Sunday, November 26, 2017

How Smartphones and Supercomputers Are Reversing the Tower of Babel

“Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.” Genesis 11:7. dates the confusion of languages as depicted in Genesis 11 to 2242 B.C. At that time, the inhabitants of the world were dispersed by language group. Language continues to be the greatest barrier to ethnic interconnectivity. According to as of 2017 there are 7,099 languages spoken in the world. Therefore, 4,259 years after the Tower of Babel languages continue to divide people into nationalistic entities. Into this mix, smartphones and supercomputers have begun to change the landscape of worldwide language disconnectivity.
Linguistic Mapping
Linguistic Mapping systems have developed in the past several years. One site,, was developed as a project of Eastern Michigan University, the University of Stockholm, and several other collaborators. Indiana University oversees, to discuss issues and exchange linguistic information. is powered by Summer Institute of Linguistics. is run as For-Profit site marketing their linguistic research. I.B.M.’s Watson, Google’s Cloud Natural Language API, and Amazon’s Lex are also important contributors to the fields of linguistics, voice recognition (VoiRec), and Instantaneous Translation (InsTra). The field of linguistic mapping has grown significantly, attested by universities with degrees in linguistic studies and the competition in this area between technology companies.
Greater clarity in understanding diversity among languages provides assistance in the development of InsTra tools. The advent of smartphones has revolutionized the need for inter-linguistic communication. Further, social media provides the big data necessary for study of linguistic differentiation.
Smartphone Saturation
The first cell phone that had “smartphone” capabilities was the Simon Personal Communicator unveiled 13 November 1993. It was created as a joint venture between Bellsouth and I.B.M. The term smartphone was first used of the iPhone, unveiled by Steve Jobs in 2007. It is estimated that 1.495 billion smartphones were sold in 2016, and that there existed a total of 2.1 billion users by the end of 2016, representing approximately 28.3% of the world population.
The interconnectivity represented by worldwide smartphone use portrays a rapid seismic historical event. Worldwide inter-communication provides an incentive to breaking down the linguistic divides put in place at the Tower of Babel.
Supercomputers and Instantaneous Translation
Connected to the capitalistic motivation of selling smartphones is conjoined the corollary need to incentivize sales. Members of smaller language groups must be made to expect the benefits of software and applications available to larger language groups. These incentives necessitate InsTra and VoiRec. In the past, InsTra and VoiRec required the computing speeds of the largest supercomputers in the world. However, by 23 August 2017, Google announced its ability to translate instantaneously both text and voice in 90 languages in the world on the Galaxy smartphone. This was up from 32 languages in 2015. The future trend appears to be InsTra into more languages from smaller devices.
Machine Translation
The M.I.T. Technology Review (9 May 2017) heralded a breakthrough in deciphering translation into rare languages at the University of Munich:
“So an important challenge for linguists is to find a way to automatically analyze less common languages to better understand them. Today, Ehsaneddin Asgari and Hinrich Schutze at Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich in Germany say they have done just that. Their new approach reveals important elements of almost any language that can then be used as a stepping stone for machine translation.
The new technique is based around a single text that has been translated into at least 2,000 different languages. This is the Bible, and linguists have long recognized its importance in their discipline. Consequently, they have created a database called the Parallel Bible Corpus, which consists of translations of the New Testament in 1,169 languages. This data set is not big enough for the kind of industrial machine learning that Google and others perform. So Asgari and Schutze have come up with another approach based on the way tenses appear in different languages.”[1]
Using the various translations of the New Testament, researchers are now decoding linguistic distinctions. At this time, their research appears to be limited to verbal tenses. However, as research develops, it may soon be possible that computer programs will decode the linguistic differentiation God injected into the human experience at the Tower of Babel. One of the driving motivations in this quest is the dominance of worldwide Bible translation in the history of Protestant Missions!
The ultimate success of this proposed linguistic connectivity has yet to be seen. It’s implications on the global human experience have yet to be discerned. There will be religious ramifications to this possible linguistic geo-connectivity. First, restraint will be needed to avoid drifting into religious centralization, so that freedom of conscience can be upheld in light of denominational distinctives. Second, with centralized inter-connectivity comes the issue of control of past and present worldwide Bible translation and translations, as well as Bible access and distribution. It is clear that as linguistic differentiation decreases, an administrative vacuum will be created.
It is helpful to remember that the same God who confused the languages of men so many years ago, also understands computer Assembler Language. Nothing will ever take Him by surprise!
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9.
For a related paper from 2013: “Virtualized Biblical Authority: A 50-Year Megashift from Biblical Inerrancy to Automated Translation Work”:

[1]Emerging Technology from arXiv, “Linguistics Breakthrough Heralds Machine Translation for Thousands of Rare Languages” (9 May 2017); available at: (Online); accessed: 26 Nov 2017; Internet.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Evangelism as Spiritual Wrestling

