[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."
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.
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