[NOTE: This is a section from a previous version of "In Christ" accessible here. That original version suffered from an unnecessary conflation of concerns that didn't become evident until after "The Symbiotic Refinery" was written and after a trip I made to California to visit relatives. I finally figured out that it was really two essays mashed into one, of which this essay is one of those. I also address some issues that weren't apparent until I had lived the Symbiotic lifestyle for an extended period of time. Previous readers are advised to read this first page and then skip forward and start reading from this page, since the portion discussing metaphors has only been lightly edited to correct typos and clarify some sentences.]
Why This Essay Exists
The Inaugural Essay gave an outline of the Symbiotic Thesis, which states that what is known as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer at conversion constitutes, in reality, the forming of a symbiotic relationship where the Holy Spirit (Deus) lives within the human (Homo) host, in a permanent, intimate, and potentially beneficial union. Initially, I ran into the problem of inconsistent word usage by the Apostles (Disciples and Paul) that made it more difficult to establish the thesis and explore its consequences. I proposed an initial assessment in a prior revision of the essay "In Christ" here, but further research and experience has proved that the discussion was somewhat muddled because it attempted to address two separate issues that I had inappropriately conflated. In view of this, I have decided to discuss them separately. Thus, this essay will address a specific argument against Symbiosis, while I will be revising "In Christ" to deal with a specific aspect of the mechanics of Symbiosis.
Doctrine or Heresy?
As mentioned in the Inaugural Essay, I believe that one must take special care when it comes to handling the Scriptures. This is especially the case when a radically different core idea being proposed interprets scripture that contradicts traditional interpretations. Thus, if I find a passage that seems critical of the Symbiotic thesis, I have to take it seriously, analyze it more closely, and deal with the seeming discrepancy. I have found that an honest effort yields fresh insights, as well as reconciling the verse to the thesis. The more of these there are, the stronger the thesis becomes, especially if a simple re-interpretation, a different way of looking at the text, is all that is required.
Consider the following text, which comes from Ephesians 3:
14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Now, this passage appears to be fairly straightforward: the bolded text states that it is Christ that dwells in our hearts by faith. However, the bold text with the grey backgound in verse 16 that precedes it is also a straightforward statement that needs hardly any interpretation if we view it in light of Symbiosis. The only way to evade the implication is to damn it by calling it a proof text, implying that anyone trying to take it literally is a clueless amateur unable to really extract the "nuances" of this verse that only those privileged ones who have a Theology degree are capable of doing. The "proof" of my amateur-hood is the fact that I am interpreting the text as if it actually meant exactly what it says. In support, the Theology degree-holding "geniuses" (of the modernist persuasion) will cite the bolded text in verse 17 and point out that that proves that this entire passage is metaphorical. Jesus Christ is clearly "That Christ" in verse 17. How can it be said that Jesus dwells in us when he came in the flesh (bodily and physically) and later ascended to heaven? Thus, these geniuses tell us that verses 18 and 19 are to be understood metaphorically, not literally, and are "really" an appeal by Paul for us to participate in Christian brotherhood, and that's all there is to that verse, and to verse 16 as well. Shut up and listen to your betters!
In short, when we encounter phrases that imply that we are "in Christ" or that "Christ is in us", it is being recommended that they be interpreted metaphorically, which means that only part of the passages in which they appear actually apply, with the rest being rhetorical "fluff". The accusation I am addressing is that Symbiosis is a "doctrine" actually founded on the "fluff" in verse 16, and thus is mistaken at best, and heretical at worst. To be sure, it may be a really good metaphor, but it is optionally embraced or ignored by individuals depending on whether the metaphor actually contributes to an understanding of the phenomenon for which it is a metaphor. The problem statement now becomes "Who is qualified to determine which parts of the passages really apply, and which are "fluff"?" You can be sure that Theologians will not only say who is qualified, but also say who is not.
I disagree that Symbiosis is founded on rhetorical "fluff", but to refute the charge, it is necessary to step back and show the dangers and pitfalls of what I call the "It's only a metaphor!" counterargument to appreciate what it is that we are losing when it is invalidly applied.
The Limits of Metaphor
I pointed out in the Inaugural Essay that I initially viewed the symbiosis of Deus/Homo as a metaphor for that indwelling, and sought to determine the "limits" of the metaphor, but did not find any. By "limit", I mean that an aspect of the metaphor is contradicted by Scriptures or has no support because an alternative interpretation is taught. When that aspect of the metaphor is elaborated, the metaphor is said to "fail". For instance, the metaphor of the Church as the Bride of Christ fails when one asks whether the Bridegroom has sex with his Bride (real bridegrooms do), and whether they have children (many real couples attempt to do so), and whether the Bride as Mother nurses the child (many real mothers do). These aspects of the metaphor cause it to fail because we cannot find any scriptures that can be reasonably interpreted to support that Jesus, in the role of Bridegroom in the metaphor, does any of these things to the Church, which is the bride in the metaphor. Paul used the metaphor to emphasize the necessity of the Bride being pure when presented to the Bridegroom. John the Baptist used it to emphasize the importance of Jesus (Bridegroom) relative to himself (Groomsman) when it came to those who believed (Bride).
Another example of a metaphor that crashes and burns in spectacular fashion is that of the Trinity, whose "members" are named Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The leader of the Moonies proclaimed that the Christian trinity was incomplete because Father and Son implies a family, and the Mother is missing. He then proclaimed that he had come to complete the "Trinity" of Father, Mother, and Son. He naturally named himself as the Father, his wife as the Mother, and their somewhat stout boy as the Son. The mystery of the Trinity (a word not found in the Scriptures) is something that gives me headaches when I think about it, but it was Jesus who chose the words "Father" and "Son" to describe the nature of the relationship between himself and the Deity to whom he prayed: the source of failure is due to the metaphor being woefully inadequate when trying to describe the natural history of a being like Deus. Despite the inadequacy of the labelling, Jesus felt strongly enough about what the metaphor did imply to acknowledge being God's Son to the Sanhedrin, thus committing blasphemy in their judgment. I think it needs an operational treatment, which is the intellectual tool that Physicists reach for when all other methods of describing reality have failed. (If you are using operationalism to approach a subject, you have not reached the bottom of the physicist toolkit barrel. It IS the bottom of the physicist toolkit barrel. If it fails you, there is nothing left to bring to bear on the subject.)
This discussion of metaphor is to emphasize the fact that metaphors have limits. A metaphor is when you mentally apply your knowledge about one independent entity to help you understand another independent entity. The metaphor fails because the two entities are actually different, having some properties that are the same and some that are different. When teaching electricity, many textbooks appeal to plumbing as a metaphor, seeking to create a mental picture where the behavior of electrons in a circuit can be understood in terms of the behavior of water in pipes. Ironically, when teaching plumbing, the textbooks appeal to the behavior of electricity in wires as a metaphor that helps one understand the behavior of water in pipes! Each can serve as a metaphor for the other. However, the metaphors have limits: water in pipes do not kill you in the same way that electricity can, so it would be fatal to treat electricity as if it really was like water in all respects. At some time, the textbooks about electricity must stop talking about plumbing and start talking about electricity because electricity is not plumbing. Obviusly, the textbooks about plumbing must do the same with regard to using electricity as a metaphor for plumbing.
Thus, the "it's a metaphor" counterargument actually does have a basis in reality that gives it strength and validity. However, because it has inherent strenth, it has immense power to generate real damage if wielded inappropriately. One has to use it carefully. Being aware that this counterargument had validity, I knew that if I was going to use symbiosis as a metaphor for the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then I would have to find the limits so that, if any were fatal, I could warn my hearers of where the metaphor failed, so they wouldn't have false ideas and be led into unwise actions.
However, if Symbiosis is not a metaphor, but the actual thing that the Holy Spirit is doing, then an entirely different set of problems arise if we invalidly treat it as a metaphor. In this case, the "its a metaphor" counterargument, if accepted, would not lead to the avoidance of error, but to the avoidance of truth. One could argue that an invalid application of "its a metaphor" is not fatal based on a prudence argument that it is better to be ignorant of a truth (which is not fatal) than embrace error (which is fatal). However, the prudence argument is actually a two-edged sword and can be turned around, for it obviously would be prudent to know the truth about a situation or phenomenon that leads to the rejection of the error that is currently believed to be true about that same situation or phenomenon.
In other words, if the actual truth is being invalidly regarded as a metaphor, then it stands to reason that either a metaphor is being regarded as the truth (the very thing the "It's a metaphor" counterargument is supposed to prevent!), or the existence of the truth as a true reality is being denied.
We should be honest and say that this is often the case, not only in matters of religion, but in a lot of many other areas of human endeavor as well. People tend not to like hearing or giving an answer of "I don't know" to important questions posed to them, especially if they feel they need to be regarded as experts in the field of the question being posed. They may be honest in trying to give an answer to the question, but they can be honestly wrong if the truth is actually unknown.
