Really All Truth?
When Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would lead those who believe in him unto all truth in John 16, did he actually mean "all" truth, or "all religious" truth? There are many who believe they are doing God and the Church (especially those they deem "children in the faith" and "unlearned") a service by injecting additional adjectives into scripture passages that do not have them, claiming to do so out of a desire to "clarify" the text. However, I find that such adjectives invariably restrict the scope of the scripture being so "clarified" in a way that protects some cherished doctrine that would be otherwise refuted if the scope was truly unrestricted.
As an educator, I have found that the incorrect preconceptions that a student brings to an otherwise understandable subject are powerful blocks to learning. One class of pre-conception is what I call "concept freezing", where the applicability of some concept is unjustifiably restricted so that its full implications are not appreciated, explored, or exploited by the learner. For instance, we may try to emphasize that "A" must be done before "B" and that "A" must be done before "C", but the student may incorrectly conclude that "B" must necessarily come before "C" when, in actuality, "C" can come before "B" and still meet the two explicity stated "musts" specified. Concept freezing causes the student to put a mental straight jacket on the concept that unduly restricts it.
When it comes to bible passages such as this, it should be obvious that adding an adjective, no matter how justified, freezes and restricts the idea that would otherwise be conveyed straightforwardly by the sentence. Indeed, "adjective injection" is a common mechanism whereby preconceptions are programmed into the human heart by the one doing the injecting, often leading to the person unthinkingly supplying the adjective into the passage in the absence of the injector/programmer. One of the most striking examples that actually supplanted a noun was the teachings of "Christian" Southern pastors justifying slavery because it was the natural outworking of "the curse of Ham". It is true that, per the post-flood Genealogies, the peoples of Africa are descended from Ham, but the actual curse was put upon his son Canaan (Genesis 9:18-27)! It was my privilege to drag a fellow black college student into the college library and make him read the passage to disabuse him of the notion. Repeated teaching of this falsehood continues to be so prevalent that even a Conservative Rabbi was shocked when informed of the fact.
Obviously, changing a noun in scripture is a rather blatant violation of a restriction that originally applied to the Book of Revelation, but which has been expanded to cover all Scripture. Perhaps they believe that it is okay to modify an otherwise straightforward interpretation of a text if it is done via mental programming of the Human Heart to mislead the Inner man instead of a blatant modification of the physical text.
Jesus faced a similar form of programming while he was on earth, for people insisted on thinking "Kingdom of Israel" whenever he said "Kingdom of Heaven" or "Kingdom of God". I believe that the reason Jesus spoke in parables is because he knew that a preconception is best undermined and eventually eliminated if approached obliquely rather than head-on. Even then, there were limits to what he could do: in John 6:60-70, Jesus tried to explain his personal role in the process of salvation to a large group of disciples and lost many of them when they were offended when he explained that they still didn't believe in him because of their inability to understand what he was saying. Peter was so programmed with the popular view of the Messiah as a conquering liberator that he sought to "correct" Jesus' thinking about the Messiah when the latter predicted his crucifixion. (Matthew 16:21-23, Mark 8:27-33) Contrary to popular opinion, the Christ of Christianity does not accept mere belief in him as being adequate. What He accepts is a belief that is founded upon, and flows from, a correct understanding of his words, acts, and claims. When he tells those who say "Lord Lord!" that he never knew them, it isn't because he has somehow lost omniscience, but that they had worshipped an idol that they had constructed that may have looked like him, but wasn't truly him.
In keeping with Jesus' policy, I will not directly attack the preconception in your mind that insists on thinking "all religious truth" when the text only says "all truth". Rather, I will be indirect and note that adding the adjective essentially turns what was a universal positive phrase that does not exclude any truth into a restricted form that explicitly excludes all but one kind of truth.
The transformation of the statement is mathematically significant. The unrestricted form not only assured the disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them to all truth, but that such a leading would not lead them to any falsehood, since the only way a falsehood can be given is if the truth it contradicts is withheld. In contrast, the restricted form essentially restricts the truths that the student can be led to by the Holy Spirit to only religious truths. If there is a truth that is not religious in nature, then the Holy Spirit, per the restricted form, will not necessarily lead the student to that truth.
What I am trying to say is that the restricted form ("all religious truth") is the kind of statement that is easily refuted if the univeral form is actually true. That is, all we have to do is present evidence of the Spirit giving a truth that is not religious. Because it is true, the universal form is not refuted, but because it is not religious truth, the restricted form is refuted. Note that a qualified form ("He will lead you into some truth") would not be refuted either in this case, but that would require changing the text or the meaning of the word "all", at which point we would be justified to claim that the Revelation ban was being violated by the one proposing such a substitution.
While one counter-example is all that is required, I will present four.
The First Counter-Example: Prophecy
The first counterexample is 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul cites the Spirit leading the prophets in a church service to the secrets (truths that are unknown to most) that reside in the hearts of visitors to the point of them confessing that God is truly among them. This is analogous to the challenge Nebuchadnezzar gave the Chaldean Wise men recorded in Daniel 2 to tell him the dream that he had forgotten, but which Daniel did, proving that Daniel's interpretation had to have come "from the gods". (I want to point out that I do not consider the revealing of Nebuchadnezzar's dream as a counter-example, since it detailed the course of world history until the Coming of a Kingdom set up by the God of Heaven, making it a religious truth covered by the restricted form. Rather, I wanted to point out how only God is privy to the secret of men's hearts, so that when such secrets are revealed to the one who claims to hear from God, then their claim is proven to the one whose secrets have been revealed. As such, this helps me refute the restricted form because the personal truths of a finite being are not religious truths. In contrast, only the personal truths of God qualifies as religious truth.)
It may be argued that the truth that was revealed was revealed to lead people to God, and so it was a religious truth. This is a false and misleading argument, since it confuses the motive and purpose of the truth told with the nature of that truth.
The Second Counter-Example: Samson at Lehi
The second counter-example I present is the Battle of Lehi. In Judges 13:25, it is stated that "the Spirit of YHWH moved him [G: Samson] at times in the camp of Dan". In Judges 14:5-6, the Spirit of YHWH was said to have come mightily on Samson, enabling him to rip apart a lion with his bare hands as easily as one would tear a new-born lamb. In Judges 14:19, The Spirit of YHWH comes upon him (but not mightily) to enable him to kill 30 Philistines so that he could take their spoil to pay off a debt incurred from losing at the riddle game. In Judges 15:13-17 is the record of the Battle of Lehi, when the Spirit of YHWH moved so mightily upon Samson that he slew 1000 Philistines with the jaw of an ass.
Though it is said before the Judges 15 passage that the Spirit of YHWH moved on him, no such phrase is used of his feats of strength after he starts going to harlots in Philistia. It can also be argued that the times that that happened before Judges 15 cannot be interpreted as the Spirit leading Samson to a non-religious truth, since supernatural strength is of a different category than wisdom (though it may be argued that the Spirit came upon Samson only to suggest killing Philistines to pay off his debt, since that coming was not described as coming on him "mightily"). Would it not be logical to argue that the battle of Lehi is of the same category?
Not entirely. To fixate on the strength Samson showed during that battle is to ignore the rather obvious fact that no Philistine army, after losing the 100th man to a jaw wielding pyromaniac, would lose the next 900 by continuing to send them in by fours or fives. Prudence and basic military strategy would dictate the officers sending them in by forties or sixties, with the rest surrounding the man and tossing spears and shooting arrows at him ahead of the charge of the front linesmen. The man was not invunerable for he has to use the jawbone of an ass against personal armor because his fingernails could not have lasted tearing through leather armor, nor would his hands remained intact if many of his opponents were wearing mail or scale armor.
Those who have seen the film "The Phantom Menace" may have caught a line uttered by Qui-Gon Jinn to Anakin Skywalker's mother that her son's podracing skills were due to the Force enabling him to see a short time span into the future. It is this "cueing from the future" that gives the Jedi their uncanny "reflexes". Although there is really no "Force", the Holy Spirit would be more than able to perform this function for Samson, providing actionable battlefield intelligence in pre-realtime, not only on what the enemy was doing at that moment, but what the enemy was going to do and how to counteract it. All this information, of course, had to be true since any falsehood would have been fatal during a battle of such high intensity. It also is the sort of information that is not religious truth in nature.
