The Other Side of the Boat

 By now I am quite certain there are some in the ABC who feel I have just gone off the deep end.  At least that is what people have been told anyhow. Time will tell, I guess. I am sure my views on the Holy Bible do not sit well with many, even though there is a solid underlying message in what I am actually saying, not what people assume or perceive I am saying. People tend to pendulum swing so finding the middle of that actual message may be difficult for some. 

The Holy Bible contains books and letters which some define as “the scriptures”. These various individual texts were written over many eras but the Holy Bible is not, however, as complete as the name would imply. Bitter pill to accept that? Sure. But “The Holy Bible”, is an anthology of just a very few of the written texts that actually exist from all of these other eras. This is not to diminish the writings as invalid, it is just to say they are very incomplete. Even the writings in the Holy Bible prove this with it's own cross references to writings to which we no longer have access. The writings "The Holy Bible" contain were chosen by the Catholic church as accepted texts to support a specific doctrine of the time. That does not invalidate these texts, but it does  limit the collection mankind is able to view and it certainly limits our knowledge.

In the early church there was no Bible, no anthology of compiled texts. There was only the Didache, or simply “the teaching” along with a few various scrolls and letters that were passed around between cities. “The teaching” could be related to another in a short amount of time and was predominantly related orally. We see this with the story of the Philippian jailer.

And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

They didn’t then give him an address of the closest ABC meeting, sell him a notebook of Greek texts, suggest he buy a Panin's, perhaps a Vine's, a Stegenga's, a Strong's Concordance, an interlinear and then enroll him into their new church. They gave him the message, then they likely never saw him again. There were no “Bible studies”, there were no “Bible study books”, no concordance, no commentaries…, just, "the teaching”. If one was a Jew, during these times, they often continued going to the temple to read the scriptures.

There is a document called “The Didache” which is alleged to have been discovered in 1873, with additional sections alleged to have been “discovered” in 1900. This document sounds remarkably like the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church and is suspect. The Didache, in the early first and second century church times, was not this document. It was simply a basic teaching passed along orally.  

In the early days of the Christian church there were Jews or Gentiles. There were not all of these Christian factions or denominations we see today. Certainly, in the Jewish faith, which is much older than the Christian faith, enough time had passed for factions to form, but the early Christian church was, for the most part, still unified behind a single message; the Didache. Then it began to fracture. The beginnings of these fractures can be seen in some of the letters to some of the cities. 

Fast forward now to our modern era, with more books and commentaries than one can possibly list. The points of contention between people  has now become super fine and the war over words is in full swing.

One of the most prolific letter writers, after Jesus’ days, was Paul. Although it is accepted some of the letters attributed to him were actually written by his various secretaries; Tertius (Romans), Sosthenes (1 Corinthians), Timothy (2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Philemon), Silvanus (Thessalonians), Luke (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews), etc.  Today we would call them “ghost writers”. 

The anthology we call the Holy Bible contains 66 books; 39 Old Testament, 27 New Testament, of which many New Testament books were written by Paul, or one of his secretaries. These few writings we have in the Bible were selected by the Catholic Church as the texts the “laity” would be allowed to see. The rest of the texts were locked away permanently around the 1400’s and are now housed in the Vatican library vault. In this vault are thousands of other writings by Paul, Apollos, Timothy, Luke, etc, all held inaccessible to most of mankind. The library is open only to University Professors, PHD students and professional researchers. Even then, it is only by infrequent appointment  since the whole world clamors to view these documents and one is given a specific time slot to view the library, but only if they meet the qualifications. Words are power and this power is now centralized and locked away from most. This makes a huge number of writings of the early church inaccessible. What is in these texts we don’t know? Is it important information?  I can give you a definitive answer. It doesn’t matter. Righteousness is composed of faith and love which is held together by hope, not by an ever-increasing knowledge base. What is now designated as the thirteenth chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians makes this clear.

 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Faith plus love equals righteousness. Remove one and you have zero. To take the little bit of information we now have access to, then build a “solid doctrine”, without error, is impossible. To repeat myself, there are only two doctrines that matter, faith and love. Hope, not knowledge is the thing that binds these two together.

In the letter James wrote to the Jewish tribes he talked about how “having faith”, yet ignoring the actual hunger or suffering of others, is essentially dead faith. Useless. If a man comes seeking real world help, the ABC hands them a notebook and a pen, claiming Jesus is the bread of life and the only way to achieve satiety is to learn Greek words in the right order. They have nothing more to offer than this. I can recount one men’s meeting where someone asked us to pray about a woman whose husband had just died, leaving behind three children with no money to care for them. We prayed for them but then I asked two questions. Did he work? The answer was affirmative. Were they married?  Again, yes. I worked for the Social Security Administration and pointed out they would provide the family a decent income until the children were at least age eighteen. For asking these questions “in the meeting”, I was later belittled for not seeking a more “spiritual answer”. To those who belittled me, I say this. If you are on a ship, and it’s beginning to sink, you better start praying really hard and ignore all those lifeboats dropping from the side and wait instead for a hand to reach down from the heavens and snatch you away. If that doesn’t happen, bon voyage on your short trip into the eternal.

