The word theology was coined in the 14th century from the Greek theologia, meaning “an account of the gods” (from theos, Greek for god, and logia, from the Greek logos for word). It comes from theologos, referring to “one discoursing on the gods”. Note the “pagan” origins of the word, being careful of the fact that not being a proper spiritual thought-word, theology must be taken as a suspicious modern innovation that tends to dilute the Gospel message and divert people into senseless or endless disputes. As earnest as the Greeks were in their vain search of truth and meaning in the Universe, their influence has remained and has, in fact, brought our generation into the same quandary they were in, if not, even farther from finding the answers to the same vital issues. In contrast to the handful of Schools of Thought then, we have thousands and thousands of them today.
Theology is also commonly defined as “the science of religion” or “study of God and his relationship to humanity” (www.etymonline.com). Broadly, it is defined as “philosophically-oriented discipline of religious speculation and apologetics that is traditionally restricted, . . . , to Christianity but may also encompass, . . ., other religions, . . .” (www.britaniica.com) In short, it is a serious study and pursuit of enlightenment in the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of any religion and of its value and benefits to human life and society.
Nevertheless, in the real and biblical sense, theology is, by itself, a fallacy. Why? For the following simple reasons which we will explain in detail:
First, the apostles were never “God students”, as many people presume. True, they were mentored by Christ about God and His ways. In truth, however, they were mentored by God Himself – Christ! But they were more than mere students or apprentices of the Master. They walked, ate, lived, worked, prayed, taught, healed and suffered with God! In the end, they were called “friends” of Christ. On the other hand, theologians study Christ (God) in a veritable vacuum that is rather late — by at least 2,000 years.
To study something that you can see, touch, smell or taste is not the same as studying something indirectly through reading about it, hearing about it or being explained in another person’s point-of-view. Hearing Christ speak right in front of you and knowing Him intimately are the primary marks of an apostle; learning about Christ from others, especially people who carry a denominational slant, is the mark of a theologian or a theology-taught individual. Like astronomy, theology is a mere science that has no direct access to its subject in order for it to directly, truly and fully comprehend the essence of God, or stars for that matter. In fact, unless you have seen Christ or God in the fullness of His glory, His appearance, His wisdom, His love, His sacrifice, His power and His majesty face-to-face (or, at least, saw Him go up to Heaven carried by the clouds and surrounded by angels), you can never be more than a mere student and – therefore, a theologian. Reading the Word even in Hebrew and Greek does not guarantee true learning without the Holy Spirit and His Key of Truth, as the next point explains.
Second, more than deriving their basic learning from Christ directly or God Himself, they also obtained wisdom and understanding through the Holy Spirit given to them as Helper. Their so-called Masteral or Doctorate Degree in Organic Faith came from living, dwelling and walking in the Spirit daily, not just every MWF, TTh or through daily, online courses. Now, how can we be sure the theologians (no matter how great or intelligent they were) who came after the apostles had the same process of learning? And how dare we refer to the apostles as mere theologians, thereby bringing them down from their special calling as inspired and commissioned messengers of the Lord? Theologians, on the other hand, only have an ordination, a religious calling or maybe a mere ministerial license from a school or church. What makes them then better, higher or equal to the apostles – or even greater than anyone who would go directly to the apostles’ teachings as well? Does one need to become a theologian to know or understand the Word of God? If not, why flaunt such a haughty, if not presumptuous and even fallacious title? Remember how the 12-year-old son of Joseph and Mary impressed the lawyers, doctors and scribes (precursors of theologians) in the Temple as He expounded His understanding of the Law? Yes, He had God as Teacher as well, not to mention as Father.
Third, reading the apostles’ writings and teachings already assures us that there is no longer any need to “study God” as an educational pursuit or vocational calling as it is precisely the goal of God through the apostles to make Himself known through His own words. Meaning, God talks to us as He reveals Himself as He really is through proper spiritual thought-words. That is not studying God but talking to God and learning in His presence. How does one learn to love a person: by going to school? No, you do so by being with that person and talking to him or her. And as we said, the record is complete. The love letter of God is open, clear and accessible to anyone in his or her language at any time now. The only thing that needs to be considered is how to get the Key of Truth to derive the exact meaning of the Word. And we said that that is the job of the Holy Spirit – not theologians, priests, pastors or preachers.
