FRDB Archives

Freethought & Rationalism Archive

The archives are read only.


Go Back   FRDB Archives > Archives > Biblical Criticism - 2001
Welcome, Peter Kirby.
You last visited: Today at 05:55 AM

Notices

 
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 09-14-2001, 01:09 AM   #1
excreationist
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Australia
Posts: 4,886
Post Liberal Christians - does Satan literally exist?

(To Nomad and other liberal Christians):

If some events in the Bible (such as in early Genesis) are actually just metaphors and not literal accounts as fundamentalists believe, what about Satan?
e.g. what about when we say how "Mother Nature" is being hurt by our pollution, or "Lady Luck" is on our side? Perhaps the concept of "Satan" is the same. It could be temptation metaphorically personified.

So is there a supernatural person called Satan who can simultaneously tempt many people all over the world? Or do these temptations just come from natural human nature, and Satan is just a metaphorical source of it? e.g. These days we might say someone opened Pandora's box, even though Pandora doesn't literally exist, etc.
And when Satan is locked up forever in Revelations, maybe it means that when people reach a heavenly state of mind, temptation ("Satan") leaves them.
BTW, I think it isn't necessary to believe in a literal Satan to have the Gospel message. The fall, which you already say is a metaphorical story, could involve internal temptations (no third party involved) which sets a precedent for our sinful human nature, and then the gospel is really about surrending to God and being forgiven for your sins. I could argue that it isn't necessary to believe in a literal Jesus or even a literal God if you look at it in a very liberal/metaphorical though still "spiritual" way.
If you believe that Satan is a literal person, could you try and prove why references to Satan are definitely not a metaphor for temptation/sin/evil.
excreationist is offline  
Old 09-14-2001, 03:22 PM   #2
Nomad
Regular Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Calgary, AB, Canada
Posts: 410
Post

Quote:
Originally posted by JohnClay:
[QB](To Nomad and other liberal Christians):
Small point: I do not think that I am a liberal Christian, although I would not mind finding out what others think defines a liberal Christian.

I am an orthodox Christian, and will defend that theology.

Quote:
If some events in the Bible (such as in early Genesis) are actually just metaphors and not literal accounts as fundamentalists believe, what about Satan?
Like Hell, I accept that Satan is real, not only because we find him in the Bible, but because the Church has always taught that he and his devils exist.

Quote:
e.g. what about when we say how "Mother Nature" is being hurt by our pollution, or "Lady Luck" is on our side? Perhaps the concept of "Satan" is the same. It could be temptation metaphorically personified.
Perhaps he is, but I have not encountered Mother Nature or Lady Luck in the Bible or Church teachings. Satan is a different matter however, and both tell us that he is real.

Quote:
So is there a supernatural person called Satan who can simultaneously tempt many people all over the world?
He is very powerful, yes, and can tempt large numbers of people. Does he do this on his own? I doubt it. His devils appear to do the same thing, albeit on a smaller scale.

Quote:
Or do these temptations just come from natural human nature, and Satan is just a metaphorical source of it?
I suppose that this argument could be made, but it would be hard to do so based on Biblical and Christian teachings.

Quote:
And when Satan is locked up forever in Revelations, maybe it means that when people reach a heavenly state of mind, temptation ("Satan") leaves them.
Very minor point, but it is Revelation, not Revelations. I know that this is a common error, but I wanted to point it out.

Here you are asking a question related more to the nature of Heaven and Hell, and as I have said in other threads, I accept that both exist. But Satan will not be a tormentor in Hell, he will be among the tormented. And yes, those in Heaven will be eternally seperated from Satan and all of the damned, but this will not be the reason the righteous will no longer sin. The righteous will have been purified by God, and made perfect, so the desire and attraction of being imperfect will be gone forever. Even if Satan were somehow to enter Heaven, his power would be gone, as the righteous will live as one with God Himself, and will therefore bear His holy and perfect nature.

In other words, we will no longer be the image of God. We will be His true sons and daughters, and will be perfect.

Quote:
BTW, I think it isn't necessary to believe in a literal Satan to have the Gospel message. The fall, which you already say is a metaphorical story, could involve internal temptations (no third party involved) which sets a precedent for our sinful human nature, and then the gospel is really about surrending to God and being forgiven for your sins.
I accept that one can reject the literal existence of Satan and still be a Christian, just as one can reject the eternal suffering of the damned and still be a Christian. Being a Christian in this life does not mean that we will be right about everything. It means only that we have been saved from sin and damnation.

