667… but there’s still no peace for the wicked! :-)

jf brought this up. amazingly, as i’d just written the words for a cartoon on his very theme. it is an interesting theme.

helpline

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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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71 Responses to 667… but there’s still no peace for the wicked! :-)

  1. Stumpy says:

    he’s there all right.

  2. ED... says:

    Sure the devil’s real. He advertises. But he’s not going to be around for much longer. I’ve heard his time is short.

  3. beckyG says:

    jon – I am doing a parody in which Anton LeVay (founder of the church of Satan) is interviewed to see if Obama is the Anti-Christ. (Yes, Levay is dead put I can do a mock interview anyway.) Here’s what he says about Satanism, “To the Satanist, he is his own God. Satan is a symbol of Man living as his prideful, carnal nature dictates. The reality behind Satan is simply the dark evolutionary force that permeates all of nature and provides the drive for survival and propagation inherent in all living things. Thus Satan is not a conscious entity to be worshipped, rather a reservoir of power inside each human to be tapped at will.

  4. amywatson says:

    it encourages me that even the devil has an identity crisis from time to time….

  5. Aideen says:

    Funny, I’ve been wondering that myself…

  6. theseoldshades says:

    A frequent topic of discussion in this house! It first arose when the CU had a prayer walk and walked around the city and prayed, ‘reclaiming ground for Jesus’. Reclaiming from whom was my question; the answer was ‘From Satan’ and the implication was of some kind of being who had a hold over, for example, our local student pub. Not a concept I buy into.

    Don’t see ‘Satan’ as some little horned creature who pokes me with a pitchfork, perhaps instead it is my own sin, my own failings like when I tear people apart or am cruel? I don’t know.

  7. Laura says:

    I’ve been wondering this same thing about him. There’s folks who seem to attribute every “bad” thing to him and I just think that’s giving him way too much credit, whether he’s a real being or not.

    this whole thing just does my head in.

  8. Welshdisastergirl says:

    how does a metaphor fit into the story of job?

  9. Linus says:

    Welshie, that’d all depend on whether you read Job as a short story (ie a fictional account that is intended to shed light on spiritual truths) or an historical account of actual events, or somewhere in-between. (is Job some kind of Biblical version of The Other Boleyn Girl? =])

    The more telling question, for me, is how does a metaphorical satan sit with the story of Jesus?

  10. Mike says:

    Why does the dude holding the phone look like an investment banker?

  11. Kim says:

    Perhaps the two are closely allied….? Am only joking, and must stop sticking the boot into both parties :lol:

  12. Welshdisastergirl says:

    hmmm, so could the biblical story of Jesus be a fictional/ semi fictional account intended to shed light on spiritual truths?

    If Satan is a potential metaphor… what about God?

  13. jonbirch says:

    i don’t think job’s story is an historical account. nor, as it happens, is the story of jesus in the wilderness completely… jesus was the only one there… jesus was clearly tempted by some pretty juicy and profound stuff which the writer calls ‘the devil’ (needs a name), but was he visited by a creature? hmmmmmmm… doubt it… not in the sense that we normally think of a creature, (hooves and fur and stuff).

  14. jonbirch says:

    i guess, welshdisastergirl, all words are metaphors. so, ‘god’ as a name is not the same as that which god ‘is’. likewise, father, mother, light, spirit, and all other words we attribute to god are metaphors, trying to grasp the ungraspable, trying to relate things from our experience to the eternal, in order to understand a little more.
    that which holds everything together, formed everything, is responsible for the way things relate so beautifully, is ever awesomely creative on the scale of infinite universes and beyond is how i understand (or ‘don’t understand) god. so i can see why names and metaphors are so darned useful… however they can also become blocks or stumbling stones.
    have i made any sense?

  15. JF says:

    Welshdisastergirl (12) If the answer to your questions is “yes”, does that make more sense than trying to marry up all the inconsistencies of detail into one coherent story?

    That’s the only way it works for me.

  16. Linus says:

    can we just lay to rest the whole pitchfork thing? cloven hooves and horns are about as relevant to the concept of an intelligent spiritual adversary with influence and will as long flowing robes and a beard are to the concept of a creative and benevolent intelligence as the source of the reality we find ourselves in. This isn’t a debate about how hairy spiritual beings are, this is about whether they are figments of imagination or not.

    JF – it doesn’t work for me. I can’t reconcile a metaphorical God with the person who i hope to God that Jesus is. i can’t reconcile my understanding of human nature with any kind of hope unless God is more than metaphore. I agree with Paul that if Jesus didn’t beat death, we’re all screwed.

    There are days i think we’re all screwed.

    There are days when i believe that God is for real, that Jesus is more than a political firebrand who foolishly got himself executed, that transformation and redemption are real possibilities.

    I don’t see a middle ground. A metaphorical god, by definition, has no substance. I can’t rely on it to rescue me. It is not real. It does not work for me. What am i missing here?

