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.

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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Jehovah’s Witnesses do Socrates and Plato—with Plato, a Surprising Application.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are simple people, for the most part, who are content when the visiting speaker pronounces Socrates with three syllables, and not So-crates.

We don’t know much about Plato, either, in the main. Yet, without knowing much about him, their governing body alone has adopted his concept of government. Plato favored monarchy, but not hereditary monarchy. Instead, his rulers were to be selected (by already existing rulers) on the basis of merit. This would follow a lengthy period of education designed to separate the wheat from the chaff.

From ‘The 100’, a book by Michael Hart that attempts to rank the one hundred most influential persons of history: (Plato is #40) It reads:

Only those persons who show that they can apply their book learning to the real world should be admitted into the guardian class. Moreover, only those persons who clearly demonstrate that they are primarily interested in the public welfare are to become guardians.

Membership in the guardian class would not appeal to all persons. The guardians are not to be wealthy. They should be permitted only a minimal amount of personal property, and no land or private homes. They are to receive a fixed (and not very large) salary, and may not own either gold or silver. Members of the guardian class should not be permitted to have separate families, but are to eat together, and are to have mates in common. The compensation of these philosopher -kings should not be material wealth, but rather the satisfaction of public service. 

Anyone familiar with Jehovah's Witnesses will recognize at once that this description almost exactly describes their Governing Body. Only the "mates in common" does not apply. Even Bernard Strawman, who calls our guys plumber-janitors rather than philosopher-kings, admits that no other ‘nation’ has been able to institute Plato’s system.

Therefore we can expect in the new system, when Plato is resurrected, he will learn in time that, while none of the nations were able to put his government ideal into action, his new government, the one that remains, did. He will rush over to Bethel to consult, perhaps hoping for an advisory position. They, however, having no idea who he is, will make him take a number and wait his turn.

Parallels between Socrates and Jesus: here.


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Job 8: Bildad is the Clergy? A Blast from the Past

A publication that well-fits a certain time and place, and the needs of people at that time, may read very oddly in another. Now that we are in the Book of Job in the weekly Bible reading, an example is found in multiple links to a 1966 Watchtower series. I mean, how do you spell ‘dated’? 

Sometimes I repackage exchanges on social media for later inclusion in this blog. But by the time the run date has arrived, they are dated, some of them, or at least too niche for inclusion. I shelve a lot of them. Even though I’ve changed names, assigning words to people like Wayne Whitepebble, Vic Vomodog, or even Dr. Max “Ace” Inhibitor; it’s still not enough to gussy them up.

Did I pick up that naming technique from HQ? For, here in 1966 (it would never be done today), the clergy of Christendom become Bildad and Zophar, and the anointed Bethel brothers themselves are “Job-like.”

The 1966 article quotes a sneering Jesuit passage about a recent convention:

“It [the assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses] was an impressive demonstration of the hold that primitive—and perverted—religion exercises on simple minds in a hour of humanity’s confusion. It was an illustration also of the compelling power of a few ideas strongly held.”

Oh, man, how I’d love to shove back at that one. But it wouldn’t come from the Jesuits today. They have moved on towards “inclusion.” It might come from the secular anti-cultists, but not likely any subset of the Catholics.

Of course, if the latter have moved on, part of the reason is that Witnesses don’t attack [expose] them as they did in the World Wars and aftermath era, an era that extended into 1966, as judged by the article, though it was fading by then. All Witnesses ever wanted was a level playing field—so that people should not be so under the grip of clergy that they were afraid to entertain new ideas. That being achieved long ago, why kick the old lady (Babylon the Great) when she’s down? We kicked her when she was up! Hardly any point to it, now. Whatever account she must render is with God, not with us.

The scrappy 66 Watchtower reply is determined to incorporate Job 8—Bildad’s words, as directed at Job. It reads: 

“It is well known that many of the “man of lawlessness” class of clergy are pillars and champions of orthodoxy, holding tenaciously to early, Babylonish wisdom of the “former generations” and from the “fathers,” like Bildad of old. (Job 8:8)”

You almost can’t decipher that today. But with that introduction, the brothers print the reply they made to those Jesuits:

“In substituting ancient paganisms or modern philosophies for the truths contained in the Bible, Christendom’s religions match backsliding Israel who professed to be Jehovah’s people: ‘The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people shows no understanding.’ (Isa. 1:3, AT) They put themselves in position for stinging condemnation, which they cry out against [us] as intolerant. But does not God himself here say they have less sense than the ox and the ass?”