As for the Gospel message, it is not so much about obedience to God (although that is a part of it), as it is the good news message that God has literally saved every single person who has and ever will live. Our sins are completely paid for, and we have no reason to be in bondage to them any longer. That is why it is called the Gospel, the Good News.

Quote:
I could argue that it isn't necessary to believe in a literal Jesus or even a literal God if you look at it in a very liberal/metaphorical though still "spiritual" way.
Actually, no, the Bible and the Church are very clear on this point. It is central to the Creeds to accept the life, death and Resurrection of our Lord. They are at the core of our faith. If you would like to know what a person MUST believe to be an orthodox Christian, please see the Three Ecumentical Creeds. There is more to our faith than this, of course, but these are the core beliefs and confessions.

Quote:
If you believe that Satan is a literal person, could you try and prove why references to Satan are definitely not a metaphor for temptation/sin/evil.
I do not believe it is possible to prove a negative, so no, I cannot prove that Satan is definitely not a metaphor.

Peace,

Nomad
Nomad is offline  
Old 09-14-2001, 09:38 PM   #3
excreationist
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Australia
Posts: 4,886
Post

Quote:
Originally posted by Nomad:
<STRONG>I do not think that I am a liberal Christian, although I would not mind finding out what others think defines a liberal Christian.

I am an orthodox Christian, and will defend that theology.</STRONG>
You also said:
"But the basic rule of treating those things which are essential for salvation as being literal, and all else may be viewed as figurative seems reasonable."

I think that traditionally this would be seen by orthodox churches as being heretical. I mean perhaps belief in a Virgin birth or Jesus's miracles isn't essential for salvation and therefore that could be taken as figurative. Perhaps this view is common, but I wouldn't call it "orthodox".

Quote:
<STRONG>Like Hell, I accept that Satan is real, not only because we find him in the Bible, but because the Church has always taught that he and his devils exist.</STRONG>
But some churches don't teach that hell is real and perhaps some very liberal ones teach that devils mightn't literally exist. Also, the story of Adam & Eve and the world-wide flood is found in the Bible, and this has, until relatively recently, been taught in traditional churches, and it still is in fundamentalist churches, that keep traditional views. So is "truth" whatever a majority of churches are teaching at the time? Or whatever the "enlightened" churches teach, that keep up with science?

Quote:
<STRONG>Perhaps he is, but I have not encountered Mother Nature or Lady Luck in the Bible or Church teachings. Satan is a different matter however, and both tell us that he is real.</STRONG>
Well you were saying that hyperbole is used in modern times, and so could be used in the Bible. The specific instances of hyperbole might be different in the same way that the metaphors we use can be different. Also, saying "perhaps he is" (a metaphor) doesn't sound like you are very convinced that the Bible says that Satan definitely is a literal being.

Quote:
<STRONG>He is very powerful, yes, and can tempt large numbers of people. Does he do this on his own? I doubt it. His devils appear to do the same thing, albeit on a smaller scale.</STRONG>
Is there Biblical support that Satan has other tempters? So I guess you believe that evil voices in our heads can come from demons. What about schizophrenics who believe they are hearing voices from angels or God? Perhaps devils are lying to them. BTW, since demons often talk to people, do you believe in exorcisms? I mean Jesus did them and apparently holy people can too. Do you believe that exorcisms should be used on schizophrenics? How common do you think that partial or total demon possession is today? In the Bible it was pretty common. Apparently we live in the end times so I guess demon possession would still be quite widespread.
....
(I'm not going to respond to that bit)
....
Quote:
<STRONG>I accept that one can reject the literal existence of Satan and still be a Christian, just as one can reject the eternal suffering of the damned and still be a Christian. Being a Christian in this life does not mean that we will be right about everything. It means only that we have been saved from sin and damnation.</STRONG>
So some Christian beliefs are wrong, but are still acceptable for salvation... I guess that's reasonable. (In fact it is very tolerant of you)

Quote:
<STRONG>It is central to the Creeds to accept the life, death and Resurrection of our Lord. They are at the core of our faith. If you would like to know what a person MUST believe to be an orthodox Christian, please see the Three Ecumentical Creeds. There is more to our faith than this, of course, but these are the core beliefs and confessions.</STRONG>
It doesn't say anything about the literal existence of people in the Old Testament and this would also be a typical Christian doctrine. So I guess that by definition Christians must accept the literal death and ressurrection of Jesus, but if they are already taking much of the Bible figuratively, then they may only have some faith (and not real evidence) stopping them from going all the way.