  17. youthworkerpete says:

    This is all very postmodern :)

    Sometimes its ok for things not to be metaphorical, for there to be a real concrete certainty at the centre of something – just like Linus is saying about God.

    Although the bible is a little hazy on the exact nature and role of the devil (Job pictures him very differently to Jesus or the fall), any arguements against a force of spiritual evil who influences the world must recognise that the biblical evidence, and experiential evidence of many Christian’s, goes against them.

    #6 – Is walking round a building any more effective than praying for that building while sat in a warm room? ynot, except it keeps people’s mind focussed on prayer. In a room of 20 Christian’s how many are actually praying and how many are snoozing?

    although the world isn’t black/white of course, I would argue that at the moment the devil is still allowed to have authority over the world. Rather than ‘reclaiming’ a place, maybe it would sit better if you thought of it as praying for that place to come into God’s Kingdom. Then go in for a drink. Taking God’s spirit in with you is the best way to achieve liberation from evil :)

  18. jonbirch says:

    linus… i don’t believe the devil to be about a ‘figment of the imagination’. i do wonder though… no people doing evil, no devil? is the devil a creation of our wilfull wrong doing? when people do wrong on a corporate, national, or global scale a spirit is ‘created’… what the bible might call principalities or powers? it is the effect of a dynamic perhaps?
    it is interesting that there is no account (apart from job, which is very different) of a ‘devil’ in the OT. by the time the NT comes around there seems a need to give a name to such a creature. a graphic way of saying ‘don’t fall in to the clutches of that which would have you do evil.’
    as for god… different altogether. the reality of god is seen everywhere, from here to the universe’s far reaches, if you choose to see it all as deliberate and with order. i do. i can’t deny it. at closer inspection chaos is infinite order. in order to invent a god you first have to be invented yourself… i find that humbling.

    god and the devil are not equal opposites. they are opposed, but they are not opposite sides of any same coin, like the ‘force’ in star wars. god is creator of all things… the devil is, at best, a creature… part of the debate, i guess, is what constitutes the label ‘creature’. is the devil humanity’s frankenstein’s monster?
    beckyg @ 3 quotes anton levay… what he says is revealing… or is it?

    the images or pictures of the devil more than likely come from early christians persuading the pagans that their gods (for which they had drawings) were actually pictures of the devil. once again i wonder whether christenddom has made a rod for it’s own back. :-)

  19. jonbirch says:

    to me… the reality i see… is that the devil may be present where people are present, but is never present in the countryside left alone, or even in the bursting volcano and the earthquake… and certainly not on the beach as in my daft cartoon.
    perhaps the reason we have these conversations nowadays, when humanity didn’t in the past, is because we have as a species, developed. things we used to call demons are now given other names, like epilepsy, multi-personality disorder, schizophrenia, or chemical imbalance… all known medical conditions. we’ve, as it were, named those demons.

  20. HisGal says:

    @ Linus in # 16: AMEN to all you say!! Couldn’t agree more; thanks!

  21. Peter says:

    So who’s helpline would the Devil call?

  22. Linus says:

    office angels?

  23. Linus says:

    Jon, i dunno – most of the Christian Medics i know say that their experience of psychology rotation has reinforced their belief in supernatural evil, rather than explained it away.

    As for the idea that the devil is an anthropomorphism that develops over time in the Judao-Christian worldview – not sure… Job’s reported to be the oldest document in the canon, so i think the concept is there from the start, and Gen 3, though apparently much later, is obviously quite a key passage. Its a new idea to me, so i need to think about it a bit more…

    I reckon there’s a fair few passages that talk about an external, real, intelligence actively working for corruption, but there’s also plenty of stuff that would indicate that “the devil made me do it” is a huge cop-out of our God-given responsibility for our own actions, and i think your point that the devil has always been understood as created rather than co-creator is important and well made. Hmm, food for thought. Yum. =]

  24. Welshdisastergirl says:

    but God is knowable, and surley our experience is built on relationship and community, (which includes the Bible) not just language. maybe when i talk about God that is a metaphor for my relationship with him and how that affects others, but my relationship in itself is not a metaphor!

    also if Satan is a metaphor, what about the demons? i can see how you could say that was unbelief, depression, anxiety etc… but would jesus send that into a herd of pigs?

    and who is the metaphorical devil asking jesus to worship if not the devil? and are we suggesting that jesus is the devil if the tempter comes from within himself?

  25. Welshdisastergirl says:

    JF… if the answer is ‘yes’ what is the difference between that and any other fictional/semi fictional story?

  26. subo says:

    for me, it’s a fine line between human self will, and demonic powers coming into play. I don’t think they are totally separate and I don’t think they are the same.

    it seems to me that much of what we speculate as being meant my ‘demonic possession’, has locatable physical causes, that doesn’t mean that demonic possession doesn’t occur, rather that the enemy masquerades as an angle of light. Often when friends tell me they’ve been ‘coughing up demons’, I’m left with the impression they are wrestling with strong emotions or have been given misguided ideas about coping with addictions. And yet, historically, we can find times when the church itself sold, for large sums of cash, forgiveness in the age to come!

