What all can we do, anyway?

Andrew S burdens, depression, Devil, Mormon, Mormons 27 Comments

One of my fencing coaches often relates a story about how she despises the parents of little fencing kids. And this is not isolated. Soccer moms, fencing moms, Girl Scout moms, etc., etc., are all insane.

As my coach relates this story, she points out the reasoning of fencing moms: if their kid is doing well, it’s because their kid is the greatest thing ever in the world and will become an Olympic fencer. If their kid isn’t doing well, it’s because the coach is terrible and the kid needs to go to a better club. It couldn’t be the case that the fencer is doing poorly because he won’t follow instructions, practice often, keep his arm up, extend first, etc., Nope, it must be the coach.

This is just a specific case of a phenomenon where people take ownership of things that are good and abdicate things that are bad. It is the basis of the self-serving bias.

In the church, things can get a little bit different…sometimes, both good things and bad things are abdicated — after all, it was a “blessing of the Lord,” or it might have just been a “trial.”

But we also learn about our role in the process, especially with agency and free will. So, we point out that faith without works is dead…Some like to say we are saved ‘after all we can do’ (but, what we can do is not that much, since we are rather imperfect). We point out that those who are unrighteous (as an exercise of will) face negative consequences.

I’ve never liked this dichotomy. What is the bottom line? Are we free or are we buffeted by outside forces? How are we supposed to live under two conflicting ideals? A poem by Maya Angelou highlighting grace above action (and in a way giving some sense of disdain, I think, to action) annoyed me and I wrote about it on my blog a while back.

I don’t necessarily think that people are responsible for everything that comes their way. But I don’t think that in the vast majority of cases, we can just attribute things to the mysteries of the spirit or of the adversary. We can admit that we don’t know and what we think, but it seems to easy to fall into a trap of surety about things. It seems too much of a cop-out to say, “Well, I’m not perfect, but I have faith, so everything will be well” which is the vibe I get from the Angelou poem (even though I know that’s misrepresenting what Ms. Angelou was going for.)

…but how does that relate to the church? After all, that generally is a position not taken by LDS people, who recognize accountability and works in the interplay of faith.

Well, there are still some areas where members of the church will push off responsibility, so to speak. In the depression topic earlier here at MM, people were discussing what might be at play. And one comment by Jen set off my dark-side-of-the-moon alarm.

What about LDS people being targeted in a more “front line” approach by the adversary and his followers? Could this be a possibility? Is it possible that those who are striving to live in a “righteous” manner are also targeted more because of the light and knowledge they have?

This kind of thought rubs me the wrong way because it shifts everything away from things we might possibly work at fixing to something that is uncontrolled and uncontrollable. For example, Jen’s original comment might be applied to depression rates in Utah or porn consumption in Utah (both ideas were flying around)…so with both of these issues, it’s easy to think of *material, physical* variables that could be tested. It might not be the case, but we could test for stressful lifestyles…we could test for availability of “social medication” or of whatever factors. We might be way off in our hypothesizing, but at least with tangible variables, we can test things. Even if it’s genetic (something that appears to be something we can’t change), we can still *see* genes and theoretically come to a point where we can change those.

But with the adversary and his temptation, it’s like we give up. If we accept a real adversary that tempts people, then this is a constant of the universe. It’s not something we can work at eliminating (like we could for other factors). It’s not something we can work on improving on, because by default, as we get more “righteous,” the belief is that he works harder to stop us. So what can we do? Apparently, nothing that will be effective.

So, regardless of whether or not the adversary is out to get to us, it seems to me that this is not the place we should be going to for blame. It certainly could be that that little kid has an incapable coach and he needs to go to a different club, but he (and his satellite fencing mom) should look at his own practice and dedication first. He should look at tangible factors around him before attributing to the uncontrolled and uncontrollable.

…But then again, the opposite end (of attributing everything to our actions) gets kinda depressing too. (Your depression is your unrighteousness.)

Comments

comments

Comments 27

  1. “But with the adversary and his temptation, it’s like we give up. If we accept a real adversary that tempts people, then this is a constant of the universe. It’s not something we can work at eliminating (like we could for other factors). It’s not something we can work on improving on, because by default, as we get more “righteous,” the belief is that he works harder to stop us. So what can we do? Apparently, nothing that will be effective.”

