah, some of them like to show off their superiority,’ Ruth muttered.

For when he dies he can take nothing with him; His splendor will not go down with him. For during his lifetime he congratulates himself. (People praise you when you prosper.)” (vs 17-18)

Why do I think of the Billie Holiday song, ‘God Bless the Child?’

And when you got money,

You got a lots of friends

Crowdin' 'round your door

When the money's gone

And all you're spendin' ends

They won't be 'round any more.

I first heard Chicago sing this song. That is the version that sticks with me. In these touchy times, however, the group might be declared guilty of ‘cultural approbation.’ Holiday considered it a uniquely Black song—or has it been assigned that role retroactively? Leave it to someone else to track this down. It was 80 years ago. Either way, it’s a good song.

But he finally joins the generation of his forefathers. They will never again see the light.” Even when you do succeed in holding onto the big dough, which is more often than not, the end is the same.” (19)

The psalmist concludes by, once again, throw sensibilities to the wind.

A man who does not understand this, although honored, Is no better than the beasts that perish.57B53584-FBAC-4E73-BE49-CBABECFFD1EE

Why do I think of those who were once believers and exchanged it for today’s trendy atheism? Why do I liken them to the fellow who loses millions in the stock market? ‘They were only paper gains, anyway,’ he tells himself, and whoops it up with the hundreds he still has left.

(photo: Pixabay)

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Cool Hand Luke: ‘He Beat You With Nothin!” The Atheist Search for the Origin of Life. Part 3: A Word Experiment to Test the Hypothesis

For best results, begin here.

As the layman reader—not the true science believers, but the laymen—listen through the Great Courses lecture series, ‘The Origins of Life,’ they may begin to suspect they are being played for suckers. They may, therefore, conceive an hypothesis that the series is analogous to Cool Hand Luke holding a handful of ‘nothin.’ Isn’t it top-heavy in wishful thinking from ones who will admit to no other possibility that life arose spontaneously? It doesn’t take much to get them all excited. At least Cool Hand Luke knew he was holding ‘nothin.’

It is important to employ the scientific method. An hypothesis has no value unless it can be tested by experiment. What experiment might be devised to test whether ‘The Origins in Life’ consists of house specialists mostly spinning ‘nothin,’ bluffing you as they bluff themselves, drinking too much of their own Kool Aid? How can one test whether the stuff is more speculation than science?

Since speculation is associated with such terms as ‘may have’ and ‘could have,’ etymology comes to our rescue. Count up those speculative terms and compare them with ones that indicate results—‘happened’ instead of ‘may have happened’—and what do we find?

We hit pay dirt through this method. ‘May have’ occurs 29 times. ‘Could have’ occurs 24 times. ‘Proof,’ on the other hand, occurs 5 times. ‘Proved’ occurred 5 times, ‘proven,’ not at all. Moreover, not one of these ‘proof’ words indicates anyone has any, but either that it still needs to be found or that it is irrelevant to the experiment—such as one of the author’s colleagues, who “proved to be one of the most exacting finicky experimentalists I'd ever met.”

Digging deeper only rewards us more. When ‘may have’ and ‘could have’ is raised to the more imperative ‘must have’—here the experiment returns an astounding 77 hits! In almost every case it is, ‘such-and-such “must have” happened, otherwise the entire assumption that life arose on its own collapses.’ Can’t have that—therefore, it “must have” happened.

‘Happened’ itself seems a good test word. It occurs 23 times. 5 of those times are what ‘might have happened’ or some permutation, reducing the number to 18. 7 of them are things that ‘happened’ in this or that experiment, not the overall picture, reducing the total once more to 11. 4 of them are variations of ‘we don’t know what happened but hope to find out,’ reducing the total to 7. Then there are several hard to classify instances of ‘happened.’ Stanley Miller’s “followers,” whom you could be forgiven for thinking they present almost as a cult, are convinced they have found how things “happened long ago in nature.” Another advancehasn't happened yet but the chemical pieces are certainly close to falling into place.” Yet another researcher was asked to write up “a short speculative paper right away, [which] was a long shot but it's happened before.” There’s not a single instance of ‘happened’ with regard to the overall pre-formed conclusion that life originated by itself.

Many things are “assumed.” That word, along with it’s base, ‘assume’ or its derivative ‘assumption,’ occurs 46 times. Words to indicate definitiveness are less frequent: “Establish” may be the best word in favor of the origin scientists; it (or ‘established’) occurs 26 times. Many are irrelevant, such as the scientist who “established a solid reputation for cautious conservative science,” but the ones that remain refer to experiments that established this-or-that result, and if you could only string together enough of them, you’d have the big kahuna.

