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Showing posts with the label #Evil

When the unclean spirit leaves a person…

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Matthew 12.38-45 • Luke 11.24-26. Previously I wrote about how some Sadducees and Pharisees in Dalmanuthá approached Jesus demanding a sign, and Jesus’s response was to say they’d get the Jonah sign, and nothing more. But Matthew has a second version of this story, where Pharisee scribes approached him for a sign, and Jesus likewise said they’d get no more than the Jonah sign—then tacked on an odd little story about an evil spirit leaving a person, and coming back later. Luke tacks this lesson to when people accused Jesus of throwing out evil spirits with Satan’s power, and it seems to fit rather well there. It’s a little more odd when this lesson is placed together with the people who requested a sign. People who are fascinated with evil spirits and demons —and paranoid about the possibility of being possessed by these creatures—have spent the past 20 centuries trying to glean information from this bit about how devils work. I’ve decided to include Jesus’s Matthew

Quit praying to Satan!

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There’s an traditional African folk song called “What a Mighty God We Serve.” If you grew up Christian, maybe you heard it in Sunday school. Sometimes adults sing it too. Goes like so. What a mighty God we serve What a mighty God we serve Angels bow before him Heaven and earth adore him What a mighty God we serve Years later I found out it had some more lyrics—words my children’s and youth pastors never bothered to have us sing. Maybe you can guess why. I command you Satan in the name of the Lord To take up your weapons and flee For the Lord has given me authority To walk all over thee There are variations. There’s “put down your weapons” in the second line (which makes way more sense); there’s “stomp all over thee” in the fourth, along with stomping movements. Anyway. Lots of churches tend to give these lines a miss, so lots of Christians aren’t aware of ’em. I particularly remember one summer youth camp: The pastor got all the kids to sing along with the fir

Evil comes from within.

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Mark 7.14-16 • Matthew 15.10-11. So Jesus is lunching with some Pharisee, who has a snit about how he and his students don’t ritually wash when they enter a home, and Jesus turns round and complains how some Pharisee rituals violate the Law. Now you do recognize it’s a common weaselly debate tactic to change the subject by attacking your opponent, but you should realize Jesus is no weasel: This wasn’t changing the subject, but getting to the very heart of why the Pharisee complained about hand-washing. He wasn’t insisting on it ’cause it offended his sensibilities, his religion, his devotion. He was doing it because it didn’t look good , which is hypocrisy of course. Too much of Pharisee custom was about appearing to follow the Law, but really following custom; the Law not so much. And as for ritual cleanliness, Jesus wanted to make it obvious the ritual didn’t make anybody or anything clean. The ritual—like all rituals, including Christian rituals —only represents w

Lying so we can win the debate.

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Christians lie. No we’re not supposed to. There’s a whole teaching about this. (It’s actually not the “don’t bear false witness” command, Ex 20.16 which has to do with perjury. It’s the one about how Christians need to be rid of lying, and tell the truth to one another. Ep 4.25 ) But we lie just the same. Usually to get out of trouble. Sometimes to defraud. And sometimes when we debate with non-Christians, and wanna score points, we borrow a rather common tactic we see in politics: We ignore whether our “facts” are all that factual. Oh, we wish they were factual, ’cause they really help our case. We’ll psyche ourselves into believing they’re factual. We’re willing to dismiss any evidence which says otherwise. We’re totally willing to perpetuate fraud. Yeah, it’s fraud. There’s a command against that too. Mk 10.19 But Christians dismiss this particular sin, ’cause we figure it’s so important to win these arguments, score victories for Jesus… and really stick it to thos

Our ancient foe, the devil.

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What’s its deal? Why’s it so dead-set against humanity? Yes, Satan exists. However, in both popular and Christian culture, Satan has been profoundly misrepresented. Kinda by design. Like Sunzi said, all warfare is based on deception, so the devil gets a leg up on us humans by making us believe all sorts of disinformation. Like how it used to be the mightiest angel in heaven, and is still kind of a big deal. Like how pretty it is, 2Co 11.14 or how it rules the world. Lk 4.5-6 Like how it’s everywhere , same as God; or how it might not be almighty but it’s pretty darned mighty. And other things which might intimidate Christians against resisting or fighting it—or make us so wary of it, we never refer to it by name. Various Christians will only call it “the enemy,” lest calling it by name might conjure it up, like Voldemort from the Harry Potter novels. Or on the opposite extreme, we’ll consider Satan laughable: It’s a red creature with horns, goat legs, a tail, and a trident

Praying or singing yourself into an “altered state.”