An aside: it is likely that the Spirit of the LORD ceased to come upon Samson, not after he starts going to harlots, but after his boast in Judges 15:16 that "with the jaw of an ass have *I* slain a thousand men." I cannot help but believe that this incredible failure to give credit to the power of God's Spirit was the cause of the Spirit not coming mightily upon him after that. For sure, the man was strong, but not as strong or skilled as he could have been in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Let the wise and the boastful take warning.
The Third Counter-Example: Elisha and the Syrian Army
The third counter-example is that of Elisha warning the king of Israel regarding the military movements of the king of Syria:
8 Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp. 9 And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down. 10 And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice. 11 Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel? 12 And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.
Here, the knowledge that is given is the knowledge of an enemy leader's movements. It is conjectured that the phrase "king of Israel" was used instead of the king's proper name because this king was so odiously evil that the writer/recorder did not want to put his name into the sacred record, lest it be defiled. Again, this does not qualify as religious truth. In fact, there is no indication that this information, graciously given, even affected the king of Israel at all. It is what it appears to be: the warnings of a patriotic prophet of the LORD coming to the aid of his country and people, empowered by the Loving and Concerned God of that people.
The Fourth Counter-Example: Bezaleel and Aholiab
The fourth counter-example I present is found in Exodus 31:1-11, a passage so remarkable I cite it here in full:
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: 3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4 To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 5 And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. 6 And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee; 7 The tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the tabernacle, 8 And the table and his furniture, and the pure candlestick with all his furniture, and the altar of incense, 9 And the altar of burnt offering with all his furniture, and the laver and his foot, 10 And the cloths of service, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the priest's office, 11 And the anointing oil, and sweet incense for the holy place: according to all that I have commanded thee shall they do.
My deepest thanks to Patrick Oden who, in chapter 9 of his book "It's a Dance: Moving with the Holy Spirit", pointed out that this is the first text in the Pentateuch where the words "the spirit of God", ruach elohim, appear. The passage speaks of the Spirit giving wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and workmanship in the green mark-up. While Aholiab is named as his immediate assistant and number two in the task of doing the work, the phrasology God uses is that Aholiab, and all the wise hearted in whom He put wisdom, is that they are given to Bezalel. Moses' understanding of this passage, given in Exodus 35:30-35, expands on this:
30 And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; 32 And to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 33 And in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work. 34 And he hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work, of the engraver, and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer, in blue, and in purple, in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of them that do any work, and of those that devise cunning work.
The presence of the Spirit within Bezalel and Aholiab not only amplified their technical skill and ability to devise cunning work, but also enabled them to teach others as well. Their position within the creative community of Israel-In-The-Wilderness was the same as that of Solomon within the community of the Wise of Israel-In-The-Land: not only skillful workers capable of great works themselves, but the leaders and teachers that faciliated others in their creative efforts.
I will quote briefly from page 199 to 200 of Mr. Oden's book where Melissa, a Preacher's Kid who fled from her father's church because her artist's soul was not being fed, explains what is happening in this passage (emphases mine):
"So Luke," Melissa continues, "this is the first time the Spirit of the Lord comes down on a person and what happens? Healing? Prophecy? Flashes of lightning? Nope. Nothing like that. Nothing like anything my dad would say are acceptable spiritual gifts in the church. The Spirit came down and they started sewing, and sculpting, and carving. Doing all sorts of other works of art."
"Creativity," I say.
"Yes!" she replies, "Very good. God is an artist.... I mean, some churches get so excited about tounges and the wild stuff. But this first time, Luke, its about art. Art for God. Art commissioned by God. He's the great patron, the one who inspires and pays, all because he seems to like meaningful things. We think of God as totally pragmatic, like some executive businessman keeping his eye on the bottom line or whatever. God is this Lord. Sometimes practical, oftentimes lavish. He's God, not a CEO looking for salvation profits."
Lest someone try to blunt the import of the Spirit's work in the building of the Tabernacle by stating that Joseph and Moses had to have been empowered by the Spirit of God as well, I want to point out that it is Pharaoh who declares that Joseph has the Spirit of God, not God or the Genesis narrator. It isn't until Numbers 11 that we have God shifting (not giving) some of the Spirit that is upon Moses onto 70 elders for the purpose of helping him manage the people. That two of them who were not present got some of that Spirit and were prophesying elsewhere in the camp is evidence that the spirit was indeed of God, but there is no explicit statement before this by God or the Exodus narrator that Moses was given the Spirit of the Lord.
The real import of these passages is the fact that the Holy Spirit chose this incident and this time to explicitly reveal His presence and the fact that He is given by God. The first time we are told the Spirit of God was present and active was at the Creation scoping out the chaotic mess. The second time He shows up, He publicly announces his presence, and declares that his mission is to inspire and empower a group of artistic laymen. A great philantropist may anonymously donate huge sums of money to various worthy causes, but it is the cause on which he puts his name that tells us which of the many he supports is truly the most important to him.
I consider that the above four counter-examples have effectively refuted the validity of the restrictive form of "all truth". I will now discuss some aspects of this "leading" unto all truth that are pertinent to this Stage.
The Extent of the Leading Unto All Truth
Though the purpose of the essays on Illumination is to give practical advice in receiving the leading of the Spirit unto all truth, I want to briefly discuss an important limitation that some may ignore to argue the invalidity of the universal form of "all truth" via reducto ad absurdum. The reducto argument they may make is "Do you really expect the Holy Spirit to Lead us to ALL truth? Will he lead all of us to be painters, sculptors, prophets, miracle workers and healers all at once? We can't all know all truth, but we all can know all religious truth!"
The argument is invalid because it sets up a straw man unsupported by the scriptures. Maybe there was a time when a man like Abbé Faria could know all the worldly knowledge worth knowing and be able to pass it on to Edmond Dantès (The Count of Monte Cristo), but those times are certainly long past. The sum total of the knowledge and skill possessed by Western Civilization today clearly exceeds the capacity of any individual man to know, much less master! How much less able would an individual man know all that God the Son and God the Holy Spirit combined knows!
Clearly, if there are limits to what the Holy Spirit teaches us, it will be due to limitations on our part, not to any reluctance or refusal on the part of the Spirit. That is, I believe the term "he will lead you unto all truth" means that there is no a priori restriction in the quantity, quality, or subject matter of the truth that the Holy Spirit leads us to from God's end of the transmission. This implies that any problems, difficulties, or necessitites in the learning process all reside on our end of the transmission. For instance, there will be learning priorities that the Holy Spirit requires of us in the same way that every college and university degree program has required courses that reflects their desire of what their graduates should demonstrate some core proficiency, with each college and university expressing their differences and uniqueness by the different core courses that they require. There will be a definite learning sequence in which the basics are presented first, then the more advanced subjects. There will have to be some dismantling of insufficient or incorrect assumptions and beliefs so that the true, the sufficient, and the advanced, can be learned. Without a doubt the first order of business of the Holy Spirit will be to lead us unto all spiritual and religious truth, of which the most important category being a knowledge of Jesus Christ's character, attitude, and guidance. (To not even start to know, much less comprehend, what the Holy Spirit can show us of Jesus Christ, is to miss the most wonderful revelation of one's entire existence.) What I do claim, and what the universal form of "all truth" promises, is that what the Spirit will lead us into will be more than just spiritual and religious truth. Another way to put it is that we will be led to specific truths, but must be prepared to be led in any specific truth. This mirrors how we are counseled to love our fellow man: we must be prepared to love and help all men and any man, but our limited span of influence, resources, and circumstances dictates that our charity be necessarily restricted to specific individuals and situations.