Ha! Yeah—It’s ‘you guys are like oxen and asses!’ How’s THAT for diplomacy?

The 1966 article continues: 

“These masters of tradition, sectarian traditionalists, charge that the religion of Jehovah’s witnesses is “primitive” and “perverted,” yet the whole focal point of the Witnesses’ Bible-based religion centers on upholding Jehovah’s Sovereign Godship. (Job 8:3) Yes, they brand the “sons” or associates of the anointed ones as being “sinners” (‘simpleminded’) who have “revolted” (‘perverted religion’) against traditions of the apostate sects, in a time of world confusion, a confusion largely brought about by the clergy themselves.—Job 8:4, 9, 10.”

That last line is a beaut: Is that 1966 world the Jesuits refer to “in a time of world confusion?” ‘Well, whose fault is that?’ the Bethel brothers hurl back in their faces. They were supposed to be teaching the Word of God. They shoved it aside so as to be abreast of the latest in human philosophy, oblivious that much of it incorporated “every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men.” (Ephesians 4:14)

These are fighting words. It’s hard to imagine them being written today, just 60 years later. Times change. The “confusion largely brought about by the clergy themselves” has become so great that large swaths of people have abandoned religion entirely. So great is the disillusionment today, they often become atheists. Some of them, in league with our own ‘apostates,’ team up with the secular agnostics and make far more trouble for us that the religionists—though most individual Witnesses are caught in a time warp and still blame Babylon the Great for it all. 

What goes on in the Brooklyn brothers’ heads to attribute these words of Bildad to the clergy: “Will God pervert justice, Or will the Almighty pervert righteousness?  4 If your sons sinned against him, He let them be punished for their revolt.” (3-4)

Is it that the clergy would say, ‘Look—we are the guys in charge! We’ve been around longer than you. You think God would pervert justice or righteousness? If we tell you something is so, it is!’ Maybe that’s the application, but it’s not real clear to me. Maybe it played clear then. And I have no idea what is the application of verse 4.

When they tie in 8-10, well, they’re nice verses and all, but I don’t know how they apply, either. “Ask, please, the former generation, And pay attention to the things their fathers found out.  9 For we were born only yesterday, and we know nothing, Because our days on earth are a shadow.  10 Will they not instruct you And tell you what they know?

Later, that 1966 article cites another group, not the Jesuits, but this time a bunch of Protestants, saying something snotty about the New World Translation. The Bethel brothers paste their ears back too, even with snark. What a scrappy bunch they were back then! 

I wondered during the congregation’s consideration of that portion of Job whether anyone would cite that article, linked to in several verses, to be commended for their 60-year-old retrieval. But nobody did. 


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Cool Hand Luke: He Beat You with Nothing! The Atheist Search for the Origin of Life, Part 2: There Oughta be a Law

(For best results, start with Part 1):

‘There oughta be a law!’ is what you say when something doesn’t go your way but you think it should. It’s a complaint. You often say it in jest or in a tongue in cheek manner.

It is what Robert Hazen says (though not in jest) about the two laws of thermodynamics. There ought to be another one. Therefore, there is--it just hasn’t been discovered yet. Why does he say it ought to be out there somewhere? Because otherwise his quest to find life’s origin (or origins) is going nowhere. Why doesn’t he consider that maybe God created all things, as religious people have almost universally believed? Because he’s not a theologian. He doesn’t go there.

[Note: I have nothing against Hazen in particular. I have simply selected him as representative of a certain approach. If it wasn’t him, it would be someone else. Kudos to him for being the point man of his field. It is not as though Great Courses has ever tapped me to lecture on anything.]

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy may change form, but the net total stays constant. The second states that it doesn’t change form in just any direction, but always toward disorder. “Another way of stating the second law is that all natural systems tend to spontaneously to become disordered, or messier, if you will” he says in Lecture 1 of his Origins of Life series. “It turns out that any collection of atoms, including your shiny new automobile, a pair of new shoes, or even your body, gradually deteriorates.”

