Wycliff Bible translators Bob and Jan Smutherman were assigned to the Macuna people of southeast Colombia, South America. Progress was going well in putting the Bible into the Macuna language. The chiefs son was engaged as the language helper. Each portion of the Scripture had to be checked and double-checked for meaning and clarity.
After five years of labor, the Gospel of John was being finalized for publication. Gathered together to hear the Word of God, the tribe sat patiently.
Beginning at John 9:1, the son read about Jesus encounter with the man born blind. When he got to the verse where Jesus says that this man was born blind “in order that the works of God might be put on display,” the old chief stood to his feet. Requiring silence by his uplifted right hand, he said, “We must stop killing our babies.”
To a people steeped in animism, the normal process was to take their deformed babies to a desolate place. There the babies were deserted and exposed until dead.
The implications of the gospel became shockingly clear upon hearing of a better way.
Light and Mind
In his brilliant new book, Catching the Light, quantum physicist Arthur Zojanc writes of what he describes as the “entwined history of light and mind” (correctly described by one admirer as the “two ultimate metaphors of the human spirit”). For our purposes, his initial chapter is most helpful.
From both the animal and human studies, we know there are critical developmental “windows” in the first years of life. Sensory and motor shills are formed, and if this early opportunity is lost, trying to play catch up is hugely frustrating and mostly unsuccessful.
Prof. Zajoc writes of studies which investigated recovery from congenital blindness. Thanks to cornea transplants, people who had been blind from birth would suddenly have functional use of their eyes. Nevertheless, success was rare. Referring to one young boy, “the world does not appear to the patient as filled with the gifts of intelligible light, color, and shape upon awakening from surgery,” Zajoc observes. Light and eyes were not enough to grant the patient sight. “The light of day beckoned, but no light of mind replied within the boys anxious, open eyes.”
Zajoc quotes from a study by a Dr. Moreau who observed that while surgery gave the patient the “power to see,” “the employment of this power, which as a whole constitutes the act of seeing, still has to be acquired from the beginning.” Dr. Moreau concludes, “To give back sight to a congenitally blind person is more the work of an educator than of a surgeon.” To which Zajoc adds, “The sober truth remains that vision requires far more than a functioning physical organ. Without an inner light, without a formative visual imagination, we are blind,” he explains. That “inner light”the light of the mind“must flow into and marry with the light of nature to bring forth a world.”
The Upside of Down, Joe Stowell, Moody, 1991, p.165
Joseph Stowell, Through The Fire, Victor Books, 1988, pp. 112ff