The Leading Part of being Led Unto All Truth
The key word we will look at now is "lead". This word implies a learning process that is very much different from the gifts of the Spirit described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 to 14. The majority of the gifts are deliberate implantings of knowledge, explicit or encrypted, into the minds of those so gifted, with the most clear one being that of Prophecy. The popular term being used in some charismatic circles to describe this process is that God "downloads" information into the recipient. For once, the lay application of this technical term is correct, but with the exception that it is God who initiates such downloads into us, while security considerations dictate that real-life downloads are initiated by the recipient. Since God behaves perfectly, He will not lower Himself to behaving like a virus writer, so we should expect that such Divine downloads are performed in cooperation with, and with the permission of, the recipient. I recall the difficulty that I had on the first Sunday of November, 1988, to receive the Gift of Speaking in Tounges, including the method of reception, at Atlanta Christian Fellowship. The gentleman helping me, Frank Brown, was somewhat frustrated until, while discussing the problem with me, I told him that I had dabbled in ESP experiments in my youth. He immediately had me recite the Apostle's Creed after him, during which I received the gift in an extraordinarly marked fashion. In His divine wisdom, The Spirit knew I would question the origin of the gift because I had heard it preached almost all my life that it was demonic in origin, so He waited until Frank and I had eliminated all demonic channels as possible avenues of ingress before coming in Himself to bestow it, and only during a recital of the core beliefs of Christianity. I have seen this pattern repeated many times since when I felt there was scriptural support for specific manifestations of the Spirit that were susceptible to demonic "spoofing": in every case, the manifestation would not come until I had taken explicit steps to rule out such spoofing. In doing so, I do not acknowledge that such spoofing actually takes place, for the greater danger is not in any actual spoofing by demons, but in falsely labelling an actual work of the Holy Spirit as demonic spoofing. As I have pointed out elsewhere, Jesus labelled false accusations that the power by which he worked miracles was demonic in origin as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and declared such a sin as unforgiveable. When people continue to question the origin of the manifestation even after I take those steps, I point out that to assume the ensuing manifestation was demonic would imply that the Devil was stronger than God, and that all the standard methods that have been used to cast out demons are actually impotent to keep them out.
In my view, the term "leading unto all truth" implies an interactive process between Symbiote and Host, where the former takes the weaknesses and strengths of the latter into account while mapping out the journey that will be travelled by the Host being led by the Symbiote. It is the teaching method of Jesus vastly improved by the ability of the Spirit to fine-tune the instruction to the individual believer being led/instructed.
The Inherent Limits of Collective Instruction
The vital necessity of this fine-tuning must be grasped to appreciate the grace and love being displayed by the Holy Spirit Symbiote during this leading process. While Jesus was on earth he had to choose his words and parables so that at least 12 different men with different backgrounds and mental filters could all get roughly the same idea. I mean "at least" in a conservative sense for Jesus himself knew that he, through these men, would also be speaking to every Christian who would read their words and hear their sermons. Everyone who has been to college knows that the ability to get help to understand what the teacher is saying is inversely proportional to the number of students in the class, and nobody disputes that the most ideal teaching situation is a skilled and knowledgeable tutor personally dedicated and comitted to educating a single determined student. Skilled and possessed of Diety, even Jesus acknowledged that leaving the disciples so that the Holy Spirit would come to them was the best thing He could do for them, even though they expressed their opposition with great sorrow. He could not teach them everything because the limitations of verbally spoken language and the inevitabl variances in individual understanding and comprehension made it impossible for Him to do so. However, what he DID teach them was the raw material that the Holy Spirit would later use to complete the education process.
This usage of that which already exists by the Spirit is stylistically consistent. Though the Spirit did not require the pre-existence of the chaotic matter over which He hovered before God said "Let there be light!" during Creation, the Creation account explicitly states that the Spirit did mold and work with that which pre-existed. This is especially the case when plants, fish, birds, and animals were brought forth. God did not say, "Let there be plants!" or "Let there be birds!" Instead, He said, "Let the waters bring forth..." and "Let the Earth bring forth...". That water and earth did not bring forth of themselves prior to the First Day indicates that they had no inherent power to do so, any more than we have power to bring forth good by our own works and actions. Rather, the Spirit worked with the Earth and the Ocean to help them bring forth life, in the same way that He works with us to bring forth a life full of good works. Yet, we should realize that when it came to creating Humanity, God elected to create Adam and Eve by hand rather than by His voice or by the Spirit-empowered Earth bringing them forth. Certainly more tedious, but the intent was to convey specialness and a "paying of attention" to them. In the same way, leading us unto truth, rather than "downloading" it into us, is more "tedious" to the Holy Spirit (as if He could get tired), but the intent is to equally convey the specialness of the recipient by way of an infinite God "paying attention" to us.
No Limits within Limits
An important aspect of the Spirit leading us unto all truth is the very real fact that our finiteness dictates that we can't go everywhere and know everything. At the same time, we need to recognize that, while the leading of us unto religious truth is indeed guaranteed, the promise is for more than that. In other words, I did not go through all the trouble of refuting the restrictive form to imply that there was no need to be led to religious truth, but that religious truth is the necessary foundation upon which the Spirit and the person must mutually build upon further. Thus, the question naturally arises "Once the Spirit has led me to all necessary religious truth, where do we go from here?"
I emphasize the word "we" in the question because the words "He" and "I" represent the two sides of the road off of which we do not want to go! It is generally acknowledged that the "I" side of the road is clearly perilous, since it implies that the Christian life is one of self-indulgence made somewhat sanctified because there are limits put on that self-expression that leads to some self-sacrifice for others and for God. The statement "It is not all about me" is very true. What appears heretical is the designation of the "He" side of the road as equally perilous. Is not a life totally sold out to God a safe one spiritually? Isn't it all about Him?
Well, that depends on the kind of God that you believe is "Him". Essentially, the statement "It is not all about me" is the negation of the statement "It is all about me". The latter statement is the essence of selfishness. If we are trading "It's all about Him" in place of "It's all about me", then we have not eliminated selfishness from the relationship, but have shifted it from us to God. Thus, a religion that says "Its all about God" as a divine command has a selfish god at its center, just as a belief system that says "Its all about me" also has a selfish god at its center. One is certainly entitled to worship a god like that, and the religion would be of some help since it does get the center of the universe off of you. However, given that the central story of Christianity is that a member of the Godhead took off all of his divine powers, became a man, lived a life of power dependent on the power of One Member of that Godhead working through him at the direction of the Other member of that Godhead, and died a gruesomely painful death so that we would be freed from sin by his suffering the penalty for our transgressions on our behalf. The story finishes by insisting that this God/Man was raised from the dead and returned to that Godhead to minister to us as a faithful High Priest. In light of this, it is quite doubtful that any god that declares "It is all about ME!" is the God of Christianity. The two most undisputable facts that the Gospel record tells us is that Jesus Christ is our perfect example of humility, and Jesus Christ faithfully reflected the character of His Father In Heaven. From these one can only deduce that the Godhead is humble, leading to the inevitable conclusion that we are never going to hear the words "It's all about ME!" coming from any member of the Godhead. (In saying this, I hasten to add that this does not mean that the Godhead is "soft" in the sense of being indulgent, wishy-washy, or spineless. A synonym of "humble" is "meek", and Moses was recorded as being the meekest man on earth at the time. In my mind at least, the words "indulgent", "wishy-washy" and "spineless" do NOT apply to Moses. They certainly do NOT apply to the God Moses served either. We should not rationally expect such a God to say "Its all about me!", and that God is way too compassionate to let us say "Its all about ME!" without some correction.)
Seeing then that it is not all about me, and it is not all about Him, but all about us, then the logical answer is "Whatever we need or want." At the beginning of every one-on-one teaching/learning situation, the teacher and student sit down to decide what needs to be learned. The smart teacher knows that a student best learns that which interests them the most, and thus will acertain where the natural talents of the student lie, tuning the instruction to best support the development of those talents.
It is in this area of the development of ones talents that I say that there are no limits within limits. When it comes to the talents that one has, there are no limits whatsoever, and it is my belief that, with the guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit, the diligent and faithful student can grow his talents to world-class levels and earn himself, and the God he serves, the notice of his elite peers.
