Palm Sunday and the Problem of Evil

 

Just a few centuries before the first Palm Sunday, Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) promoted to his followers the notions of another ancient Greek philosopher, Demetrius (c. 460 – c. 370 B.C.). Demetrius’ had proposed the theory of Atomism to account for nature.

The theory in brief: random, unguided ‘atoms’ (as he called them) smash into each other, thereby creating the world and life as we know it. Such a hypothesis turned philosophy by Epicurus gave Epicurus the ‘means’ to do away with a personally involved god (and human accountability to a god). He went on to tweak Demetrius’ theory. He said that atoms do not always go in straight lives but can “swerve”. As such, his philosophy was then able to avoid atomism’s inherent determinism and to allow for man’s free will.

Epicurus also taught that nothing should be believed, except for that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction – believed via the sensate and reason. He believed that the ‘gods’ were off angry somewhere upstairs. The gods were distant and uninvolved and therefore unrelated to ‘thinking’ and ‘sensing’ man’s life. Man had to make do with the atoms he had been dealt.

“What was most important in Epicurus’ philosophy of nature was the overall conviction that our life on this earth comes with no strings attached; that there is no Maker whose puppets we are; that there is no script for us to follow and be constrained by; that it is up to us to discover the real constraints which our own nature imposes on us.” ― Epicurus, The Epicurus Reader

Since, per Epicurus’s teaching, “that there is no Maker whose puppets we are“, the problem of evil paradox he posited augmented this teaching:

“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are able and willing. If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can but will not, then they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, why does it exist?” ― Epicurus


 

The Epicurean paradox is answered with another paradox: What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Psalm 8:4

There was nothing ambiguous or theoretical or abstract about the appearance of Son of man. There was direct observation by his followers. In the fullness of time, including Epicurean times, the Lord of the universe put on human flesh – dust fashioned from the created elements including about 18% carbon – to deal with the problem of evil. Philosophers, before and after Epicurus, pronounced judgement on God for all the evil in the world. Jesus entered flesh and blood, space and time, to pronounce judgement on evil. He did so without equivocation. Jesus did not succumb to the Satan’s temptations, Demons were cast out. Hypocrites were denounced and death itself was overturned. Jesus suffered the full force of evil on the cross, an act of redemption from evil’s ransom.

The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven. – George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce

The King of Glory wept over Jerusalem and his people who so often rejected their reveal-to-the-world-the-one-true-God vocation. Palm Sunday. The King of Glory, emptied of his glory, rides a donkey into Jerusalem to meet evil head on and to put the world right. The “Epicurean Paradox” would be addressed and soundly answered. It was not the dénouement of evil.

Jesus is everything you need to know about God and the problem of evil. Let the King of Glory come into your life to deal with the problem of evil.

 

Not All Roads Lead Home

 

In truth, all through the haunted forest there could be nothing more frightful than the figure of Goodman Brown.

Beside the Technicolor fantasy of a quartet of characters leaving their homes and going into a foreboding forest to gain what they think they are lacking from a wizard (see my previous post), there is another tale of a young man doing just the same. And though there is no wizard or fear of lions and tigers and bears in this tale, there is, “What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!”. Both stories, it seems to me, are about journeys into the dark side, the nocturnal forest in this tale, looking for an esoteric mystical experience that will supply what they are missing out on. But those who covenant to journey into the forest, and the deepest darkest part of it, end up disillusioned and faithless.

Often, especially in our youth, we begin to question the religious beliefs and worldviews of our families, of our mentors and of those around us. We see hypocrisy around us and despise it and yet become two-faced in our own sought out experiences wrought in the dark. We then begin to take on ambivalence about evil, giving ourselves the ‘grace’ to operate in both good and evil ways. Moral relativism is that form of grace.

We tell ourselves that there are people who are restrictive, conservative and Puritanical. We tell ourselves that we have become too worldly-wise to be like them: “I have Jesus so I am above all that out-of-date fundamentalism”. So, we journey in the dark forest and into the deepest darkest part of the forest and think ourselves to be impervious to its ills.

We give ourselves permission to investigate the dark side. We say to ourselves “I will do it just one time. Why be left out?  Why not join the “communion of our race””? Thus, we journey into the night and encounter evil. And like Goodman Brown, we come home disillusioned, our faith destroyed.

Young Goodman Brown sets out one night to gain existential insight into who (or what) is good and evil in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1835 short story by the same name. The story, set in 17th century Puritan New England, operates within the Puritan context of sin, grace and unconditional salvific election. I consider the tale an allegory, as it employs symbols starting with the names Goodman and Faith.

In the tale before us, Goodman Brown leaves his saintly wife Faith at the threshold of their home. She is wearing a pink ribbon on her cap. The pink ribbon, mentioned throughout, I read as a symbol of the admixture of purity (white) and sin (red). The color speaks to Goodman Brown’s spiritual understanding based on his Puritan beliefs and also to his rose-colored romance-based naiveté about the nature of evil.

“Poor little Faith!” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought as she spoke there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight. But no, no; ‘t would kill her to think it. Well, she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.”

With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose. He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.

As Goodman sets out, he does so under the cover of night and the cover of assumption: as a Puritan, Goodman Brown considers himself one of the elect. He carries with him a Puritan/Calvinist ‘good hands’ insurance card – the doctrine of predestination. He doesn’t leave home without it. And, as you read above, Goodman assumes that his association with the right people – his wife Faith in particular and the town’s good church folk in general – that he will follow them to the heavenly home. Goodman Brown goes out into the portentous night feeling safe and secure from all alarms. But his predetermined confidence quickly melts away as soon as he steps into the mysterious dark woods.

He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.

Goodman’s first encounter in the woods is an old man who reminds him of his goodly grandfather. The old man appears to be waiting for Goodman. He says, “You are late, Goodman Brown.” Goodman replies “Faith kept me back awhile”.

Though the old man appears similar to Brown in many pedestrian ways the old man also appears to have “an indescribable air of one who knew the world”. And there’s something else Goodman notices and tries to explain away.

But the only thing about him that could be fixed upon as remarkable was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent. This, of course, must have been an ocular deception, assisted by the uncertain light.

It is clear to the reader that the old man is the devil who is supported by the serpent staff, He does his best to entice Goodman Brown down the road to what is later called “the communion of your race” where he will learn of the “secret deeds” of his fellow townsfolk and see hypocrisy countenanced.

Goodman balks, claiming to be one of a breed of men who is above the riff-raff.

“Too far! too far!” exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk. “My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and good Christians since the days of the martyrs; and shall I be the first of the name of Brown that ever took this path and kept—”

Goodman’s journey away from faith is stop and go as wrestles with the temptation of going on. He encounters something he initially resists and uses the honor of his good name and of those before him as a reason to rethink things before giving on to going on. But, he doesn’t use his faith as a shield and so bends in to temptation. He continues his journey with the old man’s urging.

The old man tries to persuade Goodman to get up and continue. He does so by using Goodman’s own argument. The old man conjures up a kinship with men like Goodman. He lies about having personal knowledge and acquaintance of Goodman’s family. He then speaks of townsfolk – deacons and those in power – as personal references. He cajoles Goodman to continue their ‘association’ by journeying on.