    I think it’s harder to discern the things that the dark spiritual forces are getting up to in our current age, except that to some extent the church has become a side player in our culture, ignoring the call to bring hope to all. One thing I’m aware of in my own life, is how a sense of guilt and damnation have left me out of action, smothering any sense of the goodness of life. – somewhere in the new testament, the devil is called “The Accuser of the Brethren”

    extensive passages of scripture ask us not to judge, to mock, to sit on the seat with mockers, to call your brother a fool, to gossip, to slander, …..

    we are also asked to pray for those who persecute us, to ask for blessing on those who hurt us. I find this tricky, but when I’ve put aside my raging hurt, and asked God to bless those who’ve cause me damage, I’ve felt free and happy

    “For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.” Eph 6 : 12

  27. Rich says:

    While I am convinced that the world is caught up in a cosmic battle, the actors of this are hidden from my unspiritual eye and I am trying to make sense of my experience in the light of the stories, poetry, and accounts of both the old and new testaments.
    In the new testament, the warfare theme of the old is developed and made much more explicit – seen especially in Jesus’ life and mission.
    Jesus talks about the ‘prince of this world’ and a key story is one of him tying up a ‘strong man’.

    This is key for my faith and I view much of life through this lens.
    Jesus comes to set people free
    The prince of this world wants to tie they down and bind them up.

    That the bible has a multitude of ways of expressing this spiritual demonic reality does not overly concern me. What matters more is that I take it seriously and learn how to fight appropriately against sin, the world, and the devil and remain faithful to Christ to the end of my life.

    I thank God that Pharaoh’s power to enslave is overpowered by God’s liberating might time and again… : )

  28. Bo says:

    I am convinced that demons exist and tempt people, I guess many that say they’ve been “tempted by the devil” are wrong, since the devil is just the leader of the demonic forces, not omnipresent and therefore can only tempt a very limited number of people in person.

    However, my experience is that most of the temptations Christians experience originate from their own selfish desires & lack of maturity in faith, rather than an external implanted thought.

  29. Forrest says:

    And it’s a good thing that there’s no peace for the wicked: but how much hope is there that they will ever own up to why they have no peace?

  30. beckyG says:

    18. Jon – to me what is telling about Satanism is that it teaches that you are your own God. This remind s me of the ultimate temptation Satan gave Jesus was “power” for with that He (meaning Jesus) could rule the world himself without the need for God. That’s why a community like this is critical – it reminds me of my humanity, keeps me humble so Wormwood doesn’t win. Where I see ministries get into major problem, you can trace it back to where the leaders start using “I” and “my” language as though they not God are worshiped.

  31. jonbirch says:

    yes, that is the telling thing, becky.

    richard, i think as a minister, with a varied set of beliefs and thoughts in your congregation, the approach you take is the most sensible. it is true, as with so many things, that the mechanics are so much less important than the lessons to be learned. for many, it is hard to see anything that is not literal as being ‘true’.
    i have been working on cartoons of marks gospel this week. mark only says that jesus went into the wilderness and was attended to by angels. we could discuss for hours what that means for hours too.
    but clearly, different writers have very different agendas and reasons for writing their accounts in the way they do. the ancient world, it’s traditions, folklore, myth, worldview, etc… etc… are so lost on us. so, it is definitely the lessons which matter the most and not whether something is literal history or not.

  32. Welshdisastergirl says:

    ‘and he was in the desert for forty days,being tempted by Satan,’ 1 Mark 13

    where does it only say he was attended by angels??

    and again, if satan isn’t there… are we saying Jesus is Satan??

  33. Ha ha! I just caught one lil bit of Linus comments

    “this isn’t a debate about how hairy spiritual beings are”

    Sorry, that cracked me up. lol.

    To be fair, I think the devil’s greatest trick is making people think he doesn’t exist.

  34. jonbirch says:

    hi welshdisastergirl. sorry, my mistake. he just gives a very brief account of the whole affair… and just to prove you right, here is mark 1 (from TNIV)
    “12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” :-) sounds like the average day in my life. :-)

    and no… jesus is not satan. :-) that i’m sure i have got correct. :-)

    btw… i am in no way saying satan isn’t real! just asking ‘what is satan?’ it’s interesting to hear peoples views as it always is. :-)

  35. beckyG says:

    I think it’s easier to externalize Satan as a being with horns, pitchfork and all the jazz than to admit he is within us – Paul really explores this in Romans 7 in a manner that really hits home – why do “I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.”

    I’m finishing up a mock Facebook page of Judas and in doing so, I added my name to one of Judas’ friends because 1) I think we need to embrace all and 2) there’s more of Judas in me than I care to admit — the difference is he gave over to his dark impulses totally and I haven’t (and pray I don’t).

  36. JF says:

    Welshdisastergirl (25): Maybe “metaphorical” or “allegorical” is a more helpful term than “fictional”.

