Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight. Pro 3:5 NRSV
I lately wonder how much culture, faith level, and understanding of bible translators influence our theology. Take today’s verse for example. Most translations use the word understanding, like in the CJT:
Trust in ADONAI with all your heart;
do not rely on your own understanding. Pro 3:5 CJT
In German, most translations use the word Verstand.
Now this makes a major difference.
While understanding and insight connote the outcome of a thinking process, Verstand is the faculty of thinking, including the brain as hardware, the process of applying logic and emotions, as well as all we learned, memorized, and believe as the formative body we rely on. What a difference that makes!
Can you see it?
Let me make some definitions upfront, while you keep on thinking whether you find out the startling effect this has on our believe system.
The brain is the natural part of our thinker, our soul. It is where supernatural thoughts, both conscious and unconscious, are translated and manifested into words, emotions, actions and reactions. As we learned in the last installment, natural means made out of matter, running on energy, and subdued to natural laws, whereas the supernatural is free of this.
Memory is our storage of past experience, things we learned, even the things we believe.
Reasoning is the process of comparing memory with real life or virtual situations, applying logic, reason, emotions, gut feelings, personality, and a lot of assumptions to come up with new or old recipes to deal with a situation at hand or solve a problem.
Knowledge is the collection of facts and perceived facts we store in our memory—which more and more includes google and the like.
Perception is our interpretation of something either received through our senses or reasoning.
Rationality is what we perceive to be rational, that is deducible with logic from axioms, or what ‘just makes sense’. Something is rational if it fits our image of the world. Rationality therefore is highly dependent on our world view and definitively subjective.
Verstand means our ability to model the world, define, classify, categorize, and judge actions and things, build ontologies, using all the above entities.
Mind probably is the closest to the German Verstand and is used encompassing all of the above.
The soul is the part of man that houses the supernatural part of all this, using the brain and the body as the natural container to interact with, and listening to the spirit. I likened this to the body as hardware, the soul as software including the operating system and the bios, and the spirit as the user.
Thoughts are the information carriers, the protocol of the soul. They can be both conscious—translated into words and made available to me—or unconscious. The latter are not less real, not even farther away from the natural—think of our unconscious body functions like breathing. We talk of a sea of thoughts, and just as with the sea of water, we only see a few yards deep into the water, but we can deep sea dive and locally see what has been hidden from us, far from the surface.
Emotions are somewhat different yet similar. as much as conscious thoughts manifest in energy bursts firing in our brain, emotions manifest as chemical bursts in our body. They originate from conscious or unconscious thoughts, and what we feel is but a chemical or hormonal reaction.
The will is the guiding faculty of the mind. Since we have a free will, we can always decide freely about how we act on our thoughts. Interestingly enough, our will heavily depends on our mind both as information source and processor.
Looking at all this we might say that our thinker, our mind, our Verstand is the connection, the doorway of the supernatural into the natural. It allows the spirit to interact with the world.
And this leads to the big difference of English and German translations.
In English, we are not to trust the outcome of our thinking process. In German, we are not to trust the whole faculty of thinking.
Now, if the mind is the doorway between the supernatural and the natural, not trusting it means to shut out the supernatural. How is this?
If I cannot trust my mind, I tend to search for other, more trustworthy sources, usually finding it in other people or alternative sources outside of me. I minimize my own thinking, as it cannot be trusted. I start trusting my emotions, as I wrongly understand them as another source of understanding. Here we get into another translation problem, as the bible seems to put the trustworthy agent of faith into our heart. The different words used for heart more carefully translated mean inner most being, soul, mind, will, emotions or the like interchangeably. When David for example talks to his soul in Psalm 103, he talks to a breathing creature, his appetite, his body, his mind, his emotions, his mortality, his desires, short: to himself as a whole. Not just his soul.
But when, as in English, I cannot trust the outcome of my thinking process, my mind is still valuable. Maybe I have to change the process of gathering information, I have to erase some of my memory, I even have to exchange, upgrade, refine, and enhance my reasoning, the rules I use to derive new facts. And certainly I have to change the priorities of the sources I derive my knowledge from and ged rid of some while adding others. But instead of fearing, avoiding, closing the door to the supernatural, I will put more importance on it and rebuild it to function properly again.
Because there is no other door.
The Spirit talks to the spirit. God talks to our spirit, as we are spirit as much as he is. But the spirit can only talk to the natural part of us through the soul. Through the mind.
A lot of churches, based on scriptures like the above, tell you to shut down your thinking and go by the spirit. Based on what we just said, please tell me how? What happens then: we shut down the conscious part of our thinker and just go by the unconscious paired with emotions—out of fear. We then call that unctions, and we miss out on a great part of what the Spirit is saying. Those churches cite verses about the cross being foolishness to the wise, and mint the parable of the needle and the camel not only to rich people, but to intelligent people as well. There is hope, they say, as with God everything is possible. You rich, become poor, you intelligent, stop thinking.
It nowhere tells you so.
Our verse does not even say that trusting the Lord and relying on your understanding are exclusive opposites. An example: I trust the bible, and do not rely on sciences. That does not rule out science, it just tells me who wins out when there seems to be a conflict.
The Hebrew word for understanding by the way comes from a verb meaning to separate mentally. It is often translate to observe.
The word for heart is Hebrew leb. It means heart, mind, understanding, wisdom, inner man, soul, thinking, memory, reflection.
And don’t forget: trust, being a decision, not an emotion in the first place, is a function of our mind.
Let us celebrate our Verstand as a God given and God created part of us. Change your thinking, alright, by changing the basic assumptions and world view you have, reading the bible more than the newspaper, praying more than watching TV or gossip. But let the mind do what the mind does best: translate between the supernatural and the natural.
That is exactly what today’s verse says.
Trust God with all you are, and don’t rely on observations. Pro 3:5
We can understand both God and the world from an eternal view point. Then you can trust your understanding again, as you have the thoughts of God.