Quote:
<STRONG>I do not believe it is possible to prove a negative, so no, I cannot prove that Satan is definitely not a metaphor.</STRONG>
Well what I mean is to justify why you're certain that Satan literally exists, which you've done.
excreationist is offline  
Old 09-17-2001, 04:41 AM   #4
excreationist
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Australia
Posts: 4,886
Post

Well I checked out what religioustolerance.org, one of my favourite sites, had to say. (It is a very good reference for unbiassed religious information)

from Satan: Overview; Bible passages; Current beliefs:
Quote:
In 1995, about 58% of American adults believed that Satan is "not a living being but is a symbol of evil."(1) More detailed data, collected in 1991, is listed below. (2) Only among born again Christians did a majority believe in Satan as a living being. A large percentage of Christians ignore the teachings of their churches:

Group Satan is only a symbol of evil / Satan is a living being
Average of American Adults 60% 35%
65 years and older 49% 38%
Born again 43% 52%
Not born again 68% 25%
Evangelical Christians 47% 49%
Roman Catholics 69% 26%
Mainline Protestants 65% 27%

(N = 1005; 95% confidence limits within 4%, a random sampling of Americans 18 years or older.)
An identical survey in 1997-MAY suggests that the traditional belief of Satan as a living being might possibly be slipping: (3)

Group Satan is only a symbol of evil / Satan is a living being
Average of American Adults 62% 30%

(N = 1007; 95% confidence limits within 4%, a random sampling of Americans 18 years or older.)
We believe that only the Irish believe in a living Satan at levels approaching Americans. Belief in Satan is much lower in other Christian countries. We have not been able to uncover precise worldwide data on this topic.

Time Magazine for 1993-DEC-27 featured a story on angels. An opinion poll revealed that:

...49% believe in the existence of fallen "angels or devils." They were presumably referring to demons. (4)

Barna Research conducted an extensive poll in 2001. They found that only 27% of the adult population strongly disagrees that Satan is just a symbol of evil. (15) There was a wide variation among members of various denominations:

Above average belief of Satan as a living entity:
Latter-day Saints (Mormons) 59%
Assembly of God: 56%
Christian - non-denominational (mostly Fundamentalist) 48%
Pentecostal / Foursquare: 47%
Seventh-day Aventist: 37%
Church of Christ: 36%
Baptist: 34%

Below average belief of Satan as a living entity:
Presbyterian: 22%
Lutheran: 21%
Episcopal: 20%
Methodist: 18%
Catholics: 17% (15)

Liberal Christian Beliefs
According to one Baptist source: "Religious liberals do not believe in the literal reality and actual personality of Satan...The devil or Satan is not at all a real person, but only an impersonal evil force present and operating in the world." (6) The same source estimates that 75% of American clergypersons hold this belief.

Many liberal religious faith groups believe that Satan and demons do not exist as living entities. Jesus, his disciples and the general public during the time of Christ's ministry clearly believed in Satan and armies of demons. However,. they lived in a pre-scientific age. People in 1st century Palestine used the concept of demonic possession to account for mental illness, bad weather, lightning, thunder, unfortunate accidents, dreams of nocturnal seduction, etc. These beliefs continued through the Middle Ages in to the Renaissance. However, medical, mental and physical sciences have provided better and simpler explanations to phenomena once believed to be caused by demons. Today, with the exception of Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians, very few mental health professionals attribute mental illness to indwelling demons.

Most would regard the concepts of Satan, demons, spiritual warfare, demon possession etc as being totally divorced from reality, a left-over belief from a pre-scientific era. The liberal position might be summed up by a quotation from the writings of G. Messandé:

"We live under the sign of a nonexistent deity cobbled together twenty-six centuries ago by power-hungry Iranian priests. We live under the sign of Satan. Is this our destiny - are we to let an imaginary monster devour us forever?" (11)
There's also:
Part 2: The development of the concept of Satan which talks about the history of the Satan character.

