Very serious

I have been (when was I not) thinking about the challenge to the powers and to the systems; elections all around the world are probably some indication as to whether there are ‘real shifts taking place’. Moves to the extremes (right or left) are not a good sign. We can read it as – and I do – a shaking and a sign of collapse beyond the polarities, nevertheless are we very serious about getting wholesome shifts? A note first on the collapse. Something that does not simply leave those with the power intact but marginalises yet further those who are disadvantaged I would consider a healthy shift (no, that is not a ‘socialist’ comment’ but in line with OT social legal instructions and the ethics of the NT). There is a collapse coming, I have no real sight as to when but for some 8-9 months I have been seeing even a day coming when the population of the earth will decline significantly, perhaps aligned to critical food shortages and pandemics that overlap. Harbinger of bad news? Simply a pessimist? Hope not – our hope is in the God who has never abandoned the planet that we were given jurisdiction for.

So how serious are we? I do believe that ‘money’ as we have it – founded on debt – is a manifestation of the infiltration of powers (mammon included) into our world. We have to find a new way in this battle area, where people who have power to buy and sell feel they have no option but to set profit as the bottom line. Some years back… probably almost 2 decades back I asked for those who were on the property ladder and well settled in to pray with me that we would see a rebalancing of prices, so for us in a privileged state we would be expecting our properties to reduce in value. I had no volunteers to join me. Maybe I was simply stupid. But I was serious about seeking to make a contribution. How serious are we? Checking how much our property has gone up in value, checking our pension funds (now what were they invested in again?) I don’t think indicates we are very serious about bringing about a shift, but are probably happy that we are benefiting from the status quo (as Gerald Coates said ‘Latin for “the mess that we are in” ‘). I am not so smart on things economic but can certainly say that on the property front that our personal bank account was affected. I don’t know how, but when I went to the bank, one I had been with for 30 years, to ask if I could open a mortgage with them, they looked at all my figures and said – you already have a mortgage with another bank, stay there, for given your figures we cannot offer you anything. In those few preceding years we had been able to help three separate people enter into the property market. God has a way.

I understand how anxieties arise, and if you are reading this and are struggling financially, this post is not for you. Not all Scripture is for all time nor for all people – ‘sell all you have’ was biblical for that one person. Anxieties are real, but many anxieties are not based in reality. Gayle and I could certainly not sell what we have in Spain and move back to what we once lived in – we could not even purchase half of it. It is irrelevant – we are not moving back today. If tomorrow we were to move back then, and only then, it would become a real issue.

Anxieties are real, but as they relate to the future they are very powerful, and powerful spiritually. Paul instructs us not be anxious about anything but that in everything we present our requests before God. We are to be people of the future, hence how we relate to the future is important. I do see the whole economic basis of debt (borrow from a future that has not yet happened) contributes to a present manifestation of war and the taking of life (including abortion). Maybe I am single issue focused, the same charge that is often brought against the evangelical wing of Christianity, but my single focus seems to me to be a very central focus of Scripture.

Maybe Jesus will return and bail us all out? However, as much as I pray maranatha, I also pray let your kingdom come on earth as in heaven. And it is seldom when contemplating the powers that the shift that takes place is in some realm distant to me. If the shift takes place within me I think the powers have to give way.

A discussion on the ‘atonement’

Pete Enns (very bad person and was ‘sacked’ cos he could not affirm inerrancy… so very BAD) is a very smart person but makes many things simpler for the rest of us and hosts podcasts on The Bible for Normal People and the one at the top of the list (Episode 273) is an interview with Jennifer Garcia Bashaw and gives helpful summaries on various theories on the atonement. A skim through summary. Maybe the most popular, penal substitution, gets zero votes and if you add my vote to hers then we have to work out the total of 0+0.

She leans heavily on what is becoming very popular – the end of scapegoating – interesting… my opinion – very attractive, but probably too influenced by a recent understanding that is read back (the scapegoat of the Day of Atonement does not operate in this way).

So, I am still pretty much sitting with the defeat of the powers – with the power of sin (singular, not the sum total of my sins plus yours) and death – being central to that. The work of God as human on our behalf (so not substitutionary and not dualistic of God and the devil in battle… so podcast guys, make a bit of a correction to the section where you talk of the weakness of Christus Victor being dualistic.

Old and young

Bad influences, avoid them at all costs… In a couple of months Richard and Christopher Hays (father and son) will publish a book that probably won’t come up with something totally innovative but will annoy the (theologically) conservative world because Richard’s previous writings were used to defend their position, often used as a quote… as Richard Hays says in The Moral Vision of the New Testament

There is already some response to the forthcoming book with one of the best quotes being

Unfortunately, I’ve seen young adult children turn their previously biblical parents toward heresy, not more than once — including a president of a Bible college.

‘Young adult children’… quite a comment!! Richard is 76 years old and I guess Christopher is around the 50 mark… and Jesus was reaching maturity in his early 30s. By the standards of the quote I hope I am deeply influenced in my thinking by a ‘young adult child’, the one who pioneered true faithfulness in God.