The limits that I refer to in the qualifying term refers to the fact that the Spirit will not attempt to lead in areas where the student has no talents. Will Rogers once said "It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so," and few words are truer! We laugh at those who believe they have singing talent who audition for "American Idol", but just as they feel very hurt when so informed, so the student doubtless feels hurt, betrayed, and disappointed by God because the Spirit doesn't lead them into a talent that they simply do not have.
And there is the opposite situation of a student who possesses talents they do not believe or know they have. Blessed indeed are such students who are in the company of an instructor who sees in them what they do not see, and who takes the time and work to dissipate their illusions! Parents who have teenagers performing below their capabilities are in the same boat, and I have no doubt that they and the Spirit share, at some level, the feelings of frustration that come from attempting to "push the noodle" when it comes to getting those who they love to overcome the false modesty, fear, or laziness that works to keep them from stepping up to their full potential.
Sometimes, desperate parents are forced to "turn the screws" to get their children to "get it in gear". Well, as it is in the physical, so it is in the spiritual. How many Christians are bewildered and stressed out because of situations they believe God puts them into, believing him to be cruel or petty to inflict such requirements and sufferings on them, when His intent is to provoke them into the discovery and initial exercise of those talents they have but know nothing of!
I speak thus from personal experience: During the second half of May, I began suffering from so much tooth pain in my left jaw that it felt like I had cavities in all the molars on that side. I went to my dentist May 26 to get antibiotics, only to be told that it was TMJ and that I had to "adjust my bite" to get relief. I had tolerated TMJ in my right jaw for over a year, and had gotten some relief when it disappeared a few weeks earlier, but my dentist told me it merely migrated from one side to the other, and to thank God that TMJ only affects ONE jaw at a time! I was scheduled to go on a Cruise to Alaska that Saturday, and was horribly disappointed that it looked as if I would not enjoy it as fully as I could, since experience and prayer had only relieved the TMJ in my right jaw temporarily. I was working late on a software functional test that Wednesday, May 27, drinking cold water to very temporarily relieve the pain, counting the pain that the cold water provoked in my fillings as the lesser of two evils. For some reason, however, I had decided not to take any painkillers all day. It was about 7 in the evening when the semi-pious thought occurred that I was suffering for some religious reason or purpose. I asked the Spirit within what that purpose was, and the answer was not silence, but the very distinct word "nothing", said in a tone of complete and utter indifference. This was significant, for if there had been silence instead of a definite word formed in my mind, then there was indeed a reason for my suffering, but it had to be kept hidden to maximise the effectiveness of the suffering and the end purpose. However, the word "nothing" definitely meant there WAS no reason! I was extremely irritated, not only by the pointlessness of the pain but the tone of voice that I perceived the message was given. I fumed a bit while I worked, then in a fit of peevishness, decided that it was time to exercise Unification: if *I* was gonna suffer, then by Golly JESUS WOULD TOO (based on the principle of Symmetry). I thus insisted that the Spirit communicate my pain back to Jesus, and took a bit of perverse pleasure picturing Jesus suddenly screaming from tooth pain, rudely interrupting is regal self-absorption and bliss while sitting on the Throne of Glory at the right hand of God the Father through my cheekiness in inisisting on the reality of His proclaimed "unity with Me". I must confess that I only got more cheeky when the pain actually disappeared for five minutes, and began to kinda tauntingly accuse Jesus of "being able to dish it out, but not take it!" I re-insisted on him "sharing the pain" (said in the mental voice of a certain former Democratic President of the United States who uttered that line all the time to establish the mere appearance of sympathy). It then disappeared for ten minutes, to be accompanied by a bit more derision on my part when it came back.
My cheekiness was abrubtly terminated when the Spirit reminded me that, being God, Jesus was merely shunting the pain backwards in time to his Crucifixion, and observed that I was quite correct that the Calvinist belief of a "limited atonement" implied a limited God. And in His Grace (or perhaps as an instructor running an educational film), the Spirit helped me imagine Jesus on the Cross looking at me as if He was saying, "A toothache? A TOOTHACHE? Are you JOKING? LOAD ME UP! I said I would have to lay down my life, but the reason I have to is because sin can't kill me by itself and never did!"
The pain from the TMJ disappeared for fifteen minutes. When it came back, I shunted it back onto Jesus, now more grateful instead of cheeky. It left a few minutes later, and as of the moment I type these words, it not only has not returned, but the TMJ did NOT migrate back to the right jaw. Certainly, there have been momentary twinges, but those quickly disappear when I concentrate on Jesus taking that pain.
I recount the above experience because it illustrates the rapidity by which instruction and leading can take place when both student (me) and Instructor (The Holy Spirit) get on the same page when it comes to realizing that some suffering and pain are intended to thrust the otherwise clueless student into new territory. The Spirit's tone was very precisely calculated to provoke me into doing what I did, leading me to a deeper realization of the depth and power of Unification: the next morning, I was thanking God for the deliverance when the Spirit, for a brief moment, "did his job" and "showed me Jesus". I do not apologize for the fact that I am recounting what some would call a "mystic" experience, but which is merely the Spirit stimulating my vision neurons in a definite pattern to bring the "vision" about. I saw a "Mr. Atlas" style Jesus, like a body builder, rippling with such muscles that would make real body builders weep from frustration at their own poor results. He had been evidently whipped and beaten, but this was not the limp, staggering Jesus of Gibson's "The Passion". THIS Jesus was standing, flexing his muscles, grinning, totally unfazed by the beating. THIS Jesus was obviously unstoppable, invincible, infinite, and transcendent. He said, "LOAD ME UP. I can take it. Don't waste my crucifixion!" My friends, if those Jesus healed in Galilee had half the enthusiasm, loyalty, and love for Him that I showed for him that morning, then the Priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, had very good reason to fear and envy him.
Before I go on to the next relevant subject, I want to issue a disclaimer: I do not want anyone to found their belief on the conclusions that I draw from any of my experiences solely upon my experiences. If I talk about a vision or an insight with religious ramifications, I do so when there is scriptural support for the lessons that the vision or insight is trying to teach. I regard these experiences, visions, and insights as "signs" that point to the desired destination. They are different means by which the Spirit implements "leading unto all truth". I am aware of some who would disapprove of my use of a vision or experience to help me understand a body of scriptures, but these are the same people who advocate the "limited" form of "all truth". It seem pretty inconsistent, if not hypocritical, to assert that the Holy Spirit only leads us to all religious truth, then kvetch when the Spirit uses a vision to lead me into a specific religious truth that leads me to look at specific scriptures from a different angle! We are counseled not to seek for "signs" by such people, forgetting that "signs" are intended to point lost seekers to their desired destination. After all, when one is lost, it is the height of foolish pride not to look for signs out of a desire to project a mere appreance of competence that does not truly exist (an affliction to which male drivers seem especially susceptible). However, I agree that once the signs are found, one must follow them. Camping under them as if they were the destination rather than pointing to the destination doesn't get anyone to that destination as effectively as ignoring them. (I should probably cut such people some slack since my experience as a Computer Science Professor is that being able to competently handle and manage pointers (both data and code types) separates the average programmer from the truly skilled one. There aren't that many people who learn how to keep track between the pointer and that to which it points, so if most of them are programming computers, there clearly will be few of them doing theology.)
I will now address aspects of the instruction process that are specific to the instructor.
It doesn't take the diligent student long to figure out that each teacher, professor, and instructor has their own set of quirks that are manifestations of deeply held values and ideals. The more deeply and fanatically these values and ideals are held by the instrutor, the more they will insist that the student adopt those values and ideals if the instruction is to be truly fruitful. Contrariwise, if the value systems of the instructor and student markedly differ in those ideals and values, it is best for both that the student seek a more compatible instructor. This is because maximal learning happens when the effort that the instructor expends in tailoring their instruction to the student is met with an equal diligence on the part of the student adopting, integrating, and following those ideals, goals, and values. The unity and mutual love and respect that develops between them are the major themes of many oriential martial arts epics and movies, a shadow of which can be seen in the "Karate Kid" movie series between Mr. Miyagi and his students.
