Delusion and Evil -- Dancing with Two Devils

The book of Job begins with a scene in the throne room of God. Angelic choirs come to sing; God sits on His throne, Lucifer saunters in. I picture him dressed like an Elizabethan courtier, leaning against a pillar, smoking a cigarette that’s hanging from the corner of his mouth. He hooks the cigarette between his first two fingers, tips his head back, exhales languorously, all while glancing at the throne through slitted eyes.

God asks him, “Where have you come from?” Maybe Lucifer was supposed to have been leading the choir. Maybe he’d been AWOL for quite a while.

Lucifer taps the ash off his cigarette, watches it fall to the sapphire floor, and says, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Basically he answers, “Out.” It is not until this moment that he makes eye contact with his creator. His look is challenging as if to say, “Don’t you know, Oh Omniscient One?”

The scene just oozes tension and disdain. And yes, I’ve taken some artistic license, but this seems about right to me.

This is likely the first Bible story ever written down  (from the kings mentioned, probably somewhere around the time of Abraham c2500 B.C.). This is important because of all the concepts human beings needed to see in writing, the deal with Lucifer appears to be most urgent. Why? What dangers are we being warned about? What confusions can be avoided by reading this book? Why this story?

Because Satan (Lucifer) is at the heart of all of human existence and He is the “Father of Lies.”

Look back to the throne room. What is the reality there? God Almighty is on His throne. The angels are singing His praises. It is only Satan who doesn’t seem to get it. He dares to talk back to the One who created him. He dares to actually look down on God. Not only is this disrespectful; it is, more importantly, utterly delusional. Later in Isaiah 14 we see Satan announcing his determination to “be like the Most High.” Whoa. Really?

Psychology defines “delusional” as a belief in something either bizarre and impossible, or extremely improbable – according to the customs and mores of the pertinent culture. Delusions help explain away personal flaws, “The devil made me do it,” or they plump up sagging egos, as in the person who thinks he’s Napoleon, or, more to point, Jesus Christ, which is the same as Lucifer’s ambitions. Though most delusional people manage to function in a semi-normal fashion, and they can develop perfectly logical conclusions about things, but the logic is always based on false premises, on The Lie.

Lucifer’s stated intention to become God is, by this human scientific definition, a delusion. But let’s talk about people. Was Eve, when she accepted the fruit from the serpent (here we are back to Satan), delusional? What did the snake offer her? Oh. (and we’re still discussing Satan) “You will be as smart as God.” Really? For pity sake, Eve, pay attention. Think. But no. Her ego swelled, her mouth opened, she bit. And here we are.

Was what happened in the Garden evil? Is Satan evil? If telling a lie is evil, and believing a lie is delusional, then does evil = delusion? And if these two concepts are mirror images of each other, then what do we do with psychology?

Years ago I read a book that still troubles me, People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck. Peck is a psychiatrist and in this book he outlined case histories of patients whom he finally concluded were evil. Not ill, evil. The case I remember the clearest was a teenaged boy who was suffering from severe depression. A year before, his older brother had blown is own head off with a shotgun, one his parents had given him. The next Christmas, the parents, under the delusion (or under the influence of evil?) thought it would be an appropriate gift, and gave the highly depressed surviving brother, for Christmas, the same shotgun.  The young man eventually recovered, but only after being removed from that home. Were those parents just operating on a slightly different paradigm than most of us? Or were they, as Peck surmised, utterly evil. Peck didn’t discuss the reason for the older son’s suicide, but we can imagine; being raised by delusional, evil parents could be too much to bear.

Today we tend to equate a separation from reality with illness (unless we’re dealing with politics where, on the left, it’s considered an advantage), but in ancient times a pronounced break with reality got you labeled “demon possessed.” I’m not arguing that no mental illness is medical in origin. Brain chemistry can go awfully wrong and we can easily scrape together enough evidence to show that heredity often plays a part.

I am, however, asking this question – if brain chemistry can affect thinking, can thinking affect brain chemistry? I doubt you can have one without the other. This doesn’t mean one can think one’s way out of a deep depression or meditate one’s way past schizophrenia. I suspect there’s a point of no return, where habits of mind become so etched in the fabric of the brain (which, given 6,000 years of genetic mutations, may be a little raspy) that it takes outside intervention to even begin recovery.