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The fear that we’re so excited to worship God, Satan might grab a toehold. Last month I had a correspondent, whom I called Fenella, object to the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) on the grounds it’s vain repetition. Fenella’s concern is one I’ve heard dozens of times: When Christians pray something over and over and over, they figure we’re doing it to psyche ourselves into a state of euphoria. Other Christians have the very same complaint about the way certain churches do their music, or pick particularly repetitive songs: All that repetition isn’t done to praise God; it’s to whip ourselves into an altered state of consciousness. The “trance state,” as some of ’em describe it. Once we’re in this trance, they worry we’re susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. Naughty pastors might try to insert heretic ideas in our minds. Although more of these concerned Christians are more worried about demonic activity. Nevermind the fact these Christia

Convincing people they’re not all that good.

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Ray Comfort likes this particular evangelism trick apologetics argument. He didn’t invent it though; I’ve heard it from lots of people. Whenever he’s talking Christianity with someone, he’ll ask them, “Do you consider yourself a good person?” In my experience, a number of people will actually answer no. Sometimes because they actually don’t consider themselves good people; their karmic balance leans way too far on the bad side of the scale. Sometimes because they’re just being contrary; they don’t know what’s coming next, but they anticipate you want ’em to say yes, so they’re preemptively throwing a monkey wrench into things. And sometimes they do know what‘s coming next, and definitely wanna sabotage it. But in order to keep this article moving, let’s say they answered yes. PAGAN. “Yeah, I’m a pretty good person.” APOLOGIST. [ stifling that grin you get when they take the bait ] “So if you stand before God on Judgment Day, he’ll be okay with you and let you in?” PA

Lies!

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And the difference between lies and falsehoods—and why certain people don’t care there’s a difference. LIE laɪ noun. Intentional untruth: A false statement involving deception, or an impression designed to be misunderstood. 2. verb. To make an intentionally false statement, present a false impression, or deceive. [Liar laɪ(.ə)r noun. ] By “lie,” most folks ordinarily mean an intentional untruth. “I floss every day,” you tell your dentist, and you totally don’t. “I think I was going 45,” you tell the traffic cop, and you know you pushed it to 60 to beat the stoplight. “I exercise,” you tell your friends, but haven’t been to the gym since the first week of January. The truth is embarrassing, or may get you into trouble, or you’re sure it won’t get you out of trouble. But when you try to get people to believe otherwise, that’d be lying. But there’s another definition of “lie” floating around. It’s grown in popularity, ’cause people use it to provoke one another. In short,

Introducing death.

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Humans die. Here’s why. The first time we read about death in the bible, it’s in the Adam and Eve story. God tasks the first adám /“human” with taking care of a garden. Which is described as edén /“delightful,” but we tend to treat that adjective as a proper name, Eden , same as we do the word for human, Adam . Unlike fast-food jobs, Adam was given free rein to eat anything he found growing there. Well, almost anything. One particular tree, you remember, was off limits. Genesis 2.15-17 KWL 15 The L ORD God took the human and set him in a delightful garden to work it and watch over it. 16 The L ORD God commanded the human, saying, “Eat, eat , from every tree of the garden. 17 From the knowing-good-and-evil tree: Don’t eat from it. For on the day you eat from it, you ’ll die, die .” Ancient Hebrew repeated itself for emphasis. “Eat, eat ” meant God was serious about Adam eating whatever he wished; “Die, die ” meant God was serious about the knowing-good-and-evil tr

Sin.

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In case you were unclear as to what that is. Hey, you’d be surprised how many people are. SIN /sɪn/ n. Immoral behavior—from a religious viewpoint. 2. Violation of God’s law or known will. 3. A reprehensible action, or serious shortcoming. 4. A state of human nature in which one is alienated from God. 5. v. To commit a sin, offense, or fault. [Sinful /'sɪn.fəl/ adj. ] I used to think it was a copout when Christians claimed they weren’t entirely sure what “sin” is, or what the word properly means. Sometimes yeah, they’re trying to weasel out of defining their behavior as sin. But I’ve found quite often nobody ever spelled it out for them when they were new believers. So they presumed. They figured a sin is when you break one of the Ten Commandments, or when you commit one of the seven deadly sins —but nothing else is a sin. As a result they kept right on committing the same fruitless behaviors they’d always done, unaware of how this activity was undermining their

Evil’s existence, and God’s existence.