Misapplied Metaphors and The Realities They Represent
To illustrate the possible errors and problems that would arise from mistakenly regarding a truth as a metaphor, imagine an absent minded professor or instructor who walks into a classroom and starts teaching about electricity by using plumbing as the metaphor for electricity. As he proceeds, the students display signs of becoming more and more puzzled, stumped, and stymied in their understanding. The professor becomes irritated: How could these people not understand plumbing?
Then he realizes that the class IS the plumbing class.
What was the professor's problem? He thought he was teaching electricity, assumed that the students needed help in understanding it, and was using plumbing as a metaphor. However, the students were not learning electricity, but plumbing. Their reality was being taught as if it was a metaphor, and not the real thing.
Why would there be confusion while the professor was using the metaphor? Because good teachers use phrases like "in the same way", "like", and "is similar to", to ensure that the metaphor (plumbing) is distinguished from the thing its employment is intended to illuminate (electricity). They are code phrases that a responsible teacher would employ to remind their students that the metaphor is not exact and is intended as an aid to understanding the real thing. However, if the thing being used as a metaphor (plumbing) is actually that thing being taught (plumbing), then all those "code phrases" to distinguish the two are not only unnecessary, but are a distraction that creates confusion, not understanding or competence.
Another stumbling point of treating a reality as if it was a metahor is a bit more subtle: if we're using water and plumbing as a metaphor for electricity, then there are some aspects of plumbing that do not apply to electricity, and to avoid confusion, we'd have to say that "those parts don't apply here". That is, there are parts of the metaphor that are "incidental" when applied to the target of the metaphor. "Fluff" so to speak. However, if we mistakenly apply plumbing as a metaphor to itself, then all the parts apply. Nothing is invalid. There is no "fluff". The parts that we say "don't apply here" when it comes to electricity DO apply when it comes to plumbing, and saying that they don't (when they actually do) will cause confusion and as much misapplication of the lesson as taking a metaphor too far. In such a case, we are telling a non-truth because we are taking an actual aspect of reality and representing it as a non-aspect that has no reality.
Thus, we see that metaphor in scripture is a sword with two edges. We are familiar with the edge that warns about taking a metaphor too far, and I cited just two examples at the beginning of this page. The "Its just a metaphor" argument is a necessary part of this edge that give it its sharpness, for I am inclined to think that a lot of the "heresies" and "schisms" in the Church (past and present) come from not rightly dividing the word of truth by fixing excessive attention on a specific metaphor and taking it too far into inapplicable areas. Rightly dividing a scriptural metaphor means figuring out which parts apply and which parts are incidental. (A related problem is cited by C.S. Lewis in his book "The Abolition of Man", where one specific principle that has to be interpreted within a context of a set of related and compensating principles is exalted and made the chief truth in light of which all others are interpreted, and which all those other are not permitted to judge or moderate. The book itself is Lewis' attempt to address the beginnings of what we now call deconstructionism.)
However, there is the other edge, which is declaring a reality a metaphor: Because it is known that some parts of a "metaphor" do not apply, declaring a reality a metaphor allows someone to say that something that is part of that reality is "incidental". If that "incidental" is actually a critical part of the metaphor, then the whole point of using the metaphor to teach that critical point is lost, as well as the critical point needing to be taught. If it is discovered that the teaching is not metaphorical, then all the points could be critical, including the one declared to be "incidental".
So is Symbiosis a metaphor, or is it the truth? If I was using Symbiosis as a metaphor, then where the thesis conflicts with scripture, it can be passed off as incidental if I have problems reconciling it. No big deal, for all metaphors have limits, and Symbiosis-as-metaphor would not be an exception. However, if I claim that Symbiosis is not a metaphor but an accurate description of reality and the actual way the Divine interacts with repentant humanity, then the conflicting scriptures need to be addressed with more effort. They may require admitting that the critics are correct and that I must give up my belief that Symbiosis is a biblical doctrine, returning it to being a (very good) metaphor. They may require a new way of looking or dividing the scriptures, which may be good or bad, depending on how it is done. It may require tweaking how to apply Symbiosis, which is a good way of improving how we live it or teach it.
Thus, you see why I hesitated when it came to transitioning from "Symbiosis is a metaphor of ..." to "Symbiosis is ...": There is potential for heresy that must be guarded against. But there was also a potential for seeing truths that had been hidden because they had been ignored because they were dimly understood in those days, and thus are considered "metaphorical incidentals" today. We can't really say that Jesus or the Disciples would have called what was happening to them "symbiosis", because the term did not exist until the 19th century to describe a biological reality that they did not notice or recognize in nature. On the other hand, to argue that what they were experiencing was not Symbiosis because they didn't use a greek word of modern construction to name a phenomenon wasn't even noticed by anyone back then is to be quite unreasonable. Ancient peoples of different cultures did not use the word "eclipse" to describe the imposition of the moon directly between themselves and the sun, but we would be rightly criticized of malevolently reading of their accounts if they described phenomenon that fits the description of a solar eclipse while maintaining that they had not witnessed an eclipse, giving as a reason that they had not used our word "eclipse" in their accounts to describe it!
And there is a further implication to realizing the difference beween a metaphor and a truth: a metaphor is intended to be a teaching aid to foster understanding of the truth, and so should be discarded for another if it fails in its purpose of aiding the understanding of the truth. However, if the supposed "metaphor" is the truth, then dropping it if you do not understand it is not an option: you have to follow it, no matter where it goes or how difficult the process of understanding it happens to be. To put it another way, the usefulness of a metaphor is derivative, in that it is only useful if it helps one to understand the truth, while the truth is intrinsically valuable in itself, independent of the metaphors used by people to describe that truth.
So Is It Real, or is It Only a Metaphor?
The key question being asked by this essay is "Is Symbiosis real, or to be regarded as a metaphor?" My assertion is that it is indeed real, even though my understanding of it is currently (February, 2009) somewhat incomplete, mostly due to the need to clear away misconceptions and preconceptions created, for the most part, by the very same individuals who claim that I am being heretical in proposing that Symbiosis is a doctrine.
However, before I defend myself against the accusation of proposing heresy, all sides need to know the criteria for what is and is not heretical and untruthful doctrine.
Why the Need For Criteria?
This essay is an expanded extract of the first version of "In Christ", which was the second essay written about two weeks after "Pentecost". This one is being written after "The Symbiotic Refinery" was written and published, which came after Stage 1 was completed as was the initial version of "Manual Override". As I wrote all those essays, I could sense the Holy Spirit leading me, guiding me, tossing me clues, suggesting thoughts, and pointing me to writers or speakers who would toss the clues for Him. All during this time I worked at cooperating with Him more and more, learning from my (few) failures and enjoying my (many) successes. And as I did so, I found that the content and information in the original version of "In Christ" and "Manual Override", were becoming less and less relevant. This was not true with the other essays. I was not initially worried for I found that I had to mentally settle some concept in my mind before I could proceed with an essay, and perhaps I should have kept silence and not published what I had written provisionally.
However, as the months passed, I gradually found myself in a situation whose existence and the manner by which it came about created two problems serious enough to cause me to question the scriptural validity of my experience. I will summarize each one in turn.
Falling in Love with the "Wrong" Person
My first problem centered around the very real fact that I was falling madly, deeply, and passionately in love with the Holy Spirit. This realization came to my attention while I was reading "The Shack". I was able to accept Mr. Young's depiction of Papa (the Father). I was pleased at his portrayal of Jesus. Yet, I violently and vehemently disagreed with what he put in Sarayu's (the Holy Spirit's) mouth near the end of the chapter that took place in the garden behind "the shack". It was the part where Mack tried to voice his objections to an aspect of the Godhead's working, and Sarayu kept interrupting, finishing with the comment that he had no right to expect to not be interrupted by God. I was livid as I flung the book into a corner and left it there for a month, thinking "I know the Holy Spirit! That is not the Holy Spirit I know!" I vividly recall what I would have said if I was at "the shack": I would look at God the Father (Papa) and say, "I don't know you.". I would have looked at Jesus and said, "You are nowhere near me, so I don't know you either." I would have looked at the Holy Spirit and sighed, with deep feeling, "You and me forever!"
My problem should be obvious: there are a large number of texts straightforwardly interpreted by numerous preachers, bible writers, bible expositors, and bible teachers, that state that as we grow in the Faith we should grow to love Jesus Christ more and more. That was not my experience, for while my appreciation for Jesus and the Father indeed grew, my love and affection were becoming more and more fixed upon and enamored with the Holy Spirit.
How did this happen? I have previously likened the process of being "led unto all truth" as being similar to Elliot leading ET to himself by laying down a trail of Reece's Pieces that the hunger driven alien followed to his personal encounter with the boy who laid them down. Like all analogies, it is not exact, for Elliot's personality could not be discerned in the Reece's Pieces he dropped. In contrast, every leading thought, suggestion, and remonstance tossed by the Holy Spirit into my mental bitstream inevitably bore the imprint of His personality. I have come to understand that when Jesus talked about His sheep "knowing" his voice in John 10, he intended to be taken literally, for I have come to recognize a particular flavor, tone, and manner of presentation of those thoughts that is subtly and distinctively different from my own thoughts.
Falling in Love for the Wrong Reason?
