Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Devil

Yesterday's teaching on the realm of the demonic brings up all kinds of questions and issues. It's incredibly damaging to teach on this subject in any way that ties all physiological and psychological difficulties to the realm of the demonic. We live in a physical world, and there are physical issues that are often the culprit or source of our problems. On the other hand, it's equally damaging to assign every physical pathology a purely physical source, when the reality is that our bodies are deeply intertwined with our spirits and souls. Thus the realm of the demonic can come into play. When our lives are bound up by addiction, anger, bitterness, hatred, lust - when our mode of coping with trials is escape from reality AND escape from God (be it into the realm of sex, drugs, sport, shopping, eating, TV etc. etc.) - we can suspect more is in play than just a pure biological imbalance.

A balanced approach, it would seem, would address both the spiritual and the physical when there are maladies to be addressed. Sleep disorders, strange pains, irrational fears, and more, need not only physical/psychological addressing - they need spiritual involvement. It's possible (though not necessarily true) that there is spiritual component to the affliction. Are you interested in learning more? I would suggest this book. I would add that someone once said "to a man with a hammer in his hand, every problem is a nail." I think this is Anderson's problem, so you need to realize that he overstates his case. But the principles of confessing sin, and standing in the truth of our identity in Christ are foundational to both our maturity and freedom in Christ.

What are your thoughts regading the realm of demons, and life in Christ?


At 10/7/06 10:25, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought nothing from outside of us defiled us. Are we not responsible for the choices we make- choices presented to us by whatever external force (physical or otherwise)? Is extablishing this dichotomous view of the physical vs spiritual realms helpful? And what do you mean by the phrase turning from reality AND turning from God? I believe that all of reality IS God.

At 10/7/06 11:51, Blogger Kara said...

I found yesterday's sermon thought provoking. It is a difficult subject to discuss in our culture. And even more difficult as people to learn to balance, understand and attend to our needs of mind-body-spirit -- especially the spirit, it seems. Thanks Richard.

At 10/7/06 19:39, Blogger Tom said...

I attended a conference with Neil Anderson in the 90's and bought a few of his books, including the one you endorse. While I did find some good practical material in his teachings (taking responsibility for the sin in our lives, acknowleding the reality of the spiritual battle, etc.), I couldn't get past some of his theology and fantastic claims (being bitten by Satan, every sin is a potential door in for Satan, spirits having sexual relations with humans, etc.)

I would further recommend (I do think Anderson should be read) Lewis' Screwtape Letters or Peter Kreeft's thoughtful books, Snakebite Letters or his Angels and Demons.

At 11/7/06 01:11, Anonymous John said...

Spirituality understands all existence to have a cyclic nature and there is direct continuity between the material world and the otherworld. It is recognized that there is an unseen world that interpenetrates and affects the visable world.

Things are not just what they seem.

Everything exists on several simultaneous levels. Indeed have you ever experienced a 'thin' place?

Your litany of escapes from God can either be destructive or creative. When this power goes awry, and one element takes over the total personality, there is a deep problem. Some would say the devil made him do it.

We are capable of such love and belonging because the soul holds the echo of primal intimacy. This original echo whispers within every heart. The soul did not invent itself. It is a presence from the divine world, where intimacy has no limit or barrier.

You can never love another person unless you are equally involved in the beautiful but difficult task of learning to love yourself. There is at a soul level. and enriching fountain of love. And that well spring of love is within us. Within our heart. It is about inviting the well spring of love (that is our deepest nature) to flow through your life. When this happens, the ground that hardened within you grows soft again. Through lack of love, everything hardens.
There is much more, but this isn't my blog. So I will stop here.

At 11/7/06 17:55, Anonymous Phillip said...

Wow, John. Now that is some good stuff.

At 12/7/06 12:11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought that Richard's presentation of the subject was well balanced. Without being overly focused on the author of demonic activity, we do need to acknowledge that Satan does want to undermine our influence as Christians. The Bible makes it clear that this is a battle for which we need to remain prepared. Saturation with that which keeps us in close communion with the Lord is essential. I want to grow in my walk with Him and therefore I have to be saturated! Growing in His grace...

At 12/7/06 14:40, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well balanced as long as one checks her mind off at the door. Come on, this is more complex than some mythic battle the evangelical elite would have you to believe. The tribe that fights that "battle" is harming only those they proclaim to want to help.

At 12/7/06 16:23, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

It would seem that checking one's mind at the door can happen through either a purely material, or purely spiritual construct. Both ends of the spectrum resort to extraordinary measures in order to deny reality. I would think that acknowledging the world to be both physical and spiritual requires more intellectual honesty than any 'elite' (be they evangelical or atheist) are willing to admit. The doors at which we're generally invited to 'check our minds off' are generally found at the far ends of the ideological line.

At 12/7/06 18:28, Blogger Jim Underhill said...

Richard's talk was well balanced and I appreciate the challenge tossed to the many listeners. Point of fact, for centuries most cultures acknowledged and participated with spiritual beings or phenomena that they called evil. Take a look today at some of the many 'gods' of countries like India, my favorite being Kali, and you'll see the impact of a system of evil. And why are there some many small shrines in India (and elsewhere), it's to appease the angry gods that would otherwise destroy these people. And you can try the U.S. for examples of evil. Our seven years in the inner city of Baltimore taught us that real evil can be identifited by our senses and our spirit. You see it in the destroyed lives of so many. Jesus is the antidote for India and the inner city as he 'brings life' while the behaviors, decisions and spiritual surrounding of such places are full fear and death (been there, lived it). A good book to wrestle with is by Scott Peck, titled "People of the Lie, The Hope for Healing Human Evil."

At 12/7/06 22:40, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is it about Kali you like most?

At 13/7/06 13:06, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Hindu example works good here. The Hindus have been given a bad rapp as being idol worshipers as they acknowledge 300 gods and goddesses in their belief system. But ask any Hindu and they will tell you the is but One True God. One Source. All the other gods named are loving attempts to describe the undescribable. Much like the Eskimo's 48 names for snow.

All to say, contemplation on the divine, within yourself and in all of creation will bring balance. Alas, harmony. And let evil has it place there.

At 17/7/06 08:26, Anonymous CEguy said...

Hi Richard,

I think you're right to emphasize the interconnection between the spiritual & the physical, but there's a third dimension that ought to be tied into this as well: the social/ideological. The politically charged terms that Paul used to describe the demonic--principalities, powers, rulers, authorities--suggest that he had more in mind than the struggles of individuals against sin or sickness. The demonic, to him, also had to do with social forces and ideologies.

Notice, too, the connections between the symptoms displayed by demon-possessed figures whom Jesus encountered and the social realities surrounding them: the man from occupied Gadera who identifies himself by the military term "Legion," for instance. The demoniacs in the synoptics always seem in some way to bear in their bodies the dysfunctions of their communities. They serve as scapegoats--easily identifiable problem people against whom the rest of society looks respectable--so that the rest of the community does not have to examine itself too closely. Consistently, Jesus befriends the demon-possessed, exposing the collective sin of the community. (Notice how unpopular Jesus always is after healing a demoniac.)

I assume you're familiar with Wink's work on the subject. He addresses this in considerable detail.

Thanks for your thought-provoking musings. See you in November, I hope--Scott


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