    Hearing what Jesus said and seeing how he dealt with situations helps us immenssely in leading a Godly life. Having Satan as an embodiment of ALL the things that can come between us and a more Godly existence (including our own innate, human propensity to be imperfect) can also be a useful construct.

    Believing that Jesus went out into a physical wilderness, met with a physical Satan and was attended by a set of physical angels places constraints and burdens on the text which are neither necessary nor helpful. It also renders the text less realistic and therefore irrelevant to a wider audience. I think it would be better if the Bible were relevant to more people and I often wonder why some Christians (and many churches) are at pains to place the least useful (usually the most literal) interpretation on texts. This can truly denude them of their relevance to people’s lives. And ALL this is about people’s lives, surely, not ivory tower theology?

  37. Pat says:

    As with so many of these issues, how we understand and describe these aspects of our encounters with and complicity in the evil of the world, depends on our starting framework of interpretation. So when Linus @ 23 says

    Jon,i dunno – most of the Christian Medics i know say that their experience of psychology rotation has reinforced their belief in supernatural evil, rather than explained it away.

    , I’d see that as simply an example of how one choses to understand the world in line with a pre-determined framework – reinforced being the key word here. I could counter by saying that my experience is precisely the opposite!

    So, for what it’s worth, I’d agree with you Jon that the impulse to evil comes primarily from within humans themselves. Often it’s facilitated/encouraged by external factors (themselves the result of human activity). There is evil in the world and evil forces at work but I don’t see (at least not currently – all belief and understanding is a ‘work in progress’ :-) )this/these as being located in an external consciousness with active powers of agency.

    I think that arguments or statements about the devil based on what Jesus said/did in his earthly life also presuppose that, in his incarnated existence, his consciousness and understanding of the world neither evolved and developed, nor was in any way limited by his humaness/particular cultural context…….which might possibly be open to argument :-)

  38. jonbirch says:

    agreed in full, pat. :-)

  39. James says:

    JF,

    Christianity is not about a belief in a doctrine or theology, it is a loyalty and trust to a person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Reality is, even if we disagree with it.

  40. Miriworm says:

    There are other OT mentions of satan apart from Job. Try looking up 1Chr 21:1 (satan incites David to hold a census), Zech 3:1&2 (jodhua, the angel of the lord & satan & Psalm 109:6(the accuser)

  41. Welshdisastergirl says:

    thanks, i also don’t think Jesus is the Devil! but can you see that if Satan is metaphorical, then there is an issue when we consider these metaphors in relation to Jesus, especially when he is alone?

    and again… can a metaphor/allegory be sent into pigs?

    i also don’t agree that all language is metaphorical… rather it can be catergorical. so no one describes the word CAT as being in any way cat like… rather it represents a category of animal. but i also know it is difficult to apply this to more ‘abstract’ ideas.

    i’ve also been thinking that i don’t belive the Biblical Devil in the episodes i’ve pointed to is metaphorical, but that people do often use the ‘devil’ either metaphorically ( or incorrectly?) maybe this is where the issue has arisen?

    i’m no expert though

  42. Maple says:

    OK, a couple of things concerning biblical texts.

    Concerning Satan in the book of Job, is he not still supposed to be an angel, a ‘Heavenly being’ at that point in time and not the adversary?

    And to Rich (#27):
    “I thank God that Pharaoh’s power to enslave is overpowered by God’s liberating might time and again… : )”
    I’ve just been reading through Exodus, and one of the things that struck me was that it was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart time after time – surely then although the power to enslave was Pharaoh’s, it was God himself who was responsible for both the continued enslavement and all the plagues on the egyptians?

    I don’t pretend to be a biblical scholar, and I’d be interested to know if I’ve got it wrong.

    Brilliant topic and cartoon, I believe that the devil is simply a personification of our capacity for evil.

  43. jonbirch says:

    thanks maple… :-) btw, i conclude the same re. the devil. i don’t know, but that’s what i think.

  44. Linus says:

    Pat, yes i identified them as Christians in the interests of full disclosure… I should make it clear i wasn’t attempting to put that statement forward as a proof of supernatural evil, more to say that even in the context of a medical understanding of conditions that were once thought inherently demonic… there’s still room to see a supernatural dimension to life, cause and effect, as well as medical causes, symptoms, conditions and treatment. It might not be there, and i don’t think the people i’m thinking of would be dogmatic about it, they certainly aren’t advocating non-medical treatment (though i imagine they spend time praying about their work). I’m sure it would be possible to find medics who aren’t Christians who would say there’s something more than a medical condition at work here in certain instances. None of that proves anything, but it does allow for us to say that, possibly, there is a spiritual dimension to what we see in our everday lives, overlaid on what we can observe with our five senses.

    you have to be careful with the reinforcing argument, i think. Yes its always a danger that its important to be wary of in your own thinking, but using it to dismiss someone else’s experience is a dangerous game – it can caricature intelligent people as unthinking, make out that expertise and prior study are actually disadvantages to knowledge and its a handy way of dismissing evidence that doesn’t fit with your worldview. That’s why hardline creationists and scientific reductionists use it on each other all the time.

