Sunday, August 09, 2009

We Wrestle Not Against Flesh and Blood

Now that I have apparently come out against the existence of "the supernatural" in my previous post, let me confuse matters by quoting this famous passage:
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:11-12, King James Version)
Hmmm... Interesting stuff, no? This passage clearly shows us that there is a whole world of bad out there, that we can't even see, right? When we learn in Frank Peretti's novel This Present Darkness that there are demons who are sort of like filthy vultures (or something), who have swords that they can plunge into your engine block at just the moment you need to drive away quick to refute a room full of New Agers, it is obviously right out of the bible.

Um... no. I am totally sympathetic with people for falling into this trap, because the phrase right before "For we wrestle not..." is "the devil". And we know that the devil is a supernatural being, right? And if we're wrestling "not against flesh and blood", then, well, what else is left?

Ideas. "Memes". Belief systems that seem to "have a life of their own". Something all these principalities, powers, and rulers have in common is that they feed on fear. If people weren't struggling to "save their lives" (as they understand their "lives") by playing their little part to support the current power system, the power system would, well, have no power. People are in bondage to these systems of thought, these carefully woven webs of truth and half-truth and outright lies. They define their very identities by these systems.

So, Jesus said "Those who seek to save their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives for my sake will find them." Are you willing to "lose" your life as you currently know it, a willing (but perhaps grumbling) servant to the "principalities, powers and rulers of this present darkness"? Or will you continue to bind your identity to this current system of supposed "participatory democracy", and find yourself utterly lost when it inevitably crumbles away and/or your secure spot in it vanishes?

Voluntaryism is very clear about one thing: we will not achieve our aims by attempting to change the current system by force (including the inherent violence of the electoral process), or by violently overthrowing the current system, only to replace it with the next batch of "P, P and R". The war is for the minds of the people. (Alex Jones, "There's a war on for your mind!" George Donnelly, "Arm your mind for liberty!") And this fight for your heart and mind is most intensely manifest in "high places".

Let me clean up the loose end of "the devil". I somewhat jokingly implied that the mention of him might mislead you into thinking that the following sentences applied to a supernatural realm. Here's a shocker for you: I don't believe that the devil is a personal sentient individual entity. We can refer to the devil as "he", just as we can refer to God as "he", but we should not fall into the trap of thinking that there is a "place" or a "dimension" where these two "reside". Who is the devil? He is the supreme leader of that band of "P, P, and R". The one that binds them in evil and makes them mutually reinforce each other. He is "the" malevolent will.

I may write more on this, but I think I'm rambling a little now, so I'll stop. Next up: Romans 13:1-7. "There is no authority except from God... whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed... for the authorities are God's servants..."


Blogger Emily J said...

So what do you believe about angels, then?

8:39 PM EDT  
Blogger Susannah said...

Have you ever read any Walter Wink? I had been thinking about his interpretation of that very verse as something you would be really interested in even before you posted this. I'm curious to see what you think of his take on pacifism. We own all three of his "Powers" books, but they are pretty readily available...

10:57 PM EDT  
Blogger Joel Laramee said...

Emily, to be honest, I feel that angels are a pretty peripheral part of the Christian faith, even more than demons, which are pretty peripheral. (To my knowledge, Jesus never mentioned angels, but took active action against demons.)

That said, I'll say two things about angels. First, apply what I said in Shema Yisrael, and there is no place for disembodied (but somehow optionally/occasionally "bodied"?) sentient individuals who serve as part of God's army. (Don't know if you've read the Narnia books, but Lewis gives the idea that the stars are personal entities- think "heavenly host".)

The word "angel" comes from a Greek word that can mean simply "messenger". And the Hebrew scriptures are exceedingly ambiguous on the subject, and the examples are not that many to choose from. One could conclude that "angel is in the eye of the beholder". If you think I am one who brings messages of God, then I am an angel.

In common usage, "angel" can mean someone who (mysteriously?) provides a great help, usually to another human individual. I'm thinking that's maybe where the term "angel investor" came from.

See? Even when I don't "really believe" in something, I can still go on and on about it. :-)

7:42 AM EDT  
Anonymous - Marc said...

I'm sorry for commenting on an old post, I tend to read this stuff infrequently and sort of catch up.

In "We wrestle not..." and the one immediately before it you seem to be presenting some "unorthodox" views on the supernatural. I tend to have a more traditional view.

I do believe in one world, one of things seen and unseen. I don't know if spiritual realms means a separate spiritual world. When things happen, they happen, God's will is done "on earth as it is in heaven."

Spiritual eyes to see the unseen makes sense, though I don't think it works very much like infrared goggles or whatnot. Sometimes things are revealed and seen with our natural eyes. Things that have no natural explanation. There is demon possession that can cause visible, unnatural things. Angels appear; an angel appeared to Mary (and other accounts in scripture). I cannot choose to put on my spiritual eyes and see them. They were there before they were seen. Just as real as any person standing next to me, but they could not be seen.

Joel, I find it hard to believe that in all of your experience you have not heard first hand accounts of demons and miracles from people who you know do not lie, or become easily confused. We have some shared history, and I might remember a couple of instances I know you were aware of. They continue to happen today. Jesus wasn't into healing energy, chakras or any learned healing ability. He performed miracles. He put spit mud on someones eyes, and they could see. Someone touched his cloak and they were healed. These accounts are pretty specific, and should not be explained away in general terms as misunderstood.

You believe certain scientific truths, some that you have no first hand experience of, but they are understood by a very large group of people as the way it is, by some who have seen things that you have not. Why should it be different with spiritual matters? There are some things generally understood by a very large group of people as true, by some who have seen and experienced things that you have not. But they are true, and I think you know this.

There are things that different Christians disagree on. The miraculous is one. There are some who may have a clear understanding of something another group does not have, and this other group may have a better grasp on something else. No one has a monopoly on truth. But that does not change the fact that there is one truth. Truth is not relative, I would hope you do not argue otherwise. If something is true, accept it as such. Yes, there are things that cannot be explained by our natural understanding. Things that seem contrary to logic, that are still true.

You are right, whether you believe in miracles today doesn't determine your Christianity. There are more essential doctrines, but one of them is Christ's miraculous resurrection, which was a part of who he was, and is.

"3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."-1 Cor. 15

I know you love Jesus. And I love you.

5:26 PM EDT  
Anonymous - Marc said...

Oh yeah. Like Vizzini, you have a dizzying intellect. Far more advanced than mine, but don't let it make you dizzy. You can still be killed by iocane powder.

5:33 PM EDT  

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