The Bible and Cybernetics

Illustrations of Cybernetic Systems in the Bible

Jesus used the Body as an analogy for the Church: Both the Lord Jesus and the apostles used the body as an analogy of the Church to illustrate how the Church should function. The first use of this analogy came from Jesus when He let the Jews know that the House of God (the Temple) where they had been worshiping for hundreds of years was going to be replaced by a Living Temple – His body.The Vitruvian Man by Leonardo Da Vinci

And Jesus said to them, Send destruction on this Temple and I will put it up again in three days. The Jews said, The building of this Temple took forty-six years; and you will put it up in three days! But his words were about that holy building which was his body. So when he had come back again from the dead, the memory of these words came back to the disciples, and they had faith in the holy Writings and in the word which Jesus had said. (John 2:19-22 MSG)

Paul used the Body as an analogy for the Church: In like manner, the apostle Paul addressed the complex issues involved in the local church as an organization by using the following analogy:

For as the body is one, and has a number of parts, and all the parts make one body, so is Christ…For through the baptism of the one Spirit we were all formed into one body, Jews or Greeks, servants or free men, and were all made full of the same Spirit.

For the body is not one part, but a number of parts. If the foot says, Because I am not the hand, I am not a part of the body; it is no less a part of the body. And if the ear says, Because I am not the eye, I am not a part of the body; it is a part of the body all the same. If all the body was an eye, where would be the hearing? If all was hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has put every one of the parts in the body as it was pleasing to him. And if they were all one part, where would the body be?

But now they are all different parts, but one body. And the eye may not say to the hand, I have no need of you: or again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. No, those parts which seem to be feeble are the more necessary; And to those parts of the body which seem to have less honour we give all the more honour; and to those parts of the body which are a cause of shame to us we give the greater respect; But those parts of the body which are beautiful have no need of such care: and so the body has been joined together by God in such a way as to give more honour to those parts which had need of it;

So that there might be no division in the body; but all the parts might have the same care for one another. And if there is pain in one part of the body, all the parts will be feeling it; or if one part is honoured, all the parts will be glad. Now you are the body of Christ, and every one of you the separate parts of it. (1 Corinthians 12:2, 13 – 27 BBE)

Medical Specialists: Because of our concern for our human bodies, we have specialist doctors who develop extensive knowledge about the health of our bodies. Most of us have regular examinations by doctors to diagnose and improve our health or cure our diseases. They use diagnostic tests, imaging centers, laboratories, x-rays and other specialized equipment to test and diagnose our health.

Specialists are also needed to help the Church: In the same way, we need church physicians who understand the various systems that make up the church as a unique organization. Without this, we will never develop our most healthy church bodies. And, we have very little possibility of curing some of our more damaging church diseases. Because churches are cybernetic systems, any unhealthy or painful experiences in one part of the church will have an effect on much or all of the rest of the church. This is what Paul was referring to in verse 26 when he says “if there is pain in one part of the body, all the parts will be feeling it.

Biblical examples of Specialists called to care for the Church: Certainly there are many other similarities between human bodies as cybernetic systems and the church as a cybernetic organization. In the last three verses of 1 Corinthians 12, Paul specifically names eight of the most important gifts, ministries, or offices needed for the Church. For convenience, we will refer to them as ministries – while recognizing that they are made possible by the fact that the ones performing these ministries have spiritual gifts and a calling by the Holy Spirit.

And God has put some in the church, first, Apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then those with wonder-working powers, then those with the power of taking away disease, helpers, wise guides, users of strange tongues. Are all Apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? have all the power of working wonders? Are all able to take away disease? have all the power of tongues? are all able to give their sense? But let your desires be turned to the more important things given by the Spirit. And now I am pointing out to you an even better way. (1 Corinthians 12: 28-31 GNB)

All eight of these ministries are essential for the spiritual growth, health, and vitality of the churches. Observe, however, in verses 29 and 30, that Paul emphasizes that the Church does not need everyone in the Church involved in six out of the eight ministries. He names apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers and people who can speak or interpret various languages as the ministries that are in this category.

