: 42 :   APPREHENDING SATAN   : 42 :


   : 42 :   APPREHENDING SATAN   : 42 :

~ some thoughts about prophecy ~

Device to Root Out Evil installation by Dennis Oppenheimer 1997  ~ photo from WikiArt~

 (I wonder if a patent has been granted?)

Many decades ago I studied in a graduate program at a nondenominational divinity school, but left before finishing. ¬†Back then, I thought that what America needed was a better sense of business ethics. ¬†After dropping out, I began a business career, and eventually partnered to start a business, from which I later retired. ¬†Along the way, I made over 500 visits behind bars on Saturdays, volunteering as a nondenominational prison minister at two prisons (one, of maximum security) conducting what I term a ‚Äúbiblically-based stealth-ethics ministry‚ÄĚ. ¬†None of this has made me ethical, but it was a good workout, both commercially and, especially, with the prisoners. ¬†They taught me much. ¬†I was able to look into their eyes, their souls, and (I hope) help them understand their stories. ¬†Perhaps I’ve learned something about temptation, bad choices, and criminal behavior.

Looking back, what perplexes me today is the leadership choices Americans have made lately. Why has a diverse community of ¬†“believers” elected such self-dealing, selfish, leaders? ¬†How can¬†values voters¬†be so easily duped? ¬†(Yes, our federal and state election systems have been severely gamed and gerrymandered to suppress honest results.) ¬†Yet I want to believe that the wisdom of crowds should be able to surmount such deception. Nevertheless, “he who snoozes, loses.” ¬†By electing many of our current leaders, has America swallowed the “prosperity gospel” which suggests that ‚Äúsuccess‚ÄĚ is proof of God’s favor? ¬†(Was Jesus initially seen to be successful, on the cross?) ¬†Even Malcolm Forbes poked fun at himself saying¬†he who dies with the most toys wins.¬†

Well, I went looking for a history of the oldest deceiver ever, and may have learned something useful. ¬†(My sense is that many believers don’t want to know anything about this topic, preferring rather to whistle past the graveyard, and the hoodlums hanging out there.) ¬†

The flipside of¬†Know thyself ¬†is ¬†Know thine enemy. ¬†My gleanings from the book below persuade me that satan (which I refuse to capitalize) is not so much an entity or force, as a story told to explain “the other” in human communities. (We could call it tribalism, or fear of otherness: xenophobia.)

Yet Jesus himself ministered to whores and debt collectors, all the while skewering the preacher boys who ran the national temple/ government/ treasury. ¬†What don’t we get about his example? ¬†He didn’t flinch at criticizing high-end thievery and power-politics, even while knowing the cost, bluntly telling us that the tree is known by its fruit. ¬†And yet we’ve elected a brash-talking, “pussy-grabbing”, casino-owning liar as our leader. ¬†What’s wrong with this picture? ¬†What’s wrong with “the church” in its many iterations, that it would support such allegiance? ¬†What don’t we get about recognizing satanic behavior? ¬†Have we allowed ourselves to be charmed by an entertainer, a false talker?

Author, historian, and scholar, Elaine Pagels, is a superb storyteller who is very accessible for the reading public. ¬†If you’re troubled about the condition of spiritual studies today, especially on this topic, you will be gently introduced to how we got where we are regarding satan, in this excellent volume. ¬†(Another author, M.Scott Peck, wrote¬†People of the Lie, which might be helpful at detecting our dark side).

The last book of the New Testament, Revelation, predicts war in heaven and on earth in a final contest between God and His angels of light, and the angels of darkness, led by God’s adversary,¬†ha satan,¬†(Hebrew: ‚Äúthe accuser‚ÄĚ). ¬†Does God have an opposite? ¬†Have you ever found it necessary to push darkness out of a room after turning on the light? ¬†

We become what we love ‚Äď or, what we love to hate. ¬†Choose carefully.

Jesus told of false christs and false prophets that would be arising (see v.24). But when?  He told followers that neither he nor the angels knew when (see especially v.32, here).  Yet the visions and predictions of John of Patmos were canonized into that final book of the New Testament, after much controversy (see Pagels);  meanwhile moderns continue to speculate.

When? ¬†Well,¬†don’t expect me to tell you! ¬† People love to read ahead, peering into the final chapters, especially when tribulation arrives on the world stage. ¬†End times¬†can be a tail chase, as anyone might notice. ¬†Why would we want to know what even Jesus says he could not know?