  45. Pat says:

    Hi Linus, herein I think one of the disadvantages of trying to keep to short(ish) and (given some comments in previous threads)not too ‘academic’ answers in discussion conditions like these :lol:

    Just to be clear – I was not trying to claim that any belief about the devil that does not chime with mine can simply be dismissed as ‘coming from a different world view’; nor was I trying to categorise those who hold such beliefs as naive or stupid. I was merely picking up on the example you had advanced as a counter argument to something Jon said and using this to make the point that we all interpret data in line with our current commitments – be they scientific, theological,hermeneutical or whatever. That’s the way we work. The strength of those commitments, and what else depends on them, will determine to some extent our willingness to consider other potential explanations. Of course it’s possible to get beyond this point – as evidenced by the fact that our understandings and views may change. But I think it’s naive not to recognise and acknowledge that what we choose to believe about specific things is influenced by our larger framework of belief.

    I have a background in both science and theology and I’m currently engaged in transdisicplinary work involving neuroscientific and theological data – two very different domains, seemingly divided by a huge epistemic gulf. The aim is not to dismiss or ‘disprove’ the understanding of either but to engage in a constructive dialogue, outside the domains of either discipline, to optimise understandings of the connections between relationality and health. So I’m aware not only of the tensions and difficulties in listening to other perspectives but also of the potential for rich reward. (Ok, justification rant now over :-) )

    I’m interested in your comment that

    ..possibly, there is a spiritual dimension to what we see in our everday lives, overlaid on what we can observe with our five senses.

    because I think it possibly highlights an important division which underlies some of these differences of understanding. It may be that I have completely misunderstood, but this sounds as though you understand the ‘spiritual’ dimension of life to be somehow seperate from, or operating in a different sphere of (implicitly non-material)reality; whereas I would see spirituality as being very firmly rooted in the material – an element of embodiedness rather than something operating in another realm. (not sure that I’ve put that very lucidly :-( so I should perhaps add that I do not make this as a reductionist statement :lol: )

    Welshdisastergirl @ 41: is it inconceivable that Jesus had to wrestle with his own potential ‘dark side’ – after all he had a fully human nature?

  46. Welshdisastergirl says:

    Pat… have to be honest and say i find that a really difficult concept, jesus having a ‘dark side’ , but it’s challenging, and therefore intresting!

    but did Jesus have an ‘fallen’ nature? and he is fully God too… does God have a dark side?

    if looking at a woman lustfuly is adultury then looking at stones yummily is….?

    But i remain unconvinced,because if this temptation is internal why would it be portrayed externally… it creates different implications.

  47. Pat says:

    Well I guess it depends on how one understands ‘fallen nature” – it’s a term that potentially carries a lot of baggage with it!

    I think Jesus was fully human – that’s what we profess certainly. As to whether this means that, potentially at least, he had a dark side, my feeling is that, for the story of the temptation of Jesus (however one understands it) to have any meaningful content, it must have been a real possibility that he might have succumbed. Otherwise there is no meaningful sense in which it can have been a temptation, and thus the event loses any power to challenge, encourage or transform us.

    Does this mean that Jesus potentially had a dark side? Was Jesus fully human? I think it has to be a possibility, at least in some way.

    What I don’t quite understand is the importance you place on whether the event was an internal or an external one. Jesus is preparing for ministry and satan, however understood, offers him 3 choices – convince by providing material goods, convince by indisputable proof, convince by might. The choices would seem to be the same irrespective of whether the battle was with himself or with an external agent so I’m not quite sure what you mean by it creating different implications – but that is probably me being a bit obtuse. Sorry :-)

  48. matybigfro says:

    Hi Pat yuu seem to be suggesting that Linus is arguing for a understanding of the spiritual that is seperate from the natural and i’m not sure that is what he was articulating.

    Personally I think that experience/tradition/scripture point to a non-material aspect to all of our exsitence and while i belive all exsitence to be rooted in the phyisical I’m not sure it is limitated to the material or five senses particularly God who transcends all our understandings.

  49. matybigfro says:

    As for the devil i think the danger may be to err to close either end of the spectrum, I worry that we loose something if we try to strip our understanding Evil of a conscious, malicious, pervasive aspect. If there is a Devil and angels it would make sense for it to be very difficult for us to understand/comprehend them and that how ever we talked about them to be somewhat missing the point, hence maybe both sides of the arguement bring need veiwpoints, of both supernatural and natural aspects to spiriual creations.

    I too worry about the scapegoating of the Devil for all the worlds ill’s, i’ve hung around people who’s every ache, pains and mistake was a attack of the devil and it was rediculous.