Demonic Possession, Demonic Oppression, and Exorcism contains an interesting guide for distinguishing between schizophrenia and (apparent) demon possession.

So Nomad, it seems that a majority of Christians and a majority of ministers doubt the literal existence of Satan. Only 21% of your flavour of Christianity (also formerly my own brand of faith, as well as all of my relatives), the Lutheran denomination, believes in a literal Satan.

Differences Between Roman Catholicism and Conservative Protestantism says conservative protestants generally believe that truth is found in scripture, as interpreted by the individual. It is the Roman Catholic Church who believes that truth is found in scripture, as interpreted by the church and is also found in church tradition.

So are a majority of Christians and church leaders wrong? Or perhaps you are among the elite few who can correctly interpret the scriptures.

[ September 17, 2001: Message edited by: JohnClay ]
excreationist is offline  
Old 09-17-2001, 09:18 AM   #5
Nomad
Regular Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Calgary, AB, Canada
Posts: 410
Post

Quote:
Originally posted by JohnClay:
Nomad: I do not think that I am a liberal Christian, although I would not mind finding out what others think defines a liberal Christian.
I am an orthodox Christian, and will defend that theology.

John: You also said:
"But the basic rule of treating those things which are essential for salvation as being literal, and all else may be viewed as figurative seems reasonable."
I think that traditionally this would be seen by orthodox churches as being heretical.
Actually, I was quoting directly from On Christian Doctrine by St. Augustine, and his view is the one adopted by the traditional orthodox Churches. The confusion here is that you appear to believe that the literealist or fundamentalist views adopted by some American Churches in the last 150-200 years is the traditional view. It is not. Augustine wrote his book in the 4th Century, and it has served as the guide for Church understanding of the Bible at least since that time. I would strongly recommend that you read the book if you are interested in learning more on this subject (for example, he goes into detail about how we are to use science, philosophy and other non-Christian disciplines to help us understand and interpret Scripture as well).

Quote:
I mean perhaps belief in a Virgin birth or Jesus's miracles isn't essential for salvation and therefore that could be taken as figurative. Perhaps this view is common, but I wouldn't call it "orthodox".
No. The Virgin conception and the miracle of the Resurrection are core beliefs confessed in the Creeds I referenced. They are examples of essential doctrines, and are to be treated lterally.
Quote:
Nomad: Like Hell, I accept that Satan is real, not only because we find him in the Bible, but because the Church has always taught that he and his devils exist.

John: But some churches don't teach that hell is real and perhaps some very liberal ones teach that devils mightn't literally exist.
I already know this John. I have said that I will only defend orthodox Christianity, and that includes Roman Catholic, Orthodox, High Anglican, and Lutheran teachings. There have always been non-orthodox Christians as well, but I am not interested in defending their beliefs. At the same time, if someone is more comfortable claiming to be a Christian, and denying the core beliefs of our faith, that is their right. They are not orthodox is all.

Quote:
Also, the story of Adam & Eve and the world-wide flood is found in the Bible, and this has, until relatively recently, been taught in traditional churches, and it still is in fundamentalist churches, that keep traditional views. So is "truth" whatever a majority of churches are teaching at the time?
No. Truth is a very difficult thing, and as Paul tells us, we see through the glass very darkly right now. Without a doubt we have and will continue to get many things wrong. But in matters of salvation we have a very clear understanding of what God has told us. Jesus lived, died, rose again, and lives. We are all saved for His name’s sake, and have been freed from bondage to sin and evil.

The core beliefs of the Nicene Creed, for example, represent what all Christians have taught from the beginning of the Church. They are rooted in the Bible and Tradition, and have helped us to identify who is within the faith, and who is not.

Quote:
Or whatever the "enlightened" churches teach, that keep up with science?
As I said, Augustine was telling us that we can and should use the natural sciences to help us better understand the Bible, and he was telling us this 1600 years ago. I see no reason to think that science and theology conflict, since they do not.

Quote:
Well you were saying that hyperbole is used in modern times, and so could be used in the Bible. The specific instances of hyperbole might be different in the same way that the metaphors we use can be different. Also, saying "perhaps he is" (a metaphor) doesn't sound like you are very convinced that the Bible says that Satan definitely is a literal being.
I am absolutely convinced that Satan is real, and that the Bible tells us he is real. I told you that he might be a metaphor, but I do not see how one could argue this based on the Bible or Church teachings.