What comes to mind when you hear the word "Sovereign"? I don't know about you, but terms like "Despot", "Control Freak", "Tyrant", "Willful", "Narcissistic", "Self-centered", "Proud", "Self-absorbed", "Bossy", "Domineering", and "Self-consumed" spring to mind. The second problem I was having was that these words simply did not describe the behavior, attitude, and approach that I saw the Holy Spirit adopting toward and within me, expressing itself by that particular flavor, tone, and manner of presentation of the thoughts coming from the Holy Spirit that were related to His leading me into the insights that I was documenting in these essays. However, the number of thoughts related to the research project amounted to about 10% of the total, with the remainder either devoted to informing me of how much He loved me or carrying out the various functions described in the other essays. Even as I write these words, mentally verifying these proportions, it occured to me that "collaboration" was a very poor word to use to describe what has amounted to a very subtle and cleverly conducted seduction. I will discuss, as a part of Stage 2, how the Holy Spirit speaks to us through music, but the first glimmer of the realization of the kind of relationship I was getting into (and enjoying greatly) was when, through this song, the Spirit told me that "it doesn't matter if we make it or not. We got each other, and that's a lot for love." The point was not to work together to get my life to "work". The point was not even to work together. The point is to be together. Period. Full stop. Everything else is work intended to help us stay together, or work intended to get Him to be together with someone who He isn't together with now.
The point I am trying to make is that my second problem was that the concepts and mental attitudes that are attributed to God when a Calvinist or a preacher declares "God is Sovereign! He is not Santa Claus, nor a bellhop, nor your servant, nor your maid, but the RULER OF THE UNIVERSE, so what He says goes, and if you don't do what He says, you are damned!" simply do not square with the attributes and behavior of the God living within me every day. Words like "meek", "servant", "cooperative", "interested", "involved", "respectful", "affectionate", "concerned", "wry", "pithy", "observant", "wise", "long suffering", "patient", "intense", "kind", "passionately loving", and a raft of others of like nature definitely do apply.
It should be obvious that the two problems I have stated are inter-related, for while the characteristics being actually displayed by the Holy Spirit were at odds to what Calvinistic preaching leads people to think about God, they are characteristics that, when expressed in words and deeds, make the one expressing them irresistably lovable. Put another way, if someone here on earth lived and displayed the same character traits I experience from the Holy Spirit, then they would be declared the best of Christians and be mobbed by people wanting to be their friend and lover. Indeed, one of the "soft" methods of evangelism advocates that Christians should display these very characteristics to win influence and a hearing for the Gospel. Yet, in some strange way, characteristics that are enthusiastically recommended for human Christians to emulate are regarded as uncharacteristic of the "sovereign" God that those Christians purportedly worship, but which attract people by the droves! On the other hand, when people practice the characteristics of their Sovereign God, they become so oppressivly domineering that people run away from them! So in what possible sense are we to "be like" Jesus when the Jesus we supposedly are to imitate no longer exists?
The Need for Correct Criteria
It took a while, but this engineering proverb about fighting alligators, helped me to realize that my real problem with the two problems I have given was that I had the incorrect criteria for determining if I was producing valid, good, and correct results. To be sure, agreement of one's findings to the findings of previous researchers is a fairly good criterion for success and goodness, but it assumes that the previous work was equally successful and good. The methodology of this site is based on applying engineering methodologies and practices to perform theological research rather than those methods and practices used by Philosophy and classical academic and denominational Theology. I had failed, however, to realize that, if the traditional methods were being called into question, then their criteria of success and correctness also had to be challenged.
One of the favorite cartoons of engineers is "Dilbert". One of the themes that dominate many of the individual strips involves the travails that the software engineers suffer at the hands of their "pointy haired" boss that center around the conflict between the engineering values and and criteria for success that Dilbert and his co-workers hold and the management values and criteria held by his boss. The imposition of values and criteria incompatible with good engineering results cause a lot of grief and the unnecessary expenditure of excess sweat and toil producing products that simply do not work and do not sell, both in the cartoon and in real life. Ask any engineer who works in a corporate environment about this in private, and they will attest to the existence of this sore affliction. Ask a contract engineer why he is a free-lancer, and I would bet money that they will cite the clash between engineering and management values and criteria as their reason for escaping that lifestyle.
If I have to toss out the traditional ideas about the Holy Spirit and use new methodologies and practices to come up with new ones, then it is obvious that the traditional ideas about criteria for goodness and success need to be re-examined as well for validity.
Criteria for Determining Good and Evil Doctrine
Let's start by stepping back a moment and asking ourselves the question "What IS the purpose of doctrine?" Here is Paul's definition from 1 Timothy 1:3-11, which I will quote and comment upon in line:
3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
The command being given to Timothy is to charge teachers in Ephesus that they teach no other doctrine, so it seems that those who are zealous for purity of doctrine and who are wary of any new doctrine have support in this verse for their behavior. In light of the commendation given to the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7, it seems that Timothy not only discharged his task well, but was able to teach others how to do the same.
4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.
A fable is a just-so story used as a vehicle to teach a moral. William Barclay, in his commentary on First Timothy, says that the reference to endless geneaologies refers to Gnostic belief that God created a hierarchy of powers to create the world from pre-existing matter that the Gnostics held to be evil. Paul contrasts the output of the Gnostic doctrine (paying attention to fables and the architecture of unscriptural power hierarchies) with the output of true doctrine, which produces godly edification which is done by faith.
5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: 6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;
The phrase "the end of the commandment" does not mean that the Law of God ceases to exist when the good qualities in verse 5 are exhibited, but rather that producing those qualities is the goal of the commandment. The first two qualities cited are obviously some of the Fruit of the Spirit. The third, a "faith unfeigned", is of particular importance to the Spirit of Truth, who has serious issues with people faking righteousness.
7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. 8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;
This passage opens up a can of worms for any potential critics of any new teaching (which is what "doctrine" means in the Latin language from which it came). It is certainly the case that any teacher of new doctrine should be competent and know what they are doing. However, the critics should also be competent and know what they are doing as well, otherwise this would be a case of the "blind leading the sighted"! I should point out that one of the unforseen benefits that exploring the implications of Symbiosis has produced is not only a revised and improved way of looking at the relationship between Law and Grace, but I further claim that the symbiotic methodology I call Variance Management is the best way to use the Law lawfully that actually works to tame sinful compulsions and desires.
9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; 11 According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.
The Law defines that which is evil and "contrary to sound doctrine", which are listed in verses 9 and 10 (with a clause that effectively states that the list is not a complete one). In this case, the "Sound Doctrine" is defined to Timothy as the sound teachings of the Gospel of God as entrusted to Paul the Apostle.
The thrust of this passage is that all doctrine ("teaching" in Latin) produces results in people's lives. Good and sound doctrine produces good results (v 5), while bad and unsound doctrine produces evil results (v. 9,10). In other words, the doctrines are judged by their fruits, and the teachers are subsequently judged by the sort of fruit their doctrine produces.
It is important to see what Paul is not saying in verse 10. He is not saying that evil doctrine is contrary to sound doctrine, but that evil doctrine produces results that are contrary to the results of sound doctrine. Doctrines are not judged by how they stack up against other doctrines, but by the fruit they produce.
Time for me to be blunt: Modern Christendom has adopted criteria for judging correct and incorrect doctrine that are at odds to those established by Jesus Christ and which Paul was telling Timothy to follow. Here is Jesus' criterion, as given in Matthew 5:15-20:
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Jesus was not one to propose standards to be followed by others but to which he was personally exempt. Note the following exchange from John 14 that took place during the Last Supper and ask yourself if Jesus is excusing himself from the standard that he be judged by his fruits in the highlighted portion of of verse 11:
4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. 5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. 7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. 8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. 9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? 10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.
I am aware of the importance many attach to having correct doctrine, and who are rightly concerned about whether any new teaching is doctrinal or herectical. No one disputes that every doctrine, every teaching, has consequences. However, there is a right way to judge a teaching and a wrong way. The wrong way to judge a doctrine is to determine how that doctrine fits into the framework generated by previously accepted doctrines. Those who hold to this method of proving doctrine view judging fruit as a "quick and dirty first cut" where bad fruit is held as definite proof of the falsity of a suspected doctrine, but good fruit is regarded as irrelevant to answering the question of doctrinal purity authoritatively. This is a manifestation of "Theology-as-philosophy", which emphasizes the consensus of experts and consistency of the new teaching with accepted methods and beliefs as the proper means of determining correctness. In contrast, the right way (i.e. the way that Jesus and Paul used and what we ought to use) to judge a doctrine (and its teacher) puts the proof on the production of good fruit. This results-based orientation is reflective of "Theology-as-Engineering", which is the research methodology being used to perform the research reported on this website.
