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Friday, September 22, 2006
Evil and sin
Buried in another thread Shoshana asked -

But I do have a question for the community in general. How does the emerging community view Satan and his role in tempting us to sin? Not to belittle our responsibility for our choices, but there are some acts that I feel are truely evil inspired.



posted by Julie at 3:11 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 9/22/2006 04:20:00 PM, Blogger Sarah Notton

    That's a fabulous question. If you sit down and read through one of the gospels (especially Mark), you see Jesus teaching, healing, and casting out demons. Almost more demons than healing. What in the world do we do with that today?

    Personally, I want to think that it's not for real. Horror movies freak me out, and I'm sure I would be really messed up for a long time after seeing one of Jesus' "cast out the demon while the child is shrieking and being violently thrown to the ground" miracles.

    But I can't find a good way to explain it away, either. PLEASE let me know if you come up with a good loophole on this one, because I don't WANT to live in a universe inhabited by devils with some real power.

    Maybe the influence of satan/evil is like a current, and our choice to do good instead of evil is like swimming upstream against it.

  • At 9/23/2006 07:52:00 AM, Blogger Melanie@Abri

    I see the world as having darkness and light and that disneyfying Satan and demons as creatures intent on mischief and chaos, while on one level can be helpful, on another can belittle and dismiss the evident power of evil.

    I do believe in Angels so I guess it would be logical to believe in Fallen Angels, who have as much passion in thwarting God's purposes as Her Messengers have in making sure His will comes about.

    I've personally stopped talking about 'Satan' and I've started talking about The Darkness, because it helps me to think of my life as a follower of Christ as an injection of Light and the Church as a movement of Light and it's an image that is very strong. A candle in a dark room has incredible power. A 100 watt light bulb even more so.

    Don't know if that's helpful, relevant....

  • At 9/23/2006 08:33:00 AM, Anonymous soldiermom

    The best thing that the emergent philosophy has done for me is to help me to let go of my need to know. 25 years ago I spent tons of time trying to figure out how evil worked because it scared me more than my faith comforted. This question really made me pause. What do I believe about Satan and how evil works in the world? I guess I believe the same thing I always did. He is active in our world. In fact this world is his. BUT Evil’s power is limited by the Three in One who love us more than we can ever imagine. Today, I choose to focus on the love and the light (I love that Melanie), on how God is redeeming the evil. Do I deny its existence? Not for a minute. As my faith in God grows however, my thoughts are being drawn to God and my fears are being put to rest by that faith.

    I am curious to hear how God is working in other’s lives on this subject too. What say you ladies?

  • At 9/23/2006 10:09:00 AM, Blogger Helen

    Like soldiermom, I let go of the 'need to know' and my focus is on 'results' or, in Christianese 'fruit'.

    The problem with thinking about Satan and demons as personal beings - even if it's true that they are - is that that can be rather scary and can mislead us as to the best way to defeat evil.

    I don't really believe "Go away Satan" is effective. I think we have to go through the hard work of resisting temptation and building character. Which is essentially going to be the same whether evil comes from personified evil beings or not.

  • At 9/24/2006 12:41:00 AM, Blogger Shoshana

    Melanie, I completely agree with your analogy of light and dark for good and evil. I have long thought of evil as The Darkness. When I've felt fear, dispair, or true depression it is like an amorphous hovering storm cloud.

    The best description I've seen is the Dementors in the Harry Potter books. We can't see them, but they're there sucking the joy and hope out of us. I believe that is exactly what satan wants to do.

    In some ways I imagine it's like a great unseen battle that we are only partially aware of, but that we can participate in. We can give into the dispair, or trust in God and create a becon of light and hope out of an evil situation.

    Like soldiermom and Helen, I have found that letting go of the "need to know" to be a big part of this. While "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy," I don't need to fear them with the Light of Christ in my life.

    I really like the idea of focusing our lives on the Light of Jesus and reflecting his light to the world.
    The idea of demons lurking in the shadows isn't quite so scary if you have the bright light of Christ in your life to chase them away.

  • At 9/24/2006 07:45:00 AM, Blogger Helen

    So...is there anyone here who wants to defend 'the need to know'? To keep things interesting... ;-)

  • At 9/24/2006 09:03:00 AM, Blogger kpjara

    I would interject that in attempts to 'water down' the evil that is Satan and the demons, I believe one would make themselves more vulnerable to satanic/demonic attack.

    I think by choosing to call the enemy darkness as opposed to the prince of the earth, as described in the Bible, we actually discount the overcoming power of Christ against this very real enemy and his league of demons.

    I am only a visitor here, though I visit daily...just thought I'd throw that out there.

  • At 9/24/2006 10:00:00 AM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    I would like to say something about the term "waterng down," but I don't want to be obnoxious about it. This is not in any way meant to be attacking. I just have a need to process this outside my head.