If (and I say “if” only as a debater’s technique) God is God and all He’s cracked up to be, then
1)    Everything is under control – I once heard this analogy: the universe is like a Persian hand-tied rug. Up on top, from God’s perspective, the pattern is beautiful and perfect. From our perspective, on the underside, everything looks pretty ratty – lots of loose ends and tangled pieces, the pattern barely discernible.
2)    And any thinking not in perfect alignment with God’s perception (which is true of all of us—All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) -- is both evil and delusional. Reality is what God, who is perfect veracity, says it is. Period.

Because I have free will I can say the glass as half-empty, but it is not; things are chugging along exactly as they should. All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to the purpose (Romans 8:28). I think of Dr. Saeed Abedini in his Iranian prison. We pray for him, for his release, for his peace of mind, for his health and protection. It’s hard to imagine how awful his position is. I hope he can hold on to the idea of the justice of God and the rewards that will be his, the lives he might touch while he’s there, because even in the horror of an Iranian prison God’s plan marches on. Evil is not God’s equal, not even close.

The delusional ones in this situation are Abedini’s jailors. They think they will be victorious over the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that they can get rid of Israel. Hello? Read history. The Jews have been on this earth for nearly 5,000 years and every single attempt at killing them off has not only failed, but been catastrophic for their persecutors. Is it not both delusional and evil to want to kill people just because they are Jews?

The bottom line is that our struggle as human beings is to absorb and understand as much reality as possible during our time here, i.e. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Whenever we stray from that reality we enter the Darknet, we conjure up delusions, spread the necessary lies, and commit acts of evil. We find ourselves standing in the throne room of God, puffing cigarette smoke in His holy face, and that will never turn out well.





Let Them Eat Cake

             

Cake hasn’t been an historical pivot point since Marie Antoinette made that famous dietary suggestion, but it seems to be back. Christians who earn their livings in any way associated with wedding cakes face extinction; the gay-marriage brigade is out to make an example of them and liberal judges are likely to assist.

Much of human history has been fraught with a tension between the power of man (i.e. government) and the power of God (i.e. religion). In the early centuries of the nation of Israel the power stood on the side of religion – the Jews had no king, only judges and the Mosaic Law. But during much of the past that tug-of-war has leaned to the side of government; the king determined the religion or, like in the case of the Romans, was the religion. Now and then the two powers attempted equality – ask Thomas à Beckett how that worked out. Starting, however, with the writing of the American Constitution humanity set out on a super-human balancing act – rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.

So, which is which? If we assume that God is really God Almighty, Creator of the Universe, then we know that He is the ultimate authority and the 1st Amendment makes sense.  No mere human government should intercede between a man and his relationship with God. We may owe taxes to Caesar, but we owe God our very existence.

If we assume that God is merely a human construct, a fairytale, a hobby conjured up by those who need something to do on Sunday mornings, then the religion clause is totally absurd and government becomes the only authority and the only source of blessing. Therefore, we owe everything to Caesar.  

And, paradoxically, the only way a person can be free to assume the latter is if the former is true. If there is no God, there is no free will with which to deny His existence. If there is no God, there is no power to curb the behavior of government and one’s government can demand that you bow down to whatever it conjures up – lately it seems to be rainbow-tinted cakes.

Our forefathers attempted to create this razor balance with the 1st Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech… “ It is a line drawn in pages of history – man’s first attempt to keep government out of our relationship with our Creator. It does not prohibit our Creator from having influence on our government. These wise men of the past recognized God’s superiority in this age-old power struggle.

Note that the amendment addresses limitations on Congress, not on the citizenry, not on religious leaders, not on what people can and cannot believe. “Congress shall make no law…”  It does not prohibit the free exercise of religion in governmental places, nor does it affect the exercise of public affairs in religious places. It is a restriction on the activities of the government regarding the religious beliefs of private citizens.

If a group of Christians choose to walk into the Capitol Rotunda and sing, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh what a foretaste of glory divine..” they should, by dint of the 1st Amendment, be able to do so. That does not constitute Congress making a law to establish a religion; Congress did nothing to produce such a concert, and no law was instituted. Might a passing atheist or Muslim be offended? Possibly, but the 1st Amendment, because it is a limitation on the activities of Congress, and not of private individuals, has no bearing on that at all.

May the pastor of a church, a rabbi in a synagogue, or an imam in a mosque be allowed to discuss political/governmental affairs from their pulpits? Again: the restrictions of the 1st Amendment are placed on the government, not on the private citizen. Nor are those restrictions connected to specific locals. A citizen of this country, according to this amendment, should be allowed to civilly express his beliefs, political or religious, anywhere without Congressional interference.

