The Ascent of Man
He didn't look like a doctor exactly; he lacked the sense of authority and self love.
I accepted an invitation to visit a young lady one Saturday. She showed me her art studio: all these elaborate designs in stained glass. Then she took me to her place where she had to get ready.
I don't know about your experience with women, but it seems to me they take an inordinate amount of time fixing themselves up. It wasn't so much she had to take a bath, but to bathe the cat too? And this was to get ready for the dentist.
Anyway, having some time on my hands, I decided to look at some reading material. Her two brothers were staying with her, so I picked up one of her brother's magazines: Exotic.
It had pages and pages of pictures of these really hot babes. I won't describe them in detail as I like to keep my material edifying. And under each photo was a spiel about what they would like to do with the men who contacted them. A typical one said that her husband was away a lot so she was looking for an older man who would like to fulfill this twenty year old's "womanly needs." Every blurb had a different angle, but, you know, if you've read one, you've read 'em all.
Quite apart from Solomon's elaborations about the "strange woman," I had serious doubts whether these women would look like their pictures in person and would produce everything they offered, all without consequences. I needed some reading material with more credibility. So I went looking for the other brother's books.
Well, since the sister was into the lust of the eyes, and one brother was into the lust of the flesh, what do you want to bet the other brother wasn't into the pride of life? I found his magazine: Mind.
It had a feature article on altruism from an evolutionary point of view. This article was heavily marked and underlined, so I figure the brother must have really taken it seriously. It started from the premise that human behavior developed through evolutionary processes that propagated genes, therefore we can understand a particular behavior pattern if we know what advantage in propagation genes got when their carriers behaved thus.
Then it went on to say that helping those close to you, in your immediate village, produced a reciprocal benefit----i.e. you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. It was harder to explain what evolutionary advantage one gets by helping strangers at a distance, but the article gave it a good try.
I suppose it was something like the SCRABBLETM game I was playing one Sunday. The play passed to the left, and to my left was an experienced player, serious competition. It was to my advantage to put down words hard to play off of. And yet farther around the board was a rank novice who wouldn't be able to enter in at all unless we set up opportunities for her. So I consistently put down long expansive words that she could play from. Did my generosity help me? Well, it opened up the game to make good plays possible for all of us. A generous world is easier to live in for everybody.
The University of Michigan did a five year study in which they found that generous people live longer (big surprise!). But we already know that generosity benefits the giver too. (Prov. 19:17) "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again." (Eccl. 11:1) "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days."
It's one thing to say that generosity benefits the giver. It's something else to say that an evolutionary process was involved which explains that behavior today. It's like in that first brother's book, all those pictures look great, but do the broads really look like that in person? Sure, in our text books we see all these artists' renderings of evolution in action: The Ascent of Man--monkeys to stoop-shouldered apes, to jutting-jawed humanoids, to modern man. But did it really look like that?
And, sure, we read scientists' explanations of all the little processes involved in evolution (if you've read one you've read 'em all), but did those processes really deliver? Do the babes really deliver on all they say they've got? Good question.
You know, the real problem is what happens when the husband who's been gone so long returns suddenly. Is he going to lightly accept the explanation that Charlie here was just taking care of the wife's womanly needs while the husband was away? When Christ returns, is He going to lightly accept that we are just trying to satisfy our scientific curiosity with evolution? I mean, isn't God supposed to be a jealous God? Maybe God has an answer for how the world came to be. Maybe the husband himself can take care of his wife's womanly needs. Maybe, maybe. These are deep issues, and the girl finally got out of the bathroom.
Then she had a problem. She had to wait for her ride and couldn't go pick up her houseplant. Earl the gentleman offered to go get it for her. Then I had to wait in line at the nursery. I brought home the plant and left. I'm sure she's a fine girl with an interesting family, but a guy has to have patience to get involved with a girl, some girls more than others.