    : 42 :    Prediction    : 42 :

But If you believe in literalism and its approach to prophecy, you might want to take a look at this prediction from Revelation 13:5, which involves the number 42.  Come July or August, roughly 42 months from January 21, 2016 (inauguration day) we might learn something about prophecy.  Mark your calendar!  (No, I do not believe that Donald Trump is the anti-Christ.)  But history repeats itself, as encountered in this verse from Ecclesiastes 3:15 : That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

The accuser says we’re a mess. ¬†What can we do about this?¬†The challenge of understanding prophecy is vexing. ¬†The empirical mind has long wanted to reject the very idea of prophecy. ¬†Yet, as moderns, we’ve all had premonitions that surprised us when they came to pass. ¬†Even physicists are today recognizing this skillset as worthy of scientific research. ¬†We’ve spent much of human history trying to guess what is in the other guy’s head. ¬†Have we acquired some skill to see into the future?

‚ÄúAm I ok for the next ten minutes?‚ÄĚ (Seriously, ask yourself that powerful question, in the first person, often; it can help quiet the mind.) ¬†¬†¬ŅDoes¬†tomorrow¬†even exist?¬†~Jesus.

‚ÄúBut‚ÄĚ you say, ‚Äúaren’t we supposed to be alert?‚ÄĚ ¬†Good question, as alertness might commonly seem to require thought. ¬†Yet,¬†believers seem¬†wary of rigorous thought, preferring stories and¬†dogma over research.¬†Well, curb your dogma, maybe! ¬†Awareness of now¬†can displace regret for yesterday and stress about tomorrow, (which doesn’t exist).¬†

Good detectives notice patterns ‚Äď ‚Äúm.o.’s‚ÄĚ [modi operandi] ‚Äď modes of operations, thru studied attention. ¬†Behavior is but an extension of thought put into action, by choosing, some say. ¬†While others, the “determinists,” like Richard Dawkins, insist that we have no choice, no free will at all ‚Äď everything is genetic brain-chemistry, and is pre-determined.

Careful readers should recognize the importance of reading between the lines, rather than taking every word literally.  Indeed, literalism can be a curse which interferes with disciplined observation. (I had an epiphany in early 2003 which persuades me that literalism is the great red dragon of Revelation.)

Of course, satan is a famous Biblical character. ¬†But this character is a late import into the text, not arriving in the Bible or Hebrew theology until well after the exodus from Egypt. ¬†‚ÄúNah‚ÄĚ you say, ‚Äúmy pastor told me satan was present in the Garden of Eden, as the serpent.‚ÄĚ ¬†Well then, I guess God created the devil, and we’re all utterly jammed. ¬†Literalism! ¬†Writing 2+2=5 on the chalkboard does not make it so.

If you swallowed that bait, serpent = satan,¬†you’ve clearly attended a literalist Bible study, declining to do your own thinking, preferring pastor-priest-rabbi-or-immam ‘s ‘‚Äúvoice of authority‚ÄĚ rather than showing up for a one-on-one tutorial with the Holy Spirit. ¬†(Arguments from authority are notoriously weak, which we noticed as children, answering back at our parents, why should I? ‚ÄĒ¬†because I said so.) ¬†

God is the Teacher! ¬†Literalism and authoritarianism are tools of mind control, famous even in early¬†Christianity. ‚ÄúDon’t think; don’t question;¬†just¬†have faith.‚ÄĚ ¬†¬ŅPerhaps you’ve been thumped on the head with a Bible by a cleric, professor, or fellow student, more than once? ¬†(The Divine Teacher never does that, but is patient with those who show up for their tutorial with honest questions, yearning to listen, inquire, and learn.) ¬†

The serpent,¬†nachash in Hebrew, whispers¬†: psst, ¬†hacking¬†its voice into our think-er, in the first person ¬†: ¬† “I’m ignorant” ¬† “I’m insecure” ¬† “I’m lonely // s-he’s cute”, while satan is a brash talker, a blasphemer, a bully, a liar: the accuser. ¬†Notice that this hacker steals God’s name: I AM !!! ¬†‚ÄĒ the very first instance of identity theft!

Pastors and priests are taught that literalism is an electrified “third rail”, potentially causing the loss of jobs or even careers. ¬†Questioning the text is risky, like a politician proposing to modify social security > > ¬†X¬†CHURCH ¬†FIGHT AHEAD¬†X ! ¬† Some Bible students don’t want to fight, but want to contemplate at the feet of the Teacher. Thus we have the social movement toward “spirituality” and away from “religion”. ¬†¬†Dare to listen for that still small voice! ¬†Our ability to recognize voices is sublime. ¬†Read John 10, if you distrust your abilities ‚ÄĒ also considering that satan’s voice is always accusatory, gruff, rude, angry. ¬†Tone is telling. ¬†Yes, this path may seem lonely and rugged. ¬†But we are assured of God-with-us ! ¬†Immanuel.

God has faith in us, in our ability to discern divine love, divine guidance, divine government.   Got appetite?