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.
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