    While I believe the source of the evils I see in the world is very much found in the darkness in my own heart, I think it’s also true to recognise that darkness as something beyond me (and maybe why I need salvation) and as something that serves and neither me or God but it’s own hunger and self consuming agenda

  50. Welshdisastergirl says:

    I guess just if you need to be aware of external influences, media , church, family, relatonships, satan??? etc and how they can seduce you

    is different to internal struggles, anxiety, deppression doubt… devil???

    i think the temptation of J is warning of external influence messing with our reliance on God alone.

  51. pat says:

    Matybigfro -

    I wasn’t sure if that was what Linus was saying – which is why I asked :-)

    I’m not a materialist so, like you, I don’t have a problem acknowledging there to be non-material elements to existence; similarly I hold these to be rooted in the physical. So in that sense, I don’t see a separation between the two – one is an emergent property of the other,

    You talk about recognising “that darkness as something beyond me (and maybe why I need salvation) and as something that serves neither me or God but it’s own hunger and self consuming agenda” – maybe it emerges out of human lives and living by a similar processes?

  52. jonbirch says:

    yes… i’m not a believer in the supernatural… well not in it’s usual sense. i believe it either ‘is’ or it ‘isn’t’ and i do not believe that anything that ‘isn’t’ actually ‘is’.
    so, for example… if ghosts exist… they are real. in some way part of the way of things. miracles i believe to be the perfectly natural too.
    what has happened in the world economy is in the biblical sense ‘spiritual’, is it not? an all pervading spirit of greed and self serving, culminating in victory for the evil one. that would be one way of describing what has happened. people have followed and served that spirit to the detriment of everything and everyone else. but it is mankind’s bad behaviour which has allowed this spirit to come to be an entity, to be something we can name, something with real power. know what i mean?

  53. Pat says:

    Jon – I’d agree. For me, this way of understanding ‘spiritual powers’(rather than thinking of them as external agents who have power over us)not only makes more sense but is also much more challenging: This is something which is directly related to us – to our choices, our actions, our attitudes, our primary orientation (self or other)etc and therefore things which are in our power to control and change.

    And that also gives me a sense of hope as I see it in the light of my (evolving!)understanding of God’s grace and salvation, and of how these are at work in my life and in the bringing into being of God’s Kingdom.

    Hmm not sure if that last bit makes sense….. :-? but I hope so – it does to me anyway :D

  54. Linus says:

    Hi Pat thanks for asking =]

    Sory for the slow reply, and sorry, I knew you weren’t being dismissive, cos I know you’re not like that from what else you’ve written. Just a bit overzealous in fighting my corner – apologies. Short posts have never been my strong point, so apologies for that too.

    i certainly don’t want to imply any kind of sacred/secular divide – everything is ‘spiritual’ cos every activity, word, thought and choice can acknowledge the existence and goodness of God and work to bring life.

    But the comment you picked up on actually betrays a worldview that gives another reason for believing that everything is ultimately spiritual: “in Him, all things hang together” “God spoke, and it was”… If we really believe in a real God who created and sustains the ‘physical’ reality we can see and poke and experiment on, then surely it follows that we believe in a pre-existing spiritual reality. I don’t think the spiritual reality is rooted in the physical one – i think its the other way around everything, including the physical world is spiritual and therefore sacred, God-given, dependent on God’s provision, a priceless work of art by the creator of the universe. Everything is spiritual. Everything belongs to God.

    As for Jesus having a dark side, well my take is that Jesus experienced the free will and the desire to choose the easy way out/selfish option. But being “in very nature God”, chose against it. The image of God in me is corrupted so that my nature works against me and I “do things I don’t want to do”. I don’t know that I want it to be ‘fair’, with Jesus brought right down to my conflicted, corrupted, level so his experience is the same as mine. I want it to be glorious, so that Jesus, my great hero, my hope in whom I put my trust, can bring me up to his untainted level so that my experience can one day be the same as His.

    As for the here and now, in practical terms I don’t think this debate matters – I think we all agree (?) that regardless of the exact nature of what Jesus experienced, we face both internal temptation (which we all know about) and external temptation (whether from society or a conscious evil agency). Regardless of the source we perceive, we fight it the same way (pray, resist, pray more, remove self from temptation’s path, pray, admit you have a problem, pray, ask for help from trusted friend(s), pray, fight and fight and fight, pray…)

    I think Maty’s comment about understanding evil as insatiable and self-serving is really insightful. Whatever its source, its nature is to swallow you up and screw you up and use you up mercilessly. Do not give it an inch.

  55. Pat says:

    Linus :D Thanks.

    And thank you for this expansion – it’s helped me to understand more clearly what was behind your previous comment. I think in some respects our take on this is not that dissimilar – and I absolutely agree with your point about both the need for, and the nature of, practical responses, to temptation, irrespective of precisely how we conceptualise its origin.

    I also see what you are saying about pre-existing spiritual reality and therefore why you see the physical world as being rooted in this reality and not vice versa. I don’t disagree with you here, certainly not as regards holding that God is the author and sustainer of the created realm; nor in seeing this realm to be inherently a sacred thing. However I would say (and this may be where we diverge perhaps?)that for humans, our spirituality is an integral aspect of our physical embodiedness, not something seperate from or preceeding it.