The problem is that the situation is “complex.” (215 instances, which includes ‘complexity’) I’m sympathetic. It’s always preferable to solve easy things than hard ones. The wear and tear of time “must have” erased the tons of evidence that would otherwise clinch the deal. Also, the main issue abiogenesis,” I was informed online, “is that probably the most important factor can’t be replicated in a lab.” If it could, I had countered previously, would that show life could originate without intelligent direction? If anything, wouldn’t it prove just the opposite? But I was called “stupid” for that question; all the scientists were doing was replicating conditions that ‘must have’ existed already.

Of course, the above etymology experiment is not conclusive in itself. Any experiment must be corroborated by many others for a theory to emerge. But I have been bitten by the science bug. Recently, I devised an hypothesis that my next book will be a literary masterpiece to make the world’s greatest authors hang their heads in shame. But how to test this hypothesis by 'experiment' (355 occurrences!)? An analysis of Wordle scores ought to do the trick. Scores of 4 shall be irrelevant for this experiment. Any donkey can get 4. However, comparing 3s with 5s should be revealing. If your 3s exceed your 5s, the hypothesis is corroborated. If your 5s exceed your 3s, you are due to write another turkey.

Sigh. My 5s exceed my 3s—though the margin is quite thin. More experiments are obviously needed—maybe just more Wordle tries.

To be continued: Here


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Job 13: Commentary: Walking Back Job 12 and Filing a Brief Against God

Okay, maybe I ought to walk that one back about Job’s previous remarks from a chapter ago.

“Yes, my eye has seen all of this, My ear has heard and understood it. What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you,” Job says in 13:1-2.

It’s a repeat of 12:3: “But I too have understanding. I am not inferior to you. Who does not know these things?”

It would have been better if the chapter division from 12 to 13 was placed after the present 13:2, allowing these identical rebukes to Eli, Bill, and Zop, to bookend Job’s diatribe (12: 17-25) on how God messes up the masses. After all, chapter placement is a strictly human device laying no claim to inspiration. Or is this just me grumbling that I released my Job 12 commentary without reading ahead? Larry King used to say he’d never read ahead of time the books of those he was about to interview. That way, his questions would be that of that of the typical listener; they would be more genuine. Maybe. Or maybe he was just lazy.

This new bookending of Job 12:3 with 13:1-2 means all that Job said in 12:17-25 is common knowledge with Eli, Bill, and Zop. He’s not breaking new ground. He’s not charging that God thrashes the good as much as the bad. Instead, he’s agreeing with them: “What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you.”

So the parties God thwarts at 17-25 are all part of the facade of this godless system of things that God confounds, and does not include the good as well as the bad? Apparently. Though, as will be seen, Job still rails at God for punishing the good, at least the good in the person of himself.

A new thought occurs to Job, or at least he gives voice to it for the first time: “For my part, I would rather speak to the Almighty himself; I desire to argue my case with God.” 13:3 Yeah. Go right to the top! Why waste one’s breath of Eli, Bill, and Zop, who aren’t listening? Of course, God’s not listening either—so it seems to Job, but at least if you can corner him He will have smart things to say. He won’t be like these blowhards who gush like winter streams (6:15-17) and dry out when you need them most:

“My own brothers have been as treacherous as a winter stream, Like the water of winter streams that dry up. They are darkened by ice, And in them the melting snow is hidden. But in due season they become waterless and come to an end; When it becomes hot, they dry up.” (6:15-17)

No, God will be smart. He will have good things say, if you just can get Him to say it. Diverted with his new thought, Job begins preparation on his brief. He’s confident.

“See, now, I have prepared my legal case; I know I am in the right.”  (13:18)

However, first best plead for a few conditions: “Remove your heavy hand far away from me, And do not let the fear of you terrify me. Either call and I will answer, Or let me speak, and you answer me.”  (13:21-22) It’s hard to lay out your case when the judge is standing on your toes.

Done. Now, Job lays out his grievance: “What are my errors and sins? Reveal to me my transgression and my sin. Why do you hide your face And consider me your enemy?  Will you try to frighten a windblown leaf Or chase after dry stubble? For you keep recording bitter accusations against me, And you make me answer for the sins of my youth. You have put my feet in stocks, You scrutinize all my paths, And you trace out each of my footprints.” (23-28)

“Scrutinize all my paths” and “trace out each of my footprints:” worse than Alexa, he thinks God is. And the thought that He still holds “the sins of my youth” against him? What a burden to bear! There are no recent sins of consequence, he thinks, but what if God still punishes those of long ago? You can see why people would welcome the Christian model that Jesus died to offset the penalty of sin inherited from Adam. All one need to is put faith in that arrangement and avoid repeating them, and they’re good. With this NT development, there is tangible proof that sins put behind us are forgiven.