    I disagree with what you have stated here. I am not sure exactly what your beliefs are in relation to an adversary, but as far as mine go, I do believe there he exists AND I do believe that we can work on eliminating his influence from our lives. For example, my original comment was a question I was posing in relation to understanding online pornography consumption in Utah. There are many falsehoods about women, children and men that are perpetuated by pornography. When we believe in those falsehoods, instead of placing truth in our minds to fight against them, they become easier and easier to accept and believe. When satan was tempting the Lord, the Lord responded with TRUTH and that is how I believe we can eliminate the adversary’s influence in our lives, by putting the truth in our minds each time we are faced with falsehoods and lies. Once the truth is reinforced in our minds and hearts the adversary’s influence becomes less and less in our lives.

    When I was posing the question about the adversary: “What about LDS people being targeted in a more “front line” approach by the adversary and his followers? Could this be a possibility? Is it possible that those who are striving to live in a “righteous” manner are also targeted more because of the light and knowledge they have?” I was referring to the light and knowledge that we have in relation to being a child of God, to women being daughters of God and how God expects men to treat them as such. Not everyone is taught these truths, and because we are, I believe it is possible that the adversary works harder to get us to not believe they are true because it creates the type of thinking that destroys relationships and happiness. If a man really believes that a woman is a daughter of God and that he should protect her in his actions and thoughts and not demean her by looking at her as an object, how much of a difference will that make in the lives of the people in which he is involved? I really think that the influence the adversary has is dependent on how much we believe what he says vs. what the Lord says. If you believe you are worthless, it is a falsehood and not based on truth. Everyone is worthwhile, but if we believe that not everyone is worthwhile then we are giving the adversary power to influence our thinking and the way we treat others. If we believe the Lord when He says He loves all of His children and that we should love one another as well, that will greatly influence our thinking and the way we treat others as well, but the outcome will be much more positive.

    I just watched the movie “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” It was a powerful movie and taught a very good lesson. The Nazis taught that the Jews were less than human and many believed them. We know this is a falsehood and a lie, but because people CHOSE to believe it, look at the severe consequences that followed. Choosing to believe something is where our agency comes in and we CAN do something about what we chose to believe. This gives the adversary less and less ability to influence our minds and hearts when we recognize him for who he really is….a liar.

    In your statement above, you said it’s like we give up and nothing we do will be effective. On the contrary, I believe we do have control over what we choose to believe. When we see something that is based on falsehood, we can fight back with the truth in our minds. Eventually, our minds and hearts will be able to easily see what it really going on and it won’t be such a battle to discern the difference. The adversary may work harder to deceive us because we see truth more clearly, but BECAUSE we see truth more clearly, it will much less likely that he will be able to influence us.

  2. I think part of your answer lies in your example you gave at the beginning. Sometimes kids do fail because they have bad coaches. Sometime kids fail because they are don’t apply themselves or have no talent. Sometimes kids succeed because they have great coaches and sometimes kids succeed despite bad coaching. There are so many variables it is hard to say sometimes why a person succeeds or fails. It is not our place to judge, BUT we can try to help people find ways to face their problems. To go back to your fencing example, a kid is most likely to succeed if he has talent, works hard, and has good coaching. If we take away the good coaching or even give him bad coaching, are we taking away his agency? Of course not, but we are making it harder for him to succeed. Likewise, if we are tempted by the adversary or outside sources we are not losing our free agency, but we will have a harder time in succeeding. I think we have to trust in God that he will judge us according to what he knows we are capable of and we have to be honest with ourselves about how hard we are really trying. In my experience there are just as many people that have pretty unrealistic expectations of what they should be able to do as there are people who barely try and say grace will take care of the rest.

  3. To be honest, this is an an aspect of theology that I have never been able to reconcile. If we are to take it as a given that Satan does exist, then by what manner does his influence transcend into the mortal sphere. I have found this topic highly problematic in Mormonism, this even led to some rather theologically innovative theories at a time when I was more confident in the Restored Gospel.

