Monday, September 26, 2011

Satan and the Problem of Deceit

I was a Christian once - someone who believed in Jesus Christ.  My transformation into a sort of deist has been forming over a period of ten years and has increased in pace in the last eighteen months.  What brought me to my current theological understanding of life was the slogging through millions of questions where there was no good answer and then moving forward to the next question where I discovered something of the same conclusion.

The fact that there was no good answer is not a conclusion in itself.  It just displays the nature of philosophy and theology in general.  We cannot see what we are wont to believe in and thus must take a bite out of a thing called "faith".  I am convinced this "faith" is decidedly personal.

It didn't used to be that way.

Growing up in an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church that leaned heavily on Bill Gothard's ultra-legalistic Institute in Basic Life Principles, I was taught that there was only one correct way to think and believe.  Faith was clearly established in the inerrant and infallible text of the Holy Bible.  The fact that hundreds, even thousands of other factions and groups used that exact same holy book, coming to different conclusions - at times, diametrically opposed - did not matter in the least. 

They were wrong.  Everyone else was wrong.  We held the keys to true righteousness.  After all, the way was narrow and tough, unlike the easy, wide way that led to ultimate destruction.

Faith was not personal at all.  It was supposed to be and was preached from many a pulpit as such.  But it was a cookie cutter faith.  You were expected to adhere to exact principles and formulas in order to have the kind of faith that provided you with guaranteed eternal security.  Any slight deviation from this faith was cause for concern for everyone who caught wind of the manifestations of your backsliding.

The worst offense of all was questioning.

It wasn't the questioning that was the problem.  Questioning was simply the symptom of a much deeper issue.  Just the fact that you were curious about the "maybe this isn't all it is cracked up to be" caused those around you to issue the warning:

"Satan is a master deceiver and you are allowing him to deceive you by questioning".

There is a simple problem with this factual statement.

First, we cannot see Satan.  There is no proof that he exists.  We cannot see God.  There is no proof that he exists either.  We have no possibility of establishing that every single word in the Holy Bible was written through the hands of men by God himself.  Even if this were the case, the contradictions and paradoxical natures of much of the theology within its pages would steer any logically thinking individual to a conclusion that seems quite obvious - we just don't know about what we should know.

Since we don't know what we should know, being that there are many interpretations for each of the thousands of verses in the Bible, there is no foundation from which to be deceived.  To say otherwise is to claim that it is possible to have the correct interpretation of all questions that can be answered from Christianity's holy book.  This is a tall task for any reasonable person to conclude as fact.

So, if we have no clue, but only the best ideas of God from the hands of mere men and women, like you and me, faith is decidedly personal and there is absolutely no possibility that we can be deceived.


  1. Questioning is good. Sometimes though, the real problem is being set on having solid answers. Adam and Eve chose to eat of the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil." This wasn't forbidden because didn't want us to have knowledge, but because He didn't want us to worship certainty and control as our idols. He wanted us to live life! The Tree of Life symbolized the fact that we needed to take the uncertainties to Him--in relationship rather than formula.

    It is true that Christianity brings many hard questions. As for me, I have found the most blessed answers, not in demanding certainties, but in embracing need. God reveals things to me that reveal himself when I ask . . . and I patiently wait. I kind of think my questions are like a series of running journals on a shelf. I don't hold the journal all the time, I pick it up when I need it. In the same way, I don't need immediate answers. That is faith, but not blind, for I am rewarded with growing clarity. He steadily gives me pieces of the answers that I can record over time. My faith keeps growing as He faithfully provides a clearer picture.

  2. Interestung interpretation of that story. And you have proved my point swimmingly, in the process.

  3. "Satan is a master deceiver, and you're allowing him to deceive you by questioning."

    So it took you this long to figure out that THEY were deceiving you?

  4. During college, I almost got sucked into what could have been a new cult. The thing is, after months of spiritual amazingness and messages from God, it turned out that our leader was not actually especially close to God, but rather simply mentally ill. It had all been a lie. That's when I realized that all those feelings can lie, because it sure FELT like God was leading, it felt totally real, and we could "feel" his presence and there were little "miracles" (aka coincidences) and everything. was all a lie. At that point I stopped trusting what my feelings said about God's existence. Feelings are weird things.

  5. I'm so glad you posted this. I was wondering where your journey was leading you. :)

  6. "The fact that there was no good answer is not a conclusion in itself. It just displays the nature of philosophy and theology in general. We cannot see what we are wont to believe in and thus must take a bite out of a thing called "faith". I am convinced this "faith" is decidedly personal."

    IC, you seem to be saying that, when answers are unavailable, it's okay to indefinitely hold questions. What would you say is the difference between that perspective, and a Christian who says to you, "Well I can't explain that, God's ways are higher than our ways." ?

