Humanising the Divine

The series explores a theology that is human friendly! Jesus as the true human shows us who God is, and because of his consideration for us ('who are we, that God should make note of us?') defines who humanity was created to be. The nature of sin is to fall short of the glory of God. The glory of God as revealed in the truly human one - 'we beheld his glory full of grace and truth'. This volume is a foundation for the other volumes. And there are ZOOM groups available...

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Wrong sight and we might partner with demons

In a recent post I suggested that when we dehumanise people we contribute toward demonising them. The word ‘demonise’ is often used when, for example, politicians are accused of creating a target enemy through fear. ‘You are demonising them’, is the retort. I am, though, meaning something beyond that, in that I give credence to the work of demons. Maybe I have blogged enough on this but I think there is a little more in this post that I will explore. So first a step back to lay out where I am coming from.

I have been seeking to find a way of looking at sin not simply as law-breaking. It is law-breaking, but I am not convinced that is what is at the root. The law-breaking is a result not a definition. Sin starts through not seeing God as who s/he is. In the Garden the generosity of God is seen through only restricting the wonderful risky adventure of life with only one prohibition. ‘Eat of all the trees except…’ There has to be a restriction to determine choice, and God makes the restriction as small as it could be. The temptation begins with a questioning of God’s character, of how s/he is perceived. The serpent paints a picture of God as restricting to limit growth, whereas God’s restriction is to enable growth. Sin is to fail to live up to the revelation of who God is, not to break some arbitrary law. The temptation successfully distorted the image of God.

Likewise Israel is not a nation called to live by laws but in response to the gracious call of God she is to live out her life in a certain way. This way will reflect her faith in God, an ordered society with room for the ‘widow, orphan and alien’. She is defined not primarily by race but by faith. Her failures are witnessed when they fail to see who God is. Law breaking can be catalogued but the root issue is their loss of true sight of God.

If we then move away from law-breaking as defining sin and to another approach to understanding the ‘missing the mark’ sense, we can come up with a connection to the second half of Paul’s statement in Romans 3:23. After he writes ‘all / both have sinned’ he goes on to write: ‘and fallen short of the glory of God’. If sin is tied to glory we can then understand it is to fail to live out the glory of God. Glory is revealed in the tabernacle and in the temple but ultimately and completely in Jesus who ‘tabernacled among us.’ That glory was seen, and it was seen to be full of grace and truth. Glory was seen in a human.

In 2 Cor. 3:17-19 Paul says that we might not be getting a totally clear view of the glory of God but the sight we do get is transforming us into the image we see ‘from one degree of glory to another’. Likewise John writes

When he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is (1 Jn. 3:2).

Clearer sight transforms, and ultimately when we see him with total clarity (‘as he is’) we will be like him. We will be glorified. Before that time there is the call to be transformed from one degree of glory to another, and the increase of glory is in relationship to how clearly we see the ‘image’.

It is the spirit of antiChrist that denies Jesus came in the flesh (1 Jn. 4:2,3). This statement is a huge affirmation of humanity, but also a huge declaration about who God is. Jesus, God in the flesh, reveals God. The glory of God was seen in Jesus, the human. The spirit of antiChrist has a God different to the one revealed by Jesus. He is the starting point, the central focus; he is not simply the lens for Scripture, but the only lens through which God can be clearly seen.

That which does not elevate humanity is on the spectrum of aligning with antiChrist, it is to demonise others as there is an agreement with the work of demons and it is human partnership is what empowers the demonic.

Humanity is elevated in creation – so much so that the Psalmist asks ‘what is humanity that you are mindful of them?’ (Ps. 2). Humanity is elevated through God’s identification with us in the Incarnation. He declares that humanity is the body through which God can be revealed. Humanity is elevated in the resurrection as it is not a spiritual declaration that there is life after death, but that a human body is raised from the dead, being declared to be the firstfruit of all creation. The final resurrection will indeed elevate humanity, and before that event the body of Christ (‘those in Christ’) are raised to a new level of sight.