Fourth, theology does not give anyone assurance whatsoever that the Key of Truth given by the Holy Spirit is fully understood. The job of the apostles had been done and completed as well after Christ had done and finished His job on Earth. But the job of the Holy Spirit is not yet done and complete until Christ returns. It is not the job of theologians to reveal the Truth; it is the Holy Spirit’s ALONE. So-called “students of God’s word” are mere students, not apostles and not revealers of God’s mysteries. Hence, theologians must keep studying; but the Spirit has perfect knowledge already! Why choose a lesser teacher? They were, are and will never be true partners with or inheritors of the apostles, because it is the Holy Spirit Who “inspired” the apostles to bring the Truth, no one else. We can be very sure of that! Anything else that filters the message through anyone other than the apostles and the Holy Spirit is false or fallacious teaching. In fact, as Paul wrote: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed”. (Gal. 1:9 – Highlighting provided) Hope that settles that issue once-for-all.
Finally, anyone then who wishes to learn the Truth needs only to “search the Scriptures” (John 5:39), “abide in the Word of Christ” (John 8:31), “devote oneself in the teachings of the apostles” (Acts 2:42) and “live in the Holy Spirit” (Gal.5:25) to do so. Each one of those requisites is available to anyone through the written Word, including the process of receiving the Holy Spirit into one’s life. The apostles wrote those precisely to help disciples avoid false teachers. And anyone who diverts you from those steps gets between you and God. For theology is not only a fallacy but a superfluous and dangerous pursuit.
The apostles gained so much wisdom because they learned from the Lord directly. So would one be who learns from the Spirit directly. For all Scripture is inspired (“breathed” or “spoken” — spiritual words) by the Holy Spirit into the heart of a person (spiritual thought or truth) who reads it, believes it and acts accordingly. (2 Tim 3:16) Beware of religious apologists who wish to trap you into useless and empty diversions from the essential message of Christ. “Study” or “search” scriptures by simply listening to and learning from the source of the Word – the Holy Spirit, nothing more. One need not be an apostle; only a hearer, believer and follower of the Spirit. Hearing, believing and following others may lead to various lies and fallacies, to be very brutal.
In short, whereas the apostles learned directly from Christ living with them in the flesh, now we can also learn directly from the Holy Spirit living with us in our flesh. This is the next level in the spiritual- thought-or-reality/spiritual-word-or-object combination process: The Holy Spirit (as a downpayment guarantee) combines with the human spirit-and-body (as His temple or vessel on Earth) to create a living, earthly reality that pre-creates a living, heavenly reality. The Kingdom or Kingdom-worship is in us, not in churches, buildings or sects. Theology has failed to teach and fathom this attribute of Organic Faith.
Did you ever read of an apostle who refuted or questioned Christ’s teachings (besides the Pharisees and Scribes, of course)? Yet today, theologians and sects debate endlessly with the Holy Sprit’s revealed Word, question and even distort so many of His teachings. In fact, wars have been waged in the name of religion, faith and doctrinal beliefs until today.
So, does that mean we no longer need evangelists today? In a practical sense, we do not, because the Word of God is with us now in its entirety. The Bible is the evangelist itself! In fact, it has four! (Evangelists in the early centuries had to recount the story in the absence of written accounts. Christ even sent them once to preach and not even carry any scripture (as “no bags, money, etc.” suggests). Why? Because Christ “gave them power and authority . . . to cure diseases” and “to preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:1-2) Were those evangelists quoting Matthew or John or Christ Himself directly when they preached? Did they tell stories about Christ and His deeds told to them by philosophers or doctors of the law? Or were they witnessing to people based on their own experiences?
And when did you begin to believe Christ was truly the Son of God? After reading Matthew? Mark? Luke? Or John? In like manner, when did you begin thinking Star Wars was the greatest sci-fci movie ever made: during the first trilogy or the prequel trilogy? Whether we accept the testimony of only one or more witnesses depends on the quality of the witness and our preparedness to accept the evidence. The perfect witness and empower-er is the Holy Spirit alone – THEN and NOW. Besides Him, there is no other.
The danger in “sending evangelists” today is that their message will be filtered through denominational, religious, doctrinal or theological biases or peculiarities. How do we avoid error then?
We keep saying that there is only One Sole Teacher. (I John 2:20-27) And we will not get tired saying it until people listen and accept this simple fact and truth. We only have and only need one Teacher today: the Holy Spirit. Any other is a deceiver. Anyone who says that is wrong or impossible to achieve is out to deceive you and draw you away from the simplicity that is in Christ. What we need badly are not evangelists but people who will stay away and help others from the theological assumptions and suppositions that lend support to the entire denominational Christianity and religion, in general. That is the only way to undo the two-millennia-long dulling of our minds and to remove the cloud in our spirits that we may finally see the brilliance of the Holy Spirit. Only then can we be truly and freely transformed into His image from glory to glory. (2 Cor. 3:18)
We will now consider some specific examples to prove our assessment above and how theology has historically and patently treated the written Word through expanding its meaning and speculating on other meanings.
