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.