    Putting aside arguments regarding how things actually operate in the real world, understanding God’s influence is fairly simple to grasp. In an LDS context he provides us with revelations (visions, dreams, prophecy, premonitions, visitations, etc). In any hard example we find, their is a breach in the “veil”, or that boundary which seperates us from the Divine. According to doctrine, God literally visited Joseph Smith – as did Moroni. Moses stood directly in the presence of God, again according to doctrine both Joseph Smith and Moses also endured the literal presence of Satan. These are some of the more extraordinary examples within our belief, but on a more routine basis we accept our inclinations as often the product of divine “prompting’s”, that is, God’s influence, interpreted as the ever popular “tender mercies”.

    Moroni Chapter 7 tells us that all good things come of God, and we may know by certain virtuous fruits, the source of inspiration. We are told conversely that thing’s which lead us from Christ have their origin in Satan. We are finally told that these two sources represent the exclusive origins of “things”. Recognizing that the doctrines on Divine inspiration are much better understood, my question has been how does Satan shed his influence. I am not asking so much of where can we find examples of it per se`, but rather the mechanics behind how it actually works. I have been taught, though I am unaware of any scripture to this credit, that Satan may not have control to read our thoughts. If that is the case, how could he “inspire” us the same as the Holy Ghost for example. Often we will interpret heinous acts as being “of the Devil”, but I fail to see how so.

    Now for clarification. It is very clear when we look at the world that their are two opposing forces, namely Good vs. Evil. It is not my intention to dispute Satan, nor to progress this frame of thought into slippery slope of atheism. Rather I am interested in how others percieve Satans influence as it relates to the self serving bias.

  4. I love the coaching analogy. In pro sports, “it’s easier to fire the coach, than the whole team,” and I think this is the case with parents as well–it’s easier to fire the fencing coach than the child.

    Sometimes, firing the coach will shake up the players. Sometimes, a different coach has different communication abilities, making the players play better. It doesn’t mean the coach is a better coach, just that he connects better with the players. Larry Bird said that players only listen to a coach for about 3 years, and then they tune him out. He felt that it’s good to have different coaches, to keep things fresh. Of course, Jerry Sloan has coached the Jazz for 20 years, so it is apparent that both approaches can be successful.

    So, I wonder if this is the case with religion. Is it better for some people to go from religion to religion (like Eldridge Cleaver), while others can stay in a religion for a lifetime? Do some people need a different voice more frequently to motivate them?

    At times, I think we give satan too much credit–at other times not enough. The same goes for God. Joseph Smith said that if God was responsible for all good and evil in the world, it would take away our agency. Sometimes, we attribute things to God or Satan, that they have nothing to do with.

  5. I’m probably not thinking about this hard enough, or I’d have a more complicated opinion.
    But generally, I don’t blame Satan for anything. I don’t think he has any power that I don’t cede to him. When I choose to act as he would act, I validate his position and lend him (however indirectly) worship. I think Moral Agency is sufficient to generate all the evil and non-Godlike decisions in evidence. My weaknesses are mine; my foibles are mine; my choices that lead to misery and eternal death ore mine. I therefore need Christ’s perfection and forgiveness and mercy more than ever.
    (As a tangent, I keep having to remember that we aren’t Zoarastrians: there are no co-equal embodiments of Good and Evil battling via the souls of man. Our theology has stark asymmetry between the ability to act of Good and Evil.)
    When the scriptures state that the Satan is the source of sin, I usually think of it as instead of “generator” more as “first example of.” Being the “father of lies” doesn’t mean he comes up with all our lies; he’s the canonical or first example of a liar.
    This idea probably has more holes in it than swiss cheese; I’ll leave it to others to find them. I know for one, my wife doesn’t agree with me. Right now, this keeps me responsible for and accountable for my thoughts and actions, but totally and wholly dependent on a Divine Redeemer.

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    Re 1:

    Jen…I admit I hadn’t taken that into consideration (eliminating the influence of the adversary from our lives).

    But then the question would be…do you think that progressively more righteous people face less challenge from the adversary? That just doesn’t seem intuitive based on what the church (or perhaps it’s just culture and not doctrine) has said. It seems like Christ as the maximally righteous person, but he did not have minimal influence from Satan…it’s just that he didn’t act on it.