The whole point of enforcing doctrine is to ensure that bad teaching does not interfere with the development of good fruit because, as I have pointed out, every teaching produces consequences that manifests itself as fruit. Take every heresy encountered by the church in the past and you'll find that each one had practical consequences that resulted in the disappearance of one or more of the Fruit of the Spirit in those who taught it, in those who believed it, and in those who practiced it. Recall that the Ephesian church, though praised for being zealous in detecting and exposing the teachers of bad doctrine, were at the same time faulted for abandoning their first love. (Given that John was writing that passage, and was the bishop of Ephesus and taught there, and given that he has the title of "the apostle of love", I have to imagine him wincing visibly and thinking "Ooookaaaay. Back to the drawing board!" (or whatever the equivalent was in the first century AD)). The corrective action was to realize their fallenness (lack of fruit), repent (be sorry they stopped producing that fruit), and do the first works (which brought about the desired fruit the first time around). The reference to "first works" brings up Ephesians 5:1-20, which the church members would have doubtlessly recalled. That passage explicitly references the fruit of the Spirit and urges the members to display it while striving not to "have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph. 5:11).
An aside: one has to admire the rugged engineering practicality of the advice given to the Ephesians by the Risen Jesus. What they did at first brought forth good fruit. What they are doing now is not bringing forth good fruit. It makes perfectly good engineering sense to realize that, if you want the fruit you showed in the past, you stop doing what you're doing now that isn't producing the fruit now, and start doing what DID produce the fruit back then so you produce the fruit now.
Applying the Criteria
While Paul urges us to examine ourselves, Jesus urges us not to judge according to appearance, but to judge with righteous judgment. The following passage is from John 7:21-24:
21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. 22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. 23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? 24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
Here is some background to situate this passage correctly: The Law of Moses reiterated a command made previously by God to Abraham ("from the fathers") that required that male infants be circumcised on the 8th day of life. Since babies are born every day, some will be born on days when the 8th day would fall on the Jewish Sabbath. Jesus points out that the Jewish leaders were quite okay with "mutiliating" babies (AKA circumcision) on the Sabbath Day but declared Jesus a sabbath breaker when he healed someone on the Sabbath. It should be noted that pre-born babies do not have a functioning immune system, but derive protection from their mother's antibodies. At birth, their immune system kicks into action and starts making antibodies. At the same time, the antibodies from the mother are burned off and not replenished because the umbilical cord has been cut. The total inventory of antibodies in the baby, both from mother and child, starts going up because the infants production rate more than makes up for the burnoff rate of the mother's antibodies. Measurements show that the inventory of antibodies in the baby as a percent of blood volume reaches its peak on the 8th day after birth, never to be equalled naturally during the rest of the baby's lifetime. Thus, NOT following the Law of Moses would actually have been disadvantageous to the baby because at no other time than at the divinely appointed time would the potential harm to the baby from the circumcision would have been minimised..
Jesus' complaint was not that the Sabbath was being broken in order to keep the Law of Moses (for doing so was advantageous to the baby), but that the leaders were angry with Jesus for making a man whole on the Sabbath Day (which was advantageous to the healed man). Here's where things get interesting, for there is no commandment in the Law of Moses that prohibited healing people on the Sabbath Day. Rather, the religious leaders were condemning Jesus for violating a rule that they had derived from the Scriptures and consequently treated as equivalent to Scripture. In the Torah, God left the definition of "work" open, only distinguishing between "work" and "laborous work" without defining the difference in that case either. Feeling the need to define it for the people (so as to tell whem what was acceptable and what was not), the religious leaders took a verse from the Torah that stated that the people worked on the Tabernacle and used that as a justification to enumerate all the tasks that were involved in building the Tabernacle. It was by that definition that patching people up after workplace accidents was counted as work.
Although done for religious purposes, that determination was purely a human-originated effort with no divine support or sanction. Contrast this unsupported effort to enumerate what God, by His silence, left up to the individual to the definition of clean and unclean meats. God not only gave an effective definition that would apply outside of the Middle East, but also went further by giving a list of animals and insects that were prohibited and permitted for consumption. The existence of such a list meant that God was not adverse to generating lists if doing so eliminated doubts and questions about His requirements. The fact that He chose not to give a list when it came to defining "work not to be done on the Sabbath" meant that He had chosen to delegate that determination to the individual. For the religious leaders to perform that determination and present the result of their own work and effort as a religious requirement mandated by God whose violation merited divine and human punishment was an unjustified usurpation made under false pretenses that Jesus fought against throughout his ministry.
Stoned on a Technicality?
In emphasizing that prophets should be judged by their fruit rather than their conformance to previously established doctrine, Jesus was not being radical or rebellious, but following the example set by His Father's actions in the Old Testament. I refer to the experience of Jonah the Prophet.
It does not matter if you, my reader, do not happen to believe that there was an individual named Jonah, or believe that he was swallowed by a fish in response to a storm sent by God or who turned the entire City of Nineveh to God. What matters is that Jesus believed that Jonah existed as demonstrated in these Scriptures here, here, and here. This belief in Jonah's reality is essential because the story is not only about Jonah and the Ninevites, but also about God, for a fairy tale would not be taken as authoritative in its take on God's behavior. The part of the narrative that interests us starts in Jonah 3:
1 And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. 3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. 4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
I am aware of a considerable number of Pastors and Seminary professors who would strongly disapprove of the message Jonah gave and the manner it was given. Except...
5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. 6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
How bad was Nineveh? So bad, that they felt the necessity to have even their animals participate in the mourning and the fasting! I have no idea what they had to have done to their animals (or with their animals) to make them think they had to do that, but it had to be BAD.
10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
Apparently, not bad enough to keep God from noting their repentance and extending mercy to them.
At this point, one would think that everything was hunky-dory: The Ninevites are spared, God is happy, and a wonderful portrait of God's Judgement tempered by His mercy is painted. Everybody is happy, right?
1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. 2 And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. 4 Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?
5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.
I shall leave Jonah under his booth, refrain from the usual criticism people with less sense and a desire to show an outward piety would say, and ask why the man was so visibly upset. Note that he gave, as his reason for running away, not that he was sure of failure, but that he was sure of success. The man knew himself. He knew he would succeed. He was so successful in converting people that, even the people who threw him overboard while he tried to run away from God afterwards swore allegiance to the God of Israel.
Jonah was also sure of His God, for he knew that God would spare the Ninevites because he knew God personally. Notice that all the miracles in the book of Jonah are nature miracles, demonstrating the power that God has over his creation. But also note that each and all of them was worked for the exclusive and personal benefit of Jonah himself. The relationship between Jonah and God had to be incredible for God to be so motivated to work with Jonah like this!
We have to comprehend the enormity of what Jonah had accomplished through God's help to comprehend the incredible stupidity of the threat that hung over the prophet. The last time a man of God totally upset the geo-politics of the Ancient Middle East was Abraham. Single-handedly, Jonah had taken the region's superpower and turned it into a potential ally of Judah based on religious affiliation. There would have been two nations following Yahweh, one of them the political and military 800 pound gorilla of the day. To really appreciate what Jonah had done, we would be hearing modern day Israelis referring to the United States as their "modern day Nineveh", and we would be proud of it. All that was necessary to forever alter the future history of the Middle East were a few Levites and a few copies of the Torah to move into Nineveh and solidify the revival.
So why was he upset? Perhaps it was because the man knew his people as well, and he knew that the pinhead ancestors of the Sadducees and Pharisees would quote this passage from Deuteronomy 18:20-22:
20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. 21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? 22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
The most successful revivalist prophet of the entire Old Testament would be stoned on a technicality with the full approval of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and any other modern day monitor of doctrinal purity that would judge him by appearances and not by his fruit. Jonah begged for death at the Hand of God, because that death would have been swifter and more merciful than the stoning he would have received from the hands of his own, doubtlessly very "pious", countrymen.
The story of Jonah is left hanging. We do not know what Jonah's response was to God's personal object lesson recounted in Jonah 4, but I am sure the purpose was to make the hearers of this story think about the possibilities that were lost. Keep in mind that the culture in which this account arose was the same culture that judged its prophets by Deuteronomy 18:20-22, so I think they would have been thinking about their response to this extraordinary prophet's dilemma. In hopes that we will also, I will not comment further on it either.
The Practical Consequences of One Specific Bad Doctrine
I have stated before that every doctrine has consequences. That's another way of saying that every doctrine bears fruit. Jesus' criterion tells us that the teacher of that doctrine will be the first to bear the kind of fruit that the doctrine they teach inevitably produces.
However, there is an invalid doctrine whose effect is so debilitating that it needs to be specifically addressed. The debilitating effect of this doctrine is illustrated by the following incident that only appears to start and end at Matthew 16:1-4:
1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? 4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
Once again, the chapter/verse coordinate system imposed on the Scriptures does us a disservice by blunting the import of this passage, for in the original text the passage preceeding this one (the tail end of Matthew 15) is the miracle of the feeding of the 4000. The obvious intention of Matthew was that this passage be read within the context of the after-effects of that miracle's performance. Having done an incredible miracle of mass feeding a second time, Jesus is essentially being told by the Pharisees and Sadducees "That's not good enough! You show us the miracle WE want!"
Jesus' response to this is to rebuke them for inconsistently applying the principle of making deductions based on the observation of facts. They had no problem knowing what the weather was going to be based on a two-variable observation derived from cloud color and time of observation. In Jesus' example, the sky is red in both cases but the predictions are different based on the time of the observation. Jesus calls them hypocrites for being able to make accurate weather predictions using a more complicated protocol that demanded more intelligence to apply than what would be required to determine that he was the Messiah!
