Thursday, October 12, 2006


Either/Or ways of thinking assume, maybe correctly, that ideas or thoughts can be stated carefully enough to be either correct or incorrect. I know God can certainly be that precise. However, I truly doubt that I am ever able to reach that level of clarity and comprehensiveness in what I say. You should take that as a warning about this post!

Typically, when I say anything I am acutely aware that so much more could be said, and that I am leaving some things unsaid.

When I am teaching, often someone will raise a point that they believe contradicts what I am saying. I know it may appear that I just want to agree . . . but rarely has anyone ever said anything that didn't have some element of truth - usually describing part of the subject that I was not and could not address. I can usually affirm such statements, because the complexity of everything means that either/or is rarely the case.

I had that type of discussion last night about the reality of evil - is there a definite evil being called Satan? To some this might seem clear, there either is or there isn't . . . and scripture definitely talks about such a being.

But here's the complexity: we know scripture is truthful about God's nature and our realities, but how literal is it as it talks about existence, God, and humankind? The language used is often representative and may more or less be literally true. We recognize that in talking about God. God is no rock, though He is called one.

I am comfortable with evil being personified in a being, a fallen angel . . . but am also sympathetic to those who would think of evil as more the absence of God, and think less that there is an actual being who is the leader of darkness. Such people might think of Satan as a useful way of understanding the way evil besets us . . . as if there is a malevolent being who acts like a roaring lion trying to eat us.

I am comfortable with anyone who believes firmly in a definite, personal being called the Devil. I am also comfortable with those who might not. I can be comfortable with contradictory ideas because there is enough complexity to make me uncertain absolutely of either option.

My concern is that neither understanding lead to a lite view of temptation, our own vulnerability to fall into temptation, or the reality of something that is most definitely not God. How we live with regard to God and what is not God is more important than how we conceive of the darkness - as absence or malevolent presence.

There is an either/or reality on this matter . . . but I am okay knowing that God knows it even when I don't. This is why I believe that all Christian community is based on a unity that God gives, not on a unity of understanding that we achieve.


Ken Haynes said...


Appreciate you guys stopping by tonight.

Jim said...

I think you're actually incorrect on this one.

Sorry; I couldn't resist.

That last paragraph is the most difficult in my mind. I know there is truth. My question is, can I be completely confident that I know what it is in this life?

Is the creation story literal? Does God have a specific pattern for worship? For salvation? Is Hell eternity, or simply death? I know how I answer these questions.

I am glad that we don't let these things stand in the way of fellowship and proclaiming Jesus, and that we can be spiritually mature enough to understand that God has the answers, though we are imperfect. And may even be imperfect in our understanding of Truth.