    By which I mean that I don’t see my soul as being a pre-existing entity, coming from a spiritual realm and taking temporary home in the material one, but as something that arises directly from the ‘physical me’ – in other words I don’t see myself as essentially a spiritual being having a temporary material experience – if that makes sense? But I’m on a bit of a journey of understanding here, so this is a work in progress :-)

    As to the question of Jesus and temptation: Well for me, it’s the fact that Jesus is

    “brought right down to my conflicted, corrupted, level so his experience is the same as mine”

    coupled with the fact that he resisted temptation, that he lived a life of complete faithfulness to God, accepting the consequences of that (even though he could have avoided or evaded them), that gives me hope and encouragement to persevere.

    And I too hope that one day, I will become like Christ….

  56. Linus says:

    heh, its funny that often the debate between two people holding very subtly differing view often results in longer posts and more need for clarification than a debate where people are diametrically opposed.

    As it happens i agree with you about souls not pre-existing. hadn’t thought about before, really, but it makes a lot of sense out of the concept of God knitting me together in my mother’s womb to understand that each new child is not just a mechanically manufactured result of human action, but a spiritual creative act of God.

    Jesus and temptation… I agree the temptation has to be genuine… but (and this is probs differing emphasis rather than outright disagreement) if Jesus was like me, really exactly like me… He wouldn’t resist the temptation, not always. If Jesus was really, completely like me, He wouldn’t be worth giving your life to and He wouldn’t be able to rescue you. I agree that if Jesus is not “fully human” (but what does that actually mean?) then its a con. But anyone can be human. Well, most people can =] Its the being in very nature God bit that kinda marks Him out. And that needs to be true for me to trust Him in a way i just don’t trust in ‘humanity’

  57. zefi says:

    i guess, welshdisastergirl, all words are metaphors.

    I thought all words are labels instead of metaphors.

    it is interesting that there is no account (apart from job, which is very different) of a ‘devil’ in the OT. by the time the NT comes around there seems a need to give a name to such a creature. a graphic way of saying ‘don’t fall in to the clutches of that which would have you do evil.’

    From the very little that I think I know, the OT-era people are not very interested in the devil (or the idea of it), just as they’re not very interested in the idea of an after-life.

    18. Jon – to me what is telling about Satanism is that it teaches that you are your own God. This remind s me of the ultimate temptation Satan gave Jesus was “power” for with that He (meaning Jesus) could rule the world himself without the need for God.

    Hmm… Don’t worry about the first two temptations because He’s God (or rather, Son of God). I thought the final temptation was about giving Jesus power over everything IF He submits to the will of the devil. Isn’t that the ultimate purpose of temptations, to obey the will of the evil Stepfather?

    To be fair, I think the devil’s greatest trick is making people think he doesn’t exist.

    And that reminds me of this:
    There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
    - The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

    I think it’s easier to externalize Satan as a being with horns, pitchfork and all the jazz than to admit he is within us – Paul really explores this in Romans 7 in a manner that really hits home – why do “I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.”

    I thought Paul had already personified the ‘thing’ that is within us as the old man or the flesh?

    I’m finishing up a mock Facebook page of Judas and in doing so, I added my name to one of Judas’ friends because 1) I think we need to embrace all and 2) there’s more of Judas in me than I care to admit — the difference is he gave over to his dark impulses totally and I haven’t (and pray I don’t).

    Peter betrayed Jesus three times. Judas only did that once. So, how come the worse became one of the greatest apostles, while another one of the greatest traitors? Do you think the difference is in Judas giving over to his dark impulses totally, and Peter, well, only a little wee bit?

    So, for what it’s worth, I’d agree with you Jon that the impulse to evil comes primarily from within humans themselves.

    I think impulse to evil is an essential ingredient or more accurately, the inevitable by-product of free will.

    I’ve just been reading through Exodus, and one of the things that struck me was that it was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart time after time – surely then although the power to enslave was Pharaoh’s, it was God himself who was responsible for both the continued enslavement and all the plagues on the egyptians?

    That’s just how the olden times people write/see things. You can say that it’s their style.

    but did Jesus have an ‘fallen’ nature? and he is fully God too… does God have a dark side?

    If one is to take it literally, sin came into the world through Adam. Jesus had no biological human father. Go figure. :P

    If the idea of fallen nature came from the concept of original sin, I think we need to re-read about it, because I don’t think the former is what the latter is about.

    things we used to call demons are now given other names, like epilepsy, multi-personality disorder, schizophrenia, or chemical imbalance… all known medical conditions. we’ve, as it were, named those demons.

    Are you talking about the dark ages? :P In the OT-era, they called leprosy as leprosy, right? And from tradition, they had a doctor with them during the NT-era.