Goodman Brown once considered himself impervious to all the devil’s wiles. After all he was one of the elect and associated with the right people. But each step he took in the wrong direction away from faith weakened his resolve. His compromises were reinforced by his inordinate curiosity. He continues his journey into the deepest darkest part of the forest and sees what the “communion of our race” so desires, “that the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were sinners abashed”.

 

There are several interpretations and critiques of the story. Some will say that Hawthorne is pointing out the hypocrisy of a society that prides itself on its high moral and civic standing and makes outcasts of those who do not live up to its standards. Other interpreters go out on a dark forest limb with their construal:

Modern critics have interpreted “Young Goodman Brown” in many ways. The story as a critique of society stands out to some. To psychologically inclined readers, Brown journeys into the psyche. The village represents the superego, whereas the forest and darkness become equivalents of the Freudian id. The entire story becomes a portrait of one human mind that discovers the usually suppressed and disquieting reality of animal instinct

The story’s symbols lend its meaning to a wide audience and to many interpretations. As you read it you will have your own takeaway. I consider it an allegory or parable about assumptions, hypocrisy and the lure of evil to pull one away from one’s home base of faith toward the “reality of animal instincts”.

The story doesn’t tell us Brown’s motives other than “present evil purpose” Conjecture would lead us to think that young Goodman Brown had become questioning about evil and the devil even though he lived surrounded by strict warnings against both in Puritan village. One gets the sense that Brown goes out by himself to just stick his nose in on evil for the sake of understanding the world he lives in and perhaps the fear of evil inculcated in him by his upbringing.

 

I have provided some of my take on Young Goodman Brown and some excerpts from the story with the hope that you will read the short story (it should take about fifteen minutes). I invite you to consider what road you are taking when you want to stick your nose in on evil. Consider where it leads and what you will encounter. And, where it will lead you. This road does not lead home.

We are told in Scripture to “test the spirits” so that we may know what is good and true and from God. That is not what is going on in Young Goodman Brown. Rather, this a young man who leaves faith behind and takes a walk on the wild side and ends up at a satanic ritual. His road did not lead back home to faith. It led to nihilism and despair and the resolve to no longer exist.

In truth, all through the haunted forest there could be nothing more frightful than the figure of Goodman Brown. On he flew among the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures, now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now shouting forth such laughter as set all the echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him. The fiend in his own shape is less hideous than when he rages in the breast of man. Thus sped the demoniac on his course, until…

 

 

 

Here is a link to the story: Young Goodman Brown

The Serpent’s Apprentice(s)

The Fall of the Damned, Peter Paul Rubens

Spiritual reality surrounds us. This fact is attested to at the very least by the numerous TV programs about the paranormal. Shown are ‘investigations’ of the dead, and of ghosts and of supposed haunting spirits. But what are those fascinated and even obsessed about the spirit world connecting with? What do we know about the unclean spirits, the ones Jesus cast out of humans (See my previous post Deliver Us from Evil)?

Genesis opens with God and His temple building creation of earth. We learn of light and darkness. And we soon learn of the spiritual forces of darkness that want control of the temple where God is to dwell with man.

Right from the start of man’s existence another voice interprets God’s word for its own purposes: “Did God really say you couldn’t?”; “You will not certainly die if you do eat the fruit.”; “God has held back nothing from you but the fruit of this tree. Eat it and know what He knows.” Humans fall into sin by willfully accepting the Serpent’s interpretation of becoming like God. Adam and Eve took the bait (an apple leading to God-like knowledge) into their hands. The enmity between humans and the serpent begins.

Prior to the fall of man, the Satan had a falling out with God. What happened is explained in detail in Ezekiel 28. A description of ascendant pride, whether of the Satan or of man’s, is recorded in Isaiah 14. The fallout of enmity between God and the red dragon, an emblem of the Satan, is described in Daniel 8 and here, in Revelation 12: 3-4:

Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads.  Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.

Proverbs 16:18 sums the result of pride and opposition to God: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall”.

The fallen angels were booted from Heaven and were no longer able to return. Where did the fallen angels go after being kicked out of heaven? Genesis 6: 1-7 tells us indirectly.

When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.

Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”

 

In Scripture the “sons of God” typically refer to angels. Above are fallen angels. This passage infers that the first incarnation and sacrilege took place – fallen angels impregnated humans.  They had illicit intercourse with women thereby creating a super race of warriors. Then, as now, the fallen angels mean to deface the image of God in humans. They seek to undo what God has created and to ‘create’ a race of Un-men*.

The cast-out angels did what they apprenticed to do by their father, the serpent or the “Bent One” as so described in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. They came to down earth to create chaos and to gain the power and favor they lost. As agents of evil they come under the description of evil as provided in N.T. Wright’s book Evil and the Justice of God:

Evil is the force of anti-creation, anti-life, the force which opposes and seeks to deface and destroy God’s good world of space, time and matter, and above all God’s image-bearing human creatures.

As we read above, the fallen angels deface Gods’ image bearing humans in the temple of their bodies. Using human sexuality and man’s willful acceptance they debase that image. Does any of this collusion with evil leading to self-imposed temple defilement look familiar today?

Fallen angels multiplied what happened in the garden of Eden. Mankind’s wickedness grew with the earth’s population. Until the flood. Then, except for Noah and his family and selected animals, the human race was wiped from the face of the earth along with the Nephilim (“giants” in the Septuagint), the offspring of the intercourse of fallen angels with women. It may be assumed that with the decimating flood the hosts of the unclean spirits died and the unclean spirits were released into, for a lack of a better word, the ether.

Intertestamental Jewish writings provide the context of Jesus’ ministry including the existence of unclean spirits. These writing fill in roughly four-hundred years of information about Jewish thought and theology between the Old and New Testament. Topics include angels, demons, the messiah, the resurrection and the law of Moses. Each of these topics, which were on the minds of the Jews, is addressed in the gospels. Jesus responds to each topic, each question, and each confrontation with authority.

Adding to the context of Jesus’ day, synagogues, mentioned in the gospels but not mentioned in the Pentateuch, likely originated in exile and in Babylonia. The opening chapter of Mark’s gospel finds Jesus in a synagogue casting out an unclean spirit.

What about written context beyond Genesis chapter 6? Other than the reference in Genesis, there is nothing written about fallen angels/unclean spirits until the intertestamental books. The topic of demons in these books may have been due to Babylonian interest in lesser gods and demons and their writing about them. Here is a passage from the Book of the Watchers (15: 6-12), written around 300 BCE:

And though ye were holy, spiritual, living the eternal life, you have defiled yourselves with the blood of women, and have begotten (children) with the blood of flesh, and, as the children of men, have lusted after flesh and blood as those also do who die and perish. Therefore have I given them wives also that they might impregnate them, and beget children by them, that thus nothing might be wanting to them on earth. But you were formerly spiritual, living the eternal life, and immortal for all generations of the world. And therefore I have not appointed wives for you; for as for the spiritual ones of the heaven, in heaven is their dwelling.
And now, the giants, who are produced from the spirits and flesh, shall be called evil spirits upon
the earth, and on the earth shall be their dwelling. Evil spirits have proceeded from their bodies; because they are born from men and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origin; they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called. [As for the spirits of heaven, in heaven shall be their dwelling, but as for the spirits of the earth which were born upon the earth, on the earth shall be their dwelling.]
And the spirits of the giants afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble: they take no food, but nevertheless hunger and thirst, and cause offences. And these spirits shall rise up against the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them.

