21 July 2007

More Evil...Personified

I had some excellent responses to my last blog. I was going to follow up in the comments, but I think it merits a new blog. If you haven't read the earlier post, be sure to go there first.

I'm not going to try to ignore sections of the Bible. I'm growing as a Believer, and this blog was more of a reflection of my personal growth and understanding of temptation.

For example, when I read the story of Jesus in the desert, I'm drawn by the nature of the temptations, rather than the case for or against the Tempter. Here's a dynamic man with tremendous potential for good (and evil--let's face it), being tempted to satiate his appetite, his need for celebrity/notoriety, or outright power.

Now I'm not going to point at the Bible and say, "The temptations were real, but there wasn't actually a being who said that to Him." But I am tempted by those same things--and I haven't had Lucifer present them to me.

For example, I have seen a powerful extra-biblical rendering of the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane in which the Devil appeared to Christ. His final temptation was to simply offer him a way out of the garden, away from the soldiers. I found this rendering compelling, because it gave me a new sense of just how difficult this was (and I later wrote a manuscript that incorporated the arguments of Job into the context of Gethsemane because of this very, extra-biblical scene).

Was Jesus tempted in this way that night? Almost certainly. Was it delivered by an otherworldly being or through the more conventional avenue of thought or appetite? Does the answer really matter?

I'll close with three points:
  • I believe that Goodness became incarnate, lived on this earth, resisted temptation, sacrificed itself for my sins, and then was resurrected to show me the goal of a grace-filled life. Is it possible to believe in Goodness incarnate without also believing in Evil incarnate? In other words, does a believer have to believe in Satan in order to be saved?
  • An analogy to the Lucifer problem would be the Hitler problem. Adolf Hitler lived and died long before I existed. Even though he died, people are still fighting against him today. We're always warned that 'he's coming back if we aren't careful,' and 'weak' leaders are compared to Neville Chamberlain. At best, this means that the spirit of intolerance that he embodied still exists, and we must resist it (I can accept this). At worst, he is a label that people can conveniently use. For example, Americans were told that by fighting Saddam Hussein, we were preventing another Hitler. Neo-cons refer to their enemies as "Islamo-fascists," promising more war, more bloodshed, more torture, more oppression, all in the name of Adolf Hitler.
  • At a church that I attended until a year and a half ago, the consequences of a string of terrible decisions by the church leaders were described from the pulpit as "Satan attacking the church." By association, then, members who didn't agree with the leaders were tools of Satan. By association, then, leaders weren't responsible for bad decisions, but Satan was. This was abuse, taking Lucifer's name in vain, and it may be the root of the reason for my antipathy to the existence of Satan.

1 comment:

Norman McNulty said...

Interesting thoughts JD. You know me. I take the Bible at face value, and it describes the devil in 1 Pet. 5:8 as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. If you don't believe in a literal devil, it's more likely that he will be able to devour you as he can present himself in many facades.

Also, if you don't take the Bible at face value on its inspiration of a literal devil as a literal being, then why not be like most of the Christian world who spiritualizes away the 4th commandment of the Sabbath by saying that any day is as good as the 7th as long as you believe in Jesus. It's a slippery slope.

Anyway, that's my two cents. I enjoy reading your blog and appreciate your friendship.