The follow-on to this passage after "he left them and departed" is equally pertinent. Here is Matthew 16:5-12:
5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? 9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Matthew is being charitable regarding the disciples' level of understanding in verse 12. The parallel account in Mark 8:11-21 is more blunt and explicit:
10 And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha. 11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. 13 And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side. 14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. 15 And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. 16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread. 17 And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? 18 Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? 19 When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. 20 And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. 21 And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?
People don't seem to have a problem criticising the Pharisees and Sadducees for an inability to recognize good fruit, even after having chewed on it and sent it down their own gullet. Rational people would have good justification for asking "If Jesus feeding the four thousand with seven loaves isn't a sign from heaven, then what is?" In the same way, if the highlighted portions do not constitute an invitation by Jesus to run the numbers, then I don't know what he would have to say to get people to understand that he wants them to run the numbers.
Running the Numbers
One has to think of the power of Jesus multiplying loaves to feed people like a generator that takes in loaves, drives a load of people being fed, and outputs left-over loaves at the end of the meal. Jesus wanted the disciples to figure out the behavior of the generator in various circumstances so they could figure out how it could be used in their current situation. Between two different incidents, the load is greater (5000 men versus 4000), the input is lower (five loaves versus seven), yet the left-over loaves thrown out as output is greater (twelve basketsful versus seven). Most generators fail under greater load or when input is cut, but that is not the case here. The obvious implication is that Jesus feeding the disciples from one loaf was very much possible, but there was going to be very little left over.
In view of the fact that Jesus is demanding that the miracles be observed to come up with facts to make logical deductions about his capabilities, and from that to draw spiritual conclusions, I will "turn it up". Using Einstein's equation E=mc2, then each meal of about five ounces of fish and four of bread (after the first three or four) would have to be condensed from 5,500 billion food calories worth of energy. This is the total heat output a nuclear power plant running at 100% power has to generate to produce 900 megawatts of electricity for 92 days. The actual figure is 2.3x1016 joules per meal (a mere 5.4 megatons). Worldwide power consumption from all energy resources is 1.6x1013 joules per second. A large Pacific hurricane expends 3x1013 joules per second at its peak and lasts about 14 days total from birth to death, so the total energy output would not exceed 3.6x1019 joules. Most authorities multiply the figures of men fed by four to account for women and children in the crowds, so the total power output to feed everyone in the crowd of 4000 men roughly equals the total power output of ten Pacific hurricanes (3.68x1020 joules). This makes the feeding of the 5000 and 4000 the first and second most energy intensive miracles performed by Jesus, with the extinguishing the storm on the sea of Galilee being the third most energy intensive. I have calculated on this page that moving a mountain would come in somewhere between those two miracles if the disciples had had the faith (and the need) to actually do it. I leave out the miracles of Joshua telling the sun to stop in the sky and the shadow on the steps of Hezekiah's palace going backwards 10 degrees since I am not sure that these are manipulations of the earth's rotation or of light paths. The rotational energy of the earth is about 2.52x1029 joules, meaning those miracles had to involve the manipulation of 5x1029 and 1030 joules respectively if the earth, rather than light, was manipulated to achieve the noted effects. At the other end of the scale, I am supremely confident that the energy Jesus manipulated to heal people could not possibly exceed 50,000 food calories, which is the amount of energy required to completely vaporize all the water in the body of a 220 pound man. I am also supremely confident that if Jesus had accidentally flash steamed anyone coming to him for healing, we would have been made aware of that incident through secular or Jewish sources.
I will now say that, unlike everything else written on this website, I do not apologize if the preceeding two paragraphs (and the linked page) made the eyes of you, my non-technical readers, glaze over. However, you are beneficiaries of high technology products that first began as e-mails and reports written in language similar to that written above. I can also say that a manager with no technical competence had to read those reports and had experienced a similar effect. What I cannot tell you is the number of managers who, having read such reports and had decided not to go forward with the proposed product due to a fear born of their technical ignorance of what they were reading, have later come to privately hope that nobody figures out that it was they who had nixed the production of a product with an innovation that a competitor incorporated in a product they put out that came to dominate the market. I have heard the rumor that Spielburg originally wanted to use M&M's instead of Reece's Pieces in the ET baiting sequence, but that someone at Mars Corporation had said no. In the light of the jump in sales of Reece's Pieces after "ET" came out, I would have to say that, if true, that "someone" at Mars Corporation doubtless hoped that nobody at the company would figure out it was him or her who made that decision that lost them those sales to their competition. I am also sure that, if the Mars Corporation had figured out who that person was, that that person is either no longer employed at that company or is back on the production floor in a slot with no prospects of promotion and with no power or authority to make such bone headed decisions ever again. My point is that God does not lack the ability to find out who is making similar bad decisions about teachings that produce good fruit.
A good doctrine does not automatically produce its fruit, but produces it only in those who understand it to the point of making logically correct deductons based on it and acting on those deductions. As best as I can tell, every real Christian engineer who has read the above discussion has never looked at a church food closet the same way ever again. The amount of energy Jesus expended to deliver 900 food calories is truly appreciated and comprehended by such people. Personally, after having calculated the figure of 5,500 billion calories, I got the overpowering urge to buy several bags of groceries that wound up in my church's food pantry. I have subsequently made it a practice to toss in the ingredients for a single family meal taken from a collection of sample menus developed by Dan Elder, the former coordinator of the food pantry. In my book, that counts as bearing good fruit.
But if we limited the impact of the information previously given to only how it motivates us to feed the hungry, we do so unnecessarily and to our loss. Jesus, and the Father through Him, thought nothing of tossing about teracalories of energy to wrap 800 calories into an edible form. If the rotation of the earth was affected when Hezekiah chose for the shadow to go backwards 10 degrees, then the most energetic miracle ever recorded in the Bible outside of Genesis, both New and Old Testaments, was performed to assure a king that he was going to get better. We are talking about numbers with more zeroes than the national debt of the United States, but by some incredible FOUL UP of our theology, we have somehow come to believe that God can't spare a measly 50,000 calories to perform a miracle of healing? That He won't deliver an amount of energy to help heal a person that little old ladies delightedly deliver in staggeringly copious amounts via the pies, cakes, and cookies they bring to a Church potluck? I do not know about you, but based on what I have personally experienced of God and His character, I am firmly convinced that the problem does not reside in Him, but in that part of my anatomy that is comfortably contained in the hard hat that I don when I go into the power block where I work.
Analyzing the Passages
But the last few paragraphs are a digression from the goal of learning the real lesson of these two passages. There are a few times in the Scriptures where Jesus gets really upset, and almost all Christian teachers and leaders seem to avoid those parts of the Scripture, or try really hard to misunderstand the implications of such passages. For these two passages, the lesson generally taught is that if Jesus had chosen such lunkheads to be his disciples, then there is hope for us who are so much smarter than they are! I sometimes wonder if such ignorance is studied or accidental.
In Matthew 16:1-4, Jesus essentially gave us the equivalent of an IQ test for determining those ndividuals who had sufficient brain power to make religious deductions from observations of miracles. The test is if someone is smart enough to take measurements of two different values and come up with an accurate pediction of a natural phenomenon. If your predictions are false then you haven't got what it takes. If they come to pass then you are qualified.
So what set Jesus off? The Pharisees and Sadducees had enough brains to predict the weather so that they would know whether to take an umbrella or how to dress or figure out whether to leave the house or not. The extent of their investment in their predictions was limited to making sure they did not get wet. In contrast, the disciples were fishermen, so correctly predicting the weather was a matter of life and death to them. If anyone had to have the skill and incentive to get their predictions of the weather right, it definitely was Peter, Andrew, James, and John, the professional fishermen in the group. Peter had been doing it for years, so he had to have gotten that aspect of fishing on the Sea of Galilee down right! How many times have computer power users uttered words like Jesus' when confronted with having to fix multiple computer foul-ups by people who, away from the keyboard, clearly demonstrated that they had enough intelligence to do it right if they just paid attention?
This is clearly evidence of a loss of confidence in one's intelligence and ability to correctly figure "stuff" out that Jesus and God are telling them is within their mental span of capability. This lack of confidence is clearly traceable to the implied declaration of those who they regarded as the religious "experts" that Jesus' previous two miracles were inadequate signs from heaven, since Jesus referred to "the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees". Jesus went on to point out the two variables of each feeding (number of loaves brought to him and the number of people fed) and the result (number of baskets of bread left afterwards). Matthew claims they got it after Jesus walked them through the numbers, but he was the tax collector of the group and lived and died by numbers and careful records. Mark's account is acknowledged as being derived from Peter's memory of things, so it appears that the Senior Galilee Fisherman of the group didn't think they got it.