The “Watchers” designation tells us that these spirits are restless and never sleep. These disembodied spirits are able to dwell in humans and animals. We learn that they cause havoc: “the spirits of the giants afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble”. They are the ones Jesus casts out (again and again) as he begins His kingdom on earth.

 

In a previous post, See Him as He Is, I posited that followers of Jesus must see Jesus as He is as recorded in all of Scripture’s narrative and as revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. They are not to view him through a tainted by evil rose-colored glass worldview. Absolute clarity requires the Lord’s followers to remove their hands from their eyes and their fingers from their ears and to take in the reality of Jesus and the world around us. In my last post I noted that the unclean spirit in Mark chapter one knew exactly who Jesus is. The unclean spirit saw with absolute clarity. And, like Jesus, we are to see enemy as he is and then cast him out.

Now, the Evil One and his apprentices don’t care about your politics. They don’t care if you are Republican or Democrat. They don’t care about the color of your skin or about the colors of your flag. They don’t care if you are rich or poor or male or female. Here is what they care about: to “afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble”. The Evil One’s apprentices seek to deface creation and the image of God in each human. Throughout cultures and nations and throughout time, the apprentices entice, lie and pervert humans, turning them into beasts which live to satisfy animal urges.

In C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape (the Evil One), apprentices Wormwood. In the quote below note Screwtape’s frustration with how things were created by God and how that which has been created must be perverted:

”He [God] has a bourgeois mind. He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least – sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us. We fight under cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side.”

 

Don’t let twisted pleasure and appetites define you. Abhor evil. Cling to good. Don’t become an apprentice of the Evil One. Don’t give the enemy advantage. Don’t toy with evil. Stay away from mediums, Tarot cards, Ouija Boards, astrology, séances, pornography, drugs and …entertainment, the devil’s playground.

Disney’s Fantasia is one example of how entertainment downplays the forces of darkness. Consider the animated short wherein Mickey Mouse portrays a sorcerer’s apprentice. The popular cartoon character plays with magic and conjures up all kinds of out-of-control havoc. The ‘approving’ adult background music is Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Watching this, a child is lured into relating to and empathizing with evil’s apprentice, an endearing cutesy child-like character in a wizard hat who experiments with magic and gets into ‘innocent’ trouble. On the surface, the animated short comes across as cautionary tale against disobeying the rules. But it actually encourages a child to try again and to avoid the consequences next time.

The twaddle of Harry Potter books and movies is meant to entertain and to make a huge profit for its creator and producers. Yet, the fantasy series has nothing good to offer the partaker. The series is just diversion, a distraction from reality. And worse. Like Disney’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, its main characters engage with magic arts. Entertainment, like all temptations including the ones posed to the Lord, are, in essence, about denying reality and obtaining power to control reality. Once your child partakes of this ‘amusement’, he or she is hooked. See your enemy as he is. He wants your child to experiment with evil to obtain power. If you think I am kidding, look around at the pagan invasion of children’s culture. (A book I highly recommend: A Landscape with Dragons: The Battle for Your Child’s Mind by Michael O’Brien)

Unclean spirits promote fantasy. Their temptations come in the form of fantasy. Just as in the Garden they want you to entertain notions of unrestricted freedom and narcissistic god-like power (e.g., R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”). The temptation to convert fantasy into reality – more money and notoriety – is behind the Jussie Smollett hoax. There is a vast difference between a healthy imagination in which good and evil and outcomes are considered and fantasy which projects into reality.

“… we need to make a distinction between fantasy and imagination. Both fantasy and imagination concern unrealities; but while the unrealities of fantasy penetrate and pollute the world, those of the imagination exist in a world of their own, in which we wander freely and in full knowledge of the really real…Fantasy covets the gross, the explicit, the no-holds-barred display of the unobtainable; and in the crisis of display the unobtainable is vicariously obtained.”

-Roger Scruton, Chapter 6, Fantasy, Imagination and the Salesman, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture

Spiritual reality surrounds us. This fact is substantially attested to by the influences of the perverse paranormal on humans. Look around at the effects of unclean spirits on humans. You find cynicism and sentimentality promoted. You find projection and scapegoating. You find a culture embracing victimhood instead of personal responsibility. You find unexplained mental illness and depression. You read reports of suicide. Evil, promoted day and night, afflicts, oppresses, and destroys the good.

Turn on the radio and you will hear music from the bowels of hell. Art and architecture are increasingly de-humanized. As you sit in front of any media outlet you come across daily headlines and a continuous stream of entertainment filled with accounts of murder, violence, sex abuse, revenge, racism, and all manner of evil. The dark web is a “malignant outgrowth of evil – a sub-culture collective of hive-minded individuals wreaking havoc today, even now as you read your computer screen”. The spirit of lawlessness surrounds us and encounters us everywhere we are, even in our beds.

This world, until Jesus returns to reign on earth, is under attack by the agents, apprentices, and accusers of the Evil One. These spiritual entities will do all they can with your permission to diminish the glory of God in the temples where the image of God dwells. And, just as unclean spirits impregnated women, these same unclean spirits want to impregnate and defile your temple – your body, mind and spirit – with inordinate desires with and for the proliferation of pornography obsession, homosexuality, promiscuity, pedophilia and all manner of sexual perversion.

We are told in Scripture to test the spirits. Test the spirits in your church. If you are hearing spiritual platitudes or prosperity gospel or that “God made you that way” or social justice and rights and political power promotions but you are not hearing evil being addressed and cast out and “Jesus is Lord” every Sunday then there is something very, very wrong. The apprentices have done their work by creating the “Holy Church of Christ Without Christ” (Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor) with the blessing of those in the pews.

Just as in the coliseum of Rome, Christians today are surrounded by roaring lions that seek to devour us. Some of us will be martyred. Others will deny or ignore or even try to placate the lions with compromise and then be consumed by them when a comprise is reached. Some will deny the Lord. Others of us will stand our ground and use the word of God to fell them.

Stay in control of yourselves; stay awake. Your enemy, the devil, is stalking around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, staying resolute in your faith, and knowing that other family members in the rest of the world are facing identical sufferings. Then, after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you in the Messiah Jesus to the glory of his new age, will himself put you in good order, and will establish and strengthen you and set you on firm foundations. To him be the power forever. Amen. 1 Peter 5: 8-11

What are those fascinated with and even obsessed about the spirt world connecting with? They are connecting with the unclean spirits that left the bodies of giants during the Flood and the spirits that left the bodies of pigs when they rushed into the water and all of the unclean demonic host cast out of heaven and unable to return. We must heed the Apostle Paul. Paul saw the enemy as he is. So, he warned the church at Ephesus, a church surrounded by sex cults and idolatry and inundated with unclean spirits, (Eph. 6:12):

The warfare we’re engaged in, you see, isn’t against flesh and blood. It’s against the leaders, against the authorities, against the powers that rule the world in this dark age, against the wicked spiritual elements in the heavenly places.

See your enemy as he is. Your enemy sees you as you are – the image-bearing creation of the One who cast them out of His Presence.