Seems the term as used in the quote is simply a convenient way to say ‘don’t read this book as I don’t agree / like the contents’. And I guess we all like to do that at times, to say ‘don’t confuse me with the facts’ or ‘I have everything buttoned down so don’t disturb my certainties’.

The other day I noted that I am getting older(!), that I am just passing beyond the category of being a ‘young adult child’, and crazily a big percentage of my time is as a sounding board (I will progress to ‘mentor’ once I am past middle-age) to those younger than me – with some of them being considerably older than Jesus was, and as someone older I do have a perspective on entering the last phase of life. Circumstances, health and some level of energy allowing that phase should be the most productive of all phases. I however observe that a number of people just seem to keep on with what they were always doing, occupying space so that the multiplication that should take place does not happen; possibly out of a fear of ‘redundancy’ they continue – the world has moved on, they have not, and they continue doing what they have always done but the effect and circle of influence become ever smaller, and often unresolved issues that busyness has kept covered / in check surfaces.

‘Be less visible and more effective’ that I think is the invitation for us who are no longer ‘young adult children’… and to be influenced and challenged by those who are ‘young adult children’.

I hardly think Richard (the father) has at this latter stage of his life is about to become a heretic (Stanley Hauerwas says of Richard Hays, ‘There are few people I would rather read for the actual exposition of the New Testament than Richard Hays’)… he might change some of his views and in doing so adopt something ‘in error’, for like us all when he does pass away he will not have sussed out everything – that is not our goal in life! Life is an adventure, it needs to be centred in on devotion to Jesus so that we do not simply meander and travel into unfruitful areas. But ‘knowing’ the truth as in propositions… no… and hence a vote for all those young adult children (probably in the 20-30 bracket, not the 50+ age group) to provoke, and a vote for those who are intent on making space as they seek to be less visible and yet more effective.

Rebuild the Temple

The early disciples had a strange relationship to the Jerusalem Temple for they seem to have continued to visit the Temple, so for example we read in Acts 3 that Peter and John were going ‘to the temple at the hour of prayer’. When Jesus had spoken about ‘not one stone remaining on another’ those words came as quite a shock to the disciples. The building was awesome, immense and impressive. The Temple was a subject of conversation among travellers within the Imperial world. ‘But have you seen the Temple in Jerusalem?’ would be a comment when a traveller was recounting what they had seen as they travelled across the Roman world. The Temple site occupied around 20% of the entire footprint of Jerusalem – this was not so much a city with a Temple (Canterbury with its cathedral is a city with a cathedral) but a Temple with surrounding buildings. The reference of Jesus to ‘my Father’s house has many [store-]rooms’ is based on the historic Temple with its many storehouses.

The shock of it coming down certainly indicated the end of the age, in our culture something like the detonation of an atomic bomb, with a significant before and after. The trauma of AD70 was intense… The great hope was of God delivering Jerusalem with many prophetic voices asking the people to stay firm. In the midst of the years of assault the Roman armies withdrew as Rome central was in crisis – imagine how those who believed the prophets would have rejoiced. However Jesus had warned about such ‘false prophets’ and once Rome stabilised they returned to finish the work and the end result was utter destruction. [I am deeply concerned that a considerable part of the prophetic movement globally is caught in that position currently – when I hear of ‘go back’, ‘God will vindicate’, or I read of the rejoicing when an intellectual proclaims a return to biblical foundations I get a tad worried, for the prophetic is not about yesterday but about tomorrow. Yesterday might stir faith but it is faith for ‘a new thing’. I see parallels between Jerusalem and today – the crisis we are in is to bring us through to something different, to landscape that is all-but unrecognisable.]

There is a hope for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem that is held to by some Zionists and Christians influenced by Dispensationalism, but seems so unlikely to me. There is no hope found in early Christian literature of the hope of the Temple being rebuilt that I am aware; Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple is never specified as being in a specific location, other than the city shall be called ‘The Lord is there’. Ezekiel’s vision fuels John’s vision in Revelation 21 of the New Jerusalem, the city that comes down with dimensions that fill the whole earth, and John says ‘I saw no Temple there’… The old Jerusalem was a Temple with a city around it, and any visitor would say ‘I saw the Temple’ for there was no way that one could visit the city and not see the Temple. John’s statement is in total contrast. A city without a temple! Or as we read we know the city is both a city and a temple. The eschaton has no hope of a third temple.

One final text that is quite powerful are the closing words of Matthew’s Gospel known as the Great Commission. Matthew begins his Gospel with the Genesis of Jesus Christ, he often then writes of Scripture being fulfilled, then comes to the close with the Great Commission:

Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Let any of those among you who are of his people—may the Lord their God be with them!—go up.