Okay, so the disciples were being worked over for not figuring "something" out. Usually, if you have to figure something out, you have a problem whose solution requires doing that "figuring out". The problem the disciples had is that they were multiple grown men in a boat with one loaf of bread between the lot of them for lunch. It was while they were worrying about the amount of food they had on hand when Jesus made his comment about "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees". The disciples now had two problems: figuring out how to stretch that single loaf of bread into a full meal for all of them, and figuring out what Jesus was talking about. Given the size of boats on the Sea of Galilee, it probably was not a secret to Jesus that they had only one loaf, so they "logically" figured that Jesus was talking about their lack of foresight in bringing bread.
It was when they said "It's because we brought no bread", that Jesus lost it. Why? When confronted twice by the problem of having more people than bread to feed them, the disciples had said the same thing about those people ("they brought no bread with them!"), and had logically concluded that they had to suffer the consequences of their lack of foresight. I confess that I am one of those who have taught that some aspects of suffering do not as much come directly from God, but come from God allowing us to suffer the consequences of our lack of foresight. However, Jesus did not let that lack of foresight stop him from feeing those people. Please re-read the texts again and notice that Jesus addressed the lack of bread in the boat by talking about "running the numbers" of the two miracle feedings. One conclusion Jesus wanted them to make was that their lack of foresight was no reason for him not to miraculously feed them as well. Matthew's account then as Jesus repeating the warning about the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. We will be charitable and say that what Matthew meant was not that they figured out, at that moment, that Jesus was talking about the teaching ("doctrine") of the Pharisees, but that they eventually figured it out afterwards.
But that discussion about bread is somewhat irrelevant because Jesus' reply about bread was an attempt to correct a misunderstanding of his statement, not of that which that statement was warning them against. What was Jesus really trying to warn the disciples about? They were trying to fit Jesus' teaching into the context of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees that they had previously learned. It should be instructive to note that Mark has Jesus asking the disciples "who do you say that I am?" as soon as they were in a private place after this incident. We tend not to tie those two passages together because there is an intervening miracle in verses 22 to 26 that is so instructive in itself and within this context that it bears quoting here:
22 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25 After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. 26 And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.
Please keep this within the sweep of the context that starts in verse 1. After getting lambasted by Jesus, the disciples start observing. The miracle here is a two part one. Jesus performs part one, and asks the man about his vision. The man complains about the "mix up" of what he is seeing. Jesus then performs part two, and the man sees clearly.
Many have siezed on the details of this miracle to argue that Jesus was performing a cateract surgery and had partly botched it. In fact, the man had two problems. The first problem was the lack of eyesight, and was fixed by healing the eyes. The second miracle repaired the subsystem of the brain dedicated to translating the signals from the eyes into conceptual entities. Doubtless, the critics of Jesus living then would have complained about the fact that the miracle required two steps and would have advanced that that was proof Jesus was not who he claimed, implying that "real" miracles would require only one step! Given that they themselves would not be able to perform either step of this miracle is an illustration of what Paul was saying about people teaching the Law who didn't understand the Law (1 Timothy 1:7). The disciples, however, realize that it is results that count. Thus:
27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? 28 And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. 29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. 30 And he charged them that they should tell no man of him. 31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
Note that in verse 33, Jesus again "loses it" and severely rebukes Peter for what he said. What was Peter's problem? He again fell into the habit of mixing the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees with Jesus' teachings. In this case, he wanted to square what Jesus was saying to what the Pharisees and Sadducees taught in favor of the Pharisees and Sadducees. This was so profoundly bad that Jesus saw Peter standing in the place of Satan.
What WAS the Teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees?
What was the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees? The context of the above stretches of scripture makes it appear that the doctrine at issue was the doctrine of the nature of the Messiah. The Pharisees and Sadducees had certain beliefs about the Messiah that implied an agenda different from that of Jesus, the actual Messiah. Those beliefs were not without support from the Old Testament, but Jesus cited a different set of scriptures and drew different conclusions from them. Thus, the real issue was that there was a clash of doctrines based on two different interpretations of Scripture. The Disciples were so infected by the doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees that they were rendered incapable of believing that Jesus would feed them as miraculously as he had fed the 5000 and 4000. The disciples were mislead by the verbal demands of the Pharisees for a "sign from heaven" to conclude that those feedings were not good enough to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus' rebuke to them consisted of him making them to recall the details of the miracles to force them to think about them and their implications. Jesus' rebuke of Peter was when Peter contradicted Jesus' teaching of what would happen to the Messiah in favor with what the Pharisees and Sadducees had taught him about the Messiah.
So there is a conflict between teachings. Between doctrines. Both were founded on scripture, but differed on interpretation and details. How do we decide between the two?
Current methodology and practice would have us believe that Jesus' teaching is the correct one based solely on Jesus' authority. This would accord with the belief that the correctness of doctrine is founded on the consensus of experts determining the conformity of the doctrine in question with prior expert determinations of good and bad doctrine. However, that was the same claim the Pharisees and Sadducees made as well, for were they not the religious leaders and authorities who had been leading Israel and were protecting the people from the Romans long before Jesus was born? They had the authority, not Jesus! Even Jesus admitted that he had not been set as a judge and divider over them, so there!
In contrast, Jesus promulgated the idea that doctrine be judged by the fruit that it produces, and pointed to the fact that his miracles proved his doctrine was correct. When Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus asked Philip to believe his experiences with himself. But failing that, he asked Philip to believe based on the works Jesus did.
The Doctrine about Determining Correct Doctrine
Given the intense interest and concern about "correct" doctrine displayed by authorities past and present who appoint themselves the protectors of the True Faith to the point of historically persecuting the advocates of "incorrect" doctrine, it would be surprising if God had not given us any doctrine about how to determine correct doctrine! The clear teaching of Jesus and the New Testament is that doctrine be judged both by its scriptural foundations and the kind of fruit it produces. Neither he nor the disciples gave any credence to the idea that doctrine be validated by the evaluation of experts with regard to its conformance with doctrines previously vetted and approved by those same experts.
The Connection Between Doctrine and Miracles
From the very beginning of Jesus' ministry, it was realized that Jesus' ability to perform miracles and his doctrine were intimately tied together. The following is from Mark 1:21-27:
21 And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. 22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.
23 And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. 26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.
Jesus was so aware of the fact that his miracles validated that his teachings that when the attempt was made to tie his ability to cast out demons to authority given him by Satan, he countered by noting that such an accusation was an unforgiveable sin against the Holy Spirit. That so many people worry about committing the Unforgiveable Sin without being able to name it specifically that this inability cannot possibly be coincidental or accidental. One wonders if this confusion is due to teaching that obscures the fact that it is a sin that is almost exclusively committed by those who believe they have the ability, power, authority, and responsibility to determine the true origin of miracles as a basis for determining the correctness of that miracle worker's doctrine. The only reason this is not believed today is because those people said it doesn't teach that. Those who teach doctrine to people have the power to mis-teach the doctrine that enables those people to determine if what the teachers are teaching is true or not.
Note the reaction of the "authorities" in this passage from John 9:
26 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? 27 He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? 28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. 29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. 30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. 31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. 34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
The authorities here had no problem recognizing that the attempt by the blind man in verses 30 to 33 to deduce a spiritual truth by connecting scripture and miracle was an attempt to teach a doctrine. The word "teach" in this passage is the word given to those in the act of teaching "doctrine". That they were the authorities is established by the act of casting him out of the Temple.
It should be noted that Jesus did not leave such a one hanging in the unknown for long:
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? 36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
Based on his learned response to the Pharisees, I would say that the blind man was very much a Jew. Here, Jesus was asking him, a good Jew raised to believe that there is only One God, to believe that God had a Son, and that a specific human being was that Son, and that that specific being was talking to him at that moment. This good Jew had the courage of his deductions to not only affirm that belief, but to follow through by giving to that specific human being the worship due only to God, thus becoming the first man since Jesus' infancy to worship Him as He truly was and deserved.
[Edited March 9, 2009]
There are multiple methods employed by the teachers of bad doctrine to avoid giving a reckoning of their teaching. I will finish this essay with a quick review of those methods to arm my readers against the influence of their use. These are not only good to weed out invalid criticism of Symbiosis, but of any other truth, biblical or not. I refer my readers to this excellent exposition on "detecting baloney" as an initial primer.
In view of this discussion that cast an unfavorable light on the Pharisees and Sadducees, I anticipate that the first accusation lodged against me is that I am causing division in the church by causing the people to rebel against authority by falsely associating it with them. This should be seen as an evasion of the question by changing it from a factual determination (what is the fruit?) to a political one (you are messing with my control of my turf!). They have authority only as long as their behavior is founded on Scripture, and as proof I cite the (regular) removal of leaders from the headship of denominations and churches when they are caught in infidelity, immorality, and theft. Bad fruit, I should add.
The second method is to "cherry pick" bad fruit from those with a less than adequate understanding of the new doctrine and disregard the good fruit produced by those with a better understanding of it and a better ability to apply it. The longer I have worked with the concept of Symbiosis, the more I find that the process is extremely rewarding but quite time consuming mainly because the process is deliberately weighted by God Himself to primarily develop a personal relationship first before the fruits of that relationship can be enjoyed. A secondary factor is that the Holy Spirit prefers a process characterized by leading people "unto all truth" rather than dictating that truth. The process of discovering the truth is difficult enough in itself without adding the problem of simultaneously unlearning those falsehoods currently being believed as true so that truth can take its rightful place in that person's mind and understanding. All this takes time to mentally process so that the Host is able to give an informed consent to the actions the Symbiote within proposes.