Wrestling was definitely the most difficult sport that I experienced. Wrestling pits one wrestler against another. No one else can be blamed for a loss. Either the wrestler beats his opponent, or he loses. There is no middle ground. Tie matches in evangelism go into overtime. So, in the end, a tie match in wrestling is extremely rare. Each whistle of every period of a wrestling match tests the skills of two wrestlers going head-to-head.
The sport of wrestling provides an interesting comparative to evangelism. This article will address some of these similitudes. Perhaps applying this analogy will elicit further important spiritual insights to the reader.
(1) Just like wrestling, learning evangelism not a large group activity, it’s one-on-one.
Learning to share the gospel is a one-on-one activity. Where there are some large group or small group aspects to teaching evangelism, like wrestling, it is only effectively learned when being practiced one-on-one. In wrestling, there is no shortcut to the need for practicing wrestling moves on an opponent. Likewise, there is no shortcut to experiencing evangelism. The Christian must encounter responses to various concepts. It is only when hearing these reactions that the Christian can grow in understanding how best to give an answer. These lessons cannot be learned in the one-way communication of a large group setting. Once the Christian experiences, understands, and properly replies to individuals, then they become lessons he can apply to the large group settings. Learning evangelism is a one-on-one activity.
(2) Learning evangelism, like wrestling, focuses on application.
Much like the words of Jesus in the Great Commission in Matthew, wrestling is “teaching to obey.” Matthew 28:20. When a person makes this move, you need to counter with that move. If your opponent leans too heavily on this foot, then you can use an Ankle Pick on that foot. If your opponent drops his head, he might be a prime candidate for a Reverse Cradle. In each move, your opponent opens the door to a panorama of countermoves.
Similarly in personal evangelism, the Christian attacks the principalities and powers of evil. He experiences the need for the moves and countermoves provided in the Bible. It is as he “sits on thorns” and “dwells among scorpions” that he learns not to fear them:
“And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house.” Ezekiel 2:6.
One-on-one evangelism acts as spiritual bodybuilding. The Christian’s forehead grows stronger than his opponent’s forehead:
“Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.” Ezekiel 3:8-9.
It is by one-on-one contact with opponents of the gospel that the power and beauty of the gospel become evident. These lessons can only be learned through one-on-one evangelistic encounters.
Evangelism, like wrestling, involves “teaching to obey.” Jesus inseparably linked teaching and obedience. Teaching is confirmed and fructified by the practice of obedience. Both are non-negotiable parts of spiritual learning.
(3) There is a goal in wrestling, just as there is a goal in evangelism.
The goal in wrestling is to win the match. In order to win the match, the wrestler must take down his opponent in the first period. In the second period, his goal is to reverse his opponent if he is found in the bottom position. If in the top position, the wrestler’s goal is to apply a pining combination on his opponent. He can earn back points or he can pin his opponent. In the end, the wrestler wants the referee to raise his hand as the winner at the end of the match.
In evangelism, as the Christian wrestles against the principalities and powers of sin and false ideas. His goal is to win the other person to Christ. He makes every effort, using every argument that comes to his mind, guiding the contact to every Bible verse that is available to him at the time, that the contact may repent and believe the gospel. His is in a spiritual wrestling match. Yes, there will be a raising and a lowering of hands at the end of life. The Christian wants everyone that he can to be won to Christ, so that they will have the victory of Jesus transferred over their sin debt. The Christian’s goal is to bring every contact to the point of decision.
“To the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22.
(4) More participatory than spectator.
Wrestling is not so much a spectator sport. Yes, perhaps “Big Time Wrestling” gets crowds. But nitty-gritty high school and college wresting does not attract large crowds like other sports. Wresting is not a sport to be enjoyed. It is rather a sport that forms individual discipline, character, and drive.
Quite similarly, evangelism is best when it is not done to be seen by others. True evangelism is most powerful when the Great Commission is applied out of sheer obedience to the Master, without any view to human accolades from other Christians. The unsaved perceive a phony evangelist. God does not encourage us to seek to win brownie points with men. Evangelism is best when, like prayer, it is acted upon with a sole audience of God—along with the person with whom we are seeking to share the gospel.
(5) Like wrestling is best learned in one on one practice and matches, so evangelism.
Other than conditioning, the most important part of wrestling practice is found in pairing up with a teammate of a similar weight, and working through moves with that teammate. After the practice of the move, then the effort applied to the move goes to half-go. Then, finally, when in order to fully learn the move, the opponent needs to fully fight the move. Only when practicing full-go are the moves and countermoves really learned.
In evangelism, there is a need for a mentor to take out the learner and show him how to start gospel conversations. The fellow Christian sees his mentor share the gospel, and learns how people respond to certain questions and comments. He begins to emulate his trainer. Soon he is comfortable sharing the gospel, and he can begin to train someone else. Yes, evangelism is best learned through being paired up two-by-two sharing the gospel in initiative situations, where one person can be a formal or informal mentor.
(6) The close proximity of wrestling allows for eye-to-eye contact with the enemy.
At the beginning of the wrestling match, the wrestler looks at his opponent in the eye, and the referee raises his hand, and says, “Ready, Wrestle.” With those two words, the match goes live. The two opponents crouch like ferocious beasts seeking to discern their opponent’s vulnerabilities.
So, in evangelism, one sadly encounters those whose lives have been destroyed by the enemy of our souls, Satan. The Christian regularly encounters persons who are caught in the clutches of terrible sins. They have a certain look in their eye. Some have terrible hatred in their eyes and heart as soon as the name Jesus is mentioned. Others are so vehemently antagonistic to the gospel that it appears that there may some form of demonic activity involved. All these types of people are regularly encountered when involved in street evangelism or door-to-door. God uses these negative experiences as reality therapy. The herald is warned of pitfalls to avoid. He observes the enemy’s playbook in operation in other people’s lives. He learns the tricks and moves of his prime enemy, the devil.
(7) The wrestler can apply the moves he has learned in practice with success.
In a wrestling match, the wrestler has the opportunity to learn the power and effectiveness of certain moves against his opponents. I remember when I first used a Sit-Out to get away from an opponent in a match when I was in the bottom of the Referees Position. It worked. I got away from my opponent. Earned two points. Now came the hard work of trying to take him down again. Later I learned that I could use the Sit-Out to lead to a reversal on my opponent. As I practiced, there were certain moves that came to me as if by second nature.
Evangelism takes practice. Yes, evangelism can become second nature to the Christian. He can lovingly and naturally start conversations and move them into the gospel. It is not easy. It requires repetition and constant dedication. But it is possible.
Further, as the Christian uses Sword of the Lord, the Word of God, with success, he becomes more agile in wielding that Sword. He observes the impact of the Word of God. He experiences it melting a heart. He notices the Holy Spirit convicting of sin, judgment, and righteousness. His practice and repetition spur him on.
And lastly, the Christian has the privilege of leading other persons to repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ. He is there when a person calls on the name of the Lord to be saved. He notes the tears and marks the conviction. He empathizes with the spiritual pain. God gifts the Christian with the opportunity to lead the convicted one to request forgiveness and cry out to follow after Christ. These last occasions are perhaps the most elating experiences of my life. All glory to God!
So, there are some interesting links between evangelism and wrestling.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:10-12.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Prayers of Blessing