Example of two ministries that are always needed: Notice that “helpers” and “wise guides” are not mentioned in verses 29 and 30. This may imply that the Church needs these two ministries active at all times. One of the reasons Paul may have done this becomes more apparent when we do a more in depth examination of these two ministries.

Exegesis of antilémpsis: The Greek word translated “helpers” is ἀντίληψις, or as it is transliterated: antilémpsis. There are 17 different Greek words used for “help” in the NASB, but this is the only place in the New Testament where antilémpsis is used. This word is defined as “God’s work bringing His helps of grace and power to meet someone’s need, through a person He directs” (Strong’s, 484).

Because the word used here is in the plural form, we know that this particular form of divine help is available to everyone in the church. Perhaps we can coin our own phrase to uniquely identify this ministry – “Divine Assistants.” In other words, this gift does NOT refer to the caring person who shows up at the church to help clean up the property or the person who may take someone food when they have a special need. Those are all good and needful ministries, but they are not what Paul means by this gift.

Exegesis of kubernésis: The word used for “wise guides” is κυβέρνησις, transliterated as kubernésis. As with the preceding ministry of “helpers,” this is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used. In most English translations this word is translated as “administrations.” Neither that word or “wise helpers” fully reveal what this word means. In the Greek, the word was used to describe the pilot or navigator of a sailing ship. Here is Strong’s definition: “kybérnēsis – properly, someone who steers (guides) a ship; (figuratively) the divine calling which empowers someone to lead in affairs relating to the Church” (2941). Strong’s definition was developed before we had our present understanding of the meaning of “kubernésis” or cybernetics as it has been transliterated into English by Norbert Weiner.

Illustration of the gift of Cybernetics from piloting a sailing ship: As a U.S. Navy veteran and former sea scout, I know that navigating/piloting a sailing ship from one port to another requires a unique ability to understand multiple areas of diverse knowledge. Pilots have to consider the construction of the vessel, the types of sails, the direction of the wind, the currents in the water, and be able to use either the stars or a compass to get the ship from port A to port B in the most effective and efficient way possible. They have to understand a number of different scholarly disciplines – such as marine engineering, oceanography, seamanship, navigation and astronomy. Most importantly, the pilot has to accurately understand the complex interaction of all of these effects and make rapid decisions to reach the desired destination as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The pilot/navigator of the sailing ship was not generally the same person who actually operated the vessel. They usually do not adjust the sails or even handle the steering mechanism. These tasks are done by the crew. If the pilot is operating under a ship’s captain, he might not even give the orders to the crew. The one thing he has to do, however, is to make accurate and timely decisions as to what actions need to be taken to keep the ship on the correct course.

Defining the ministry of cybernetics for the local church: With this understanding of “kybérnēsis,” we can more accurately define this ministry (or spiritual gift) as “the divine calling which empowers someone to guide the leaders in affairs relating to the Church.”

Although the minister or senior minister of a large church may have the gift and calling of kybérnēsis (cybernetics or wise guide), it is not very likely. This is because the person with the gift and ministry cybernetics may not be a good preacher or much of a “people person.” And, certainly in most churches, the leading ministers must have those gifts.

Possible reasons for combining Helpers and Wise Guides: This separation of gifts may be one of the reasons why Paul seems to couple the gifts of Helpers and Wise Guides. To return to the analogy of the sailing ship, this may be like the relationship between the pilot, the captain, and the crew who carries out the instructions needed to keep the ship on the correct course. Growth Ministries International implements these ministries through our Consulting Division. In many instances, our consultants are the Wise Guides who use their gift of cybernetics to determine the best course of action for a church to follow. Then, they train a task force of “Divine Assistants” or helpers to help develop and implement the plan of action under the direction of the Holy Spirit.