    I do find it ridiculous when people (not you, of course. :)) assume that just because all the cases Jesus dealt with had to do with demons, it’s the same with all cases. For His sake, He’s not an M.D.! Do we need records of Him mixing herbs and concocting cough syrup to realise that, “ah, so not all sicknesses are from the dark forces?”

  58. zefi says:

    Wow, that’s one crazy long one from me.

    WOOHOOO!!! :P

  59. Pat says:

    Linus @ 56 I think you are right that we need to work out what we mean by ‘fully human’ :-) My question in response to what you say would be ‘why wouldn’t Jesus be able to always resist temptation if he was exactly like you?’ and is, I guess, directly connected to my openning comment here.

    Zefi, you said:

    I think impulse to evil is an essential ingredient or more accurately, the inevitable by-product of free will.

    I think I’d see it is a potential by-product but not necessarilyinevitable. Isn’t that one of the points of this whole story? Jesus is fully human and yet freely chooses the way of God.

    I don’t believe sin came into the world through Adam [and I also might be tempted to argue that Jesus could, conceivably, have had a human father without it bringing down the whole Gospel :-P ]

    As to whether God has a dark side – well Jung certainly thought so :D

  60. zefi says:

    I think I’d see it is a potential by-product but not necessarilyinevitable. Isn’t that one of the points of this whole story? Jesus is fully human and yet freely chooses the way of God.

    It seems like you missed the word “impulse” in my reply. And I’m not talking in philosophical or metaphorical sense. I’m talking in terms of logic and physics.

    I don’t believe sin came into the world through Adam [and I also might be tempted to argue that Jesus could, conceivably, have had a human father without it bringing down the whole Gospel :-P ]

    The whole thing about the virginal conception and sinless state had a lot to do with biology, and any other story with the same results either sounds like bad biology, or bad miracle.

  61. Pat says:

    Zefi – you’re quite right, I did overlook it so aplogies. And, having reread the sentence, I agree with you :-) However I’m not so sure about the ‘talking in terms of ….physics’ – sounds a bit reductionist to me :lol:

  62. zefi says:

    However I’m not so sure about the ‘talking in terms of ….physics’ – sounds a bit reductionist to me :lol:

    And that sounds a bit like science phobia. :lol:

  63. zefi says:

    As to whether God has a dark side – well Jung certainly thought so :D

    Well, depends on what you mean by “dark side.”

    And I didn’t know that Jung was a theologian!

  64. Pat says:

    Hey Zefi – I’ll have you know I have a very solid science background :-P …but I’m still not going to believe that everything is reducible to physics :lol:

  65. zefi says:

    Oh, Pat, having a solid science background has nothing to do with fearing it when science is brought into the domain of theology (at least nowadays, anyway).

    Well, I didn’t say that everything is reducible to physics, so don’t be putting words into my mouth, or even to imply that I said that. ;)

    And reduced to physics? Are you talking about basic physics, cos as you get higher, it only get more and more complex. Reduced to physics? That’s almost oxymoronic. :D

  66. Pat says:

    Zefi – my current research is transdisiciplinary and involves both theology and neuroscience …….so I don’t think I’m suffering from too many anxieties about bringing either into the domain of the other :D :D

    You said you were talking about the impulse to evil in terms of logic and physics ….. and I was making a lazy assumption about what you might mean :lol:

  67. zefi says:

    Zefi – my current research is transdisiciplinary and involves both theology and neuroscience …….

    I can only imagine what that is, but I’m not willing to make assumptions when there’s not enough data. It hurts credibility, ya know.

    You said you were talking about the impulse to evil in terms of logic and physics ….. and I was making a lazy assumption about what you might mean :lol:

    So, if you were to talk about theology in terms of neuroscience, that’s ok, but if I were to talk about it in terms of physics, it’s not ok? Oh, not an assumption. It’s a question. ;)

    And unwilling to be quoted inaccurately, I wasn’t talking about impulse to evil, but rather talking about how it is the inevitable by-product of freewill, and that this claim of being an inevitable by-product can be understood in terms of logic and physics. I have no idea how one would be able to talk about impulse to evil in particular in terms of logic and physics.

  68. zefi says:

    Uh, totally unrelated, but I think it’s interesting that C.S. Lewis implied in Mere Christianity (or at least I THINK he implied) that theology is difficult; at least as difficult as modern Physics. Heh. :D

  69. Pat says:

    Ok, mea culpa – my bad for not quoting exactly what you said. But you’re still talking about understanding something in terms of physics! My original comment about reducing things to physics was meant as a jokey one really – but obviously that didn’t come across :-?

    As regards your question, I don’t think/talk about theology in terms of neuroscience, or vice-versa – that’s not really how t works in what I’m doing.

  70. Pat says:

    Both difficult I reckon – but then I was never much good at physics :D

  71. A pastor says:

    A ‘non-ontological reality’ = paradoxically real inasmuch as present in systems and relationships but unreal as in having no freewill or substance (person-hood) – hope that doesn’t confuse things further!

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