    I grew up with this term and it was used everytime it was felt that someone was not spouting out doctrine in the acceptable form of a particular community--I belonged to many. It was if the purity of what we were supposed to be adhering to was being dilluted (i.e., that person was becoming a liberal). It was so easily thrown out there and if you were on the receiving end ot it, it felt pretty demeaning. Usually, watering down something seemed to mean that the person doing it was making less of, or uncomplicating some big ol' truth that had been added to and added to and--you get the picture.

    Even as a child, I would read the stories of what Jesus said and think, "now why isn't that considered 'watering it down'--what he said seems so simple. But then I was gently reminded that there is so much more to what Jesus said and the more older and given the time wiser members of the faith could explain it--I was usually more confused than ever. I struggled with that, because all I could read between the lines was that Jesus message really was simple. Go figure--I was just a child.

    Sorry, I went off on this--it's just that the phrase "watering down" just pushes my buttons and sets all the evangelical voices in my head in motion...just processing some of my junk :)

  • At 9/24/2006 02:08:00 PM, Blogger Helen

    I think by choosing to call the enemy darkness as opposed to the prince of the earth, as described in the Bible, we actually discount the overcoming power of Christ against this very real enemy and his league of demons.

    I don't see why that need necessarily be so.

    Why would we need Christ's power more to fight a personal evil being than we need his power to fight the 'sin that so easily entangles'?

  • At 9/24/2006 04:10:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

    A few thoughts from my limited study, conversations and experiences on a huge subject...

    Satan was not a major factor in most of the O.T. narratives. The Hebrew nation was just getting to know this new god-YHWH as "thee god" as opposed to all their other gods. Seems that was a pretty full time job ... very few satan references. Just something I try keeping in mind when I attempt to read the O.T. narratives fairly.

    Most well known is the satan that appears in Job. There are a fair number of scholars, current and ancient, who distinguish between "the adversary" in Job and the Satan of the N.T. as we've identified "Him" into our modern Sunday morning power point presentations. There are quite a few points of spiritual gymnastics that have to happen to make them fit together! Who knows?

    Real life ... I experienced, first hand, hearing very, very evil voices speak through a severely anoerexic woman in a hospital setting in Chicago. A 40 year old woman, weighing a frail 45 lbs, was compelled at times, to speak with very deep, booming voices ... definitely something she could not accomplish on her own, in her condition. They were evil. She knew "their" names and readily acknowledged their presence in her. Her testimony, of evil "in her," was as authentic as any of ours of God in us. I had no doubts.

    ... in cultures of Africa, South America and Latin America, people don't question 'personifying' the great evils existing today. The spirit world is very real to them ... which would seem to make for a great opening for us to share The Good Spirit/God' that reigns victorious in this realm (and the world we reign with Christ in) ... a Spirit we know by name. :-) I'm not sure we have always made use of this potential point of commonality = believing in a spiritual realm.

    A few floating thoughts on a huge topic ...

  • At 9/24/2006 05:12:00 PM, Blogger Shoshana

    I guess I use the term "the darkness," because to me it is a very scary term that encompasses all evil.

    I also have a slight worry that naming things calls upon them or draws their attention to me. It is a rational worry supported by scripture? Not really, but it scares me so much that I don't want to risk it.

  • At 9/24/2006 05:46:00 PM, Anonymous Lisa Delay

    This is my take. . .
    I was in Trinidad this summer on a 12 day missions trip. You can feel the spiritual oppression. People actually will sell their souls and worship idols and kill animals in sacrifices. Those who’ve sold their souls have to be exorcized and demons come out. You don’t realize how much light and Christian influence there is in the U.S. until you leave!

    Having said that, Satan is not God’s equal opposing antithesis. He is a created being. God is supreme. The absence of God is evil, not the opposite of him in a see saw kind of way.

    I think I agree with C.S. Lewis – here’s a loose paraphrase-- He said Satan would like for us to think of him a lot to or to underestimate him. Finding balance in our view of him I think is the wisest route.

    I’ve also found as my intimacy grows with God, I see him more as a protective Father in whose chest I can cuddle in, and this helps a good deal when we think about evil and the spiritual battles raging in the unseen world.

  • At 9/24/2006 06:52:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    I have been dealing with "my" views of this recently, along with some other ideas. I believe that evil is a very real presence, and that darkness is there. In what context, I am not so sure I want to name. I agree with some other comments that I am not talking about "Satan" in the same context anymore. That may and probably will change. I have some family members that have spent most of there lives focused on "regular deliverance" from the "taunting demons". To be honest, what always bothered me, was it seemed like an overwhelming focus on the presence of evil and demons, moreso than on Christ. Now, I tend to feel that evil exists, and there will be temptation, but I hope my focus stays on Jesus and Love.
    A couple books I have started to read
    The Origin of Satan by Elaine Pagels
    The History of Hell by Alice K. Turner
    The little that I have read so far, it at least opens the mind to the way ancient cultures and religions, besides Christianity believed in relation to Hell and Satan.