    For example, to turn things around…you have a dichotomy between recognizing gospel truth and not recognizing it. But there are people who *think* they are recognizing gospel truth, but they really aren’t, so they are unaware of the harm their actions may cause. I mean, it’s easy enough to say, “If we believe the Lord when He says He loves all of His children and that we should love one another, that will greatly influence our thinking,” but what does this MEAN? What does it mean to love one another? For some, it is perfectly acceptable to ban the governmental sanctioning of the relationships of our brothers or sisters, because their relationship is “not of God.” For others, loving one another gives an imperative to support those individuals in their relationships. So nice words like these cannot say anything about gay marriage for example.

    Some would then point out, “But if you were really following the Lord, then you’d realize that in x, y, and z scripture, he does not approve of homosexuality, so if you support that, you must not be following the Lord.” etc.,

    It seems to me that having these artificial boundaries of THE LORD and SATAN doesn’t really get at the heart of loving one another and being compassionate to one another. It often creates gross abuses that we allow because of our model.

    On the contrary, I believe we do have control over what we choose to believe. When we see something that is based on falsehood, we can fight back with the truth in our minds.

    For example, who is to say that a model of The Lord vs. The Adversary is truth in our minds? What if IT has falsehood lurking in it (because it’s kinda vague in a lot of places and cryptic in others), but we don’t recognize it because we take for granted that THIS is the way we can discern truth from falsehood?

  7. #5
    I don’t know if you are a believer in Joseph Smith and the First Vision, but if you are…..how do you explain what happened to him before the Father and Son appeared to Him in relation to an unseen power trying to overtake him? If you aren’t a believer than that question is irrelevant.

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    re 2:

    To go back to your fencing example, a kid is most likely to succeed if he has talent, works hard, and has good coaching. If we take away the good coaching or even give him bad coaching, are we taking away his agency? Of course not, but we are making it harder for him to succeed.

    What if we (the coach) give the young fencer distinctly bad coaching advise in suggesting that his skill is more based on his coaching and other uncontrolled factors than his own effort?

    re 4:

    actually, you raised a point that made me go in a different, yet still interesting direction.

    So, I wonder if this is the case with religion. Is it better for some people to go from religion to religion (like Eldridge Cleaver), while others can stay in a religion for a lifetime? Do some people need a different voice more frequently to motivate them?

    I guess inactivity is a double-edged sword, because I recognize that when some go inactive, they kinda fall off the map. But what I’ve also heard is some who go inactive (or who try out a different church altogether), realize something is missing, and like that old proverb, absence makes the heart grow fonder and they can accept the nuances of Mormonism a little better after their hiatus.

    At times, I think we give satan too much credit–at other times not enough. The same goes for God. Joseph Smith said that if God was responsible for all good and evil in the world, it would take away our agency. Sometimes, we attribute things to God or Satan, that they have nothing to do with.

    ;_; way to say what I’ve been trying to say (more or less) in four sentences!

  9. “Of course, Jerry Sloan has coached the Jazz for 20 years, so it is apparent that both approaches can be successful.”

    Really? How many championships has he won? 😉
    GO LAKERS!

  10. But then the question would be…do you think that progressively more righteous people face less challenge from the adversary? That just doesn’t seem intuitive based on what the church (or perhaps it’s just culture and not doctrine) has said. It seems like Christ as the maximally righteous person, but he did not have minimal influence from Satan…it’s just that he didn’t act on it.
    No, I don’t think that more righteous people face less challenge from the adversary, I think they have an equal amount of temptation placed upon them based on their capacity and the amount of light and knowledge they have. For example, Joseph Smith was about to see the Father and the Son, so he was given equal enticement from the opposing force. I think the Lord suffered temptation beyond what any of us could handle, but because he was full of truth he was able to easily discern the adversary’s tactics and not act on those temptations.

    “But there are people who *think* they are recognizing gospel truth, but they really aren’t, so they are unaware of the harm their actions may cause.”

    So how is it you know they really aren’t recognizing gospel truth? The problem with this argument is that it is not resolvable because of our differing views of God and the adversary. I believe in God and believe that as I pray to Him with questions, that even if I don’t receive immediate answers or complete understanding, I will be led by Him in the right direction. Is that something that you believe?