Again, as it is in the physical, so it is in the spiritual. One should not confuse the Holy Spirit Himself with His value system, which confusion I feel lies at the root of many current theologies that sound good in principle but bear little or no fruit in the lives of those who believe them. Being Deus, the Holy Spirit has inherent characteristics, powers, and abilities that have no analogue in physical nature and our human experience, rendering Him, and the other members of the Trinity, inherently and ultimately incomprehensible in those aspectss. Indeed, even His very name and the bewildering variety of His manifestations in scripture make pinning Him down more difficult than the Father and the Son.
However, this is not so with His value system that makes up His character. The Fruit of the Spirit are not values and emotions that are alien to us, but are those aspects of Deity that we share that gives substance to the statement that we are made in God's image. What is alien to us is the passion, fierceness, and persistence that moves and motivates Deus to hold them, practice them, and pursue them. Ultimately, God will not share the universe with those who do not share the same values to the point of opposing them and opposing those who embrace them and practice them.
When it comes to living Symbiotically with the Spirit I have come to believe that there are three values out of all the virtues and values that are taught in Scripture that are the most pertinent when it comes to receiving and profiting from His instruction. I will briefly discuss them here by way of introduction and expand on them as necessary in the next subject areas and in other essays, asking my readers to keep in mind that I discuss these because of their relevance, not ultimate importance. The values and virtues of Love and Justice are the supreme ones, but not necessarily the only ones worth pursuing to the exclusion of others of current relevance. Finally, astute readers may note that I have touched on their importance in earlier essays. Again, the process of research is rarely static or ever complete, and is full of uncertain probings and some blind alleys, so the treatment I give here should augment those other passages rather than replace them.
The first key value/virtue is Humility. A proud student cannot learn if learning requires admitting the inadequacy and/or incompleteness of that which they already know. Similarly, a proud instructor holds back instruction out of fear of being upstaged and surpassed by the student. A proud instructor is not focussed on the student, but upon himself and how he looks and appears to the student and others. Finally, some instruction, or the entire process of instruction, requires that the instructor "tone back" and "tone down" his capabilities or his dignity in the interest of the student. The proud instructor will "show off", while the humble instructor risks distain in the quest to improve his student. Pride never recognizes Humility, fears and envies Pride in others. They resent and begrudge the fact that someone does not find THEM the center of the universe. In contrast, Humility recognizes Humility and sees through Pride. Thus, the humble student recognizes the grace shown by the humble instructor, and grants him that respect that restores the dignity that was willingly sacrificed in the interest of their progress and advancement. That humility helps the student learn from what the instructor gives, thus honoring it by not turning it into a waste of time and effort. It is within this matrix of grace given and received that admiration, loyalty, and love are birthed and grow to maturity.
Thus, I advise my readers who seek to be instructed and led by the Spirit to recognize that there may be times when you will be astounded at what appears to be God acting in a distinctly undignified manner to a degree that we would consider degrading. It is only when you yourself embrace humility that you will see the lessons being taught and the goals being attained. By embracing humility yourself, you will perceive the love motivating such behavior, learn from it, and re-grant to God, from your heart and mind, the dignity and reverence that such love merits. Jesus Christ perfectly reflects God, and in becoming a man and dying on the cross amid humiliations and degradation, he was consistenly displaying characteristics while as a man that he routinely practiced before his Incarnation and which the other Members of the Trinity practice as well. Conversely, if you do not adopt the spirit and practice of humility, then you will never see God sacrifice for you to get you to learn if your pride will keep you from learning. Like a teenage girl desiring to bind her boyfriend closer to her, God "puts out" to bring us closer to Him so He can help us. However, unlike the teenage girl who does not perceive the difference between being used and being loved for the offer of herself, God does not cast His pearls (i.e. the blessing of Himself and the (seeming) sacrifice of His dignity on your behalf) before swine, and does not expect you to do so either. And for your sake, please do not bleat "I am unworthy!" when He does: His Wisdom is too great for Him to make a mistake, and His Sovereignty too complete for you to entertain the delusion that He is being forced to do something He doesn't want to do. He not only knows what He is doing, but also fully wants to do it. (If you find this difficult to comprehend, then consider the fierce love that the American people have for their military. It was relatively absent when the draft was in effect, but grew as the reality of the volunteer army slowly seeped into the people's consciousness. Love is never seen if it is perceived that the actions it motivates are forced. But when those actions are seen as freely chosen and not forced, then the revelation of love comes and is keenly felt.)
The second value/virtue is that of Truth and its allied virtue of honesty. That Truth would be intensely valued by the Spirit of Truth may seem to be an oxymoron, but it is surprising that people expect to be blessed when they live lives that are not in accordance to the Truth. The plain fact of the matter is that the quality of the truth that one believes does matter to God.
This not only applies to error and falsehood, but also to incomplete truths. The very effectiveness of this website is based on the premise that "getting it more right brings more results." While I appreciate the obvious truths that my birth denomination taught me, their understanding of the Holy Spirit was wrong in several cases and incomplete in the rest. They would certainly deny that my inability to control my sexual compulsions was based on my believing their incomplete truths about the Holy Spirit. Certainly, there are many denominations that claim to have the truth but would deny that the inability of those who suscribe to them to overcome sin is due to the fact that those truths are incomplete or wrong. However, I regard such denials as false because the moment I "got" the implications of the truth of the symbiotic indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the temptations I had struggled with unsuccessfully when they had me under their wing evaporated. Indeed, I expressly remember that half of my subsequent (but brief) relapses were preceeded by a sincere, but false, doubting that what I had figured out was false, God's refusal to work when the truth was doubted further re-enforced, in my mind, the truth that "getting it right does matter". That God extends grace in this respect by working at times to help those who are in a state of ignorance does not mitigate the need to eventually get it right. Just as grace is given to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4), so grace is given to provoke us to seek for the whole truth. If the truth sets us free, then we are not totally free until we have the whole truth.
The flip side of the Spirit not moving or acting to re-inforce falsehoods or inferior truths is that He moves signally when the opportunity presents itself for the person to move to a more-true truth that won't take place unless He moves. The Book of Acts is full of statements where God did miracles to confirm the words of Paul and the Apostles, and this is the sole reason why conviction of sin does not come to the sinner apart from the preaching of the Gospel. Again, grace is often extended to get us moving toward the truth, as was the case of Cornelius who was allowed to interact with an Angel, but only to direct him to send for Peter to hear the Gospel from his mouth. The subsequent descent of the Spirit into the gentiles present when Peter preched the Gospel served to move the Jewish Christians from the less-true truth that the Gospel was preached to them to the more-true truth that the Gospel was to be preached to all men.
The third value is cooperation. It is manifestly true that God is perfectly self-sufficient and the only Being that is truly not in need of anything or anybody. In fact, the doctrine of the Trinity disposes of the vain belief that God created man because He was in need of company, since each member of the Trinity had the other two as glorious companions. If my pathetically weak experiences with the Holy Spirit are a guide, such company would prove quite delicious, satisfying, and complete. However, we must not let human-based preconceptions about self-sufficiency and Sovereignty blind us to the obvious fact that God, by His authority and His free choice (which is unconstrained and uncompelled), chose to react responsively to how we act and behave toward Him. The scriptures are replete with promises God freely made that pose a condition and promise good things for those who meet the condition. The entire Old Testament records a God who interacted with people and who responded to their choices to obey or disobey. The New Testament records a God who takes this cooperation to the next level by dwelling within believers. It is easy to command from a distance, but cooperation requires getting close and personal.
Why would God do this? My experience tells me that this value springs from God putting His love for us into action. It is the fact that this cooperation was freely chosen by a God whose nature and providence are not compelled or constrained tells us that the love He has for us is of the purest and noblest sort. Those of my readers who are husbands should have already experienced something like this with regard to their wives, while those who are wives should be nodding knowingly as they read this: wives often ask their husbands to help them in tasks that they are obviously able to do by themselves, or they may ask to "tag" along with the husband when the latter engages in an activity that they know their wife finds unappetizing. Why does she do this? Why, to be together, of course!
