Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Guy in the Red Suit...and it ain't Santa

I often hear Christian's say, "You have to believe in Satan if you're going to believe in God." I don't exactly disagree...but I would add that WHAT you believe about them both is going to effect your life drastically. I've had Christian's tell me Satan is in control of the earth, and so why bother trying to change things or make things better. I know of Christian's who couldn't walk past a clothing store in the mall (too many skulls on the shirts) because demons might posses them. And the theology of an eternal hell, where everyone who doesn't say the sinner's prayer before death will end up, would suggest that ultimately Satan is the victor.  

But what does the Bible really say about Satan? I've mentioned before that I mostly use the Young's Literal Translation now, because of it's accuracy. (Published in 1862) It's just a fact that translators change things to fit what they think it should be saying.  But, I really want to know what the text said originally, even if it doesn't fit or make any sense to me. Granted, even the best translation might not completely convey what the author was trying to originally say. There's a reason people say "lost in translation," because culture differences and language barriers are very real things...not to mention decades of time changing word meanings.

So, back to Satan...that name is not used even once in the Young's Literal. "Adversary" is the word used - satan is just the Hebrew word meaning adversary or opposer, and it's used for anyone or thing that challenges the faith of humans. (Remember Jesus telling Peter to "get behind me satan"?  I've heard quite a few sermons trying to explain this, but it sure makes more sense when you just use the word adversary.) Jews would have understood this - though they had their own fables and such about "Beelzeboul, ruler of the demons." (Who they claimed gave Jesus his power.) Christians are the ones who made satan into "Satan" as a personal name for the fallen angel.

The idea of this ruler of the underworld being the fallen angel who was in charge of music wasn't constructed until probably the 19th century. And the four scriptures used to weave together this tale...well, let's just say there is some embellishment to say the least. I'm only going to address one of the four:

       How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star [KJV: Lucifer], son of the dawn!
       You have been cast down to the earth,
       you who once laid low the nations!(Isaiah 14:12)

Another name for Satan - Lucifer. This is the ONLY time this name is used. Why?  It's not even a name. Again, lucifer is just the Hebrew word meaning shining one or light bringer. And why is this referring to Satan?  It goes on about this "light bringer" a few verses down:

       Those who see you stare at you,
       they ponder your fate:
       "Is this the man who shook the earth
       and made kingdoms tremble,

       the man who made the world a desert,
       who overthrew its cities
       and would not let his captives go home?"

Hummm...maybe if it would have said "the angel," we would have something. I'm going to end here saying I do believe we have an adversary we are fighting against. I really struggle with trying to understand what that is, and what exactly "the devil" is, if he isn't a fallen angel. So much of the Bible and all things spiritual are difficult and a pursuit to understand. I'm glad, because I don't want to settle for believing something just because someone told me I have to. Next time I'll address some of the verses that talk about the devil, so I can ponder them and ask God to help me gain wisdom. 
 Part 2 go to

Monday, June 18, 2012

Forgiveness (soap journal #3)

S) When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won't give up in despair...yes, for your sake and with Christ as my witness, I have forgiven whatever needed to be forgiven.  I have done this to keep Satan from getting the better of us. (2 Corn. 2: 7,11)
O) Everyone is hurt when we hold on to bitterness.  We cannot function as Christians until we forgive each other.
A) At this point, I am not struggling with this. But I have a friend who is. How can I help her?
P) Lord, help this person forgive. Help her find peace and rest in your love. Please show her it's ok to let go--in fact, it's necessary. Use me if you can. Please give me the courage to speak truth in love.

Well, I may not have needed that then, but I sure need it now.  Relationships are complicated.  I believe in a big way.  I've experienced how powerful and transforming it is to 'let go'--to give the grace you know you need yourself.  But, Christians often take a scripture like this and just plop it right down as something to be obeyed like brushing your teeth at night, and "ta-da", no more relationship problem!  I don't think I need to point out it doesn't work that way. 

I am praying--probably everyday--for things to be better between me and the people I feel so hurt by.  Though, it's not about forgiving sin exactly, but about struggling with having completely different ways of seeing things. (as I explained on my last post) I know Paul had the same kind of struggles in his day with the religious people around him--the ones demanding that believers get circumcised and such. And he didn't seem to make any apologies about not wanting to have anything to do with maybe I'm ok with making some boundaries for the time being.

I was going to write some thoughts on "keeping Satan from getting the better of us", but I think I'll save it.  But I really wonder if when Christians say this (as my fundamentalist friend did when she announced she forgave me for that very reason--though I can't say I believe she actually does) they really believe "Satan the fallen angel and ruler of the underworld" is the one behind planting these bitter seeds.  I understand they have to believe in a literal Satan in order to make it to heaven...but how can he be tempting everyone on the planet simultaneously as well as torturing the souls in hell all at the same time?  I wonder if they ever really think about it?  Next time maybe I'll discuss the four scriptures that are supposed to 'prove' the whole story about Satan being the best of the angels until he blew it.  You are going to be shocked.