 

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

–        “A Mighty Fortress is our God” by Martin Luther

 

 

Lord, the whole of your creation, including me, groans waiting for your return to put things right, to finally cast out the red dragon and his apprentices, the unclean spirits. Help me as I wait to see the enemy as It is and to cast It out. Give me discernment from your Holy Spirit to be able to test the spirits in your church. If You are not declared Lord in the church we attend then help us, by your Spirit, to test the spirits of that church and to put things right.

Help me to overcome my resistance to being different than the Dark World. I am born of you, the Light of the world. That is why I find no pleasure in the media or the politics of power. I want to dwell in your Light all of my days and in the age to come.

Father, your beloved and begotten son Jesus is Lord of the Universe. Amen.

 

~~~

Lord willing, I’ll have a future post about dealing with evil.

(*) In C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy novel Perelandra, Ransom the protagonist names Weston, the evil antagonist, the Un-man. Weston becomes less human and more evil as the story progresses.

Deliver Us from Evil

Evil and its enforcer, power, has been around long before man employed both to consolidate empires. Cain killed Abel to gain power over the living reminder of his own disobedience. Joseph’s brothers sold Joseph into slavery to gain power over the living reminder of their supposed unfair treatment and over their father’s love and estate. Evil and its enforcer, power, have always worked together with ruthless abandon to take truth hostage.

 “Violence finds its only refuge in falsehood, falsehood its only support in violence.”

-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

An astute student of world history would discern that seeking and holding absolute power is valued as far superior to seeking and holding absolute truth. Those who hold power believe they can generate a ‘regime of truth’ by virtue of their position: “truth is what I say it is.”. Anyone attuned to current world affairs can readily see that culture and politics, including our democratic Republic in the U.S., revolve around who holds what power and therefore controls what is and what has been. For, as Winston repeated over and over in George Orwell’s 1984, “who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” A student of Scripture will see that the regimes of power and truth, beastly kingdoms, are made subject to Absolute Power and Absolute Truth.

It has been said that the gospel crafted by Mark, an ace narrator, was written to a Roman audience. Certainly, there is a “just then” immediacy to his gospel. A sense of action is invoked which would peek a centurion’s ‘man of action’ curiosity. Of more importance to a Roman though, and to any earthly authority and to those under authority, is the theme of who holds power. On earth, regimes of power control regimes of truth. The spiritual world of unclean spirits requires a human habitation to control truth incarnate (Rom. 1:21). Mark’s gospel is the proclamation of a new regime of power and has nothing to do with a justice league of super-heroes with super powers.

In terms similar to announcing a new emperor who claimed to be a son of god, Mark begins his gospel by proclaiming Jesus’ title:

“This is where the good news starts – the good news of Jesus the Messiah, God’s son.”

With this proclamation a new regime is declared. The title acknowledges Jesus’ authority and connotes his power. The title announces what Israel had so hoped for — a Messiah, one who is anointed by God and therefore God’s representative. The Hebrew scriptures chronicled anointed kings, priests and prophets who represented God to Israel. The book of Daniel and writings between the Testaments, in particular the Messianic Apocalypse and the Son of God text from the Dead Sea Scrolls, record Jewish Messianic beliefs in ancient Judaism. In these texts, “Son of Man” is the title given to the one who will reign and hold dominion over all things and offer blessings to those under him.

The new regime, anticipated in Psalm 146 and the Messianic Apocalypse, comes with four blessings:

-The hungry are fed

-the prisoner is set free

-the blind receive their sight

– all things are put right.

Mark’s opening statement declares Jesus to be the anointed One of God. And, of vast more import to the Jews and to the regimes of power and truth, Jesus is declared to be not just another mere mortal claiming to be a son of god, but the One God’s own Son. Human and spirit and citizen and centurion encounter Jesus in Mark’s account. They soon come to this realization.

In the first paragraphs of Mark, Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist is recorded. Here is the anointing of Jesus by water, by the spirit and by The Voice from the realm of heaven: “You are my son! You are the one I love! You make me very glad!”

Next, Jesus is tested by the Satan. The temptation is for Jesus to accept the realm of power and authority that the Satan offers to him.

A few paragraphs later we read of Jesus and his new disciples going to Capernaum. There Jesus encounters a force from the realm of darkness, the same realm offered to him by the Satan:

They went to Capernaum. At once, on the sabbath, Jesus went into the synagogue and taught. They were astonished at his teaching. He wasn’t like the legal teachers; he said things on his own authority.

All at once, in the synagogue, there was a man with an unclean spirit.

“What business have you got with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” he yelled. “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: you’re God’s Holy One!”

“Be quiet!” ordered Jesus “And come out of him!”

The unclean spirt convulsed the man, gave a great shout, and came out of him. Everyone was astonished.

“What’s this?” they started to say to each other. “New teaching – with real authority! He even tells unclean spirits what to do, and they do it!”

Mark’s gospel account goes on to detail events which show the authority and power of Jesus. Over and over we read of Jesus’ power over demons, the unclean spirits which roam the earth seeking whom they may inhabit. Realms of power are juxtaposed – heaven’s and the dark forces of the Satan which control men. They are shown in direct conflict. And note above: the unclean spirt knows who Jesus is and by whose authority he works before anyone else in the story. But why does Jesus stop the demon from declaring his identity? Mark’s beginning narrative imposes a tension that is resolved at the end of his gospel.

Before the end of the gospel we read of exorcisms. The realms of darkness are dealt with in these passages:

Mark 1:21-28 – shown above

Mark 5:1-20 – a wild untamed man with inhuman strength is possessed by an unclean spirit. He lives in a graveyard. We read that “No one had the strength to tame him”. This demon possessed man sees Jesus and throws himself in front of Jesus and shouts at the top of his voice…

“Why you and me, Jesus?”  “Why you and me, son of the High God?” By God stop torturing me!”  this last, because Jesus was saying to him “Unclean spirit, come out of him!”

Jesus cast The Legion of demons into a herd of pigs. The pigs then rush to the sea where they drowned. (The unclean spirits leave the dead pigs and go on searching for someone to inhabit.)

Mark 7:24-30 – a Greek woman throws herself at Jesus’ feet. She pleads with Jesus to cast an unclean spirit out of her daughter. After hearing the gentile woman’s “even the dogs under the table eat the crumbs that the children drop” Jesus affirms her words and sends her on her way. Her demon-possessed daughter back at home was rid of the unclean spirit.

Mark 9:14-29 – a father brings his demon possessed son to Jesus. The disciples could not cast out the demon. Jesus is notably angry at the unbelief in the power of God, especially when the father hedges, “…if you can do anything…” Jesus reprimands the father. “What do you mean, ‘If you can?” “Everything is possible to someone who believes.” The father shouts “I do believe! “Help me in my unbelief!” Jesus commands the unclean spirit to come out of the boy. The boy convulses and the unclean spirit comes out. The disciples go to question why they were ineffective. Jesus responds, “This sort can only be cast out by prayer.”

In Mark 3:15, 6:7 & 13 and 9:38-39 Jesus gives his followers the authority to cast out unclean spirits.

Mark is an excellent story-teller. As you read above, tension was imposed by Mark in the beginning paragraphs – the silence imposed on the unclean spirit who disclosed Jesus’ identity. This was done to pique the reader’s curiosity. Mark wanted the reader to discover for themselves who Jesus is. Like those involved with Jesus, the reader would question “Is Jesus really the Messiah?” and “Is Jesus really God’s son?” Each encounter and event would provoke questioning and amazement in the reader: “What’s this?”; “New teaching – with real authority! “He even tells unclean spirits what to do, and they do it!” And then the crucifixion appears to give the regime in power – the Romans- the final word about Jesus. But Mark gives us the final word through the mouth of a centurion:

When the centurion who was standing facing him saw that he died in this way, he said, “This fellow really was God’s son.”

The tension is resolved by an onlooker.

 

Lest anyone think that Jesus’ sole purpose on earth was to promote social justice and to have his words later passed on as “all you need is love” sixties-style bromides, Mark’s gospel declares to us that Jesus came to deal with evil and its enforcer, power, and with the agents of corruption possessing a will.

Mark declares that there is a new Lord in power, one with all authority in heaven and on earth. As shown by Mark, no power-enforced “regime of truth” on earth or under the earth can take Jesus’ truth hostage. Truth is what Jesus says it is and his truth can set a person free from power-and will-enforced bondage. No regime of power on earth or under the earth can keep his creation hostage. The world of men is to be set free and blessed by his reign. He chose his followers to make that happen.

Jesus has conferred his authority and power to his followers so that the blind will receive their sight and the hungry are fed and the prisoners are set free and unclean spirits are cast out. The world is to be put right under his Lordship.

To sum Mark’s gospel into today’s media parlance, Jesus slammed, crushed and owned the enemy of our souls. To sum Mark’s gospel in Scriptural phrasing…