So it is with the Spirit. If you feel that the Spirit is trying to get you to do something or undertake some action, never believe that you have to do it all by yourself. Never. Period. Full Stop. Conversely, if you think the Spirit should be doing something for you, never believe that you don't have to do a thing. There is always something the Spirit does with you, and there is always something for you to do. If there is a task to be done, rest assured there will be pieces you will need to do, pieces that the Spirit will do, and pieces that He and you will do together. Certainly there are benefits for you if you do your part and God does His part, but don't think that God gets the same benefit that you get, or that He is motivated by the benefits. What God gets out of whatever you and He do together is that you and He are together.
As an exercise to escape the "its gotta have a purpose" chains we think God is putting on His relationships with us, read the Song of Solomon, putting yourself as the Shulamite and God as Solomon, as many Christian mystics have insisted we do. We read of Solmon ("my beloved") sneaking to the window of the Shulamite's bedroom ("my love") to beguile her to run through the countryside to enjoy the coming of spring. The point of doing it was to be together. They are together at the banqueting table. They are together trying to catch the little foxes that ruin the vines. They are together when Solomon's Procession arrives at her ancestral home to impress her side of the family. Conversely, the times of pain for the Shulamite are when she loses track of her beloved and she has to hunt for him. Her worst such experience is when he begs to join her in her bed, and she makes excuses to delay getting out of bed, then delays some more trying to pretty herself up, only to come to the door and find him GONE (moral: when God calls for a specific act of cooperation, stop jacking around and get 'er done!) Finally, consider the repeated advice given to the Daughters of Jerusalem by the Shulamite to "not stir up nor waken love until it please". It actually is a polite way of saying "when I get around to being useful to the people and the Monarchy by producing an heir to Solomon is none of your business!" The question of how useful, productive, and fruitful the marriage is going to be is ultimately secondary to the primary concern of the two lovers to be together.
The essence of Symbiosis is cooperation. The biggest hurdle you will face as a new Host in your relationship to the Holy Spirit Symbiote is the mental transition from "me" thinking to "we" thinking. Trust me on this. I've been there and am still working on that. You. Have. Been. Warned.
These values can and do interact. For instance, I mentioned my speculation in the first essay of this stage of the book of Proverbs being the product of cooperation between Solomon initiating a cooperative process and the Spirit helping him write the boo, and earlier on this page of how the Spirit moves when the possiblity presents itself to move people from less-true truths to more-true truths, with the book of Acts recording the Spirit moving to reinforce the Word that was preached. We tend to believe that the Spirit moved only because it was the Apostles who preached, but the record regarding Stephen, Phillip, and Ananias of Damascus refutes this self-depreciating lie. We can just as surely invite the Spirit to move in people's lives with the certainty of a Marine in Afghanistan radioing in a call for an Air Strike. However, military personnel have reported feeling like being "The Hammer of GOD HIMSELF" when the bombs drop, and I must confess to the same feeling of momentary hubris when I cooperated with the Spirit in dropping condemnation and repentance on a Christian sister I met online who was torn between a life of dedication to God and her lesbian cyber-lovers. Yes, it can be done, but it must be handled with care!
The defense I adopted, and which I feel is necessary when we start tasting the powers of the world to come in this life, is to embrace and submit to the Spirit's teaching of the value and virtue of humility in our lives. That is, we must constantly recognize and appreciate who does what knowing that cooperation is essential as a initiating causative factor. And this is another good reason why Suppression, as a capability, should be the first to be developed in the life of the invididual: it can be used to suppress feelings of pride and hubris that arise when our actions create situations where God's moving is so strong that we forget the precise division of labor when it comes to the Salvation of the people in the world.
This is not the only aspect where these values work together to produce an effect. I will now discuss a very specific "instructor quirk" involving another aspect of that interaction that dictates the adoption of a specific lifestyle choice that the student of the Spirit must implement in their personal life. In implementing this specific character trait, there is no compromise and no release is possible since by it all other flawed character traits are corrected.
To help get my point across, I must resort to using a physical phenomenon as an analogy whose name I will be adapting to describe the lifestyle choice that must be incorporated into the lives of all students of the Spirit.
There is a physical phenomenon called resonance where vibrations created by one body produces self-reenforcing vibrations in another physically separate one. This happens when the second body has certain internal characteristics that make it especially susceptible to very precisely tuned vibrations generated by the first body. It is not an urban legend that opera singers can break champagne glasses using their voice. This is done by tapping the glass to get its natural frequency, then singing a pure tone at precisely the same pitch. While the transfer of energy from one body to another via sound waves happens all the time, the effects rarely combine to have such a powerful effect unless properties in the receiving body precisely match that of the sound carrying that energy.
It should be kept in mind that the glass does not break immediately upon the mere presence of the correct sound frequency, for then they would be breaking randomly when people speak in their presence and accidentally hit that frequency while speaking. The human voice does not inherently carry that magnitude of instantaneous power. Rather, the energy that eventually breaks the glass is accumulated within the glass over a period of time by way of the vibrations of the glass itself: the link above states that Memorex engineers detected the rim of the glass deforming by as much as a quarter of an inch before breaking.
I use the term "resonance" to describe a similar phenomenon when it comes to the Holy Spirit and ourselves, but with some obvious modifications. When opera singers are asked to break champagne glasses using their voices, the properties of the specific glass brought to them to break are fixed, requiring that the opera singer adjust their voice to match the natural frequency of the glass for the power of their voice to break it via resonance. In contrast, the Holy Spirit broadcasts His power and capabilities at a given "frequency of truth" to which we must adjust our lives in order for the power of those truths to become a part of us. And the truth doesn't break us, but sets us free.
However, like the champagne glass, the power that comes does not come in its full maximal effect instantaneously. Rather, our lives must retain and practice those truths so that the revelation builds up within us. Truth that comes first becomes the foundation beside which or upon which further truth is laid, re-enforcing and adding strength to what was before as it merges with it to form a harmonious whole. Paul talked about how his teachings interacted with Apollos' teachings in the lives of the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 3:5-15, immediately after which, in verses 16 and 17, he talks about the believers being the temple of the Holy Spirit and warns, in verses 18 through 20, about fooling oneself by seeking to be wise after the manner of the world, since it is contrary (non-resonant) to the wisdom of God. He ends the passage (verses 21 to 23) with the declaration that all things in this world belong to us, and that we belong to Christ, and that Christ belongs to God.
Is 1 Corinthians 3 a disconnected set of passages? Hardly! The teachings of Paul and Apollos set up the "initial vibrations" of truth within the Corinthian believers in cooperation with the Holy Spirit who came to reside within them as His temple in the same way God resided in the Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple. From that location, He continues to lead them unto all truth as they build on that foundation (cooperatively). The belief of the Spirit's indwelling is essential because Paul warns them against the "wisdom of the world", which I take to be the teachings and beliefs of men that later became Gnosticism, which taught the impossibility of the transcendent and creative Spirit of God literally residing within material human flesh. He hammers home the implications of their standing in Jesus Christ by which the Spirit dwells within by stating that, contrary to the world telling them what to think, and contrary to all outward appearance, they own the world. Granted, we and they doubtless look as poverty stricken and ragged as Edmond Dantes did after he escaped from his prison, but he was able to shout "The world is mine!" before he got to the treasure because he knew what he had because of what he knew.
We must do likewise (Matthew 13:44)! In my mind, and in my experience, this is best done by living a life founded on truth as strictly as is possible to us. I do not mean to live a life based on full revelation, in which we tell everything we know, including our personal lives, to everyone! Rather, we must live a life as free of deception, of ourselves and in displaying ourselves to others, as is possible to us, and as closely as possible to the truth that we can manage. In response, the Holy Spirit continues to pour truth into us and aids us in living that life. Resonant living is a continuous cooperation with the Spirit when it comes to seeking, following, and submitting to truth in our lives.
Now, this should not be hard for us engineers and scientists who are already disciplined in the practice of adjusting the truths we believe to what we find out and discover in the outside world as a matter of course. All that is necessary for us to do is to expand that practice to every aspect of our spiritual walk and personal life. Living a life that is manifestly different on the outside than is on the inside is the essence of hypocrisy, and we know Jesus' teaching on that vice! Again, we do not have to reveal everything to everyone, but what we do reveal must be true to the best of our knowledge.