    I have learned that showing others love is not always being warm and fuzzy. For example, if I have lived with a drug abusing spouse for 10 years and have tried to care for that person to no avail and finally the Lord condones my desire to leave, am I not a loving person for leaving? Isn’t love sometimes not continuing to be an enabler? What about the flood and saving only Noah and his family? Was God not loving towards his children for drowning them all….or was He? Was He taking them from this earth as an act of mercy because they were condemning themselves more and more each day? Excommunication can be seen as an act of love in the same light in that the person being excommnunicated is being released from their covenants so they do not continue to condemn themselves under those covenants any longer. Do you see how knowing how best to love someone is not always clear and straightforward? This is why I feel you have to take your personal life situation to the Lord and find out how the Lord wants you to love those around you. There is NO straightforward answer to every situation.

    My answer to the question you pose is that you have to fully rely on God for the answers in relation to all things that pertain to your life, including Prop 8. There are no easy answers, but there is a source who will direct you in all matters if you allow Him to do so.

  11. Sorry in my response #9 I am responding to #6’s question posed: “But then the question would be…do you think that progressively more righteous people face less challenge from the adversary? That just doesn’t seem intuitive based on what the church (or perhaps it’s just culture and not doctrine) has said. It seems like Christ as the maximally righteous person, but he did not have minimal influence from Satan…it’s just that he didn’t act on it” and I forgot to make that clear.

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    So how is it you know they really aren’t recognizing gospel truth?

    I don’t. What I know is that they, speaking strictly from a human, nonspiritual state, aren’t being compassionate or loving. If it so happens that the gospel truth is at odds with that, then that’s rather unfortunate. I don’t pretend to know God or what he wants.

    I think you take gospel truth for granted and that is where we have this unresolvable difference. But the way I see things, I have to see the pain caused by people in the name of the gospel truth or in the name of fighting against the adversary. I have to see how there is this disconnect between what people will say is the Adversary’s influence and what is really just people being terrible to each other (in whoever’s name).

    You’re right in that love is sometimes not continuing to be an enabler, but the reasoning that equates drug abuse to something like someone pursuing a committed relationship is precisely the disconnect I see between people and the Gospel. Raising the Old Testament as example of God’s loving behavior to his children is precisely the disconnect I see between people and the Gospel.

    I recognize that knowing how best to love someone is not always clear and straightforward, but isn’t that what the Gospel does? It tries to make it clear and straightforward and stumble on toes. It says that some things are of God and some things are against God. But it isn’t so clear and straightforward. Calling things out on the Lord or the Adversary clouds up what we should actually do too often.

  13. I don’t give Satan (whoever he is) a second thought. The scriptural phrase that helps me out is “to fulfil the measure of their (our) creation”. For me, this scripture somehow leads me to guilt-free thoughts enabling me to not give up. If I am not being my best self, I am coming short of that purpose but I don’t beat myself up. My creation (my essence) is difference from everyone else’s. My end will be achieved in a different way from others. The scripture keeps me focusing on the positive rather than the seemingly impossible. Might not make sense to others, but it keeps me going forward, however slowly that forward motion might be.

    This obviously isn’t doctrine, since the KJ scriptures leave us with the horrible “be ye therefore perfect”, which in its original wording is , I believe, dramatically different. But our English speaking-leaders use those words often. Talk about something leading to depression……..

  14. “I think you take gospel truth for granted and that is where we have this unresolvable difference. But the way I see things, I have to see the pain caused by people in the name of the gospel truth or in the name of fighting against the adversary. I have to see how there is this disconnect between what people will say is the Adversary’s influence and what is really just people being terrible to each other (in whoever’s name)”

    I am not sure what you mean by me taking gospel truth for granted. I have seen plenty of pain (including my own) that just happens just because we are alive and breathing. Every single person on this earth will suffer, be it now or later. It is inescapable. Pain is inevitable if you live and breathe. For me, I have not struggled to see the difference as much as you have between people just being terrible to be terrible and people really loving and trying to be compassionate, even if they aren’t being as successful at it as we would like them to be.

    My relationship with the Lord has been the most difficult in my life. At times I have felt like I have been asked to forgive when I had no desire, nor did not feel it was deserved in the least bit. That caused me pain, suffering and heartache. Why should I forgive someone who hurt me and knew better? Is the Lord not causing me more pain in addition to that which I already suffered? My point is whether you choose to believe in God or not, in the devil or not, or in nothing….you will feel pain and you will see pain. If you strive to live the gospel as I know it (being LDS) there is sacrifice and expectations that can bring deep pain and it can be hard to understand. If you live however you like and don’t look for direction, you will suffer and pain will find you. I don’t think that most people are intentionally trying to hurt other people, but some definately are and use people to get gain. There is a big difference between those two types of people and I can see that pretty clearly.