John says in the passage following his comments on the spirit of antiChrist that ‘no one has ever seen God’, but then goes on to say, but ‘if we love one another, God lives among us’. I prefer to translate it as I have done, ‘among us’, rather than in an indivudal sense that he lives ‘in’ us. John uses the same phrase that is used in John 1:14 – he tabernacled ‘among us’ (ἐν ἡμῖν in both texts). God becomes visible among us when we love one another. When we live out what Jesus lived out his glory becomes visible.

Following this John goes on to say that as we love one another his love is perfected. That is the ‘perfect love’ that casts out all fear. It is not through someone’s hands and a prayer so that we are filled with the perfect love of God that casts out fear, but to live a life of love. That life lived out casts out all fear. Hence the fear narrative cannot be listened to by believers. The fear is used to dehumanise / demonise, and as we dehumanise we line up with the work of the demonic and increase their authority to oppress. If the ‘others’ react in a way that justifies our fear we have to ask if we have contributed to their behaviour.


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2 thoughts on “Wrong sight and we might partner with demons

  1. Timely and interesting Martin. Here’s my question. . . so how do we deal with these folk? Some context: I have just finished 3 years of litigation with 2 ‘Christians’ who insisted on dehumanizing myself and other innocent people involved in the situation. And they collected around themselves others who bought into that behaviour and acted it out on their behalf. I have a similar situation at work – a peer who insists on dehumanizing me. And certainly, academia, as an institution run on the business model these days, dehumanizes both teachers and students. So what do we do? I have tried various means. If it involves others, I try to stand between them and the abuser. Or, in the case of my classroom, I do all that I can to humanize the situation, treat students with respect and not as ‘revenue units’ (that is how administrators refer to students. . . not kidding)

    I have often insisted through whatever authority exists that I and others be treated with the respect due to another human being. But that requires constant intervention as there is often limited insight and therefore no change of behaviour. At other times, I have sought to call them to account and impose some sort of consequences to the abusive behaviour. Again, that is limited, as with a lack of insight, there is no real change to behaviour. In fact, I find such people, when countered, often escalate their dehumanizing and abusive behaviour as if daring you to continue to find ways to counter it. And of course, it is worse when an institutions sanctions and rewards such behaviour.

    I confess, over the years, I found this both expensive and depressing. I can assure you as the litigation comes to an end, the person who dehumanized me for 20 years learned nothing. Comments were made recently that were dismissive and contemptuous and exactly, practically word for word, comments made 20 years ago. Nothing learned in all that time. Not. One. Thing.

    What’s the answer? How should we deal with such people. Saying we should love them is nice but not an answer. What does it look like to love such a person? At this point, after years of it in a couple of spheres of my life, I’ve decided the real answer to these predators (and that is what they are) is to flee. Just get out. Avoid as much as possible. They do not learn. They do not change. So we who are their prey must do what is necessary to take care of ourselves and the other innocents involved.

    Do you have another approach because I would love to find something effective.

  2. Thank you for writing more about this issue I find it fascinating and an important revelation. It makes such sense when you explain that the demonic can be reinforced in another person when we dehumanise them and why that can happen and yet would not have thought about it in these terms if you had not pointed it out and explained it. Also how this is intertwined with Christ’s humanity so easily missed even when we go after things like signs and wonders or strategic prayer though good things if we fail to make Jesus the centre of them or forget that he is we/the church can easily miss the mark.

    In relation to this I remember that I recently had a dream where Jesus was in the house with me and I was so surprised at how ordinary and human he was. I expected to be blown away by his glory and majesty yet he just sat down with me and my family and interacted with us in a completely normal human way. I guess when he was on the earth he would have seemed this way a lot of the time.

    Lately I have been trying to ‘put on love’ and been intentional in being loving even when I don’t feel like it or am irritated by somebody. I found this helps and even though a bit forced in some respects does change how I feel. Not that I always succeed by any means but when I do it it helps me see the Jesus in people which will hopefully help me not to dehumanise anyone. I suppose this is basic stuff but I guess I have to go back to basics often!

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