To be blunt, many people don't live this sort of lifestyle because it requires the fortitude to say to others "I don't know." This illustrates the fact that the virtue that best aids us in admitting ignorance, lack, and paucity of results for work and treasure expended is humility. Pride never acknowledges ignorance, while humility admits it as the first step to dissolving it. Pride has, as its center, the self, while humility is able to move the center from the self to the truth. I remind people of the endless jokes of men who are lost and the mental contortions they go through, while wasting time and gas, to avoid admitting that they are lost. Humility helps here, along with adopting the attitude of the child who, when confronted with the reality of their ignorance, are able to ask "why?" The problem with prideful people is not that most of them are stupid, but that they are too clever for their own good: they use their smart brains to calculate how their image looks to others and what they have to do to increase it and what they have to avoid to decrease it. Such people calculate that asking "why" would provoke suspicions that they don't know something, and from that conclude that asking the question is a liability. Children haven't learned to calculate that way yet, and their impatience with having to endure the mis-match between the lack of what they know and the benefits that would accrue to them if they knew provoke them to ask "why?" The only time prideful people give up their image of self-sufficiency and admit their ignorance and lack is when their problems become so great and so obvious that no amount of calculation can come up with a face-saving move.
We can now examine that aspect of the Spirit-as-instructor that exceeds the expectations we normally have of educators.
Expanding the Limits
Earlier, I said that the Spirit does not lead us in areas where we have no talents. By that, I meant that He does not bestow any talents ex nihilo (from nothing) in the process of leading us. While we do not expect that human instructors create talent in students out of nothing, we must realize that the Spirit as instructor has a far more impressive resume, for He who hovered above the waters and advised the Father on the design of creation helped the earth and seas create all animal life. In the same way, in response to a Resonantly lived life, we can expect the Spirit to create in us the manifestation of gifts we could have had at birth, but were not actually given. Here is a quote from the first essay of this stage that I want to expand upon here:
Before I move on to examining Ecclesiastes, I want to urge my readers to not adopt the attitude of those neo-calvinists whose extreme, but mistaken, piety leads them to object to any idea that there is anything that a Christian, as a human, can do in cooperation with the Divine, much less exploit and leverage certain proclivities of the Divine to personal and communal advantage. I am aware of one individual who totally missed the monetary aspects of the term "earnest" that Paul used when describing the giving of the Holy Spirit to the believer. They regarded the presence of the Holy Spirit within them as something inert and inactive, like a sort of trophy to be put on the mantelpiece. Upon his conversion, John Bunyan's Christian was given a roll to attest to his being an authentic pilgrim. While Bunyan assured us that the roll was of some intermediate value because Christian sometimes read from it to comfort himself before he turned it in at the Heavenly Gates, this individual appeared to regard the presence of the Holy Spirit as being of no personal utility whatsoever. This is an appalling attitude that I speculate is due to being motivated by the same fears that motivated the servants who buried their talent or pound rather than to actively employ it so as to increase it.
The parables of the talents and the pounds are worth considering briefly in this context. In both cases the original owner of the sums of money involved entrusted them to his servants with the command to increase them. The parables do not specify how the servants employed their talents in detail, but it is safe to assume that some had some special skill and knowledge in some particular area or trade that they were competent in to employ the money entrusted to them in those areas. The masters in both parables did not, in the current parlance, "micromanage" their servants. Indeed, the master in the parable of the pounds was absent from the country, and that parable states that the environment in which the servants traded was actively hostile to their master. Gains were made by the majority, with the greater percentage gains attained by those who were given pounds. What should be noted is that the servants who did nothing with their talent or pound were severely rebuked for not putting the money in the bank so that it would draw interest. The natural interest rate of money is between 3 and 5 percent, and it is unlikely that the "exchangers" of those days would have had a greater return than 5 percent. That both masters would have been satisfied (if not pleased) with 5 percent when others were getting 100 percent, 500 percent, and 1000 percent, indicates that they were looking for increase, however slight. Their displeasure was reserved for those servants who did nothing.
The key take-away from the parables is that as the servants were entrusted with money by masters who expected an increase, so we who are entrusted with resources such as money and talents are expected to increase them. However, we should not believe, based on the details of both parables, that we are left solely to our own wits and skills. Though the details of each parable differ, the rebuke of the unprofitable servant in each parable was the same, focussing on their reluctance to admit their inadequacies to the point that they sought out those with greater skills than their own who could help them increase that which was entrusted to them. The methods by which they would get that increase was left unsaid because the decision of which methods to use was left to them as well.
If you have, by this time, concluded that the Holy Spirit within us would make such an excellent "exchanger", then you are correct. Both parables are quite explicit in the absence of the Masters, and expositors have correctly pointed out that, like the master in the parable of the pounds, Jesus has gone away to receive kingly power. However, we would be wrong to conclude, solely from the parables, that we have been left on our own, for Jesus himself, during the Last Supper, promised that he would send a Comforter, Counselor, and Advocate, to forever be with us and help us during his absence. Recall that these parables were told to his disciples shortly before the Last Supper, so that aspect of the Holy Spirit's work was yet to be revealed. That the Apostles were clueless as to the nature of the Spirit until Pentecost arrived, as are many bible expositors are today, is a good indication of the difficulty of the subject matter. Since the purpose of this Stage, Illumination, is to help the readers of this website increase their informational communications 'bandwidth' with the Holy Spirit within them to the point where such aid (i.e. wisdom and insight) can be solicited, received, and implemented with confidence, I will discuss the particular processes and protocols in later essays. The key take-away is to recognize that we, like the servant, are responsible to take our single pound or talent to our exchanger and cooperate.
However welcome the counseling aspects of the Holy Spirit are, I would be remiss if I failed to point out that the two parables apply to the Holy Spirit Himself. That is, the Scriptures not only treat the Spirit as being a Counselor, but also a valuable resource in His own right. While I am sure that there are some who would be offended at the thought of God being regarded as a 'thing', Paul was quite explicit in 2 Corinthians 1:22, 2 Corinthians 5:5, and Ephesians 1:13-14 that the Spirit be regarded as equal in value to a sum of money given to ensure the follow through of a later transaction. Should not Paul's use of the monetary metaphor tell us that the parables of the pounds and talents have something to say in that respect? The manifestation of the Spirit in the Gifts of the Spirit is not restricted either, for the obvious lesson to take away from 1 Corinthians 14 is that one is permitted to ask for allied Gifts of the Spirit, such as Interpretation of Tounges along with the gift of Speaking in Tounges, or for the Gift of Prophecy. It is my belief that the gift of Wisdom and the gift of Knowledge are allied gifts whose combined use would yield results greater than the sum of the parts. I ask my readers to re-read that quotation from an earlier essay that I cited earlier on this page, reread the linked bible passages, accept the obvious implications of the texts, and act on them.
Starting Small, Ending Big
I want to end this essay with a note of encouragement to those who feel that their personal gifts and talents are either small, unworthy of the Spirit's attention, useless, or non-existent. We serve a God who delights in the humble ones as His most precious sons and daughters. Rather than reference the simple proof of God's humble nature I gave earlier in this essay, or repeat my discussion on the value of humility, I will draw some obvious lessons from the Parables of the Pounds and Talents. In doing so, I will not look at each one individually as many expositors have done. Nor will I repeat my discussion of their mutual similarities. Rather, I will contrast them against each other directly.
The import of what I will say will not be obvious unless we first run the numbers to get come context. While the value of a talent or pound is rather uncertain, the base unit of value in those times was the shekel (pronounced "sheeee kell" if you want to impress a conservative Rabbi). A talent was 3000 shekels. A shekel was roughly 10 grams of gold, so a talent of gold weighed 30,000 grams or about a million dollars when gold exceeds $1037 a troy ounce (which was close to its closing price on October 6, 2009). A pound was 300 grams, which would make it worth $10000, or 30 shekels. Thus, a pound was one hundreth the value of a talent.