Several years ago, I was going door-to-door in North Kansas City with a Midwestern student. After an older woman answered the door, I said, “Hello. My name is Tom and this is [my partner]. We are with [local church] and are telling people about Jesus. Have you heard of Jesus?” To this question the woman answered, “I’m sorry. I belong to [name of denomination] and I’m not interested.” I responded by saying, “Would you mind if I pray a prayer of blessing on your home?” To this the woman replied, “That would be fine.”
At this point, I began to pray in the name of Jesus every good thing that I could think of. I prayed what the Lord brought to my mind that I thought this woman may need:
  • That God Himself would protect her home
  • That His guardian angels would surround her and keep her safe
  • That the Lord would keep evil far away from her home
  • That God would bless her and all who enter her home
  • That her financial needs would be met
  • That God would keep sickness far from her
  • That He would bless her local church and its pastor
  • That the Lord would reveal Himself to her and give her peace, and
  • That, if she did not know Jesus as her Savior and Lord, she would soon come to know Him as such.

As I prayed I literally sought to ask for everything positive that I could think of, knowing that we have a God who answers prayer!
Now, is it legitimate to pray a blessing for people in this way? Absolutely. In Romans 12:14, Paul encouraged blessing and not cursing:
Rom 12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
Jesus taught His followers to pray even for their enemies:
Luke 6:27-28, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”
If we ought to pray for our enemies, it only makes sense that it is also commendable to pray blessings upon people whom we do not yet know.
In any case, the older woman at her door thanked us for the prayer. Yes, she told us that she was already a born-again Christian. We were soon in a friendly conversation about the spiritual needs in her area. We gently asked questions about her spiritual welfare. Loving prayer opened the door of conversation and friendship with this woman. In the case of this woman, I turned over her contact information to the church planting pastor.
One church leader reminded us in chapel that when a person allows you to pray for them, you become their pastor. Go back and visit them two weeks later. See how they are doing. Pray for them again. The Lord may use that heartfelt concern to open doors for the gospel.
In our tool-bag of evangelism resources, let’s not forget the power of prayers of blessing. If a person has a hearing of faith or even a slight inclination toward the gospel, prayer can be a powerful tool. They will recognize that they are being brought by name before the throne of grace to find mercy and help in time of need as we pray for them:
Heb 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Let the words of our mouth bless and not curse.