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our LORD and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever. -The Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:15

Somewhere Over and Under the Rainbow

The Evil One and his minions never rest. Unclean spirits roam the earth looking for someone to inhabit. We are told in Scripture (1 Peter 5:8) that the enemy of our souls, Satan, walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he will devour. He will use enticements to lure his prey. And a when human is devoured by the Satan they become devoid of humanness and thus a puppet-disciple of the Evil One. In the novel Perelandra we find a depiction of such a one. His name is Weston.

In Perelandra, the second novel in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy (see my last two posts for background), we find Ransom the invitee arriving on Perelandra (Venus) and meeting the Green Lady. Ransom finds her to be childlike, innocent, and unspoiled by that which despoiled earth. Upon meeting her, Ransom thinks…

What overwhelmed him was not in the least the fact that she, like himself, was totally naked. Embarrassment and desire were both a thousand miles away from his experience: and if he was a little ashamed of his own body, that shame had nothing to do with the difference of sex and turned only on the fact that he knew his body to be a little ugly and a little ridiculous.

Ransom and the Green Lady converse, trying understand each other and their unique worlds. At one point they both see an object fall from heavy into the sea. Later, Ransom sees Weston (introduced in the previous post) emerge from a spacecraft. Ransom is filled with horror. Why did Weston come to Perealndra? His last encounter with Weston on Malandra was anything but good. Weston was sent back to earth because of his behavior.

Ransom’s initial conversation with the newly arrived Weston, the uninvited, was philosophical and rather benign. It appears that Weston meant to soften Ransom’s attitude toward himself. But Weston soon changes from humanist-philosopher-scientist to an inhuman creature – the Un-man.

Following a night of sleep Ransom awakens and begins walking to find Weston who vanished the day before. As Ransom walks, he comes across a horrible sight – a mutilated frog. As he goes further, he finds a trial of mutilated frogs, unthinkable in the unspoiled teeming world of Perelandra. At the end of the trial he finds Weston mutilating a frog with his long sharp nails.

Here’s what Ransom thought when he encountered the figure of Weston:

If Ransom said nothing, it was because he could not speak. He saw a man who was certainly not ill, to judge from his easy stance and the powerful use he had just been making with his fingers. He saw a man who was certainly Weston, to judge from his height and build and coloring and features. In that sense he was quite recognizable. But the terror was that he was also unrecognizable. He did not look like a sick man: but looked like a very dead one. The face which he raised from torturing the frog had that terrible power which the face of a corpse sometimes has of simply rebuffing every conceivable human attitude one can adopt towards it. The expressionless mouth, the unwinking stare of the eyes, something heavy and inorganic in the very folds of the cheek, said clearly: “I have features as you have, but there is nothing in common between you and me.’ It was this that kept Ransom speechless…the conviction [came] that this, in fact, was not a man: that Weston’s body was kept, walking and undecaying, in Perelandra by some wholly different kind of life, and that Weston himself was gone…

Weston’ body, traveling in a space-ship, had been the bridge by which something else had invaded Perealndra – whether that supreme and original evil whom they call the Bent One, or one of his lesser followers, made no difference.

 

As you read on you see that evil has devoured Weston. He is not content to keep it to himself. Evil is isolating. Weston or It must corrupt those around It for company in hell. And so, Weston begins to ply the Green Lady with words. He tells her that Maledil, The Lord of the universe, wouldn’t mind if she went to the Fixed Land (forbidden to her). He tells her that good will come of it and that Maledil desires for her to break His word to her.

With endless words and cajoling Weston entices the Green Lady. Ransom tries to refute Weston’s untruth and the confusion he is invoking in the Green Lady. At one point he says, “In our world to be older is not always to be wiser.”.

Going back to Ransom’s and Weston’s initial conversation occurring when Weston arrived on Perelandra and the one before Weston was de-humanized into the walking dead, we learn of the synthetic gnostic thinking which had enticed him and reduced him to his low estate. Here’s Weston, the Tempter, responding to Ransom:

“Now your mentioning the Devil is very interesting, “said Weston, who had by this time quite recovered his normal manner. “It is a most interesting thing in popular religion, this tendency to fissiparate, to breed pairs of opposites: heaven and hell, God and Devil. I need hardly say that in my view no real dualism in the universe is admissible; to reject these pairs of doublets as pure mythology. It would have been a profound error. The cause of this universal religious tendency is to be sought much deeper. The doublets are really portraits of Spirit., of cosmic energy – self-portraits, indeed, for it is the Life-Force itself which has been deposited in our brains.” …

“Your Devil and your God, “said Weston, “are both pictures of the same Force.”

(Regarding aspects of dualism, see my previous post Don’t Adjust the Contrast. Regarding the dehumanizing aspects of evil read Perelandra.)

What are the characteristics of evil shown on Perelandra and about us in various measure on earth?

Evil is grandiose. Weston boasted of all the benefits the Green Lady would obtain by doing things his way.

Evil is manipulative. Evil will use good attributes (beauty, older and wiser, etc.) to ensnare a person to do evil.

Evil holds up a self-gratifying mirror for the headstrong: “Malignant narcissism is characterized by an unsubmitted will.” Scott Peck, M.D. People of the Lie*

Evil people lack the motivation to be good but want to appear good. The will consistently lie to protect their appearance and to deceive themselves.

Conversations with evil people will always create confusion.

Nothing is ever fair for those in the thrall of evil. The evil live in an unsatisfied state.

Evil people are chronic scapegoaters. The evil lash out at others who don’t affirm them. The evil project their own perverted emotional state onto others. They have no problem calling people some form of phobic.

Evil people are consistent with their sins. Evil is known by its rotten fruits.

Evil people are destructive. They do not forgive others. And they do not forgive themselves because they do not acknowledge their sin or guilt.

Evil people refuse to have any sense of their sinfulness. They refuse self-examination. They deaden their conscience. They become very defensive against any personal responsibility and guilt.

 

Now, no one is born evil. (I don’t accept the premise of original sin whereby sin is somehow transmitted via the parents to a newborn child. Each person is born a tabula rasa regarding sin.) A person can become evil by continuing to deceive themselves. Out of that self-deception they will make a series of choices which degrade the truth. They will compound lies and compartmentalize them into their evil self so as to look normal on the outside. They must maintain their outward moral purity at all costs. They are the people of the lie*. Evil parents maintain a perverse environment which breeds the mental illness of evil in their children. The evil work to inhibit the spiritual growth of others.

The embrace of evil doesn’t happen overnight. As Ransom listens to Weston drone on in endless babble, he thinks…

If the remains of Weston were, at such a moments, speaking through the lips of the Un-man, then Weston was not a man at all. The forces which had begun, perhaps years ago, to eat away his humanity had now been slowly poisoning the intelligence and the affectation had now at last poisoned itself and the whole psychic organism had fallen to pieces. Only a ghost was left – and everlasting unrest, a crumbling, a ruin, an odour of decay. “And this, “thought Ransom, “might be my destination; or hers [the Green Lady].

 

As Followers of the Lord of the Universe it is important for to understand evil. But we should not focus on evil or be overcome by evil or call others evil. We are to recognize the dynamics of evil so that we can discern when we are being tempted to synthesize what God calls good with what God has called sinful. There is much of this Gnostic synthesis going on churches today in their effort to be inclusive.

“Inclusive” is the popular political word that on the surface sounds wonderful. Yet, it hides the dreadful desire to purge the dualism God has put in place and to replace it with New Age pluralism. God’s dualism is deemed too harsh and too exclusive. Remember, there is territorial spiritual warfare going on all around us. This warfare affects our culture and our politics. The forces for good battle the forces for evil. As C.S. Lewis put it, “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” Weston’s efforts to entice the Green Lady reveal the extent to which the forces of evil will go to persuade one to come over to the dark side:

It was on those lines that the enemy now worked almost exclusively. Though the [Green] Lady had no word for Duty he [Weston] made it appear to her in light of a Duty that she should continue to fondle the idea of disobedience, and convinced her that it would be a cowardice if she repulsed him. The ideas of the Great Deed, of the Great Risk, of a kind of martyrdom, were presented to her every day, varied in a thousand forms.

The Tempter goes on to entice the Green lady into disobedience with feminism.

 

 

As recounted in part above, what Weston embraced leading to his mental illness and dehumanized state is common to modern man under the rainbow. Weston proceeded to take his poisoned soul over the rainbow to another planet where he began to sow seeds of deception with the likes of “Did Maledil really say that?”. Don’t be deceived or devoured by evil. For now, the Followers of Jesus are to be the people of the tension – choosing the good and abhorring the evil all around us.

“See here,” Jesus continued, “I’m sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves. So be shrewd as snakes and as innocent of doves.” Matthew10:16

 

 