  7. I would be in agreement with Greg Boyd on this one where I find that statement as an excuse to NOT ask questions. The killer of the curious mind to numb the brain into not thinking about the why's and how's of life.

    Ok for some. Not for me.

    And, I won't kid myself into thinking, believing, or hoping, that there are answers to every question. If that were true, I have a sneaking suspicion that there wouldn't be any questions left.

    Or, if the answers were all found in the Bible, they would be obvious, where no other interpretation than the correct answer to each question would be possible.

    That may be stretching a bit.

    Back to the original question:

    I will not disparage a person from using that phrase. I just find it insufficient for a thoughtful life.

  8. Ah, I see...yes, it makes me so mad when people are disparaged from asking questions and thinking through things because someone else has already figured it out for them. Even if that person has truly figured out the answer, it's an obvious fact that each individual needs to figure it out themselves before they can truly believe it. Seems a little convenient to shove your answer down their throat and then not allow them to think or question it.

    I heard someone, I think it was a biologist, say something close to this, "I prefer a good question to a good answer. When you find a good answer, discussion stops. But with a good question the matter can continue to be explored." Something like that anyway. I thought that was an excellent point.

    When an answer presents itself, accept it, test it, and modify it if necessary. But don't feel like every question must have an immediately perceivable answer, else the cosmos will unravel.

  9. Will it? Ravel back the cosmos for me, on that premise. I am thoroughly intrigued as to your ideas on that matter.

  10. Yeah, I thought the way I worded that was confusing, but I was too lazy to fix it. I was actually including that in the other words, we shouldn't feel that the cosmos will unravel around us unless we have an immediate answer to everything. That's all I was saying.

  11. Bummer. I was sort of looking forward to a missive. Seriously. Like, what holds the cosmos together?

    I wasn't trying to be pat or cute.

  12. Ah, brilliant. Well then, let me turn down my Lounge/dance/rave/techno station on Pandora and give you my two cents as a NON-God-of-the-gaps bible-believing Christian...who also has a very healthy respect for modern science.

    You know, it's often popular to say that God is behind the supernatural events, and nature (the laws of the universe) is behind the natural events. This is the God of the gaps theory. The problem is that throughout history, our comprehension of the natural is ever-expanding, and what we attribute to the supernatural is likewise shrinking. (We've come a long way from the days when the gods sent every storm and famine, etc.)

    So then, if that has been our perspective, we have two conclusions: Either science has slain God (proven he never existed) as Nietzsche said, or, God is simply a first cause who now has almost no interaction with his creation.

    Recently they are discovering the rather strong possibility that the smallest known particles that make up atomic clusters are NOT protons and neutrons...based on the reaction of light and other elements, it is apparent that there are actually particles WITHIN protons and neutrons, but as of yet they are too fast to see.

    And who's to say that there aren't smaller particles within these particles within protons? Reminds me of Horton Hears A Who. :)

    No matter how deep we've dug, we always find something behind the something. We have nothing to even hint that we will eventually reach that wall that is the God-of-the-gaps.


    So how does a Christian like me reconcile that reality with my faith in God and the Bible?

    I believe that the Bible points to a sovereign God who controls the universe he created. (This brings up tons of issues and seeming conflicts with principles such as free will and justice, but that's not what we're discussing at the moment. If this God exists it doesn't matter whether or not I think he's fair.) I also believe that there is a natural explanation to almost every event on earth.

    So then, I believe that God controls every detail of the universe, and that he does so through the natural laws of the cosmos. God is not just the first cause before natural law, rather, his hand is actively controlling the natural law on a "plane" we can't comprehend. How can this be? Well, this is where I'd bring up "God's ways are higher than our ways."

    I am happy to explore the universe the the most infinitely small element, and to probe the furthest reaches of our cosmos, and to see and ever-better understand the natural laws by which the cosmos runs and is bound. However, weaving in and through those laws and elements--in a unity I could never comprehend--is God.

    Call it what you will...that's my perspective. :)

    P.S. I believe the Bible shows there is free will and justice...yes, even in the O.T. Ahhh, but I shan't get into that now of course.

  13. Exactly what I was looking for. I sincerely appreciate the fact that you finally stooped to my level and used words I could understand!

    Anyway, good perspective. Many of your points skirt along my thoughts.

  14. Haha, yes, I often do tend to wax eloquent on such matters...curses on the little philosopher/poet that lives in my head (He always burns the food too, hence the smoke often seen coming out of my ears...gonna toss some hemlock in there and let him go wild if he doesn't get his act together soon.

    I will do my best to make myself plain in the future. If words are an impenetrable sludge stretching the bounds of comprehensible linguistic syntax (i.e. if no one can understand me) then what's the point of speaking?

  15. You could also speak in acronyms.

    Hd, iltftydnnmtmybtm. Ty.

  16. lolfr! (a true but pathetically sad acronym itself.)