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The belief God and evil can’t coexist in the same universe is based on some bad logic. Every so often I bump into a nontheist who complains God can’t be real, can’t exist… because there’s such a thing as evil in the universe. Here’s how they’re figuring: If God’s real, God’s almighty, and God’s good like we Christians claim, he should’ve done something to get rid of evil, right? After all they would, if they were God. They’d have wiped out evil long ago, like with a great purging flood or something. They can’t fathom a God who’d be gracious enough to grant his wayward kids any leeway, any second chances to repent and return to the fold. He’d shut that s--- down on sight. So since God isn’t their kind of God, he must not exist. This is hardly a new idea. It’s been around since Epicurus of Athens first pitched it in the 300s BC . Or at least we think Epicurus pitched it. That’s what Christian author Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius claimed in his anti-Epicurean book

Evil spirits.

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Some of our beliefs about them are downright bizarre. It’s odd: Lots of people, Christians included, believe in spirits. God’s a spirit, obviously. Jn 4.24 Angels are spirits. He 1.14 Dead loved ones exist as spirits in the afterlife —or heaven, as many people imagine. Yet these very same people frequently refuse to believe in evil spirits. I used to say this mindset comes from Platonism. Though really, Plato of Athens wasn’t the first guy to assume if we could escape this world of matter and decay, and just become pure spirit, all our self-centered impulses, greed, materialism, lusts, and so forth would cease to exist, and we’d be nothing but good. The ancient Greeks believed this, but the present-day folks who believe the same thing, don’t necessarily believe it for the same reasons. They believe all spirits are good… because it simply never occurred to them spirits might be bad. Yeah, even though mythology, fairy tales, and horror movies are full of evil spirits. Monster

The legion of evil spirits.

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Jesus meets a man filled with thousands of demons. Mark 5.1-10 • Matthew 8.28-29 • Luke 8.26-31 Let’s begin with ancient northern Israel’s geography. First there’s Kinneret, the lake. The Galilean sea. On its northeast was the province of the Galilee, named for the word galýl /“circle,” referring to its circle of towns. Jesus lived there. On its west was the Dekápolis /“10 cities,” a region of Syrian Greek city-provinces created by the Romans after they conquered Syria in 65 BC . Jesus visited this territory often, and it’s where today’s story takes place. In Old Testament days the Dekápolis belonged to the Hebrews. Today part of it is called the Golan Heights. In Jesus’s day, even though it was full of Greek-speaking Syrians, it was still considered part of Israel, and still part of the territory Antipas Herod supervised. But it was full of gentile, Greek-enculturated pagans. They weren’t even Hebrew like the Palestinians are. By Greek-enculturated I mean they lived like G

Satan’s fall.

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Satan used to have access to heaven. Now it doesn’t. Revelation 12 One of the popular myths about the devil is it used to an angel. Not just that it fakes being one. 2Co 11.14 Christians will teach it straight-up was one. Even more: It was Lucifer, the greatest angel ever. The best and brightest and mightiest angel in the heavens. Head of the heavenly choir. Ruled over earth as God’s number two. The Holy Spirit’s vice-president, more or less. Anybody else think someone’s been padding its résumé a little? Pause a moment, go some basic digging through the bible, and you’re gonna find out it says nowhere that Satan used to be an angel. It may have angels, working for it. At one time it came and went before God, just like God’s mightier angels. But Satan’s species is never once identified. Given Satan’s reputation as a liar, Jn 8.44 I’m mighty suspicious about any stories about its origin which attempt to make it look like it used to be kind of a big deal. Or still is.

How we treat enemies—and how we oughta.

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The “ Matthew 18” principle—for when people sin against us. Luke 6.27-36 KWL 27 “But I tell you listeners: Love your enemies. Do good to your haters. 28 Bless your cursers. Pray for your mistreaters. 29 To one who hits you on the jaw, submit all the more. To one who takes your robe and tunic from you, don’t stop them . 30 Give to everyone who asks you. Don’t demand payback from those who take what’s yours. 31 Just as you want people doing for you, do likewise for them. 32 If you love your lovers, how’s this an act of grace from you?—sinners love their lovers. 33 When you benefact your benefactors, how’s this grace from you?—sinners do so themselves. 34 When you lend from one from whom you hope to receive back, how ’s this grace from you? Sinners lend to sinners so they can receive an equal payback . 35 In contrast: Love your enemies. Do good. Lend, never expecting payback . Your reward will be great, and you’ll be the Most High’s children: He’s kind to the

Blasphemy: Slandering God’s character.