    I am not sure what you are looking for in relation to answers. It seems to me, with my little exposure to some of your comments, that you live life in a more questioning, non-committal mode, hoping to one day satisfy the unknown within you. Unfortunately, I don’t know that you will ever be able to find what you seem to be looking for, because there will always be something that doesn’t make sense and you will not be satisfied with that. For me, it has come down to whether I believe there is a God or not. I do believe there is so I put everything on Him. I tell Him that I trust Him and so when I ask Him something and get what I feel are answers, I’m going to do it and He knows that. I want a life with no regret and though that is almost impossible, I want to make sure I did my part to have very little. Since I am not privy to what happened before this life, I let God know that I am doing the best I can by relying on Him and if He has something different He wants me to do, He needs to tell me. He doesn’t show me love by always making my life easy or pain free, in fact sometimes I have thought He was a real jerk. I have been angry at Him and wondered if He had any clue what He was doing, but I have discovered that I am the one who has no real clue because He sees and knows it all. I try to treat people the best I know how. Do other people get hurt by me because of it? I don’t know, but if they do….it was never intentional and that makes ALL the difference to me. It is the ugly, vicious, power hungry people out there that do things in the name of THEMSELVES that I see what you call a “disconnect” in. If you realize that most people are really trying to be good people and not intentionally trying to hurt others (and you can leave God and satan completely out of it like I think you might want to) then it might be easier to be more compassionate yourself in relation to them.

  15. My thoughts are essentially Holden’s in #14. I grant the possible existence of a “Devil”, but I don’t spend any real time thinking about it. Where I differ from #14 is that I use the injunction in Matthew 5:48 (“Be ye therefore perfect.”) as a positive motivator to work on becoming more complete, whole and fully developed, which is the original meaning. I prefer to focus on the process of becoming better rather than expending energy “fighting” someone else.

    I figure Jesus beat Satan already – for everyone collectively, but also for me personally. Why not let that truth make me free to pursue “all I can do” consciously and fully – again, like Holden said in #14? Why fight a battle that has been won already?

    I wrote the following post last July: The Gospel as “Good News”. It sums up my feelings about this topic concisely.

  16. “I figure Jesus beat Satan already – for everyone collectively, but also for me personally. Why not let that truth make me free to pursue “all I can do” consciously and fully – again, like Holden said in #14? Why fight a battle that has been won already?”

    I wish I could agree that that battle has been already won, but I think there is a front line battle going on everyday with evil. As long as the earth is in existence, the battle is still going on and will continue to. Of course it makes sense to focus on the good news and to expend energy becoming better, but realize that not everyone has the luxury of focusing on how to make their life better when they are living in “hell” everyday, especially children who are in abusive homes or being used as sexual objects. Let the truth make you free and do all you can do by fighting the battle for those that cannot fight it for themselves. IMO, that is an essential part of being a follower of Christ and it involves “fighting” someone else.

  17. Jen, I agree totally with what you are saying, but I don’t equate that with “fighting Satan”. I see it as positively working to help others. I believe the “battle” for our souls is over much more than we think it is, when you really stop and examine Mormon theology closely in terms of who actually ends up controlled by Lucifer.

    The difference for me is that “fighting Satan” can become an impersonal crusade against evil that quickly loses sight on the individuals involved and ends up justifying some really bad practices. Loving and serving and helping others is much more personal, and it’s harder to end up with stuff like the Inquisition – which was justified as saving souls from the devil. I know that’s an extreme example, but I’d rather “serve others” than “fight Satan”.

  18. Ray, yours is a perspective I haven’t heard before. I guess after being taught about the “war in heaven” I naturally assume that the war continues here and it is a fight. I guess it doesn’t matter how you word it as long as something is actually being done to help others.

