Friday, October 9, 2009

On Evil

Dualism says that good and evil are equal powers, with Jesus and Satan squared off for the prize of humanity. But in the Christian tradition, Satan is a creature whose opposite is not Jesus at all, but the archangel Michael. Jesus is the Creator, Satan a creature, apparently an angel, now fallen. In his incarnate life, death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus has overcome evil, disarming the rulers and principalities and authorities in the heavenly places. Jesus’ lordship, however, is not yet completely manifested. He instructs us to pray for his Father’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven, and for us to pray to be delivered from the evil one. Moreover, we are constantly called to participate in Jesus’ life and lordship.

The sticky bit lies here, between the completeness of Jesus’ victory in himself, and yet the continued presence and work of Satan and his cronies on earth. The presence and influence of evil, of course, seem to argue that Jesus’ victory is not real. It may be, however, a little more complicated than that. For me, Jesus’ victory is absolute, a non-negotiable. But his victory, and this I think is critical, includes us, and us not as robots, but as real persons. Jesus has included us in his own life with his Father, and in his own anointing in the Holy Spirit, and in his own relationship with all creation. For the most part, I have always focussed on the sheer, stunning beauty of such an act. We are included in the Trinitarian life of God. But the other side is equally beautiful and stunnning. The Father, Son and Spirit have included us in their life. They take us seriously. As Barth so wonderfully put it, “God does not want to be God without us.” And the fact that we are included in the Trinitarian life means that the Father, Son and Spirit are not doing end runs around us. As shocking as it may seem, the Triune God does not operate as if we are not included in the Trinitarian life.

It is here, I suspect, and who knows, that the evil one finds a temporary toe-hold in Jesus’ world. These days, especially in physics, we have come to understand that the human mind is not simply a detached observer of the world around it. What we ‘observe’ actually impacts the thing or things we are observing. The human mind is powerful. But not in itself. That is the mistake the self-help, and the faith folks make. Jesus is the One in and through and by and for whom all things were created, and are sustained. He is the One connected to all things. The cosmos is wired, so to speak, to respond to his thoughts and observations. Having been given a real place in Jesus’ life means, among other things, that we have been given a real place in His connection with everything in the cosmos. While we do not have any power in ourselves (because we do not have any real connections with things in ourselves), our inclusion in Jesus means that we have the plivelege of participating in his powerful connections. What we think, or believe, or observe matters, because of who we are in Jesus.

I suspect, and again, who can really say, that this is what the evil one knows about us that we don’t. He has found a way, for the moment, to hijack, to borrow a great word from Ken Blue, the goodwill and life and power of Jesus through us. Satan exploits and misuses us, and our place in Jesus. It is not that Satan has found a way to reprogram our hard drives, for that would be to violate our wills. He has found a way to deceive us so that we unwittingly, yet willingly, bring his poison into our ‘observations’ of ourselves, others, and life.

If we were not connected to Jesus, then our ‘observations’ would not impact a single particle, even in our own minds, no matter how we strained get our faith right. But we are, and they do. Diabolos exploits Jesus’ relationship with us and our relationship with Jesus through his lie. That is all that he has. Even his own existence comes from Jesus himself. His time is limited because he has been defeated by the Lord Jesus, and because the Holy Spirit himself has been sent to us to teach us the truth. As we come to know the truth, the truth of who we are in Jesus, and as we learn by experience that Satan’s lie is a yoke, grievous to be born, (Thank you, J. B. Torrance) and we cry out to be delivered from his deception, he will have no place in the life of humanity. Toto will have pulled back the curtain of Satan’s confusion, and we will be shocked at the mere creature who has deceived the nations. Then the Lord of all creation will speak to him.

Meantime, we cry out to the Holy Spirit for light, for understanding, for the freedom and life that is ours in Christ to be manifested in our ‘observations.’

“These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the cosmos (John 16:33).


AK said...

Phylloxera is a yellow aphid (type of insect), which feeds on grape vine roots and leaves. This little insect nearly destroyed the great wine regions of the world. It basically sucks the life out life out of the vine until it is dead.

John 15 says Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. Though his integrity and unbreakable relationship with his Father, death has no hold on Jesus. As we are in him, it no longer has hold of us either. Jesus is a vine that Phylloxera can not attack and now we can just go on producing fruit in intimate and organic relationship with Jesus.

Thanks Baxter for participating in the renewing of our theological method that allows us to see the things the Spirit of the Father and Son has been telling us for a life time. May we listen to the one Jesus sent and who is in us all.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Baxter.

And your post reminds me of a magic trick I once saw. This trick so enticed me that I went and purchased the trick so that I could find out how this trick was done.

Well, when I bought the trick and thus found out how it was done, I kicked myself for not seeing the deception that was used to make the trick work. Bascially, the trick was a simple feat of making something that was not so seem as if it is so.

Right now, there is great deception in the world. Most people have come to believe something about God that is not so. One day, this deception will be shown for what it is. May God speed that day.

The best to you always!


Bobby Grow said...

Really good, thank you!

debbies said...

...thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.... it's taken me a long time to begin an understanding that that means NOW. Not something we do by stages or steps, but because of whose we are, in relationship with the Lord, because He loves us. The battle is His-that much I know. I am still not real clear about my part in that, but each day, that becomes clear for that day. I hope to be able to articulate that one day. "Laying down my life in order to find it" is my starting point.

Thank-you for your "thoughts". They are very helpful.

Anonymous said...

THis is breathtaking and encouraging. Thank you sir for the fresh air you have been given to release.

bill winn said...

Baxter, thanks for this. That sneaky SOB quite often tricks me into a "reverse perichoresis" and even though the enemy may get a foothold on me Jesus always shouts the love of the Father to me louder than the evil one's message. I am thankful that the God who is refuses to be so without us and that he is being who he is in this distinct way through you.

Anonymous said...

A challenge...If our Inclusion is the "natural" state of our relationship with God, how is it that Inclusion is so easily missed? Consider Catholics and their mystery God, Calvinists and their 5 points, holiness Pentecostals, Orthodox icons -- all examples of evolved subcultures designed, in their own ways, to find their places in God. Again, how is it the Trinitarian "reality" is so easily missed? Does God choose not to validate his ultimate truth to man? Yes, Jesus always has been incarnate; His glory is seen in all creation. But many, many believers of all generations have been left desolate in their faith. The Long Dark Night of the Soul is a theme common to believers everywhere. We are a people who commonly feel abandoned by God. So then, why cannot Trinitarian theology's doctrine of Inclusion be merely one more construct of the seekers, and one more attempt at finding our place in God? If it is only that, it is mere perception. If God is relational by nature, one would expect Him to act reply. I pray to God, validate Yourself to us.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you ask a very good question about why so few know we are all included and are right now reconciled to God. Really the only real evidence is God himself as he reveals himself to us. Before that it is only a story, a good story and if we will examine this story, this amazing story, then God will begin to reveal himself to us. What have you got to lose if you continue to examine this Trinitarian thinking? Keep at it for just a while longer. Thanks again for a great question.

Timothy J. Brassell said...

Thanks for ongoing clarity in the Gospel and our Adoption! I NEVER ceased to be benefited by it, and in a way that helps me to help others, too! LOVE IT!

I pray for you, your family, and the ministry of Perichoresis every day, in and with Jesus. Can't wait to read that next book! Chompin at the bit' actually! Ha-Ha!

Peace, Love and Blessings My Brother!

Anonymous said...

Melville's "Moby Dick" is an allegory of Melville's own fury at God over Calvinism's predestination. Like the character Ahab, Melville was repulsed that God might choose some, but not others for salvation. Or consider the Flagellants of medieval times who believed more suffering is better for the soul. I could quote many others with wrong ideas about God, but I want to pose the really dark dilemma- the selfsame mystery Job cried out over, and the one that made the "older brother" go away angry over. Where was God in our mis-guided times? When did He offer correction, clarification, even encouragement when our angst was greatest? Is it not possible many of us are like the older brother in that we need God in a different way - maybe a closer way - than the younger brother. Isn't the older brother in the Prodigal Son really MORE perceptive of relationship as he perceives a deficient factor between himself and his father? The younger son was happy to be home and forgiven, but the older son reacted to something much deeper and older. His father told him "everything I have is yours"...but when did he ever tell the older son that up till then? Could it be that the older son's reaction is understandable if we place him right next to ourselves...needing encouragement, reinforcement, and an occasional pat on the shoulder from Father? Is his side of the story more a statement about a desperation one feels with a silent God? It was good for the younger Son to return home; that makes me smile. But I'm still rooting for Melville, Mother Theresa, Job, and the Older Son -- their deep aching for a relational God is more real, more human and more understandable given our state of confusion. I submit, it's not all our fault.

Pastor Paul said...

I have to reply to the comments made by "anonymous". The answer to your question as to why individuals can not see the relationship is because we ALL, ALL of US, live in a state of unbelief and in a darkened mind from the fall of Adam. With the influence of Satan who is deceiving the whole world this understanding is revealed only by the Holy Spirit in His time. Simbple, but true.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little confused. Can someone please clarify... is this teaching attempting to say that ALL are Saved - regardless of personal choice to submit to God, accepting Jesus and what He did on the cross?

AK said...

The great problem with revelation is that it often offends our pride. "the new testament is a declaration not an invitation" as JB Torrance expounds and the Spirit of the Father and Son has been sent to us to reveal what has been done for us and into us in Jesus.

Yes, we have been all saved in Jesus and the call on our lives is to believe he has saved us and live in the life freely given to us. I'm not arguing any theology here. If anyone takes exception to this go and argue with Athanasius and Irrenaeus. Their stance against Arianism and the treatise "On The Incarnation" are helpful places to start.

It is embarrassing some of the things I did as a child. One such time was at my brother's birthday party. I stayed inside and sulked because he was getting all of the presents and attention. I was inconsolable. What I failed to see was that is was my party also because it was my brother's party. I am the older here to the prodigal son (ironically I am also the older brother)I could not see what was mine.

Spirit please continue to open our eyes from the wretched blindness that afflicts us and prevents us from seeing Jesus as the Cosmic Christ.