Quote:
Is there Biblical support that Satan has other tempters?
Yes. Not all of the demon possessions were identified as being from Satan, and, in fact, several were said to be from a “legion” of devils, or from a lesser devil.

Quote:
So I guess you believe that evil voices in our heads can come from demons. What about schizophrenics who believe they are hearing voices from angels or God?
I presume that we could hear devils or demons talking to us, although I cannot personally say that this has happened to me. I also do not think that schizophrenics are necessarily hearing either demons or angels (or God) talk to them.

Quote:
BTW, since demons often talk to people, do you believe in exorcisms?
Yes, although, again, I do not think that they are very common.

Quote:
I mean Jesus did them and apparently holy people can too. Do you believe that exorcisms should be used on schizophrenics?
No. The Church forbids this. We always look first for medical explanations for a person’s behaviour before resorting to performing an exorcism. The Catholic Church in particular has very strict guidelines that must be followed by an exorcist, and only one priest in each diocese is permitted to perform them.

Quote:
How common do you think that partial or total demon possession is today?
Extremely rare.

Quote:
In the Bible it was pretty common. Apparently we live in the end times so I guess demon possession would still be quite widespread.
Actually, demon possession was only very common when Jesus was here on earth. Otherwise, it was extremely rare. As for this being the end times, I do not know if it is or not, but the Church has not told us that we are in them. Why do you believe that the Church teaches that we are in the end times?

Quote:
Nomad: I accept that one can reject the literal existence of Satan and still be a Christian, just as one can reject the eternal suffering of the damned and still be a Christian. Being a Christian in this life does not mean that we will be right about everything. It means only that we have been saved from sin and damnation.


John: So some Christian beliefs are wrong, but are still acceptable for salvation... I guess that's reasonable. (In fact it is very tolerant of you)
It’s not really a matter of tolerance. None of us is perfect, so it is pretty obvious that all of us will be wrong about some things. Our hope and faith does not rest on the questions you are asking here, however. Our salvation depends on having faith in God, and trusting in Him to forgive us for our sins for the sake of His Son. That said, I do think that we should always pursue the truth, and when we learn it, to accept it. Fortunately, God will not judge us based on a doctrinal quiz, but on our faith in Him. Without a doubt a great number of people are going to go to Heaven, even though they believed a good number of wrong things.
Quote:
Nomad: It is central to the Creeds to accept the life, death and Resurrection of our Lord. They are at the core of our faith. If you would like to know what a person MUST believe to be an orthodox Christian, please see the Three Ecumentical Creeds. There is more to our faith than this, of course, but these are the core beliefs and confessions.


John: It doesn't say anything about the literal existence of people in the Old Testament and this would also be a typical Christian doctrine. So I guess that by definition Christians must accept the literal death and ressurrection of Jesus, but if they are already taking much of the Bible figuratively, then they may only have some faith (and not real evidence) stopping them from going all the way.
I’m sorry, but we do not appear to be communicating here. I have told you as plainly as I can, one cannot be an orthodox Christian without accepting the Creeds. One can certainly be an heretical Christian and believe anything one wishes, but I am not here to defend such beliefs. Some people are going to believe that everything is figurative. Others will believe that everything in the Bible is literal. Neither are the position accepted by the Church since its founding. And all of this said, if one can only become a Christian by believing that everything in the Bible is figurative, then I would encourage them to at least make that step. God works on the heart in many ways, and if one makes at least the first step in faith, then perhaps they will be able to make more later on. Paul tells us not to cause the new believer to stumble over hard questions of doctrine, and I would not do that. What I will do, however, is give the traditional orthodox Christian answers to the questions asked on these boards. Whether anyone accepts, likes or believes those answers is entirely up to them.

Quote:
Well what I mean is to justify why you're certain that Satan literally exists, which you've done.
I am not sure what you mean by “justify”, but any plain reading of the Bible and Church teachings will tell you that Satan is real. That is why I believe that he exists. I do not know what else you are looking for here John.