Let's compare the two parables, and see which one more faithfully reflects the character of the Living God. The Master of the pounds gives them to ten servants but the one distributing the talents restricts his assignments to less than a third that number, implying a wider broadcast of gifts that are more modest, which fits reality more. The Master of the pounds gives a single one to each of the ten servants, while the one giving the talents distributes them unequally. Since God is no respecter of persons, the Master distributing the pounds is closer to this aspect of God than the one distributing the talents. The departure of the Master in the parable of the pounds to receive a kingdom also mirrors the current status of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior more faithfully than the one who distributed the talents but whose whereabouts is unspecified between distribution and re-acquisition. Certainly the world occupied by those who received the pounds is more hostile, and thus more similar to our present circumstances, than the one in which the talents were distributed. Certainly the hundred-fold greater sum at the command of those who got the talents commanded more respect and servility from the world than the ones who received the pounds, also reflecting the brutal reality that large investors have a leg up in our world over the small ones (like us). Yet, despite these disadvantages, those working with their pounds got much greater yields than those who only were able to double their talents. When the accounting was made, those who doubled their talents were only promised rulership "over many things" based on their faithfulness in "few things". In contrast, those who increased their pounds five-fold and ten-fold were awarded five and ten cities respectively to govern, showing that the reward for faithfulness in the relatively small things brought rewards that were not just numerically greater in value, but greater in quality, nature, and category. Those who were faithful with their talents were only promised rulership over greater quantity. In other words, the grace shown in the rewards given by the Master who gave the pounds outstrips the grace shown by the one who gave the talents, and thus better embodies the extravagant God who gives lavish rewards to those who are faithful in the little things while living in a hostile world. Finally, and most significantly, the two masters differ dramatically in the way they reward their unfaithful servants. While that entrusted to the unfaithful servants was stripped from both of them and given to their most successful peer, the Master who distributed the talents orders that the unfaithful servant be cast out of his service to undergo intense suffering, while the one who gave the pounds shows greater mercy on his unfaithful servant by retaining him in his service and presence, reserving his wrath for those who resisted his authority and made life hard for his servants. Need I point out which master more faithfully reflects the God of Mercy that we serve?
Based on the above, I must disagree with those commentators who, out of a mistaken reverence, teach that the talents represents the Gifts of the Spirit given to the few, while the pounds represents those natural talents common to all men. I rather insist on the reverse, backing up my claim with the practical results that I document in "The Symbiotic Refinery" that show how the vanishingly small effect of the Spirit moving on our neurons to bring about conviction of sin to lead the sinner to belief and salvation can be leveraged into multiple significant capabilities with hardly any increase in its effect. Starting with the single pound of "conviction of sin", I document "suppression of compulsions", "courage to smack cockroaches barehanded", "envision new software architectures", and "manipulation of the Immune system" (H1N1? Phhhht!). Granted, I haven't gotten really serious about "appetite control", but maybe I should if only to "bag" my fifth capability. And I am somewhat uncertain if vastly improved levels of "peace", "joy", and "kindness" count as one or three, since it is not obvious whether the Fruit of the Spirit counts as a single capability with multiple facets or a highly prioritized set of co-related individual ones.
Granted, these manifestations are incredibly modest, amounting only to the Spirit stimulating neurotransmitter secretions in selected neurons. However, these manifestations liberate people whose lives are bound by equally modest-seeming blockages whose consequences are out of proportion to their causes. I met a 14 year old girl online in a 3D social network who I will call Layla. It did not take long to determine she was a Christian who was a member of a relatively strict but active church belonging to the pentecostal tradition. She acknowledged the manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit in the Sunday church services and looked forward to seeing them in others, but had come to envy their bliss and freedom. However, she was afflicted with a painful shyness that kept her from going forward to ask for the gifts and receive them. Reminding her that the people around her would be happy, not derisive, if she went forward did not help her. Led by the Spirit, I attacked her problem from a different direction. I asked her if she had felt conviction of her sins and the need of Jesus when she was saved, and got a sense of peace after she accepted Him. When she acknowledged that she had, I asked her why her shyness had not prevented her from going forward then. The long pause before her response of "I dunno!" told me that mental connections were being made that she had not made before. I told her that her sense of conviction of sin, her peace after accepting Jesus, and the disappearance of her shyness at that time, were all the sole work of the Holy Spirit miraculously intervening in her physical brain. I assured her that what the Spirit had done before, He could do again. I told her not to commit to "going forward" the next Sunday, or any Sunday morning. Rather, she was to wait for the Spirit to say to her "Go forward", in the same way He "told" her when she got saved to "Go forward," and to commit to going when she heard/felt him moving. In short, when He said "GO!", just GO. She thought about it, and agreed to do so.
All the above happened on a Thursday. I met her next the following Tuesday, when she told me she wished she could meet me in real life so she could give me a big hug: she did as I instructed that Sunday, waited for the Holy Spirit to speak, and definitely "heard" an inner voice/feeling say "GO!", and she went, her painful shyness gone. Remarkably, she did not mention what Gift she got, but was overjoyed about the replacement of her intense shyness with a courage she had never felt before. When I casually mentioned that the Spirit would help her shyness in school, suspecting that it wasn't limited to crippling her in Church on Sundays, she remarked that she had noticed it had not raised its head that Monday, and was surprising everyone around her with her new-found boldness to not only ask questions in class, but to witness about what had happened to her. A bit puzzled, and maybe a little peeved that the Spirit had stolen a march on me, I mentioned that the Spirit would also help her in her artistic efforts and asked what she was good in. She said she was very good at drawing, so I told her to expect an improvement in that area. In response, she said she had just finished a drawing in art class that very day, and had been wondering why it looked so much better, but now she knew why. I wisely decided to give up, seeing how the Spirit was leading her to all truth on His own just fine without my help.
Two books have been written by Paul Coughlin on developing courage in Christians, and I do not want to minimize his work and efforts. However, it seems to me that there is something really significant happening when a handful of sentences spoken into a 14 year old's situation erased in a matter of days what Christian men are still struggling with after reading two books on the subject. I do not claim credit for anything beyond typing in those sentences because I am wise enough to know the difference in potential between a man pushing and the Spirit leading.
The key to generating that "difference in potential" lies in a deliberate, calculated exercise of the values of the Spirit-as-Instructor that I discussed earlier in this essay. In talking about the nature and origin of the feelings and thoughts Layla felt at conversion by ascribing them to a direct, intimate, and deliberate manipulation of her brain by the Holy Spirit, I was correcting less-true truths with more-true truths. Her acceptance of those truer truths was subsequently validated by the Holy Spirit Who moved because His actions on her behalf would not be misinterpreted or mis-ascribed to those less-true truths that she believed. That is, because she moved toward truer-truths, the Spirit of Truth moved to endorse that movement toward truer-truth. Not surprisingly, the truth I was getting her to accept was that the Holy Spirit would move to support that very truth. Her admitting her fears and her ignorance of the way the Spirit moves was a manifestation of her humility that permitted her to accept the more-true truth that I was presenting. Finally, by telling her to "GO" when the Spirit said "GO" (and more importantly, not to go when the Spirit was not saying "GO!"), I made her accept and act on the value of cooperation. Her embrace of the three values was itself a cooperative act that invited the Spirit to work in her more effectively, without the threat of a mis-interpretation. In every effective heresy of Christianity there is a measure of truth that is embraced to encourage the belief in the lies being presented. The truth that made Gnosticism effective was the truth that moving toward greater truth would be beneficial and reap rewards from God (value of truth). The lies were that only a few could understand that truth (denial of humility), and the denial of the literal indwelling of God in the physical body of the believer (denial of cooperation).
The skill to generate that "difference in potential" is what I invite you to learn with me as I write these essays. In doing so, I intentionally and calculatedly invoke He of whom I write on your behalf as much as I intentionally sought to trigger His interaction with Layla when I "spoke" to her about Him. He will just as certainly guide you to a knowledge of how to communicate with him and obtain the blessings of your union with Christ effected through him as He helped her, and it is my hope that He will guide you to a knowledge of how to share it as He guided me.
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