There was a second similar episode when I was driving an old vehicle that had an electrical fire under the dash.  I jumped from the vehicle, threw open the hood, removed the battery cable then, lacking an extinguisher, let the fire burn itself out. That vehicle never ran again. For this I was chastised for not “praying first” before I jumped from the vehicle and disconnected the battery. Seriously? We are human beings, we live on a physical planet, in a physical realm. Not every answer is a spiritual answer. We are not heard for our much speaking or our frequent lengthy prayers.

Not long before I was ambushed, one person chastised me for not saying grace when I stopped at a convenience store and bought a candy bar. Perhaps I should have stood in the middle of 7-11, smote my breast and loudly proclaimed my thankfulness that I had sixty-five cents to buy a snack. I have eaten in a restaurant where an entire table will join hands then pray loudly for their meal as a show. Matthew addressed this subject.

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

A number of years ago I had the rare opportunity to take a fascinating tour at a glass bottle factory not far from where I live. The glass returned at the curb, or in drop boxes, ends up at this facility in huge dump bins and is all mixed together. It then passes into the plant via conveyor and is somehow sorted by a computer as it enters. Green, amber, clear all go to separate lines and the computer then mixes the clear and green together in just the right quantities to create the clear bottles used for salad dressing etc. After the glass leaves the sorter and remixer, it enters a giant kiln that is about forty feet high. It takes an enormous amount of natural gas to melt these glass fragments into a syrupy liquid used to form new bottles and, as it heats, the glass begins to glow so intense if one were to open a portal and peer in, they would soon be blinded. But the melted glass still must be monitored so there are several small flaps on the side of the kiln. Behind each flap is a piece of pitch-black glass. When you peer at the molten glass through this pitch-black barrier, what you are actually seeing is a figurative image of the molten glass bubbling inside, not the actual glass itself. This is the view we have of God and all things pertaining to. No matter how many hours we spend studying in Greek or English we will never see any better than looking through that darkened window. It never gets any better than this during our time on earth. The letter to the Corinthians speaks about this.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Righteousness is obtained only through faith and love; hope is what holds the two together.  Proverbs addresses this when it says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” Once you remove hope you have utterly destroyed faith and love. The letter to the Galatians addressed this well.  

 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.  For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

We all have a dim view of what lies ahead and what came before. We cannot improve our view...ever. Adamancy about anything is a spiritual crime.  If we profess to know much, we are liars since we know very little. We have just those few letters and books found in the Holy Bible as a mere glimpse but even if one had access to all seventy thousand plus other books and letters held captive in a vault in Italy, we cannot ever pretend to have a complete answer. When one talks about “nailing down the answer”, having all “see eye to eye”, these things are impossibilities. We all have a dim view of the universal truths about God. As much as having a library of books, making charts, graphs and lists feels good, it is never perfect and will never lead us to perfection. When the letter to the Hebrews talks about “going on unto perfection”, it does not indicate there is an actual end point to that road on earth.  

If you look at the ministry of Jesus, he sat people down so they could rest, fed them real food, healed their real maladies, told them a figurative story, then he moved on. We often read the Bible as if it were a law book and instruction manual. It’s not. Many of the writings speak of the things they did in the early church historically, but not all of them were edifying. (i.e., beginning to live communally…)

The Israelites were cursed with the law because they were not satisfied with just ten commandments. Much too nebulous for their taste. Open to arguments. Didn’t nail everything down. Once we start needing to “nail everything down” we make Christ of no effect because we have abandoned righteousness. The hope of faith and love is supplanted by the seeking of a new set of laws and rules. Love is the only commandment.

When some of the early followers of Jesus (they were not yet called “Christians) were starving, and failing at fishing for a meal, Jesus appeared to them and told them to throw their net on the other side of the boat instead. They then pulled in so many fish they almost sunk the boat. This story may be true, or it may actually be a parable, who knows, but the basic message is this. The ABC has reached very few people on this earth, in the last fifty plus years, with their message of Greek word studies. This method of study was taken directly from the teachings of James A Watt at Broadway Tabernacle in Seattle Washington, an Assembly of God affiliated church. When one comes seeking bread, they offer up instead intense Greek word studies then encourage the joining together into a cancerous mass behind a virtual wall they built to protect themselves from the rest of humanity.  Perhaps they are fishing from the wrong side of the boat.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.    Matthew


pros·​e·​lyte | \ ˈprä-sə-ˌlīt

a new convert to a faith or cause






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