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It’s not the same thing as sacrilege. It’s worse. Blaspheme /blæs'fim/ v. Say something about God (or holy things) which isn’t true. Slander. 2. Speak irreverently about God or holy things. Sacrilege. [Blasphemer /blæs'fim.ər/ n. , blasphemous /'blæs.fə.məs/ adj. , blasphemy /'blæs.fə.mi/ n. ] That second definition tends to be how popular culture defines blasphemy: Means the same thing as sacrilege , when one treats the sacred profanely. When you make fun, or make light, of holy things. When we tell jokes about God, or treat our bibles like any other book, and set ’em on the floor or doodle in them for fun. When people take God’s name in vain. When I treat him like my dad instead of O UR F ATHER W HICH A RT IN H EAVEN . (Heck, when I don’t capitalize all the Almighty’s pronouns. ) That’s what people consider blasphemy. That’s why they go utterly ape when Christians won’t take off our hats in church, or wear jeans. Business attire only!—and only Jesus g

Exorcisms by Satan’s power? Hardly.

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You seriously think Jesus would disown his mom? Mark 3.22-27 • Matthew 9.32-34, 12.22-30 • Luke 11.14-23 In between Jesus’s family fearing he was overworked, Mark inserts this story about the Jerusalem scribes ( or Pharisees, in Matthew ) accusing him of performing his exorcisms through the power of the devil. Matthew and Luke tell the story in the context of an exorcism Jesus had just performed. Matthew even tells it twice. Likely this accusation took place more than once. Mk 3.22 KWL Scribes who came down from Jerusalem said Jesus had Baal Zevúl, and that he threw out demons by the head demon. Mt 9.32-34 KWL 32 As they left, look: People brought Jesus a mute person, a demoniac. 33 Once Jesus threw out the demon, the mute man spoke. The crowd was amazed, saying, “This never appeared in Israel before .” 34 The Pharisees were saying, “ Jesus throws out demons by the head demon.” Mt 12.22-24 KWL 22 Then they brought Jesus a blind and deaf demoniac.

Demons.

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The evil spirits who get us to follow and worship ’em. One fairly common pagan belief is animism , the idea everything has a anima /“soul,” or lifeforce. No, not just things that are actually alive, like plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria. Inanimate objects could have a lifeforce too. Like weather, water, or fire, which certainly act alive. Like the sun, moon, planets, and stars, which pagans actually worshiped as if they were alive. And lest you think that’s just an ancient pagan practice, look how often people still do it. People talk about the “vibe” of a place—a workplace, nightclub, school, restaurant, home, whatever. Or the luck attached to a charm or item of clothing. Or the “feels” attached to a favorite chair, blanket, toy, car. Or the “spirit” of a good idea, like charity, patriotism, wisdom, and prosperity. The ancient Greeks believed these lifeforces were intelligent beings. Like little gods. Everything important had one. They weren’t necessarily important enough

Christianism’s usual idols.

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Christianism is a socially-acceptable outward form of Christianity. Whether there’s any actual Christianity underneath it, isn’t for me to say. Sometimes there’s a real live relationship with Jesus, an actual indwelling of the Holy Spirit, resulting in some of his fruit, mixed in there somewhere. But the reason I still call it Christianism is ’cause there are glaring errors in the religion. Way too much fake fruit. Way too many compromises with the gospel. Compromises, I should add, made for the sake of accommodating other gods. Christianism creates a façade of Christianity, but underneath it there are a lot of other religious practices which don’t follow Jesus much. They support other ideas. They seek other powers. They promote other movements. And if Jesus teaches otherwise, they mute him, reinterpret him, or ignore him, in favor of those less-than-Christian goals. In a word, it’s idolatry. And since it’s everywhere, and plenty of other “good Christians” believe and p

Idols: Prioritize nothing ahead of God.

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What happens when worship goes anywhere but towards the Almighty. Idol /'aɪ.dl/ n. Image or representation of a [false] god, used to worship it. 2. Person or thing that’s greatly loved, revered, or worshiped. [Idolatry /aɪ'dɑl.ə.tri/ n. , idolater /aɪ'dɑl.ə.dər/ n. ] It’s often said humans were created to worship. It’s something humans do instinctively; so much so, most people on the planet believe in a god of some form. Thus if we’re not worshiping Y HWH /“Jehovah”/“the L ORD ,” the one true God, we’re just gonna latch ourselves to some other god, or something else, and worship that. Might be a spouse, parent, child, friend, or some other loved one. Might be a pop star. Or a position in business or government. Or power. Wealth. The pursuit of the perfect high, whether from drugs or sex or adrenaline. The pursuit of a comfortable existence. Some possession or hobby or philosophy you intend to devote all your time and life to. You name it, you can make an idol o