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  20. Jen, let me try it this way:

    Jesus was tempted by Satan at the beginning of his ministry, but I don’t read in the Gospels an account of him going out and basing his ministry on “fighting Satan”. I see much more an account of focusing on serving and lifting people out of the situations caused by themselves and others. Iow, he didn’t focus on “beating Satan”; he focused on “helping and empowering others”. We are told to be “even as I am” – so I believe that means we are to live “even as he lived” (to the extent we can in this life with our limitations and responsibilities to provide for our own families).

    Also, I find it fascinating that “the devil” (referring to Satan and not just a generic “evil spirit”) and “Satan” appear only a few dozen independent times in the New Testament, and only a dozen or so times in the Four Gospels. That’s not much attention when considered in the big picture, and most references speak of “resisting temptation” rather than “battling”. One is defensive (building fortifications, if you will), while the other is offensive (attacking, engaging in combat) – and I think that is instructive and vitally important. Finally, nearly all of them are focused on personal efforts, not large-scale, societal “programs”.

    It’s a fascinating subject, imo, and the more deeply I dig into the scriptural foundation, the less I’m inclined to speak in battle-laden terminology – the “armor of God” passages notwithstanding. I’m not saying I disapprove of all such symbolism; I’m just saying it’s not my favorite default language.

  21. Ray-
    I understand where you are coming from, but I, on the other hand, am inclined to think of it this way: “We are all enlisted til’ the conflict is o’er” and it works for me. I understand your point about the Savior’s ministry. I feel like He focused on teaching truth and to me, getting truth out there in our society today is a battle. We are saturated everyday in our culture with billboards full of falsehoods….my favorite….the picture of a woman’s “small” chest in her itsey, bitsey, teeny, weeny, polka dot bikini and the words next to it saying: Why settle for less? It may be funny to some but I don’t want my daughter thinking she is less than because her chest isn’t bulging out her shirt. I don’t feel like I am serving when I call up someone and complain about their ads, but that I am fighting for change. Anyway…that’s my thinking. Onward Christian Soldiers…..

  22. Jen, I respect that – and, please realize, I didn’t say we shouldn’t fight “anything”. I understand and agree completely that we are engaged in a real battle in very real ways.

    Let me phrase it this way:

    My “ideal” wording is service-focused. If “battle language” is to be employed, I simply prefer to frame everything in terms of fighting FOR people, not fighting AGAINST Satan.

    Let me add this, hopefully for clarification:

    Lucifer will “win” ultimately in very few cases. I don’t think he considers limiting someone to the Telestial Kingdom as “victory” – since those people still are outside his jurisdiction and receive a degree of God’s glory unavailable to him. I believe God wins when his children inherit ANY glory and are freed from Lucifer’s grasp.

    Therefore, in practical terms, my efforts really aren’t to rescue souls from the Devil; they are to help people gain even more glory. I see any “fighting” as more of a fight to reverse the effects of the Fall and help people become more godly, not to battle Satan. I understand the use of that imagery, given our scriptural record, but I simply prefer a new language now that, in Jesus’ words, “It is finished.” (which I take to refer to his own personal battle with Lucifer and his becoming complete, whole, fully developed)

    The individual progression needs to occur, but the overall battle is over – despite the end of the world accounts, since even those posit that the result is not in question.

  23. “Lucifer will “win” ultimately in very few cases. I don’t think he considers limiting someone to the Telestial Kingdom as “victory” – since those people still are outside his jurisdiction and receive a degree of God’s glory unavailable to him. I believe God wins when his children inherit ANY glory and are freed from Lucifer’s grasp”

    I understand what you are saying and agree with you as I view it from your perspective. If I look at it from my perspective, a question arises. As I understand what you have said, lucifer may not “win” based on HIS position, but what about based on OURS? For example, we may lose an eternal companion if they go to the telestial kingdom instead of the celestial. So, even though they are gaining more glory than lucifer, we are losing an eternal companion,(or a daughter, son, etc.) When I think of it in these terms, I feel I am still fighting AGAINST lucifer and “battle-language” is appropriate. When I think of it in your terms, I can think of it as fighting FOR people because any glory is better than no glory at all. For me though, I don’t feel the overall battle is over if there is still a chance that I won’t be with the people I love in the same degree of glory.

    I really enjoy conversations such as this because it opens my mind and helps me see things with a totally new perspective. Thanks for sharing yours Ray. (You too Andrew S.) 🙂

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