Nomad
Nomad is offline  
Old 09-17-2001, 12:53 PM   #6
aikido7
Regular Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Here
Posts: 234
Thumbs down

Dear Nomad--

Careful readers of the Bible will see that the figure of Satan has not always been "the tempter" or the direct enemy of man but has also been a sort of advocate and counselor. If we look beyond the conventional wisdom of the Bible found in books like Proverbs and pay attention to the subversive wisdom of a book such as Job we will find a more complex image of the devil.

Thomas Mann once wrote that once you believe in the literal devil, you then belong to him. In my experience that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy among many Christian believers. It is a child's view of reality, but like Paul I believe we need to get beyond childish things.

It would be so easy if we could all say that over here is good and over there is evil. But that line between good and evil goes down the center of every human heart, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn said. And who is willing to cut off a piece of their own heart?

Jesus said to love one's enemies and that God causes the sun to shine on the evil and the good and sends the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust. He either said this or he didn't-- and as Chirstians, we cannot have it both ways.

We have numbed ourselves from the original shock value of the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke because we now see it as a story of how to be a good neighbor. It could easily be retold today to be the Parable of the Good Terrorist. The Samaritans were seen as an outcast, bastard race. Jesus' first-century listeners could no more imagine a Samaritan as "good" any more than they could imagine loving their enemies.

Marginalizing evil in the world to the form of a devil or to hell is a long way from taking up a cross and following Jesus. It is certainly a way of coping. Or of feeling comfortable. Or pious. I can certainly understand that need because I feel it myself from time to time.

It is no accident that Jesus and Socrates, the two most well-known Western voices of philosophy and religion, were found threatening, offensive and subversive enough to both be put to death.

And if I may use a metaphor, Satan's pain is that he is hidden from God.
aikido7 is offline  
Old 09-17-2001, 01:23 PM   #7
Nomad
Regular Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Calgary, AB, Canada
Posts: 410
Post

Quote:
Originally posted by aikido7:

Careful readers of the Bible will see that the figure of Satan has not always been "the tempter" or the direct enemy of man but has also been a sort of advocate and counselor.
Hello aikido, and yes, I know that the Bible has presented a developing picture of who and what Satan is, although to call him a counselor is a bit strong. At the same time, any straightforward reading of Scripture is going to show us that Satan is a very real person, and that is standard doctrine in the Church dating back to its origins.

Quote:
If we look beyond the conventional wisdom of the Bible found in books like Proverbs and pay attention to the subversive wisdom of a book such as Job we will find a more complex image of the devil.
Actually, I do not look at Proverbs as my source of information on Satan. I look to the New Testament. Is that what you mean by conventional wisdom of the Bible?

Quote:
Thomas Mann once wrote that once you believe in the literal devil, you then belong to him. In my experience that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy among many Christian believers. It is a child's view of reality, but like Paul I believe we need to get beyond childish things.
Well, since Paul and Peter and John all believed in a literal Satan, and so did Jesus, I am unsure what your point is here aikido. I understand if you do not feel comfortable believing in a personal devil, and that is your right. You could even be an orthodox Christian and believe such a thing, but in any orthodox Church, we do still ask the believer if he or she "rejects Satan, and all of his works, and all of his ways."

Quote:
It would be so easy if we could all say that over here is good and over there is evil. But that line between good and evil goes down the center of every human heart, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn said.
Actually, the Bible and Christianity tells us that the human heart is bent entirely on evil, not that it is part good and part evil. We live in a fallen state and are in need of redemption. This is why the atoning sacrifice of Christ was made necessary.

I do not know if or why you believe Jesus died, but in Christian orthodoxy, He died for our sins, and rose for our salvation.

Quote:
Jesus said to love one's enemies and that God causes the sun to shine on the evil and the good and sends the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust. He either said this or he didn't-- and as Chirstians, we cannot have it both ways.
Yes, He did say this. I am unsure how this relates to your point however, as He also told us that Satan is a very real person, and that he tempts people to their destruction. As you said, we cannot have it both ways, and claim that Jesus said some things, but not others.

Quote:
We have numbed ourselves from the original shock value of the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke because we now see it as a story of how to be a good neighbor.
I have no idea what you are talking about here either. Jesus clearly wanted us to get the message that the Good Samaritan was the true good neighbour, the one who loved his neighbour as he loved himself. His audience got the message, as have many of His followers since.