This observation will strike most people as a big Duh, but scientists have attached a name to this deterioration: entropy, a “measure of disorder.” Thus, as disorder increases, so does entropy. “There’s a lot of entropy in this room,” I used to tell my son, hoping to instill in him a love of science, before demanding he clean it up so as to placate my wife--ignoring his non-sequitur plea of, “Well, what about your room?”

“A lot of people find the second law of thermodynamics more than a little depressing,” Hazen says. Another Duh—especially when applied, as he does apply it, to “even your body.” It is why I prefer the term Golden Rule to Human Rights. The latter may contain a measure of good stuff, but even our own bodies do not respect our human rights, crapping out on us just when we need them most, ultimately shutting down altogether. The Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," preserves all that is noble while discarding all that is pretentious about Human Rights.

 But for Hazen, the greatest reason that second law is “more than a little depressing” is because it louses up his theory on life originating spontaneously. There oughta be a law to countermand that second one. Therefore, he assumes there is. For the rest of the course, he continues to speak of the concept of “emergence,” which he hopes will someday be recognized as a law.

As evidence for his proposed theory, he urges people to “look around you. You see houses, you see holly trees, hummingbirds, all of them remarkably ordered systems. And so, in spite of the second law's pronouncement that entropy inexorably increases, it's obvious that disorder is not the only endpoint in the universe.”

Any child knows why, when you “look around you,” you see houses. The Bible, which favors the child-like ones over the “wise and intellectual,” opens the topic with a self-evident “of course:”

Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but the one who constructed all things is God.” (Hebrews 3:4)

 The other “ordered systems” mentioned, holly trees and hummingbirds, and later, “a single living cell or an ant colony or your amazing conscious brain,” are among the “houses” constructed by God, per the reasoning of Hebrews 3:4. Why doesn’t Hazen consider this possibility? Because he is not a theologian, he explains in his opening lecture. With that pronouncement, the reasoning of most of the human race is dismissed.

He expounds on his concept of emergence in Lecture 8. Are there things clearly not alive that counter the second law of thermodynamics, that is, things that build up rather than tear down? There are! and he goes on to consider how water can sculpt sand.

Then follows a discussion of four factors at work in the shifting sand—and also in more “complex systems” such as the cell, the ant hill, or the human brain. There’s the “concentration of interacting particles, the degree of those particles interconnectivity, the energy flow through the system, and the time variation of that energy flow, and perhaps other variables as well.” Yes, maybe, he postulates, the same factors that formed the sand ripples and dunes also formed the emergence of life!

However, as he and everyone else instantly realizes, the brain, and other components of life, is more complicated than a sand sculpture. How much more? Alas, “we don't know how to assign numbers to different degrees of complexity. What is the complexity of an ant hill or the human brain? And what are the units? Every scientific measurement needs to have units, like kilograms or meters per second. We need to be able to say that [comparing] this system with that system has a complexity of so-and-so many hundreds of thousands of some complexity unit, and nobody knows how to do that.”

With no measurable units, who can say just how much more complex is the living cell from the sand dune? It will have to be in the eye of the beholder. The Hebrews 3:4 people will say ‘infinite.’ Hazen and his crew will say ‘a gazillion,’ though he concedes it could be near-infinite. “Oh, about 5 or 6,” say the philosopher-atheist-scientism-cheerleaders plaguing the social media community, who are quick to call anyone “stupid” who disagrees.

"It's clear we don't know everything," he understates in his first lecture. "In spite of the labor of countless thousands of scientists over the centuries we don't understand one of nature 's most transforming phenomena, the emergence of complexity." That’s a pretty big thing not to know, methinks, seeing that his entire vision depends upon it, seeing that he has to presuppose a new law to propose it.

Toward the end of their first contentious presidential debate in 2016, Trump and Hillary were challenged to say nice things about each other. Both rose to the occasion. Hillary complemented Trump’s family. Trump said of Hillary that she is tenacious—she doesn’t give up.

Let us say that of the Origins community, too, as represented by Hazen. They are tenacious. They don’t give up as they search for the law that oughta be. Probably, they have nice families, too.

To be continued: here

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“He Beat You With Nothin!” Cool Hand Luke and the Atheist Search for Life’s Origin: Part 1

God’s goose is cooked if atheist scientists can show that life came into existence all by itself, without any intelligence required. For that reason, atheist scientists are working around the clock to show just that. I figured I’d better take a look and see how they’re doing.