I found it an interesting point in a sermon that India was helping with the famine in Bangladesh. I was going to a dinner at a church partly for a real home cooked meal, partly to save having to cook, and partly for the company. They made an announcement one night. Seems a church in India had taken up a collection and sent it to this church to pay for our dinner that night. They wanted to help feed the homeless in America.
You know, eating that meal, I wasn't thankful to evolution for providing it, but to God. Fact is, I was more aware of God having provided my daily bread than I usually am when I do it myself or some agency does. Otherwise it's perhaps just a result of my struggle for survival or the nearby church doing it for ulterior motives. No, when the people in India take up a collection for our meal, it's God providing. And I started to think of them more as fellow man than little brown skinned heathen.
Why did Paul and does the scripture make such a big deal of people in deep poverty giving with liberality? I have a friend who was homeless but owns some land in Colorado, some mining claims, actually a ghost town. He asked me half in jest if I wanted to be sheriff of his town. I declined because sometimes commitments (even on a lark) lead to responsibilities one would rather not have.
Then he asked if I wanted to be mayor? No. Then what would I like to be? Well, I had read him one of my poems, so I let him make me Poet Laureate of his town. He signed the certificate which I've hung on my wall. Obviously I regard it as very valuable.
Why is being Poet Laureate of a ghost town so valuable? I mean, lots of towns have poet laureates. They feast them and whine and dine them. It's a big deal. But who would ever want to be poet laureate of a ghost town? And yet I wouldn't trade it for any other town. Why is that?
Give up? Could it have something to do with the name of the town? Longfellow, Colorado. Named after an erstwhile Poet Laureate of America.
I suppose a gift from a people wholly given to the Lord and offered in liberality out of their deep poverty could be more valuable than any other gift simply because of the name of the One in whom it is given. I suppose. But then what do I know?
I did manage to win the SCRABBLETM game, but only on account of getting good letters to play while the others got poor. We then had a rematch. My main competitor was good from playing SCRABBLETM electronically four times a week. He normally uses a special SCRABBLETM dictionary that has all these useful words in it. I'm just an ordinary player who's usually doing good to get one game going a year. And that's not because I don't enjoy the game, but because nobody who's ever played me seems to want to do it again. Except a retired English teacher enjoyed our games but she moved away.
So we start our second game, and I'm doing good, of course, but the other guy is doing really great because he's used to playing and knows a lot of useful words for the game. By and by, we are almost done with the game, and he is so far ahead of me, it's ridiculous. So I start putting my word down "FEAT..." which is a puny word pointwise, and the "A" attaches to a word going across which is somewhat questionable but he says he is not going to challenge it. Good, because then I complete my word "FEATURE" which picks up a triple word score and I get a bonus 50 points for using all seven of my letters.
Then it looks like a different story. So here is the man's dilemma. If he challenges me on FEATURE for the "A" word across but wouldn't have on FEAT, then it looks like he's just being greedy. The sermon that day spoke against greed. So he didn't change his mind and challenge the "A" word. I got all the points.
But on my next move I was also able to use all seven of my letters playing off the "R" in the last word to make "REDOLENT." Poor guy. He decided to make good this time and challenge that word insisting that it actually be found in the dictionary. It was, I scored big time, and he lost a turn. Still he was poised to win if he could just play his last word, but I went out just before him and ended the game using one of those cute little special SCRABBLETM words that another player had told me about.
Still, the guy really impressed me both with his skill and his refusal to win at the price of greed. I guess people do listen to sermons. The preacher tells them not to be greedy and they lose the game rather than succumb to it. If only he hadn't called his mom on his cell phone after the game to have her check the SCRABBLETM dictionary. There is something pathetic about a man calling his mom after he loses when otherwise he'd gain nothing but respect as a good and honest player.