A bunch of theologians expounded on John 21:1-11,where the resurrected Christ is broiling a fish and cooking bread over fiery coals by the Sea of Galilee while the apostles were vainly catching fish. He called out and asked if they had caught any fish. Not recognizing their Master, for it might have been still dark and they were 200 cubits (about 100 meters) from land (a man would be about the height of a thumbnail held at arm’s length), they said they had not caught anything the whole night and kept working. He then told them to cast the net on the right side. They did and caught so many fish that the net almost broke and they could not draw the fish into the boat. All in all, they caught 153 fish.
When John mentioned it was the Lord, Peter jumped into the lake after putting on his outer garment, perhaps, to hide his nakedness from Him. Or, in his excitement, he swam ashore and left his companions who had to drag the net with the fish toward shore. They were all amazed at how the net did not break at the great catch. The Lord then asked them to bring the fish as he offered them breakfast with His one fish and one loaf of bread on hand. Again, without waiting on his friends to help him, Peter dragged the net with the fish on the shore as the Lord had asked.
It is safe to say that they cooked some of the fish and shared the loaf of bread, which must have been large enough for the Lord and the 7 fishermen. So, why would anyone presume that Jesus might have multiplied the bread to feed all of them if He knew how many would eat? What was the purpose of the fish he cooked if not for Himself? And why make bread for Himself alone (for you cannot fish bread out of water)? He ate what He Himself cooked and they ate what they caught with His help. Yes, why go through all of that preparation on the shore if all He needed to do was to perform miracles? His miracle centered on the catch of fish so vainly sought by the 7 fishermen. Anything else would have been superfluous and showing-off.
It is normal and natural in the course of ordinary discussions to assume certain things when reading simple stories such as this one in the Bible. That is part of the fun and excitement of group study. As long as we do not proclaim our opinions or conclusions as doctrinal certainties or even practices that others must accept and follow as rules or religious obligations from God, we can all get along. But theologians do have a penchant for assuming so many things that often divert the message (as well as people, unfortunately) from the intended purpose. And what is God’s intended purpose? For us to have the mind of Christ through the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, not from endless speculation or debate.
But in this particular case, the discussion strayed into the “significance of the 153 fishes” or “the number 153” itself! Alright, we will go along with the flow and ask, “What does it mean”? One said that one of the fishermen thought of counting the fish just to prove how plenty the catch was. You know the old fish-tale fishermen love to tell – I have never seen anyone catch so many before in a single cast of a net! Someone else said to check out the writing of so-and-so on the significance of 153 fishes.
As early as the 14th-century, the Catholic theologian Jerome got worked up by the same question and suggested that 153 represented the number of fish species in the whole world. We can forgive him for not having Google to tell him there are about 200,000 fish species worldwide. Augustine also suggested it represented all kinds of men in the world. We need no Google to tell us there is only one kind of humans – that created by God. Checking out online commentaries, a writer did give a lengthy discussion and said 153 refers to the number of people Christ blessed in the Gospel accounts. And we thought He fed 4,000 and 5,000 with food He “blessed” before sharing it to them. There must be 153 ways to cook fish and to interpret this verse!
Let us look at a possible practical significance of the number 153, just to follow how theologians think “out of the boat” – that is, gasping for air.
Have not fishermen always had the habit of weighing or counting their catch after hauling it in? Surely, it is their way of dividing the spoils of the work. That would interest those who are business-minded or meticulous among us. But for the more technically or intellectually-inclined (such as theologians and scientists), it would have proven scientifically that 153 big fishes weighing an average of, say, 5 kilograms each would add up to 765 kgs. Adding the weight of the 7 men, each weighing 70 to 80 kgs each, a total of about 525 kgs, the boat’s live-load would be about 1,290 kgs. [Out of 18 indigenous species in the lake, 3 are commercially fished: biny (over 7 kgs), tilapia (2 kgs average) and kinneret herring (small sardines). Assuming the “big fish” was binny, our 5 kgs would be within target.]
We next calculate that the size of the boat would be such that its weight (i.e., no fish aboard) would be what 7 men can carry or drag together from the water to the shore. If a person can carry his own weight, we would double the additional load then to the catch as 525 x 2 or 1,050 kgs. Adding that to 765 kgs, we get a total now of about 1,815-kg gross weight of the full-loaded boat. Again, let us be more conservative and make it a round 2,000 kgs or 2 tons, to include the weight of nets, anchors, tools, water, food, and, perhaps, a mast-and-sail.