In my defense, I point out that other accepted methods of personal change, such as Twelve Step groups, Psycho-analysis, and Christian counseling, also take place over an extended period of time during which there are periods where the person being helped displays a mix of bad fruit borne from bad choices previously made and good fruit borne from good choices being made in the course of the theraputic intervention. To take a page from Jesus, if the criticism is being made that Symbiosis is invalid because its fruit takes time and is manifested in a progressive manner, then why is this accusation not being lodged against the theraputic methods I have just mentioned as well, since they also have the same characteristics as well?
It should be pointed out that the "fruit metaphor" happens to teach the lesson that one does not judge a tree that is producing fruit based on the taste of "green" fruit picked long before the harvest.
Finally, those who employ this argument should really be ashamed of themselves for using a tactic whose use against themselves they have protested. Dr. Richard Dawkins, a renowned Evolutionary Biologist and atheist, has been criticized by Christian apologists for employing this methodology in his lectures, speeches, and in his book "The God Delusion", where he exclusively focusses on the evils that Church authorities have done while discounting or ignoring the great deal of good that more sincere and informed Christians have done in Jesus' name. I advise them to never throw a stone that they don't want coming back through their own window.
The Argument from Difficulty
This argument claims that it is too difficult for them to evaluate the fruit of Symbiosis, so they are obligated to try the easier method of relying on the analysis of the doctrine.
This has some appeal, for the science underlying the technological marvels that we enjoy today is quite complicated and involved. Some aspects of creating the latest generation of microcomputer chips relies on work derived from Quantum Mechanics which, I daresay, is really understood by not more than 100 people on the planet.
However, another description of this argument is the Argument from Laziness: you do not need to understand Quantum Mechanics to understand the usefulness of the microcomputer you are now using to read these words, so excusing yourself from doing the latter because you cannot do the former is pretty much rank laziness. Evaluating the claims of Quantum Mechanics was extremely difficult, but it was done using the scientific method of checking the predictions of those claiming to know it against the results of scientifically conducted experiments. In the end, Quantum Mechanics, no matter how complicated it was, was evaluated and found to be true using the same methodology to prove the other theories and laws of physics. Certainly the instrumentation is more complex and expensive, but that's not the same as saying it was impossible to perform.
Look again at the New Testament lists of good works and bad works. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that a doctrine that leads someone to be more devoted to his wife by enabling him to abandon on-line pornography is a good one, while a doctrine (such as gnosticism) that tells that same man that his adultery does not affect his spiritual standing is a bad one. Jesus himself pointed out that not knowing all the details about how grain grows does not prevent the farmer from planting seed, waiting until the crop is ripe, and reaping the harvest.
The "You Can't Trust Experience" Argument
This argument is used a lot by those opposing the concept that miracles are for today. The argument goes something like this: "You cannot found doctrine on experience, but upon the Holy Bible. Your claims are based on experiences you have had. Salvation and the christian life are too important to base on anything that is less solid than the Scriptures."
Absolutely. I totally agree.
What I disagree with is the invalid implication this argument makes that Symbiosis is a doctrine founded solely upon experience. As proof, I invite you to re-read "Pentecost" and see if that discussion was Scripture-free. (Please keep in mind that these essays have been placed in the public domain, and so are subject to being downloaded, modified, and reposted on other websites. I ask, therefore, that any citations of my work include references to essays on this website. I should also point out that extracts of my works taken out of context, altered, or rearranged so as to fundamentally alter their meaning is a sign that the one doing the refuting is incapable of refuting me, but a constructed paper-mache simulacrum of me that they ARE capable of refuting. This behavior is fruit that should be judged so as to judge the prophet, as Jesus recommended that we do.)
The "experience" argument is actually the "renaming" fallacy. Those advancing it do not want to use the word "fruit", since its use in the scripture mandates that they obey the passages within which it appears. Thus, they elect to use a different word that avoids the overtones of a scriptural mandate that they are obligated to obey. Besides, how else can we determine that someone displays the Spiritual Fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control apart from witnessing their manifestation in real life? That is, by experiencing them? More to the point, how do those advancing this argument justify the danger of founding doctrine on experience apart from real life examples where doing so created problems? That is, by and from experience? There is a vast difference between proving a doctrine by experience, and formulating and basing a doctrine on experience.
This argument would have a lot more force if those advocating it practiced applying it more consistently in their own lives and to their own belief systems. I vividly recall a conversation I had with a fellow engineer of extremely long acquaintance, who is in a position to find out about this website, who is quite capable of understanding everything in it, and who I know will recall this conversation that I had with him when he reads this paragraph. This was long before I came up with the thought of symbiosis as a metaphor for the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the discussion centered around the question of whether the Spiritual Gifts were still active today. He advanced the argument, with that serious look on his face that he shows whenever he is saying something that he considers of supreme importance, that "you shouldn't found your belief on experience." I immediately countered by citing Acts and chapters 12 through 14 of First Corinthians as proof of their existence back in the first century church, then demanded upon what he founded his belief that it was supposed to cease. His serious look dissolved into the look he usually gives when confronted with a device whose behavior completely bewilders him and said, quite frankly, "by experience." Now, I love this man as a Christian Brother, admire him as an excellent engineer, and sincerely believe that the performance of the engineering department would increase by leaps and bounds if he was given more clout and his ideas implemented, but I confess I was, and still remain, totally irritated by the fact that he expected me to be convinced by an argument he put against my beliefs that failed to convince him when it was turned upon his own beliefs. When he gets around to reading this website, I know he will lodge valid criticisms worth evaluating, and whose resolution will result in practical and valuable advances in understanding Symbiosis, but I really, really hope he will not advance this one, for it will only be a waste of both our time and is considerably beneath his real capabilities.
The Pseudo-Fruit Counter-argument
This is a really pernicious argument, in that those who advocate it it pretend to judge a doctrine or person by the fruit produced, but they manipulate the process to their benefit by supplying their own definition of "fruit", rather than using the biblical definition. For instance, in the passage I cited from Matthew 16:1-4, the Pharisees and Sadducees judged Jesus, not by the miracles of the feedings of the 5000 and 4000, but whether the miracles he performed conformed to their idea of the kind of miracles their version of the Messiah would perform. To them, their demand was a "win-win" situation: if Jesus did not perform the miracle that they declared was proof of Messiahship, then they could argue that he was not the Messiah, while if he did perform the miracle, then they would be glad to acknowledge him as Messiah since he eventually did what they wanted, rather than what he wanted.
C.S. Lewis discussed two different variants of this kind of "religious" manipulator. The first kind he described in "The Abolition of Man", where the manipulator takes one aspect of the moral law and makes it supreme, not acknowledging any limits or counter-considerations or counter-claims. Such a one would emphasize the universality of all men, but criticize anyone whose doctrine produced patriots. One would emphasize the freedom and independence of the individual, and not regard as valid fruit any doctrine or teaching that led Christians to become more interdependent within the context of the Body of Christ. The latter would definitely be biblical fruit, but because it cut across that person's private assessment of what is important or not, he would denounce it as not being fruit. One pastor in Vidalia believes that others who do not share his belief in the supreme importance of feeding the poor are not being fruitful Christians.
The other kind of manipulator was described by Lewis in "Mere Christianity". This kind added something to Christianity in the belief that doing so "improved" it or would have met Jesus' approval. Thus, we have "Christianity Plus Social Justice", "Christianity plus Racial Equality", "Christianity plus Sexual Equality", "Christianity plus anti-slavery", "Christianity plus America", "Christianity plus ecology", "Christianity plus world peace", with the implication that those who do not work to advance the cause of "X" in "Christianity plus X" are not bearing fruit. Lewis advocated "Christianity plus nothing", or "Mere Christianity".
A fourth kind of manipulator happens to be the unsaved: In the face of our efforts to save him, he will propose various hurtles that Christians must meet in order for him to be convinced of their sincerity as Christians or the veracity of Christianity itself. He then either gets what he wants from Christians eager to prove their worthiness or love or righteousness, or he gets silence from them if he proposes something they cannot do. The favorite bible passage of these people is the Sermon on the Mount: they like the idea of taking shirts off the backs of Christians, taking their coats and cloaks, making them carry their burdens two miles, draining their bank accounts dry asking for loans that are not to be repaid. Muslims especially criticize Christians for not turning the other cheek when Muslims attack them: their job of turning the whole world to Islam would certainly be a lot easier if Christians didn't fight back when Muslims attacked them, but blessed them instead! (However, don't ask them to actually live by the rules they want Christians to live by! Why, they would be taken advantage of by people just like themselves! This, of course, goes to show that a big barrier to Christians living the Sermon on the Mount are the actions of those not willing to live by the Sermon on the Mount.)