Though, some still think that way, anyhow; guilt has a way of being tenacious. But they don’t have to, is the point, notwithstanding that the consequences of a past bad decision might not plague us. You’ll just have to man up and accept it, but that does not mean God is doing such as a punishment.

What if my dad still had it in for me for borrowing his Rambler—or was it mine by then?—and running it through snowbanks on a joyride with friends? The next morning when it wouldn’t start, he came out to help, popped the hood, and you couldn’t see the engine, so packed it was with snow under that hood! “This is a car—not a tractor!” he groused.

Or what if I had run someone over on that drive while under the influence? Thank ‘Mothers Against Drunk Driving,’ which did not exist at the time, that such recklessness today is relatively rare, whereas it used to be common as bread. And if you ran someone over, it was, ‘Hey, what do you expect? Sorry, but I was drunk. You know how it is.’ Now, it would mean serious jail time, huge monetary fine, and loss of driving privilege—none of which would be punishment from God, but the consequences of bad actions. Fortunately, I didn’t run over anyone.

And if Job is filing a brief against God, it seems clear that his three associates will not be witnesses for the defense. Nor will they be for the prosecution, as they have repeatedly said wrong things about God. They’ll just serve as people in the gallery hurling catcalls. That’s why it would be best if they shut up: 

If only you would keep absolutely silent, That would show wisdom on your part. Listen, please, to my arguments, And pay attention to the pleadings of my lips. Will you speak unjustly on God’s behalf, And will you speak deceitfully for him? Will you take his side, Will you try to plead the case of the true God? Would it turn out well if he examined you? Will you fool him as you would a mortal man? He will surely rebuke you If you secretly try to show favoritism. (13:5-10)

After all, what do they really have to contribute? 

Your wise sayings are proverbs of ashes; Your defenses are as fragile as defenses of clay. Keep silent before me, so that I may speak. Then let whatever may come upon me come! (12-13)

The trouble with people who should shut up is that they seldom do.


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‘Don’t Let the Door Hit You in the Rear End.’ Moving on from Scripted Presentations.

Just finished the Nov 6 broadcast. What grabbed me most was not the announcement about not counting time. I’ve gotten used to the idea in the past few weeks. I decided to go out with a bang, reporting 50,000 hours to the secretary. When he said that was physically impossible, I answered, “Go to the ant, you lazy one.”

So, the time announcement was anticipated. The talk that got me going and was not anticipated was the one about conversations, the accompanying brochure, and the news that it would soon be incorporated into the midweek meeting. Loved that part. 

I’ve been uncomfortable voicing that I thought most of the suggested presentations were clunkers, so I didn’t voice it. But now that they are on their way out the door, I can. It’s not that they can’t work, or that they were inherently bad. They weren’t. It was that it meant using someone else’s words. That’s hard to pull off. Of course, any number of times the organization said you don’t have to use them; feel free to do something else, put everything in your own words, but there’s something about the friends to make them feel you were all but disloyal not to use them.

I abandoned them long ago for a much easier approach that involves an offer to read a scripture and leave—staying only if that offer is accepted. If it is, having read the verse, then is the person up for considering it briefly? Lately it has been. ‘The world’s crazy. We think the Bible can help—why it is that way, what can we expect, how to cope in the meantime. I want to read you a verse, you tell me what you think, and we’re on our way. Good idea?’ After reading it, ‘The next move is up to you and you don’t have to make one. I can discuss or go now—up to you.’ It works at least as well as anything else I have seen. And more importantly, it’s no stress. 

So long as we were using those scripted presentations at the meetings, one could hardly speak against them—it smacked too much of saying ‘contemptible bread’—couldn’t do it. But now that they are on their way out anyway—well, don’t let the door hit you in the rear end as you leave! Oh yeah—moving on. Learn to converse. Learn to use your own words, not someone else’s. And, glory be, base whatever you say on how people are in your territory, something the scripted presentations can’t possibly take into account. 

The grapevine had it that the new publication was like a Make Sure of All Things; Hold Fast to What is Fine, only geared toward the friends. The grapevine was wrong. Instead, it is a tool to advance conversation. The twelve or so attributes are all there in order to enhance conversational ability through their cultivation. I like it. 

Of course, the new change wasn’t introduced as above. Instead, it was ‘What was wonderful has become even more wonderful!’ Lots of fond reminiscing about doing things the old way. Ah, well, I guess it must be done that way. In this cynical age, crack the door open even a little to previous things having been bloopers, and there’s no telling what we’ll all be like, dissing everything. Were they even bloopers? Some things are good for their time and then times change.


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Job 12: ‘Who Among All These Does Not Know that the Hand of Jehovah Has Done This [Calamity]?