The Great Courses company landed Robert M. Hazen in 2005 to give a lecture series entitled ‘Origins of Life.’ He’ll do. Great Courses doesn’t hire losers. The company says at the outset of every course that it seeks out academic professors stellar in their respective fields and stellar in teaching ability. Hazen has written a few books on the topic. He’ll represent the field well.

Nonetheless, I soon found myself thinking of the movie Cool Hand Luke. “Nothin'! A handful of nothin'. You stupid mullet head, he beat you with nothin!'—the derisive words of the senior jailbird.

Luke didn’t exactly have nothing. He held the 4 of clubs, the jack of hearts, 9 of diamonds, 10 of clubs, and the deuce of clubs. Call that nothing? Never mind that they didn’t add up to anything. He still bluffed his way to the top with ‘nothin.’

“Yeah, well sometimes nothing is a real cool hand,” he drawled, and was thereafter called Cool Hand Luke.

Is it too dismissive, even unkind, to say that the origins of life people have ‘nothing?’ They work very hard and become very enthused. They give every appearance of having something. To the scientism/philosopher/cheerleader/atheists promoting their cause, seeking to ram atheism down everyone’s throat as the be-all and end-all, as though it, too, were good news, they are always two centimeters away from clinching the deal. So how can anyone conclude they have ‘nothin?’

One can start by hearing out Hazen’s opening lecture. “In this lecture series I make a basic assumption, that life emerged by some kind of natural process.” It’s an assumption! Not something he will look into to see whether it is true or not He assumes it is true. “I propose that life arose by a sequence of events that was completely consistent with the natural laws of chemistry and physics. and in this assumption, I'm like other scientists.” They all assume it! All those in his orbit do. Isn’t science supposed to be a process of discovery?

But wait! Is there not a competing model that holds God created the heavens and the earth and all life on it? How does he come to grips with that? “Let me say now for the record: I'm a scientist. I'm not a theologian nor am I a philosopher. This course focuses exclusively on the scientific approach to the question of life's origins.”

Of course! That’s how he deals with competing models—he ignores them! My legal career would have truly taken off if I could have just persuaded the judge to ignore the other side! It just may be that Hazen and those he represents should incorporate those other two disciplines into their work, since the urge to both worship and philosophize is near universal.

No wonder he is not disheartened by his subsequent words—he admits to no other possibility for life’s origin. In that first lecture, he goes on to say: “I have to confess the nitty gritty details of that transformation remains a deep mystery. . . I have to be honest: Even with the scientific approach there is a possibility that we'll never know, in fact that we can't ever know how life emerged. That's because it's always possible that life emerged by an almost infinitely improbable sequence of difficult chemical reactions.. . . it's even possible that earth is the only living planet in the entire universe. and if that's true that any scientific attempt to understand life's origins is doomed to failure.”

Doesn’t that sound pretty close to nothin? Does that bother him unduly? Not at all. He admits to no other channel for life’s emergence! In his view, he may never prove his answer, but it is the answer, nonetheless.

Thus we hear of many things that “must have” happened. Such as: “At some point a collection of molecules must have begun to make copies of itself. Then, those self-replicating cycles of molecules must have experienced competition, which quickly drove the evolution to even more complex assemblages.” Did those things in fact happen? They must have, he concludes, otherwise his pie in the sky research falls flat on its face!

And they say religion is where the dogmatists hang out!

It gets worse. Hazen tells of attending conferences in which half the name badges incorporate the phrase ‘Origin of Life’ and the other half ‘Origins of Life’—plural. What’s with that? Well, it used to be just ‘Origin of Life.’ But, in time, due to a "fascinating shift in attitudes . . . many researchers began to argue that life has arisen frequently in the universe.” Why would they reason that way? Is there good (or any) evidence to that effect? Hazen’s answer: “Without such an assumption [another assumption!] the scientific study of life's origin is probably a waste of time.” Fascinating, indeed, to realize that. Nobody wants to waste their time. Cool Hand Luke didn’t want to, either. So he bluffed that the nothin he had was really somethin and he outfoxed all the other jailbirds!

[Note: I have nothing against Hazen, as will be explained subsequently. I have simply selected him as representative of a certain approach. If it wasn’t him, it would be someone else. Kudos to him for being the point man of his field. It is not as though Great Courses has ever tapped me to lecture on anything.]