~~~

I recommend C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. The above passages are only a small selection from a trio of novels which depict good and evil and more spiritual realities via fiction. You’ll be better for it.

*I recommend M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie, The Hope for Healing Human Evil, quoted above. Peck, a psychiatrist, provides eye-opening accounts and descriptions of human evil.

Groans are Many, Hearts are Faint

 

The recent tragic events in Florida have elicited cries for action to be taken by those in government. But is government involvement the answer? And who is to blame for what happened? Are we corporately responsible for what an individual does?

Let’s start with my estimation of what our U.S. government’s interface with us should entail before immediate demands are made on it. The secular state, otherwise known as government, should be limited in size and scope of power. It should provide order, transportation infrastructure, protection from foreign enemies, border protection, and enforce contracts. Beyond that a secular state should not have duties including any onus to hand out subjective rights that benefit only certain groups and health care. The secular state, by its very impersonal nature, is not to decide who is more equal than others nor to be given charge of care for others or to become a brother’s keeper.

The people of a secular state should look to government as the enforcer of order. Yet, its powers are limited and rightfully so in our free society. In the matter before us, the FBI, a law enforcement agency, knew about Nick Cruz’s online behavior. But what could the FBI do about such knowledge except to keep an eye on Nick from a distance? Free speech allowed Nick to post what he wanted on YouTube. In fact, Nick’s freedom, our freedom, was what allowed him to do evil.

There are earnest protestors demanding more gun control laws from the government. They are sincere in their demands for a response. Some protestors, though and as we have witnessed before, are likely paid-for protestors from out of town. There are those with money (e.g., Bloomberg and Soros) who want to rile up protestors to get their way inculcated into our laws. Their way involves restricting even more freedoms but does not address the underlying problem. The real problem is evil.

Many today focus their laser sights on government since government and politics have dominated our national focus from the very start of our nation. They want government to shepherd us and use its ‘rod and staff’ to comfort us and to bonk any discomfort away. They want government to lead us beside still waters and into green pastures. But government is not a shepherd unless you are a sheep.

At the beginning of our nation it was understood by those involved that “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” (Alexis de Tocqueville) But today, we as a nation have since walked away from morality and a faith in God’s sovereignty. We have instead put our trust and faith in collective sovereignty – “We the people” government. In this milieu we expect government to be omniscient and omnipotent and controlling with respect to others but not with respect to ourselves.

Where should our focus be? Should we focus on increasing the size of government until all freedoms once taken from your neighbor are repurposed and are now taken from you? How do we address things beyond our control and outside a limited control of government?

Now, I am not suggesting that a secular government should not mandate Christianity. The state, rather, should coexist with Christianity and seek Christianity’s guidance and blessing. But the two should not become one. I am suggesting that we realign our focus off of government and onto the One who is good. I am suggesting that the answer to what is beyond our control is not to increase government control. Rather, the answer is to increase the good we have control of.

If evil in society is the absence of good in society, then good must return in full force. Christians are exhorted in Scripture (Romans 12: 21) “Don’t let evil conquer you. Rather conquer evil with good.”

Now, who is to blame for what happened? Are we corporately responsible for what an individual does? I certainly do not agree with Hillary Clinton that “It takes a village to raise a child”. We are not corporately responsible for what happened in Florida. As a gun owner I am not individually responsible for what happened in Florida. Just the other day, as I was discussing these matters on Twitter, a woman replied that I was “owned by the NRA”. She didn’t like my questioning the narrative she was positing. The NRA is not responsible for what happened.

Only Nick Cruz is responsible for what he did. And, he admitted to the guilt of his crime in court. Only Nick Cruz is responsible. Though personal rights are en vogue, personal responsibility is not. The collective thinking says society caused the problem and now government must fix my problem – “I am not the problem”.

Is what I am positing above a simplistic and pedantic answer? No, I don’t think so. Actually, throwing more gun control laws on the books is as simplistic as it gets. It is using “the rod and staff” of ‘good shepherd’ government to bash other sheep into submission. But the problem of evil lurks in the bushes ready to leap. So, how do we address evil in our land?

Prayer. Yes, prayer. I know, there are some who think prayer is not taking action. I have debated those people on Twitter, as well. There are Progressive Catholics who see social justice action as the epitome of Catholicism (along with bits of Contemplation). Prayer is not weakness, or inaction. Prayer taps into the resurrection power of God, the power that destroyed evil’s power over us forever. 

