Innocently enough, I commented on a writers blog posting by a gentleman named Paul, from Boston. Thus began an intense interchange that … well, take a look.
Paul ended his posting with the statement that “most Christians believe that ‘God helps those who help themselves.’”
I couldn’t let that pass. 01/21/12 10:57 AM, I wrote:
“Paul, I don’t know how many Christians you know but the idea that ‘God helps those who help themselves’ is simply not true. It’s found nowhere in the Bible but is often used–by those inside and outside the faith–to cloak a me-first attitude with the name of deity.”
Within hours, Paul sent this mortar round into my email in-box (emphasis mine):
“You missed the point entirely, Samuel, and instead twisted a discussion about truthfulness in job postings for freelance writers to show off your (apparently minimal) knowledge about the Bible. I wan’t (sic) making a theological point. Of course the expression I quoted doesn’t appear in the Bible … That’s Biblical exegesis on a Sunday School level. It’s a colloquial expression, however, the meaning of which is clear and understandable to everyone … Please don’t thump your literalist Bible understanding in my face. If you’d like to debate the Bible or religion generally, try me.”
Wow! After I picked myself up off the floor, I debated if I should respond. But I knew that God loves Paul; perhaps this was for him more than for me. I shouldn’t let it pass.
So three days later, I did respond …
“Paul, I see by your response that I touched a nerve. It wasn’t my purpose to inflame you and for that I apologize.
“… your last sentence—which includes the motto, ‘God helps those who helps themselves’—is problematic for both of us. That unfortunate sentence does several things:
- The saying is, as you point out, a colloquialism, going back to ancient Greece. It has nothing to do with the blog topic. So why insert it in a discussion about unsalaried work for a Christian organization? Makes you look bad.
- Many people with little knowledge of scripture tend to attribute the statement to the Bible. Your use of it in the context of the forum undermines your claim of superior biblical knowledge.
- Your assertion that most Christians believe the old saw is without foundation. Simply not true. Very few Christians actually believe that—even those without a literalist Bible understanding.
“You contend that my mention of one statement not included in scripture is ‘showing off’ my knowledge about the Bible. That’s hard to fathom; I sent my comments to you alone and I’m certainly not trying to impress you. If you feel that pointing out your misused reference was ‘thumping my literalist Bible understanding’ in your face, well, I’m sorry I offended you. You may be right concerning my ‘apparently minimal knowledge about the Bible,’ as every week, it seems, I discover something new from God’s Word.
“Kudos for divining my position on biblical inerrancy. I do, indeed, believe the Bible is literally true, if for no other reason than that it has more scholarly support than any other ancient or religious book.
“Your writing shows passion, the mark of a good writer; however, you undercut your abilities by a tendency to over-react. Your challenge to a religious debate was over the top and would have no place in the forum.
“I wish you the best in your writing.”
Paul responded in both surprising and unexpected fashion two days later. We’ll get to that this week. In the meantime, what’s your take on the nature of the Bible? Or even on the “God helps those …” motto?