Quote:
It could easily be retold today to be the Parable of the Good Terrorist. The Samaritans were seen as an outcast, bastard race. Jesus' first-century listeners could no more imagine a Samaritan as "good" any more than they could imagine loving their enemies.
Actually, even the teacher of the law appeared to get the message, and understand that the Samaritan was the good man, and the one who had obeyed God's command to love our neighbours as ourselves.

Luke 10:29, 36-37 But he (the expert in the law) wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."


As I said, everyone appears to have gotten the message, including the expert in the law. Yes the Samaritans were dispised, but this served only to make the message of the parable that much more powerful. After all, it was the priest and the Levite who were the real evil ones in this particular parable. No doubt the message was very shocking, but it did get through to the audience.

Quote:
Marginalizing evil in the world to the form of a devil or to hell is a long way from taking up a cross and following Jesus.
Hmmm... where or how do you see evil as being marginalized? The Christian Church takes evil very seriously, so seriously in fact that we accept that all of us are in danger of damnation for our evil ways. Fortunately we preach a good and merciful God who has triumphed over that evil and its consequent death. That is why we preach the Gospel of salvation for all.

What is your point here exactly aikido? That believing that Satan exists marginalizes evil? If so, I will assure you that Christianity takes evil very seriously. After all, it is only the existence of real sin and evil that could have required the death of our own God on the cross. Even if Satan never existed, we do appear to be a sinful and rebellious race. At the same time, our sinfulness does not require that we deny the truth and say that Satan does not exist. Both sin and Satan can exist together.

Nomad
Nomad is offline  
Old 09-17-2001, 04:18 PM   #8
excreationist
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Australia
Posts: 4,886
Post

Nomad:
Those creeds say nothing about the existence of Satan and devils, or that hell involves eternal torture.
So is St. Augustine your source of truth?
Did he insist that Satan *must* be a literal person and that hell *must* involve eternal torture? If not, are you more knowledgeable about the truth that St. Augustine was?
I'll probably read about him sometime...
Also, could you respond to what I wrote about some surveys involving Satan?
It seems that you are in a minority who believe that Satan is a literal person.
excreationist is offline  
Old 09-18-2001, 09:56 PM   #9
Nomad
Regular Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Calgary, AB, Canada
Posts: 410
Post

Quote:
Originally posted by JohnClay:

Those creeds say nothing about the existence of Satan and devils, or that hell involves eternal torture.
Yes. This is why I said you could think of Satan as metaphorical, and still be an orthodox Christian. At the same time, it is a part of orthodox theology, as is a number of other teachings, and this is why I accept it.

Quote:
So is St. Augustine your source of truth?
No. The Bible and the Church are.

Quote:
Did he insist that Satan *must* be a literal person and that hell *must* involve eternal torture? If not, are you more knowledgeable about the truth that St. Augustine was?
Yes he did, and no I am not.

Quote:
I'll probably read about him sometime...
If you would like any book recommendations please let me know. Most of his works can be found online (although "City of God" and "Confessions" would be very long reads on a PC screen).

Quote:
Also, could you respond to what I wrote about some surveys involving Satan?
It seems that you are in a minority who believe that Satan is a literal person.
Orthodoxy has often been in the minority in history (even within Christianity itself). I do not believe that truth is based on popular vote. Neither is Church doctrine (thank God).

As I have said before, people can believe what they wish. My purpose on these boards is simply to defend orthodox Christianity, and to answer questions about it.

Nomad

[ September 18, 2001: Message edited by: Nomad ]
Nomad is offline  
Old 09-18-2001, 10:52 PM   #10
aikido7
Regular Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Here
Posts: 234
Post

Quote:
Originally posted by Nomad:
<STRONG>

Hmmm... where or how do you see evil as being marginalized? The Christian Church takes evil very seriously, so seriously in fact that we accept that all of us are in danger of damnation for our evil ways. Fortunately we preach a good and merciful God who has triumphed over that evil and its consequent death. That is why we preach the Gospel of salvation for all.

What is your point here exactly aikido? That believing that Satan exists marginalizes evil? If so, I will assure you that Christianity takes evil very seriously. After all, it is only the existence of real sin and evil that could have required the death of our own God on the cross. Even if Satan never existed, we do appear to be a sinful and rebellious race. At the same time, our sinfulness does not require that we deny the truth and say that Satan does not exist. Both sin and Satan can exist together.