Do you want to restrain evil in this world? If so, then pray. When we pray we invoke our faith and trust in God’s sovereignty. In fact, the only way to deal with the horror and confusion of evil is to turn to God. The only way. And when we pray as Followers of the Way in the Kingdom of God on earth we stand between heaven and earth pleading and groaning with all creation. We bring to God the pain, the hurt, the sorrow, and the deepest longings of the world. The Searcher of Hearts knows the mind of God and knows our hearts. The Searcher lifts our prayers to the Father who then acts in accordance with His goodness.

 

On a related matter, I will say more in a future post about how we should love and care for our physical neighbors and not do so vicariously through government programs. It takes you to be a neighbor. Neighbors understand brokenness more so than evil. Nikolas Cruz was, by several accounts, a troubled and depressed young man before he acted. The mother who adopted Nikolas died of pneumonia Nov. 1, leaving him without parents. He stayed briefly with a family friend but wanted to move on. For now, though, I will share with you how I am praying against evil and for the good of my neighbors.

Not long ago I found out that down the street from where I live a man was robbed of his wallet at gunpoint. This occurred in the parking lot of a Section 8 apartment housing complex. I also learned that heroin deals we going down in that same government housing project. Drug use might explain the recent armed robberies of banks also down the street from me. I am praying that God would restrain the evil from taking hold in my community. I am praying that no one will be robbed or accosted by druggies. I am praying that law enforcement will be able to monitor the situation and catch evil in the act. I am praying for LE’s safety. I am praying that those involved in crime and those around crime will, by the Holy Spirit, be convicted of sin, of righteousness and judgment. The ruler of this world is judged already and I am enforcing that verdict. (see John 16: 8-11)

 

There is too much to say in this one post. There are too many threads I could pull on. But I hope I asked questions to spur your thinking as to how to relate to the problem of evil. Evil is all around us, even on days where there are no monstrous crimes committed. As Followers of Jesus we must appropriate God’s good through prayer and conquer evil as it lurks waiting to pounce. The world will turn to more and more government to please itself and to protect itself. But, regarding evil and all else, the Church must turn to God in prayer. God’s vantage point is needed, along with full body armor.