If government authorities attempt to put a stop to such a display of Christian devotion, is that Congress “prohibiting the free exercise thereof?” Certainly looks like it.  Here we get into the troublesome difference between laws, duly passed by Congress and signed by the president, and regulations produced by some nameless and unaccountable bureaucrat. A choir, such as mentioned above, may be ushered out of the Capitol by some official at the behest of some misinformed bureaucratic malcontent, but any actual law passed by Congress prohibiting religious expression on public property would have to butt its head against the wall of the 1st Amendment.

So should a private citizen desire to apply his religious principles in his daily experience, should he want to express his religious positions in his public dealings, should he feel his conscience would be seared by participation in activities frowned upon by his religious understandings, can the government constitutionally prohibit any of these things? No.

But what about civil rights? The 1964 Civil Rights Acts prevents laws that discriminate against anyone on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” The cake activists evidently base their objections on the idea that a Christian baker’s refusal to bake wedding cake for gay nuptials is discrimination as described in this legislation. They equate being gay with being black, assuming that their minority station in our society automatically awards them these legal protections. But the law protects on the basis of race, color, and/or national origin – not a cake issue. It covers discrimination according to sex. Perhaps that needs clarifying; it’s not concerned with whom one has sex.  Lastly it protects against religious prejudice,  but here it is the bakers whose religious freedom is being trampled.

So, if a person is gay and wants cake, he’s just out of luck? No. No one has refused anyone anything because of his (or her) sexual proclivities. What people have refused to aid and abet is gay marriage. Are Americans free to disapprove of this concept? Are we free to be concerned about the general societal effect? Are we free to believe that God disapproves?

If we go back to the 1st Amendment, that freedom is guaranteed – provided the judiciary pays attention to the Constitution. The freedom to have political and religious opinions is the reason people risked everything to come here – and now cake takes precedence? Really?
But what about the freedom to “love whomever you want to love?” Does one baker refusing to bake a cake interfere with that? Of course not. If a cake can ruin a marriage, it had little chance of being fun until death-do-us-part.

Look back at the dichotomy at the beginning – government vs. God. Can God bless a same sex marriage? Don’t answer until you recall that God is more about grace than about morals; He knows we are lousy at obedience; He sent His son to rectify that problem. Can government bless a gay marriage? All it can do is abuse those who don’t approve, and no one has ever been blessed by someone else’s misery. Cake was a poor substitute for the starving Parisians who didn’t even have bread, and now it’s a silly stand-in for the glorious approval of God.

Way Past the Patience of God

  

I am an American. I’m also a Christian. For the last four decades I’ve been a serious Bible student. I’m also very interested in both politics and history (left over politics). I’m in awe of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I’m astounded at Bible prophecy – at the number of prophecies that have already become reality, and the speed at which prophecies intended for the end times are turning up as news stories. Lately I’ve been watching in stupefied horror as those two areas – America and Bible prophecy – are heading, like run-a-way trains – straight at each other.

It’s looking like the Rapture is going to arrive before America can pull herself together. In one sense that’s fine with me – I’m “packed” and ready for that last trumpet, ready for the zooming shot into the clouds – a roller coaster ride in reverse, and at top speed. What do I care what happens to America? I’m not going to be here. That’s one approach.

However, I’ve never been much for roller-coasters – I tend to throw up – and I can’t bear the idea of America falling. My generation grew up during the Cold War. We practiced cowering under our school desks so we’d be safe in case of an atomic attack. (Even as a child I had a concern about how senseless that precaution was – we lived just miles from SAC, from Offutt Air Force Base, which would have been one of the first targets.) But I grew up proud of my nation, and aware of what living in the USSR must have been like with Pravda lying to the people, dissidents being locked away either in the Gulag or in mental hospitals, teachers being forced to teach propaganda. I was so grateful I didn’t live there.

As far as I can tell, Obama has succeeded at two out of those three – education is now under federal control and the press is for the most part pro-dictator, anti-freedom. It no longer guards the 1st Amendment – or the 2nd. I pray for the revival of the America I knew, or something better, but I’m also watching what’s going on out there in the rest of the world and nowhere is human society very sane right now. Most economies are working themselves into a total, socialist meltdown. Most societies have lost any vestige of a moral code. Families are in decline world wide, most populations are not reproducing at replacement levels, which will, of its own, demolish financial security. Environmentalism has run amuck in most 1st world nations, ruining production, destroying jobs, killing off small towns, which are, like the family, the heart of any society. The world has lost its sense of good vs. evil and it seems few are particularly horrified by the brutality of ISIS or by the nuclear plans of Iran.