I had the Bible reading last week and tried to do it as Brother Friend advised: “Put some fire in your talk . . . or put your talk in the fire.”

I read Job 12:1-2 as though Job is kicking back at his accusers—it seems pretty obvious.

Then Job said in reply: 2 “Surely you are the people who know, And wisdom will die out with you!  3 But I too have understanding. I am not inferior to you. Who does not know these things?

‘Look, any donkey knows the things you are saying, but what makes you think it applies to me?’ is his complaint.

Then, some sarcasm about how the wicked and the fools sail along breezily, suffering no punishment at all: “The carefree person has contempt for calamity, Thinking it is only for those whose feet are unsteady.  6 The tents of robbers are at peace, And those who provoke God are secure, Those who have their god in their hands.”

Then—a bit more interpretive, his contrasting accusation that, whereas Eli, Bill, and Zop can’t read what’s going on, even the animals, birds, fish, and the very earth, can. Everyone knows what’s going on except these three guys—and they would teach that trio if the latter weren’t so blockheaded: ‘The hand of Jehovah has done this—unjustly caused all his calamity:  

However, ask, please, the animals, and they will instruct you; Also the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you.  8 Or give consideration to the earth, and it will instruct you; And the fish of the sea will declare it to you.  9 Who among all these does not know That the hand of Jehovah has done this?  

The rest of the chapter is Job’s diatribe that God plays havoc with what he’s created, for who knows what reason? Maybe just for his own amusement. I’m not sure those final verses . . . 

He makes counselors go barefoot, And he makes fools of judges. He loosens the bonds imposed by kings, And he binds a belt around their waist. He makes priests walk barefoot, And he overthrows those who are firmly established in power; He deprives trusted advisers of speech And takes away the sensibleness of old men; He pours out contempt upon nobles, And he makes powerful ones weak; He reveals deep things from the darkness, And he brings deep darkness into the light; He makes nations grow great in order to destroy them; He enlarges nations, that he may lead them into exile. He takes away the understanding of the leaders of the people And makes them wander in trackless wastelands. They grope in darkness, where there is no light; He makes them wander about like drunken men. (17-25)

. . . should be read as though Job, in his distress, nonetheless rises to the occasion to deliver an impromptu talk in praise of God, praising him for thwarting the plans of the wicked. Nah, in happier times, yes, but not now. Now, in the midst of unrelenting anguish following unspeakable tragedy, is he not bewailing that God thwarts them all? Good or bad—it makes no difference to him. ‘Is not wisdom and understanding found in the aged?’ (vs 12) Well, nobody is older than He. “With him there are wisdom and mightiness; He has counsel and understanding.” And to what end does he put these qualities? To set up his creatures like dominoes, then nudge the end one to see the entire row topple!

Remember, we’ve opened the door in recent years to Job venting some ‘wild talk.’ (6:3) Is he not doing it here? 

From chapter 10, the previous week’s reading: “You have given me life and loyal love; You have guarded my spirit with your care.” A good sentiment. But the next verse is less good. “But you secretly intended to do these things. I know that these things are from you.” (vs 12-13) Translation? He set me up for a fall!

I think Job felt this way because that’s how felt in my own perfect prolonged storm of calamitous events—less severe than Job’s in most respects, but as severe in others. If you didn’t know of the heavenly events described in the book’s first two chapters, which Job didn’t, is that not exactly what one might think in his shoes?

And long ago I read somewhere that ‘scholars’—the critical kind, no doubt, think the first two chapters of Job were cobbled on later, that they are not original. Someday I’ll look to see whether they provide any justification for this view beyond that it reads too ‘fundamentalist’ for them, and that it solves the problem, whereas they prefer windy back-and-forth that flatters the intellect but doesn’t solve the problem unsolved, thereby leaving them to spin it any way they like. “I would never say that higher education is valueless,” says a sister who has benefited from her degree, “but it does have a way of taking things that are simple and making them complicated.”

*(Indeed, the ‘educated’ think there are two Jobs; one is the first two and last chapters, the other all the rest. I think the appeal is to put one in position to understand neither, yet continue to flatter the intellect. In the case of the unattached first, you get to isolate it and thus reassure your educated friends that you, too, are not so stupid as to believe in a literal devil. In the case of the unattached 2nd, you get to spin wordy treatises on the wordy speeches, unconcerned about whether they go anywhere.)

Sort of like when Ted Putsch, my impetuous Bible student from Tom Irregardless and Me, who hasn’t yet learned tact and should be locked up for six months until he does, leans into my full-of-himself return visit, Bernard Strawman, with, “Look, it couldn’t be simpler! Or is that the problem with you?!”


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