“What else is there to say? Just this: be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his power. Put on God’s complete armor. Then you’ll be able to stand firm against the devil’s trickery. The warfare we are engaged in, you see, isn’t against flesh and blood. It’s against the leaders, against the authorities, against the powers that rule the world in this dark age, against the wicked spiritual elements in the heavenly places.” The Apostle Paul writing to the churches in Ephesus, 6: 10-12

~~~~

Added 2/19/2018. Here‘s a partial solution – Gun-violence restraining orders (GVROs) – to guns used for violent means. The solution supports what I said about “neighbor” involvement above and due process:

A Gun-Control Measure Conservatives Should Consider

When those put in positions of authority do nothing, added 2/23/2018:

3 Broward County Police Officers Made No Attempt to Enter the School and Stop Nikolas Cruz

Added 2/24/2018:

Caller told FBI Florida shooting suspect ‘going to explode’

The Associated Press on Friday obtained a transcript of the Jan. 5 tip to the FBI’s call center. The FBI acknowledged it failed to investigate the tip about 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, but the transcript provides the fullest glimpse yet into the seriousness of the woman’s concerns.
“I know he’s going to explode,” she told the call-taker.
The FBI briefed congressional staff Friday about its failure to act on the alarming tip, as well as why it did not delve into a September 2017 YouTube comment posted by a “Nikolas Cruz” that said, “Im going to be a professional school shooter.”

The Problem of Evil, a Good God and a Different Way to Be Human

Recently, on my daily train ride into the city, I had, for me, a ‘typical’ conversation with those standing in the vestibule. The subject:  going to church.

A fellow passenger brought up the fact that he attends to a certain church. Another passenger then mentioned that she attends a Catholic Church. I mentioned that I attended church near my town. A fourth passenger, a young woman carrying a black bag decorated with astrological and satanic symbols and the word “Spirituality” written boldly across the bag, looked up from her hand-held device and said, “I don’t go to church…Too much hypocrisy.” She said this looking directly at the woman who mentioned her attendance at a Catholic Church. The young woman went on to mention the priests and young boy abuse scandals.

I regrettably glibly said, “We are all hypocrites. Some people realize this and attend church to change their ways.” We then went on to discuss other things.

A deeper and honest and loving discussion on my part would have brought up the truth about God and the hard questions that she and I and all of us face in our daily lives. There are certainly questions of man’s brokenness, his hypocrisy and profound questions about evil, suffering and… a good God?

If you have read the ancient Book of Job then you would have come across man’s earliest known and hardest life question as the basis of Job’s story: Why does a good God allow suffering and evil?

And, if you have read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s (a Russian novelist (1821-1881)) “The Brothers Karamazov” you will have come across thought-provoking questions of the problem of suffering and evil. There, one would find man’s most pressing concerns in story form; concerns about God, good, evil, suffering, doubt and faith.

The Veritas Forum video below presents an insightful conversation at Duke University. Issues of war, pacifism, suffering, evil, moral ambiguity, hate crimes, death, the UN, International law, forgiveness and the Kingdom of God are broached by N.T. Wright, a well-known New Testament Scholar and author. He provides answers to many universal questions and places the answers in the context of the Kingdom of God and not the society at hand. The video introduces N.T. Wright and his book “Evil and the Justice of God”.

A conversation with Professor N.T. Wright at Duke University:

“Imagine” Juxtaposed

Previous posts attempted to expose the Epicurean influence on modernity: the exclusion of God from the garden of good and evil and replaced with Darwinian materialism under the influence of man-made reasoning: “cogito ergo sum”.

The posts also revealed the inclusion of ‘reasoned’ or ‘rational’ people into the high-horse club of scientism. This exclusive club is governed by those who have the power, perhaps the raison d’état, to control the inputs and outputs of desired ‘truth’. “What is truth?” Pilate asked (when he thought he had the force of the whole Roman empire to define it.)

As I wryly mentioned in my previous posts the above either/or, God/science dichotomy came, at first, philosophically, from what I call Epicurus’ “High-Horse” Mal-ware. This mal-ware has since been downloaded over the centuries into each century’s modern man’s psyche. The devastating effect of the Mal-ware was to disable the AND gate of your truth tables. It was not to be used in queries.

Now, like the historically recorded scene of two thieves each hanging on cross with Jesus hanging between them, I offer a similar juxtaposition of two end results, two disparate “Imagines”.

One “Imagine” is Epicurean, God dismissed, materialistic, nihilistic and personified in the likes of former atheist Christopher Hitchens, materialist Barack Obama and fatalist Beatle John Lennon:

 The other “Imagine” is God-inclusive. Here, God is the nucleus, the epicenter of being and meaning. Here, God and science coexist as Lion and lamb, creation being the sublime work of His hands, His signature found in the molded clay.

God’s Kingdom, now begun on earth, has become a dwelling place for all who see His light and follow it. True reality is made known to His followers by the Holy Spirit. The earthly spectrum of sodium street lights, of tungsten lights, of neon lights, of mercury lights, of halogen lights, of xenon lights, lights all of which enable us to see our way on earth are sourced from the Prism of Eternal Light.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” C.S. Lewis

At His appearance we will then know Him as He knows us. That Eternal Light you see is Love, not short-lived Epicurean fireworks and party favors. 

 

Footnote: The above song by MercyMe was played during my son’s funeral service, about fourteen years ago. Justin was eighteen when the Lord took him home in a freak car accident. The police reported that it was a clear, sunny and dry day in Texas as Justin drove down a frontage road and lost control of the car. No other cars were involved. No drugs or alcohol were involved according to the Police report.

 Justin had recently graduated from high school. The afternoon of his death he was driving back from his girlfriend’s house. We don’t know why this happened. We just know that we will see him again and this is not final. The Joy that only God’s True Love can give replaced the deepest loss I have ever experienced.  Physics caused the physical death. But, Justin lives on.

 Sure there is pain, loss and evil in the world. But God is greater than any of these, if you let Him be God in your life.

Evil Marches On. Good Will Stop To Help And Pray

You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.…”

Jesus from the eyewitness account of Matthew 5:43-44

A painting that was for sale in Hidden Treasures, Andrews's store, before it was burned on Nov. 24, 2014. Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

A drawing that was for sale in Hidden Treasures, Andrews’s store, before it was burned on Nov. 24, 2014.
Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

 

A gofundme account was created on November 27th, 2014 for Jeniece and her husband. This money will help them to rebuild their retail business, Hidden Treasures. The store was destroyed by lawless rioters and looters in Feguson, MO. See my previous post.

Give evil its marching orders. Overcome evil with good: donate and bless Jeniece.  She is one of the Kingdom of God’s no longer hidden treasures.

 

Hidden Treasures Ferguson Rebuild

 

“And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Job 42:10

Looking Evil in the Eye: Pretense

In my series of posts regarding aspects of evil found in our culture, I want to add this post due to its relevance to our current cultural and political makeup. I’m using the word “makeup “on purpose. Beyond it denoting a milieu or environment the word also connotes the topic of this post ~ pretense.

In his book People of the Lie:  The Hope for Healing Human Evil, Dr. M. Scott Peck writes in the chapter titled “The Encounter with Evil in Everyday Life” that

 “The issue of naming (evil) is a theme of this work. It has already been touched on in diverse instances: science has failed to name evil as a subject for scrutiny; the name evil does not appear in the psychiatric lexicon; we have been reluctant to label specific individuals with the name evil; in their presence, therefore, we may experience a nameless dread or revulsion; yet the naming of evil is not without danger.

To name something correctly gives us a certain amount of power over it. Through its name we identify it.  We are powerless over a disease until we can accurately name it…The treatment begins with its diagnosis.  But is evil an illness? Many would not consider it so.  There are a number of reasons why one might be reluctant to classify evil as a disease.  Some are emotional. For instance, we are accustomed to feel pity and sympathy for those who are ill, but the emotions that evil invoke in us are anger and disgust, if not actual hate…

Beyond our emotional reactions, there are three rational reasons that make us hesitate to regard evil as an illness…I shall nonetheless take the position that evil should indeed be regarded as a mental illness.”

Dr. Peck goes on to discuss the three reasons. I will use summary quotes.

 “The first holds that people should not be considered ill unless they are suffering pain or disability – that there is no such thing as an illness without suffering….it is characteristic of the evil that, in their narcissism, they believe that there is nothing wrong with them, that they are psychologically perfect human specimens…For we realize that their inability to define themselves as ill in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is actually part of the illness itself…The use of the concept of emotional suffering to define disease is also faulty in several other respects. As I noted in The Road Less Traveled, it is often the most spiritually healthy and advanced among us who are called on to suffer in ways more agonizing than anything experienced by the more ordinary.  Great leaders, when wise and well, are likely to endure degrees of anguish unknown to the common man. Conversely, it is the unwillingness to suffer emotional pain that usually lies at the root of emotional illness.  Those who fully experience depression, doubt, confusion and despair may be infinitely more healthy than those who are generally certain, complacent and self satisfied.  The denial of suffering is, in fact, a better definition of illness than its acceptance.

The evil deny the suffering of their guilt – the painful awareness of their sin, inadequacy and imperfection – by casting their pain onto others through projection and scapegoating.  They themselves may not suffer, but those around them do.  They cause suffering.  The evil create for those under their dominion a miniature sick society.”…

 Finally, who is to say what the evil suffer? It is consistently true that the evil do not appear to suffer deeply.  Because they cannot admit to weakness or imperfection in themselves, they must appear this way.  They must appear to themselves to be continually on top of things, continually in command.  Their narcissism demands it…

Think of the psychic energy required for the continued maintenance of the pretense so characteristic of the evil!…”

“I said that there are two other reasons one might hesitate to label evil as an illness…One is the notion that someone who is ill must be a victim….One way or another, to some extent, all these people (the evil) and a host of others victimize themselves. Their motives, failures and choices are deeply and intimately involved in the creation of their injuries and diseases….

The final argument against labeling evil an illness is the belief that evil is a seemingly untreatable condition…It is the central proposition of this book that evil can and should be subjected to scientific scrutiny…It would, I believe, be quite appropriate to classify evil people as constituting a specific variant of the narcissistic personality disorder.”

Dr. Peck goes on to describe this variant of personality disorder:

“In addition to the abrogation of responsibility that characterizes all personality disorders, this one would specifically be distinguished by:

(a)    consistent destructive, scapegoating behavior, which may often be quite subtle.

(b)    excessive, albeit usually covert, intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury.

(c)    Pronounced concern with a public injury and self-image of respectability, contributing to a stability of life-style but also to pretentiousness and denial of hateful feelings or vengeful motives.

(d)   Intellectual deviousness, with an increased likelihood of a mild schizophrenic-like disturbance of thinking at time of stress.

But there is another vital reason to correctly name evil:  the healing of its victims.”

(all emphasis -bold type- mine) 

*****************

 Over the course of some sixty years I have encountered some distinctly evil people.  The common characteristic of their personality is the veneer of pretense with which they surround their lives.  Perhaps, instead of the word “veneer” the word “mirror” would better convey the 360 degree reflection of themselves they so desire.

In their mind’s eye they see themselves in a grandiose role, a self-assessed worthy role (remember Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?). To support their ‘self-thesis’ the pretentious will seek out others who will regard them in the same way ~ a Super Pac to fund a super ego (the three witches met Macbeth; his ego chose to ‘believe’ their words). Pretentious people will demand to be seen in their ‘light’ only. You become to them only a speck in their shadow.

Those, of course, who can rightly see what every one else can see will disagree. And, if they make any statement contrary to the ‘fairy tale’ narrative imposed they will be called deniers and ignorant or worse. 

Today our nation has a President who fits all of the above characteristics of pretense. God help us.

Jesus said, “If the light in you is darkness how great is that darkness.”

Jesus’ perfect love can cast out fear…and evil.

~~~~~

I liken the characteristic of pretense to the walls of Jericho:   The huge stone walls of Jericho looked invincible. Yet, after seven days of marching around the façade with God’s presence (the Ark) in the lead and with ram’s horns blowing on the seventh day, the walls fell down; the city of Jericho became indefensible. My how the mighty façades have fallen over the years.