That’s the bad part. The good part is that almost daily something else, some additional prognostication, transforms itself into historical reality. At a slower pace this has been going on for the last 100 years: WWI, the Balfour Declaration, WWII, the return of the Jews to Israel, the ensuing Palestinian conflict, the recovery of control of Jerusalem, the Six-Day War and the recovery of even more of the original Israel’s territory.

Read Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Revelation; these things are coming to pass. Yes, there has always been strife in the world, hideous, horrifying strife. Yes, folks once thought that the Pope was the Anti-Christ. Yes, people have, ever since the disciples started writing the New Testament, expected the Rapture in their lifetimes; Christians have that right – to look hopefully for the removal of the Church.

But at no time in history:
•    Have people known what was going on everywhere? We can now see the big picture.
•    Have groups proudly sworn to kill off hundreds of millions of people?
•    Have banks and economies been so intertwined? One-world banking and government is a big part of the Tribulation prophecy.
•    Have electronic technologies made many of the End Times predictions literally possible? --
o    Christ will be seen all around the globe at the same time.
o    The Anti-Christ will mark every person with a code that will make trade and work possible.
o    Armies will be more mechanical, robotic, than ever before.

More than these phenomena, is the spiraling nature of it all. Nothing is stable; the world’s most solid, dependable, Gentile countries, the United States and the United Kingdom, are crumbling. Israel is in more danger than ever before. Russia is pounding on its war drums. North Korea is not only nuclear, but desperate and run by a madman. The fuse is burning quickly in the Middle East – where the majority of the Tribulation activities will occur.

The prophetic clock keeps spinning, and meanwhile, back at our ranch, things wind ever tighter; the spring is torqueing up massive tension – racial tension, religious tension, financial tension, political tension, which will one day soon break loose. Maybe once it’s sprung and our society has exploded, people will wake up and work together to restore this country. We have a debt to pay off, jobs to create, two educational systems that need complete overhauls, a church to re-align with biblical principles, a military to rebuild, a central bank to get rid of, quite a few federal agencies that need disbanding – well, you know; you read the news. We’re almost in “last rites” condition and ISIS, Iran, Russia, North Korea, and Latin America are circling overhead like a vortex of vultures.

Then look back at the Middle East. The Islamists build their Caliphate and look forward to the time when the 12th Imam, the Mahdi, the Anti-Christ, arrives to rule the world. A group of Jews have made ready all the furnishings for the Temple, so that as soon as they regain the Temple Mount, that essential part of Judaism and of the Tribulation, that sacred building can be quickly reconstructed. Jews are, this spring, running dress rehearsals for a coming Passover celebrated in the Temple.

And in just the last year anti-Semitism has been baring its fangs. In France it’s dangerous to walk the streets of Paris wearing a yarmulke. On our college campuses – especially west coast campuses – Jews are being verbally attacked. The swastika has made a comeback. Our own president just released Israel’s nuclear bomb plans, and is planning to let Iran (who swears it will destroy Israel) keep and enhance its nuclear prowess. Given the historical testability of God’s promise to Israel (Genesis 12:3) America is in serious trouble.

Then note the condition of modern society and compare it to 2nd Peter 3:3-4 -- Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

Or note 1st Timothy 1:4 - Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;  or 2nd Timothy 3:2-5 -- But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

The End Times, i.e. the Rapture and the Tribulation, are upon us. So is the end of the grand and amazing United States of America – no reference to such a great nation happens in the End Times prophecies; I find that ominous. On the other hand, God appears to be raising up strong and good people to lead us out of this. Now, the question is – how do we balance our desire to see our country recover with our desire to see the Lord’s  Consider what will happen to this country when that happens….

In the past God has given His nations – Israel, the prime example – ultimatums, last straw declarations from which there is no reprieve. Israel suffered such a decree in the 8th century B.C. when Assyria came to attack first the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and then the Southern Kingdom, Judah. The world saw this happen again in 70 A.D. when Rome sacked Jerusalem. America has so arrogantly turned its back on God’s mandate for this country, so hurt Israel, that we may well be in the same place, way past the patience of God.