Nomad</STRONG>
I should have used the word "localized."
The concept of evil (whether or not one believes this adjective is ultimately embodied in a "real person" called the Devil)is handily localized in this "real person" rather than handily localized by dogmatic lip-service within a believer's heart.

It is one thing to say man is sinful and quite another to assert he is demonic. Attributing acts of evil to a "real person" known as "the Devil" makes our work easy. We don't have to understand evil acts or even really explain them. Why bother when they are works of the Devil and God wins out in the end anyway?

This may be due to English linguistics, where it is much easier to look outward ("You slob! You always leave your socks all over the house!"), rather than take responsibility and REALLY look within. Using the same example of the socks, one might say instead "I get really irritated when you leave your socks on the floor. Would you please pick them up?" The first way is putting blame on "the other." The second way is taking responsibility for one's part in the problem.

There is an abdication of responsibility that is condensed in the popular phrase "The Devil made me do it." That's the "cop-out" factor, which is more widespread than the pathetic excuses of Bakker and Swaggart might suggest.

Belief in the Devil is handy for any believer who gets a great deal of satisfaction from feeling hatred or guilt. It can legiitimize those emotions.

Most believers seem to fear the Devil more than hate him, especially since God is supposed to win that final battle. But many Christians have no problem hating Jews or Muslims or gays--would it not seem that they should hate the Devil most of all? I see little evidence of that.

Humanity is capable of much evil and hatred; it seems laughable that we need any more encouragement from the Devil or his minions. It is a remarkable assumption that the Devil can tempt all 6 billion on earth, speaking in 6 billion places at once and in many languages and dialogues or monologues. Of course, this assumption trashes much of the "magical thinking" in Christian belief, so it is rarely thought out, or if it is, certainly not taken seriously within mainstream churches.

The fact that you yourself realize that the concept of the Devil has changed thoughout the Bible is a good--may I use the word?--omen. It is time we grew up and placed ancient events in their proper context.

The concept of an individual devil arises from a primitive view of reality and is found in many cultures and locations in many different guises. Anything which cannot be explained or that causes harm can be attributed to unseen spirits. Eathquakes or mass murder, take your pick. Science and pyschology (which admittedly the latter has come very close to replacing religion in the secular world) can account for all these causes, but the true path towards understanding on the religious side is an inward journey not an outward blame game on some diabolical "person."

And regarding the parable in Luke, it IS a parable. It IS Jesus' distinctive form of teaching. By its very nature, parabolic form DOES NOT instruct or dictate. But it does set the terms out for us to ponder.

Jesus, according to some strains of Hebrew tradition, was the personification of Wisdom, the female consort of God. Jewish wisdom literature is contained in specific books of the Bible. Conventional wisdom is depicted in Proverbs. Conventional wisdom tells us that good will be elevated, evil will be punished. Ben Franklin published "Poor Richard's Almanac," an early American example of the same genre ("Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.").

Unconventional wisdom is found in Job and Ecclesiastes--and in Jesus' parables. They routinely frustrate normal expectations. A Samaritan is the one bearing God's mercy. Workers who show up late are paid more than those who show up early. A profligate son is welcomed back with a celebration. Jesus' short sayings as well undercut our common notions of how the world should work. God sends his rain on the just AND the unjust. He causes the sun to shine on the evil AND the good. Bless those who despitefully use you. The last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Jesus' authentic speech can be easily seperated from the religious pronouncements put into his mouth by the early church communities. It is an uncontrovertible fact that the gospels are not biographies, but faith documents and as such are a complex blend of mythology, history and theology.

Some are not able or willing to see this yet. Only a rise in biblical literacy will do the trick. Taking the bible seriously instead of literally. Most believers are technically literate, but they don't pay close attention when they read and read only to confirm their own prejudices. Being obedient to a sometimes bully pulpit will be seen more and more as a sign of weakness rather than strength.

It is not easy to think critically and put aside the lenses we usually use. It is not easy to hold seeming contradiction within one's mind at the same time. It is not easy to have a sense of humor, or to be true to one's vision. It is not easy to open one's heart to a new point of view. The parables are there, hidden deep within another time and culture. Can we dust them off and listen to them in time?
aikido7 is offline  
 

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:44 PM.

Top

This custom BB emulates vBulletin® Version 3.8.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.