To be continued:  here


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Johnny Cash and Job: Free From the Chain Gang: Commentary on Job 7

On the one hand, Johnny Cash was freed from the chain gang of prison because he died:

I got rid of the shackles that bound me / And the guards that were always around me / There were tears on the mail mother sent me in jail / But I'm free from the chain gang now.

On the other hand, isn’t ‘chain gang’ his metaphor for a too-hard life? So it is that one can compare Job and the Cash song. Compare Job’s metaphor for a too-hard life:

“Is not the life of mortal man on earth like compulsory labor . . . Like a slave, he longs for the shadow , , , I have been assigned months of futility And nights of misery have been counted out for me.” (Job 7:1-3)

The second stanza of Cash’s version, actually a cover for an earlier artist, is:

Back home I was known and respected / Then one day I was wrongly suspected / So they put me in chains in a cold freezing rain / But I'm free from the chain gang now.

That fits Job as well. He was ‘known and respected’ one day, ‘wrongly suspected’ the next:

Satan answered Jehovah: “Is it for nothing that Job has feared God? Have you not put up a protective hedge around him and his house and everything he has? . . .  But, for a change, stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your very face.” (Job 1:9-11)

Job passed that test, only to be ‘wrongly suspected’ once again:

“Skin for skin. A man will give everything that he has for his life. But, for a change, stretch out your hand and strike his bone and flesh, and he will surely curse you to your very face.” (Job 2:4-5)

And so, “they put [Job] in chains in a cold freezing rain,” and finally made him long for an end to his chain gang life:

“Remember that my life is wind, That my eye will never again see happiness. . . . I loathe my life; I do not want to go on living. (Job 7:7,17)

Job did go on living. Cash didn’t. There may be common ground but the two were not the same. Cash’s outrageous conduct nearly ended his career. But after a lull, toward the end of his life, he teamed up with a new producer and released records markedly different from anything prior, hauntingly beautiful, purely acoustic, and nearly all themed the death that soon awaited him and all of humankind—with many fixated on repentance, salvation, and God. And well might he have repented from a life marred with womanizing and substance abuse.

Only then does Cash remake his earlier cover of the same Chain Gang song that does appear to be only a song of prison. Only then does it seem to occur to him that it can also serve as a metaphor for life. He doesn’t change any lines, but he doubles down on some and drops others.

When my friend who had years ago lost his wife to cancer heard Cash’s rendering of ‘On the Evening Train’—on the same album—he instantly broke into tears and shut off the CD player. This particular song features no repentance, nor marked need for it, but only the crushing loneliness of suddenly losing one’s closest companion, coupled with a plea for courage until future resurrection. 

IMG_1127The song is  from the Cash album, American V: A Hundred Highways—same as where Free From the Chain Gang is. It is among my favorite albums. All of Cash’s later works are.

Job wasn’t a womanizer or substance abuser, like Cash had been (though also not a musician). He doesn’t have serious sins to repent of. He knew it well, though under relentless accusation from his three ‘guards,’—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, he said to those guards (and to God, as though He were another):

Will you not look away from me And leave me alone long enough to swallow my saliva? If I have sinned, how could I harm you, the Observer of mankind? Why have you made me your target? (7:19-20)

Job did not know the test he was running, let alone its purpose or the outcome it would supply to benefit all future generations. His course under the most intense suffering answered those taunts of Satan.  He would display that man can keep integrity under the most adverse of circumstances. Answer, supplied, Jehovah chewed out the three  ‘guards,’ sent them packing, then went about restoring God’s life.

For both Cash and Job, it was a rugged trial:

All the years I was known by a number / How I kept my mind is a wonder.

And (prison version only, but it works): And the bare prison cell that was one step from Hell / But I'm free from the chain gang now.

Though it is realized differently with the two men—one womanizer and substance abuser, one blameless and upright, Johnny Cash’s final verse applies to them both: Johnny dies and is subject to future earthly resurrection. Job goes on to have family, wealth and health restored; then he dies and becomes subject to future earthly resurrection; both to commence after the doomed experiment in human self-rule has come to its end:

Like a bird in a tree I got my liberty / And I'm free from the chain gang now.

(I recommend going back to click the links—listen to the two songs.)

Other posts on Job: click here and here.


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Question: Why Are Job’s Three Comforters “Afraid?”

Question: Why are the three comforters who pay Job a visit “afraid?”