  • At 9/25/2006 07:12:00 AM, Blogger kpjara

    This is my question: If I don't call cancer...cancer (just deny it's existence), does it go away or make it less deadly? Our enemy is real (at least from what I've seen) and by calling him 'darkness' to give peace to our mind doesn't take away the evil that he is. Why would Jesus give us power over demons if we didn't NEED it?

    I also think of our spiritual armor and the lessons I have had in that indicate that one piece alone is for defense, the rest are to put the enemy weapons of offense. WHy would we even have armor if we don't have very real enemies?

    THis is one of those subjects that my current denomination won't even discuss for 'fear' of giving satan more power. My goal is NOT to offend anyone with loose terminology I too am just trying to process information and find truth.

  • At 9/25/2006 07:13:00 AM, Blogger kpjara

    Okay...I 'garbled' up my point about our spiritual armor. Suffice to say I MEANT our weapons are primarily to put the enemy on defense, thus holding control of the 'war'.

  • At 9/25/2006 09:31:00 AM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    The words we use to name something doesn't define it; it is merely our weak, human attempt to use language to put our hands around something we cannot understand.

    It's like I used to tell one of my sons when he was younger and could only see the world in black and white, I would say, "just because you say something, doesn't make it so." He would declare something his that wasn't or demand that he was the only one who knew the truth about how something went down, when there was always another side to the story

    On the flip side, we get hung up on the names we give to God. Whether we use The Divine, Great Mystery, Loving Presence, Heavenly Father, or Mother Hen (as in the OT)--none of those names make God something other than what God is--"holy" or "other" and our words don't give the definition. Perhaps that is why God said, "I am that I am."--we can't make God something else.

    It seems that darkness is just as real as satan, or demon, or devil--it's all in opposition to God or the light, loving presence, mighty fortress, the divine--whatever words we use in our feeble attempts to put words to something we can never understand. I think we use the words that mean something to us personally. While darkness doesn't seem as scary as demon to one person, it may be plenty powerful to frighten another enough to surrender to the One who is holy and powerful enough to overcome.

    Just some of my thoughts.

  • At 9/25/2006 05:55:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

    kpjara ... you have some good points. From your post, I question …

    Has evangelical Christianity been so focused on getting people "saved" for the future realization of the Kingdom of God that it has ignored the real presence of evil here on earth in which we were meant to be in union with Christ's authority in order to make a divine/miraculous difference thereby demonstrating the power of the Kingdom of God among us now?

  • At 9/25/2006 09:22:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    It seems to me that my question would be somewhat like FTM's, is the complacency about Satan in the U.S. a ploy to let him work undisturbed?

    When I was newbie "saved Christian" I was very into spiritual warfare and saw it everywhere. Eventually, I decided I was delusional and quit looking and decided to focus on Christ, because I didn't want to give too much power to Satan.

    One of the problems I have with the "church" that I've experienced is that it is rather powerless compared to what the new testament describes. I'm powerless compared to what the new testament describes. And the people that I've seen that claim to have power, don't seem quite genuine to me.

    I hope I haven't offended anyone, but I think the question of Satan is also tied to the power of the Holy Spirit question. And where is it?

  • At 9/25/2006 09:39:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    Just found the context that Shoshana asked the question and it got me thinking more. Where does our responsibility end and Satan's power begin? I would tend to think that for believers, Satan only has power that believers are willing to give him - knowingly or unknowingly. For non-believers who don't have the Spirit of truth to test his lies against, does that hold true as well? And how does that hold in tension against the description in Romans of gentiles who have a law written in their hearts? Does Satan only have the power that is submitted to him because of our "free will"? Does he have no power of his own?

  • At 9/26/2006 06:32:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

    CW: You've raised such excellent questions! It seems like you have really been chewing on this subject, especially in relationship to your experience with a diverse journey in 'the church.'

    Contending with these same issues, I do agree with you that there is some kind of reciprocal paradigm that exists between the power of the Holy Spirit and the limited, but evident power in this world of The Evil Ones. Jesus, announcing the arrival of the Kingdom of God, gave evidence to this Kingdom Come with a demonstration of power that broke through the darkness. The Kingdom of Light made a difference. So, I ask myself as I read the Gospels, is this 'little light of mine' making a difference? It's a tough, self-probing question, I confess.

  • At 9/27/2006 10:21:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    FTM (or anyone else interested), speaking of light...if you get a chance check out the greek in Luke 11. My husband just did a message on that passage and we were having a blast cross referencing the different greek words used for light and sight, etc. The nuances are completely and utterly lost in the english. (We were using Blueletterbible.com and Kittle's Dictionary for the greek.)


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