It's like church in a lot of ways. The rules of the game require that one go by the dictionary and the church has of old established a Bible to guide all our decisions and actions. I lost my respect for some charismatic style churches when I found that they would go by the Bible in small matters (FEAT) but would rely on a man's gut feelings in the large ones (FEATURE). Sometimes the individual is given points and sometimes the group (church) is, so to speak. I usually can't wait to get to church, but there are times when I am tired and want to sleep in. But Hebrews tells us to forsake not the assembling of ourselves together, so I end up in church anyway and we all profit.
But there are times when the scripture will benefit the individual rather than the group. I was doing bell ringing for the Salvation Army. For, what is it, 150 years they had a schedule of doing it from about mid morning to late afternoon. Then they brought in outside "efficiency experts" who determined that they were losing a lot of opportunity by not doing it later at night. They adjusted their schedule, implementing an ascent in times to late morning/early afternoon through part of the evening. I didn't like that because it absolutely wrecked any social life I had. But they wanted to do it that way because they needed the income.
I had a talk with my boss. I told him that when I worked for, say, the cannery, they set up all kinds of gruesome schedules for sake of production. Now that I work for the Salvation Army, I am working for the Lord whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. Up until now it'd been a schedule that allowed me to do other things with my free time, but the new one really put a crimp in it. David in the Psalms said man went forth to his work in the morning and returned in the evening, and I wanted to do that rather than the new "efficient" way.
As I was able to show him from scripture what I wanted to do, he went along with it. I was the only one that year who stayed on the old (scriptural) schedule. Everybody else went with the more efficient (productive) one. Funny thing, though, is I had the largest kettle intake that year of anyone. Now, why is that?
I think that if we have to go by the Bible, then if a situation arises where it supports the group, then that's what we do, or if it supports the individual, then we do that. But the thing is, there is no Salvation Army bell ringing schedule printed in the Bible, nor is the time to set my alarm for church printed there. We have to work it out from scripture, which is possible.
That's like the rules to SCRABBLETM. It says to use a standard dictionary to check spelling and grammar--emphasis added--in case of a dispute. The reason we have to use grammar as well as a word list from a standard dictionary is because a lot of our words take different forms and/or added suffixes and/or prefixes. We learn and see how to put them together. Same with the Bible.
My point is what is acceptable for the "A" word tacked onto "FEAT" should stand when tacked onto "FEATURE". If an existing marriage between a believer and an unbeliever is sanctified, then a believer entering into such a mixed marriage has it sanctified too even though marrying an unbeliever would seem to benefit the individual--who gets his or her needs met--rather than the group who cannot have an unequally yoked team in Christian ministry.
Then we've got the SCRABBLETM dictionary that tries to process all the English word combinations and the NIV (and other modern versions) that tries to put all of scripture into wording that would seem to automatically fit all our modern situations directly. No fuss no muss. But you just ain't agonna find in the NIV entering into sanctified mixed marriage, no more than one would find nonce words in the SCRABBLETM dictionary. So it's pathetic when I get into such and such debates with people that they find themselves losing and going to mom's SCRABBLETM dictionary or the NIV for support.
The SCRABBLETM rules call for a standard dictionary, and God's standard for us English speaking people is the textus receptus as put into the sanctified dialect of the KJV--unless someone seriously wants to check the Greek, and better Greek than the so-called higher criticism manuscripts of the NIV etc. I just don't think people are as prepared as they could be if they come to rely on these processed dictionaries or Bibles.
If Christians want for some reason to marry or date nonchristians, I believe it intellectually dishonest to tell them the Bible forbids it. We can tell them they might have to have patience waiting for the other to convert, and they can make their decision from there. And if there is a conversion somewhere down the line, why, we all rejoice.
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Copyright © 2005, Earl S. Gosnell III
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.
Permission is hereby granted to use the portions original to this paper--with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material. The material I myself have quoted has its own copyright, which I cannot speak for but have used here under the fair use doctrine.
I have used material for teaching, and illustration in this nonprofit teaching endeavor. The source is included in a notes file. Such uses must be judged on individual merit, of course, so I cannot say how other uses of the same material might fare.
The picture of the ascent of man was just one of many floating around.
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