As in: “For this is how you have become to me; You have seen the terror of my calamity, and you are afraid.” (Job 6:21)

Of course, we don’t know for sure that they were. It is what Job says of them after they traipse in from afar, put on a fantastic dust-throwing show, then watch him like vultures for 7 days before opening their mouths:

“Three companions of Job heard about all the calamities that had come upon him, and each came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. So they agreed to meet together to go and sympathize with Job and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. They began to weep loudly and to rip their garments apart, and they threw dust into the air and onto their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.” (2:11-13)

But my money’s on Job—even though Eliphaz also makes the cut for words quoted in the New Testament. It is his “He catches the wise in their own cunning” (5:13) that is repeated verbatim at 1 Corinthians 3:19) So he can’t be a rotter through and through to have lines taken up by Paul. More on this later. Meantime, why is my money on Job and his assessment that these ones who look on his calamity are “afraid.” How is it they are afraid?

Isn’t it because they know, deep down, that what happened to Job could just as easily happen to them? Job, who reaches the point of cursing the day he was born, Job who says: “For what I have dreaded has come upon me . . . I have had no peace, no quiet, no rest” (3:25-26) —they know it could just as easily happen to them. They dread it, too.

That’s why they have to carry on with more and more assertion that God is punishing Job for past sins, even though nobody can point to any. It’s all a facade, though they don’t know it themselves. They have to maintain the facade, for they cannot bear the alternative—that they might be living fine and easy as you please one moment, doing nothing wrong, and then one day Job-like calamity falls upon them. They cannot bear to think it. So they must maintain Job is being punished for something or other. 

When Job protests that he has not done anything wrong, at least not egregiously so, they double down, all of them do, building upon one another’s remarks, ultimately becoming truly vicious. Sometimes counselors do that—they double down. You hope they won’t; you hope when their words are resisted, they will at least consider that they may have missed the mark. Alas, there is a certain type of counselor that doesn’t like to be contradicted. That type doubles down. 

So it is with these blunderbuss counselors of Job. They’re not bad guys, probably. Never mind my last post when I said they were—what was I smoking? No, they seem to have meant well—initially. They didn’t have to come visit Job at all, and yet they did. But Job’s calamity strikes unexpected terror into their own hearts, so they pursue a path that safeguards them, regardless of the effect it has on poor Job.


Other posts on Job here and here.


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They. Really. Don’t. Like. Organized. Religion.—Just Who is a Cult?

The definition of cult has changed dramatically over the years. Some groups that were once on one side of the C-word are now on the other. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t really care which side of the word they are on so long as the Bible is on the same side. And they believe it is.

If they are a cult, it is because the Bible is a cult manual. If it is, they are. if it is not, they aren’t. Seen in this light, modern-day ‘cult’ accusations are just the latest manifestations of what has always been the case with Christians. Paul blows into town and asks, ‘has anyone been talking trash against me?’ His answer? “We have not received letters about you from Judea, nor have any of the brothers who came from there reported or spoken anything bad about you. But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.” (Acts 28:21-22)

The criteria for cult classification used to be: if you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader, withdrew from society, and began doing strange things, you just might be a member of a cult. By this definition, JWs are not a cult. Their leaders are anything but charismatic—some are an acquired taste to listen to. They don’t withdraw from life, but continue in work, school, and the greater community. Do they do ‘strange things?’ It’s in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, but there was a time when speaking about one’s faith was not considered overly strange. They are not a cult by the old standard.

By the new one, the BITE one that revolves around various forms of ‘undue influence,’ they are; but so is the Bible, since those forms of ‘influence’ are no more than attempts to carry out what was clearly written as policy for the first-century congregation.

The real question is, ‘Is it such a horrid thing to be in such a ‘cult’ if that is exactly what the Bible advises? Or is it more horrid to insist upon ‘freedom of mind’ to the nth degree, as is typical today in the West? Look at the world such ‘freedom of mind’ has collectively produced—I believe it can be argued that such ‘freedom’ does not serve humanity well.

Witnesses will say that we need some ‘authority’ that is more than collective popular opinion, and so they put themselves where such authority exists. What we need is authority that reflects godly thinking and not just evolving human wisdom. Plainly, there will be some flaws in such authority, since everything humans touch is flawed. ‘We have this treasure [of the ministry] in earthen vessels [us—with all our imperfections] the NT writer advises. But when Christians cast off such authority in favor of  the ‘Me and Jesus’ model, they presently become almost indistinguishable from the evolving and declining standards of the greater world.