To me, it appears that many of these "modernist" users of the Pseudo-fruit argument try to confine the definition of Christianity to the Sermon on the Mount, ignoring the fact that the Sermon was delivered to a people under oppression from Romans with the intent of keeping them from rebelling and getting themselves killed before Jesus could die on the Cross, be resurrected, ascend to Heaven, and send the Holy Spirit into them. Like Samson who was moved upon by the Spirit of the Lord, Christian Jews embued with the Holy Spirit and operating in His full power and capability would be expected to change the situation.
The best counter-argument is to insist on the application of biblical criteria for fruit rather than self-serving ones intended to turn Christians into slaves.
The "Its Pragmatism!" Argument
This argument attempts to excuse the arguer from judging fruit by stating that such a demand reflects the Pragmatist philosophy of "the ends justify the means". It would be wrong to use critera for judging doctrine, they argue, using the criteria of a worldly philosophy!
This argument hopes you overlook the fact that Jesus and Paul both argued for judging people and doctrines by their fruits. It also hopes that you are confused about Pragmatism and doctrine. Pragmatism states that there is no such thing as good and bad doctrine, but doctrine that helps you get what you want and doctrine that does not get you what you want. In contrast, good biblical doctrine first starts from the Scriptures, is guided by the Scriptures, is interpreted by the Scriptures, and the fruit is determined by the Scriptures. I would very much doubt that real pragmatists would regard anyone following a doctrine founded on what they regard as an ancient and outmoded book, and whose criteria are used to judge the results of following that doctrine, as pragmatic!
Finally, and this is very important, pragmatism holds that what one wants is of supreme importance, while good biblical doctrine changes a person to the extent that it changes what they want. Which is greater: a philosophy based on taking a man's desires as its foundation, or a religious doctrine capable of changing that foundation by changing that man's desires?
The "Prudence" Argument
This particular argument takes on a number of different forms that can be confusing to the unwary. Of course, it is this "feature" of the argument that makes its use attractive by the unscrupulous.
The first form is that of pleading ignorance: "Gerald's claims and arguments are complex, involved, technical, and weighty. They are way above our ability to evaluate, so prudence dictates that we advise against believing it." While flattering and having the power that comes from truth, this is merely a re-packaging of the claim that doctrinal truth or falsehood is established by the analysis and consensus of experts. While one has to evaluate the scriptural foundation of every proposed teaching, Jesus says that the teaching is to be judged by its fruit. Critics may have problems following my discussion of how much energy was used to create the excess bread and fish Jesus fed the 5000 and 4000, but they should not have any problem judging whether, inspired by the realization of God's careless extravagance in the face of human need, my starting to bring food to the Church food pantry is good or bad fruit. My boss at work has no idea about the contents of this website, and probably would find it tough going if he ever visited, but he had no problem noticing how I have "become more people oriented" over the last year and noting it as a good development. Nobody usually has any problems knowing that my previous ministry of visiting prisoners was a good work, and probably would have excused my reluctance to witness to people outside of prison as reflecting that I was "given a unique gifting" that gave me freedom to witness in one context that I did not have in another. Should not the fact that I have become way more bold in witnessing outside of the prison walls be credited as an increase in fruitfulness?
The second form is a variant of the "national security!" argument: "We know this doctrine is so pernicious and dangerous, producing such bad fruit, that we don't even recommend anyone even trying to evaluate its fruit!" This, of course, is attempting to panic the hearers into accepting the implied assertion that the doctrine has been properly evaluated and the gravity of its threat has been fairly determined. This is like looking at an apple seed and saying "we know the fruit of the tree that will come from this seed will be bad." This differs very little from the statement that the religious leaders told the blind man whom Jesus healed in John 9 to "Give God the praise: we KNOW that this man is a sinner," their voices pitching upwards into a near screech when they said the word "know". L:ike the blind man, I urge you to put aside the demands of such people that you substitute their claim of "knowing" instead of demanding an evaluation based on what is truly knowable to you: "Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see."
The "It's too good to be true!" Argument
This is a variant of the prudence argument that I broke out from the preceeding section to highlight because I struggled with this one for months, not having resolved it until a few days prior to the publication of this essay. This essay ends with discussing this argument.
Those advancing this argument often do not voice it audibly, but quietly and resignedly in their hearts. It is born of bitter experience during countless evangelistic crusades, revivals, workshops, conferences, and stirring sermons. Time and again, those who advance this argument "come to the altar", feeling God's Spirit convicting them of sins that they are painfully aware of having, have struggled with to overcome, and have "come to God" hoping for success this time. Time and again, things went swimmingly for several weeks, then there was a disappointing backsliding into the old habits again. They have tried everything possible to succeed, and have not succeeded.
I was one of those whose experience is like the above. My feelings of spiritual incompetence was not helped by going to church and meeting bright and chipper people whose attitude and speech implied that their spiritual life was perfectly wonderful, and yet when probed could not explain how I could emulate their exalted spiritual experience without spouting the same tired religous Christian cliches I heard from those who conducted those crusades, revivals, workshops, conferences, and sermons that only appeared to say a lot, but were actually empty mouthings of ecclesiastically approved and vetted syllables.
Given the above, the first suppression of my sexual compulsions by the Holy Spirit after I had mentally concluded that Symbiosis was not a metaphor, but a reality that necessarily meant a literal indwelling through which suppression was possible, was totally unexpected and surprising. There were no feelings of guilt, no vows of compliance or obedience, no stirring sermons, no altar call. I thank God that I was able to interpret both the timing and the immediacy of the response to the mental conclusion as a communication from the Spirit, my mind already being primed by the Spirit via the clue laid down by my response to the song "From the Inside Out" recounted elsewhere on this website. I regret not recording the details of the process, but I do have a blog entry dated April 3, 2008, that excitedly recounts my realization that I had "got it".
The last time I was truly miserable was between mid-April and mid-May when I got the very strong impression that I was to publish what was happening to me and how to replicate it using the "logotech.org" domain name I had reserved for a different purpose. My misery arose by saying "no" for a rather long time before I finally said "yes".
I say truly miserable, because the bouts of misery that I experienced since then, apart from the few times when I sucumbed to temptation, was when I wondered about the legitimacy of this entire process. Not because it was bad or miserable or full of guilt and self-condemnation, but from a feeling of "This is way too good to be true!"
So yes, it does sound too good to be true. That the Being through Whom God created the universe and the world came to reside in my heart and recreate me IS too good to be true.
But it is true nevertheless.
That the Holy Spirit of God through whom God enforces His Will on the Church and the World would cooperate with me in suppressing the messes in my mind and my life IS too good to be true.
But it is true nevertheless.
That the Being through whom Jesus Christ healed the sick and dying healed my ear and protects me from viruses and illnesses IS too good to be true.
But it is true nevertheless.
I want to share what happened to me on the evening of January 10, 2009. I was in Southern California visiting my Mother and my brother. My job, while I was there, was to care for my mom while my brother, the main caregiver, was getting a well-deserved vacation to CES in Las Vegas with a friend. My mom is getting on in years, and while I enjoyed my time with her, my happiness was tempered with the sad realization that the brilliant mind whose solid character and firm integrity had finely honed and developed mine was slowly disappearing, being replaced by something totally unworthy of her memory. I was tired from having an incredibly fruitful visit with my aunt, my mom's sister, having received a revelation that eventually led to the splitting of the prior version of "In Christ". It was after returning from a long and tiring drive (those who live in Southern California know whereof I speak) that my mother made requests that I tried to fulfill, but could not. Consequently, I felt woefully inadequate to serve her as I felt I, as her son, was obligated to do. I know that darker forces took advantage of that occasion, and I found myself sitting on the top step of the stairway just outside of the door of my brother's apartment literally crying from exhaustion, discouragement, inadequacy and guilt. My church and my pastor stoutly preach a God of grace, but the incessant emphasis on service, service, service, SERVICE had become the new millstone about my neck to replace the incessant emphasis on Law, Law, Law, LAW that I had been raised with. I know my Church, my fellow members, and my Pastor, would be appalled to think that their emphasis on service, combined with my inablity to serve my mother adequately, was being used by those dark forces as a mallet to pound away at my head at that moment.
And then, also at that moment, in the feminine form of Sarayu, the Holy Spirt seemed to sit down next to me, put her arm around my shoulders, leaned close to put her mouth next to my ear, and whispered, in that incredibly gracious voice that I had been living with, but then seemed to be tainted by a pain deeper than what I was feeling, the words "Why Gerald, all I want is you!"
The Spirit let me recover a bit from that enormously releasing affirmation, then sighed in a whistful voice that made me swear later to never disappoint the One who then said "And it sure would be nice to have everyone else!"
So YES, it DOES seem way, way, WAY too good to be true to believe that all that God wants is just you.
That He doesn't as much want the money that you can give Him (as if He needed it), but just you. That He doesn't as much want the service that you can give to others in His name (as if He couldn't serve them Himself), but just you. That He doesn't as much want the praise that you can give to Him (as if He needed the ego gratification), but just you. That all of these things He wants from you are just the means He has chosen by which He can experience just you, and you Him.
But it is true nevertheless.
Leave Feedback for This Page