Now, using Archimedes Law of Buoyancy, we know that the weight of the boat is the volume of equal weight of water displaced by that weight, which is 2,000 kilograms. Meaning, the boat has a displacement of 2,000 liters (1 kg = 1 liter, approximately for fresh-water in a lake). Assuming a rectangular-box-shaped boat, that volume would produce dimensions of roughly 0.60-m deep x 0.9-m wide x 3.70-m long or longer if pointed, or a rowboat where 3 pairs can sit abreast, plus 1 at the helm. There you are: a “small” boat, as the text says, and good for only 7 men – the biblical number of completion. In fact, the boat could have been much smaller since they could not draw the fish and dragged the net all the way to shore. Meaning, the calculated fish weight of about 765 kgs could have been only half or a third of the actual weight, since buoyancy would have reduced their apparent weight. Hence, even if each fish were 10 kgs or more in weight, we could still safely retain our figures, as well as the size of the boat.
Is this something we can categorize as useless speculation or wild assumption? No, it would be an interesting technical dissection of that simple story which somehow proves why 153 fish could be such a “big catch” for a “small boat”, considering further, that they had labored for hours all night without a single catch. And Christ, by the way, had one fish! How? If He could command the storm to stop, why not a fish to go to Him? But that is beyond our point; for even without this calculation, we already know His lesson for the 7 men and for all of us: Great success comes from obeying the Word, not from our diligence.
Fortunately, there is not a single doctrinal or religious rule we can impose on readers or listeners from our illustration, except for the fact that Christ did perform a miracle. But that fact is a point and truth helpful for personal conviction, not something we can turn into a rule, doctrine, duty or obligation. The whole point is that the Holy Spirit proved Jesus interacted with people, cooked, ate and performed miracles in the presence of witnesses to show He was alive from the dead. And other signs He did perform, as John wrote. For what purpose again? So that we might all believe in Him, the One who died and arose from the grave. (John 20:30-31)
We want to show how simple the way of the Spirit is for any person who seeks to prove the Person or Deity of Christ. However, theology and other scientific pursuits can muddle or confuse the minds of many. There is a difference between distorting the word, thereby leading others into dead ends, and that of providing a common-sense view of the word to impart enlightening knowledge. We intentionally did it in order to show how theologians divert us from the path. And how easily they can manipulate the simple-minded and the untrained. In fact, in the next part we will continue dealing with the story and show how theology has made absurd assumptions that its practitioners have turned into dogmas or doctrinal teachings.
Not to say that all theologians — or what they do — are evil or wicked. Far from it. In certain circles of society, intellectual, philosophical and scientific discussions have a place. Progress has marched because of people whose gifts and talents have applied God-given knowledge and forces hidden in Nature for practical purposes. Still, much remains beyond our ken. The greatest mystery left unsolved and unresolved in most people’s minds is the issue of life. God gave us the Key of Truth to that issue, paid by His blood, purified by His love and perfected by His power. The “study of God” is no longer a mystery or mystic puzzle the Greeks pondered, wondered and labored on. They were many of the first ones who benefited from that great unfolding of divine wisdom delivered in simple, clear and true form, courtesy of the Holy Spirit.
The human mind is subject to the allures of the body, the soul, the spirit and the world’s many pleasures and diversions. The Holy Spirit seeks only to enlighten us and perfect our understanding of heavenly things. Although theology seeks to know God through the written Word, the Spirit seeks to reveal God through His living Word. Humans, as we have said in previous articles, see letters and words on a page while the Spirit reveals living spiritual thoughts through living spiritual words written in the hearts. Hence, the purity of a pearl (spiritual word) is a visible picture before humans of the invisible purity and value of the Kingdom of God (spiritual thought); but the humbled and obedient hearts (spiritual words) of believers represent the invisible reality seen by God (yet visible to or discernible by people indwelt by the Spirit) of His pleasing and acceptable members (spiritual thought or truth) He has chosen to be in His Kingdom.
In the invisible Kingdom shepherded by the Holy Spirit on the Earth today, foods, drinks, offerings, tithes, words and songs do not mean anything at all. Those are the things or objects we see and do and long to see and long to do before we can feel or prove to ourselves and others that “the Kingdom is here or there”. But such things distract us from the reality through the work of false teachers. God knows better what and where His Kingdom is. He only needs to see the light of the Spirit (spiritual words) shining in the heart of any person to know He reigns (spiritual thought or truth) in that heart.
Organic Faith goes deep into the heart and mind of a person because that is where the Holy Spirit seeks rulership. Not in the lavish ceremonies inside cathedrals, synagogues, temples or churches that people put up and adorn to impress others. Sadly, in our vain efforts to impress even God, we only end up impressing ourselves and others. How sure are we that we also impress God? Our learning (via theology) and our wealth (via theology’s profitable enterprise) could get between us and the pure and acceptable worship God seeks from His followers.
We will show in the next part how theology deviously manipulates the Gospel and, in particular, this story to make disciples of many impressionable people and rake in so much money. More fish, more money, obviously.
Note: Painting and photo courtesy of www.google.com)