I like to write. It’s a fine hobby. I’ve written a few books and since I am a Witness such books revolve around congregation life as a Witness, anecdotes, as well as responding to criticisms directed toward them. A recent one is entitled: ‘In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction.’ If I write another, I may expand upon the C-word‘s revised definition. I might bring in how students of the 60s taunted police by calling them PIGS, doubling down when they saw it got under their skin. In time, one innovative officer responded with: PIGS—Pride, Integrity, Guts, Service.

I see no reason not to do the same with CULT when applied to Jehovah’s Witnesses. CULT—Courage, Unity, Love, Truth. Let persons insist upon their ‘freedom of mind.’ They end up missing the greatest freedom of all: freedom from sin and its resulting death and they obsess over the comparatively petty freedoms to be found in the present life.

The latest manifestation of that ‘freedom of mind’ obsession? An article about the decreasing popularity of religion (any religion, not just JW) among the young. “They. Really. Don’t. Like. Organized. Religion.” it states.

That sentence (if it is one) says it all. I know the following in symbolic, but as symbolism goes, it doesn’t get any better. Todays ‘freedom of mind’ people are so fiercely independent they can’t even stand for words to be organized properly, lest one unduly influence another.

You organize to get things done. If you don’t care about getting things done, you don’t organize. To spread the news of God’s Kingdom worldwide in a way that does not quickly devolve into a quagmire of individual opinion seems to Jehovah’s Witnesses a project worth organizing for. So they do. And they put up with how in any organization, ‘you can’t always get what you want’ even as they at the same time reap the benefits of organization.


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This Will be on the Test

The worldview of a modern person should be formed based on scientific knowledge and respect for positive rational traditions.” Anything wrong with that statement?

Isn’t it overrated, at least unattainable, or at least a goal ones have been striving for since the Enlightenment, but are no closer to attaining than at outset, so you begin to wonder just how “enlightened” it can be. Better to go for the people with heart who renounce violence

For every fine development of the Enlightenment there is a horrendous one. For every American Revolution that produces ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people,’ there is a French Revolution that produces murder and mayhem, within months devouring even its early leaders, and finally suffers Napoleon rising from the ashes. And then gradually the American experience dissolves into mush as people begin to typify the iron and clay toes imagery of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream idol. And France, after nurturing Karl Marx, gives rise to FECRIS, the anticult watchdog that affixes the C-word to anyone deviating from script of mainline humanist thinking.

That grandiose first paragraph sounds nice. Who cannot be attracted to it? But is it not pushing people beyond their limits? If there is one thing the early 2020s has demonstrated—the early COVID-19 years—it is that people can’t even agree on what “scientific knowledge is.” The science that is “settled” is often settled by decree. The science that is “proven” has often been proven by ignoring evidence to the contrary. The worshippers of science and reason never seem to notice when money and power trumps their science and reason. Is it Nathan R. Jessup extended into general life? “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” You can make a case for his words.

Let that airy first paragraph into our own arena of religious belief and presently we have breakaway guys who acknowledge Jehovah’s Witnesses are right on the most fundamental issues, then get all worked up over peripheral items, to the point where they separate into their own splinter groups. In time, one of them makes the ridiculous “tail wagging the dog statement” that its too bad his group and the Watchtower group he bolted from cannot agree, for “they’d have more people that way,” but hey—it’s their problem, not his. As he fulfills to the letter what Paul found most shameful, that sects and divisions should characterize the people of God. (1 Corinthians 10:18-19)

Believe me, I take caution from it. In part, it’s why I call myself a “seed-picker” and not a “scholar.” As soon as you declare yourself a scholar you find some item that the dumbbells have got wrong and you get all pretentious over it, masking that pretentiousness as a quest for pure conscience.

It’s enough to get the core points right. What! You think men who are “unlearned and ordinary” as the twelve were are ever going to ascend to breathtaking heights of scholarship? The learned people are forever saying to the unlearned and ordinary, “Okay, you’ve done well—amazingly well, really, considering you’re lack of education. But the smart people are here now. Step aside.”

But the “unlearned and ordinary” don’t step aside. They know God would have chosen the smart people in the first place had those ones been his special favorites. They know that the smart people will cave when the going gets rough. They will get overly worried of what they have to lose, chief among that being prestige in the eyes of other smart people. That’s why you always get some people in congregations who are clumsy, boorish, and it’s challenging to work with them as they are so, yet they are always out there. Nobody has more sticktoitiveness than they. One of them read point blank from the tract the other day—and it is hardly his weakness; he’s just doing what has been suggested—“Do you think it’s possible to live forever? Yes? No? Or maybe?” I’ve seen it work with a short preceding icebreaker. But point blank, not so much. The householder squirmed, caught off-guard by the awkwardness of the sudden spot he was in, and I caught his eye. “This will be on the test,” I said good-naturedly, as though to a high school student. I didn’t know what else to say. I suppose I could have said nothing.


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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Eliphaz to Job: (Chapter 4) How to Best Render His Words?

Here are Jehovah’s Witnesses covering Job for the next several weeks at their midweek meetings. Oh, yeah—that’s what I’m talking about!

A Book that comes to grips with God’s looking upon suffering:

What not to say during your next visit to the hospital:


Eliphaz to Job, upon hearing the latter cursing the day of his birth:

“If someone tries to speak to you, will you become impatient? For who can hold back from speaking? True, you have corrected many, And you used to strengthen the weak hands. Your words would raise up anyone stumbling, And you would strengthen those whose knees were buckling.” (Job 4:2-4)

Are these words said sarcastically, as in: ‘You say you have seen many through their calamity?’ It seems so in view of what follows:

“But now it has happened to you, and you are overwhelmed; It touches you, and you are dismayed.” (vs 5)

This is not what you say to someone who has lost all his children, his home, all his possessions, and his health  in quick succession. This is not what you call a fine bedside manner. It makes one doubt the sincerity of his previous words at 2-4

Eliphaz continues:

“Does your reverence for God not give you confidence? Does your way of integrity not give you hope? (vs 6) Remember, please: What innocent person has ever perished? When have the upright ever been destroyed? What I have seen is that those who plow what is harmful And those who sow trouble will reap the same.” (vs 7-8)

Does the NWT miss the nuance of verse 6? The verse is rendered as though Eliphaz is trying to strengthen Job, which is not consistent with what he says elsewhere—arguably before and certainly after, with his “What I have seen is that those who plow what is harmful and those who sow trouble will reap the same.” Translation: Job is reaping what he has sowed. Does he have problems? They’re his own fault.

It gets worse:

“By the breath of God they [miscreants like Job] perish, And through a blast of his anger they come to an end. The lion roars, and a young lion growls, But even the teeth of strong lions are broken. A lion perishes for lack of prey, And the cubs of a lion are scattered. (vs 9-11)

Translation: ‘You finally ran out of prey, didn’t you Job? And now, you toothless lion, you are called to account.’

So does the NWT-2013 say it best at verse 6? With every line, Eliphaz tears Job down. He builds him up at 6? No.

The King James Version’s rendering of verse 6 is more consistent: “Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?”

To be sure, better punctuation (which is just a matter of translator privilege) would improve it: “Is not this thy fear: thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?” Italicize ‘this’ and replace the first comma with a colon. What thereby presents is a verse that sets the stage for what follows, as the NWT’s rendering does not. What thereby presents is a verse suggesting Job must surely fear that God has seen right through him and knows that his ‘uprightness’ is but a sham: “Is not that your real fear?” he knifes his down-on-his-luck ‘friend.’

Now, how do other translations render verse 6? Do any favorites emerge? Through and one can compare dozens of different translations;

Alas, they all line up the NWT way. Even the KJV does, since it doesn’t punctuate it the way I like. Ah, well—they’re probably right. Who am I to stand against every single rendering? ‘Oh, sure!’ my wife might say, ‘Tommy’s right and everybody else is wrong!’ Nope—I’m not going to step into that one. I withdraw my suggestion.

(I don’t really.) Because, my version of verse 6, combined with applying a sarcastic twist to verses 3 and 4,  fits the surrounding narrative, and the others do not—or at least, mine fits it better.

On the other hand, my version all but paints Eliphaz as a Terminator, determined to wreak havoc on the man from the get-go. He does turn out that way, but maybe he started with good intentions and is only undermined by his sanctimonious ‘theology’ which holds that if you suffer, it must be divine retribution.


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'