OH, did I get the wrong quote? Maybe not. The last words of the Writings (2 Chronicles) – the ‘Great Commission’ of king Cyrus, to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem… ‘Go to Jerusalem’ from the place of Exile, and may God go with you… OK here comes the quote,

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

The direction has always been the radical opposite, Jerusalem… to the ends of the earth, Jerusalem to all exilic places; temple building, but not with stones one upon another. Presence – now what does the Presence of God look like / feel like? The Presence is the evidence. Presence with, among not simply for people and certainly way beyond a power to act on people. There is a Temple being rebuilt, and maybe these next years will see a ‘temple’ that we are convinced will remain intact being removed one stone from another? I am not an iconoclast, but I do believe in a journey into the unknown, hence the promise of ‘I am with you always’ is so important.

Who knows?

Ignorance – something we seem to share in significant measure… and when we put it in relationship to heaven’s knowledge and wisdom, our ignorance will be seen as more than a significant measure!

I like to know things. I like to do something that I know is world changing(!) but always have to come home to rest with ‘that day will reveal all’. I have pointed out that once we take away the artificial chapter divisions that are immediately preceding the amazing prophecy of fall of Jerusalem / the Temple is the widow who puts her two coins into the Temple treasury both releases Jesus to prophesy and is a major catalyst to bring the Temple down (probably coupled to Judas’ monetary contribution). The sight I did not have on the widow was that she did not do her act as something ‘prophetic’, as something full of knowledge (Steve Watters – thank you!).

Now a bit of a jump to Paul’s words in Rom. 8:28

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (NRSV Updated edition… though not wholly happy with the translation this time!).

I like the NRSV because it tries to come at things without a bias, it should be more ‘evangelical’ in places, but also de-evangelicalises in parts where the language is more neutral… this time round it kind of goes back to the KJV(!!) with its ‘all things work together for good’ – a very fatalistic interpretation, so let’s correct that one first and bring it in line with most modern translations… God works all things together for good. Not ‘all things’ are what they should be, but we need to know that God is not passive. Craperoo at a personal, social and cosmic level exists… but God. what a place to start. God is involved in my life, my world and the world.

Let me (with all my expertise???) try a translation that might push a direction – and also one that might fit the wider context of the groan of creation just a little better (to those who want to follow along or simply be impressed the ‘original’ text as best we have it):

Οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι τοῖς ἀγαπῶσι τὸν θεὸν πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν,
τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιv.

We know that (a challenge to start – do I ‘know’ this) to those who love God (might be ‘with those who love God’) s/he works all things toward good (all things – normally used not of my personal circumstances but of the ‘all things’ of creation, probably indicating that God is working everything within the context of the whole of creation toward ‘good’… cf. to Genesis 1 – and saw that it was ‘good’), with those who are called according to [God’s] purpose.

Here we go… Creation and the redemption / restoration of creation is the ‘goal’ / eschaton we are headed toward, and in the same way as creation follows humanity (Genesis 1 – 3) so Paul indicates that now (fallen) creation is looking to those of God’s family for freedom, longing for the same freedom. In that context I think this verse sits… God’s purpose and focus is creation’s redemption, and the how is WITH those who are called. It is beyond FOR, and it is beyond my circumstances. It moves beyond the widow puts her two coins in the treasury and comes back home to find an incredible gift of 200 coins (a hundred fold) on her door step. Maybe… and we can declare ‘God looks after the widow’, or certainly we can declare that God has always instructed that we look after the widow… but it goes beyond the multiplication of coins to a process toward the good. The corrupt temple, with its exploitation through the ‘sacrificial’ system has to come down. [The Temple occupied approx 25% of the city; the many mansions / rooms in the place that was intended to be God’s house were mainly storehouses!] A process where God works with this (ignorant) woman toward good was unfolded. Ever since religion has sought to rebuild the temple… ever since we are provoked to both find the Presence of God and to take the Presence of God to the entire cosmos, to work with God so that the dwelling place for God might be in totality with the totality of humanity. If we align with that – with all our ignorance – then there is a release for God toward shifting all of creation toward what is truly ‘good’, a place of harmony, reconciliation. That can be at the personal level – many are ‘lost’ in the sense of not knowing who they are, are in conflict within themselves; at the relational level – many are ‘lost’ within their context… and of course at the cosmic level, and of course of course ‘lost’ in that they have never heard that ‘I/Thou’ question of ‘Martin where are you?’ the answer of which begins the journey with God.

All things might not line up for me so that I have the life I have always dreamed of (did Paul… ship wrecks, beatings, prison, despairing of life itself)… but in and through all the things where I respond so positively… and in the many areas where I do something that I think has no value (like the widow) makes a contribution to the future of this world. That great day will be beyond wonder – imagine the face of the dear widow that we read of (not to mention Judas’ face). I hope I have a few shocks too as I ask the question – but when did I visit you in prison, when did I give you a cup of cold water?

Who knows the value of our amazing contributions? But we know God works with us, with all our ignorance.

I am not elevating ‘ignorance’, I think we need simply to encourage one another to align with the future so that we might be included in those who God partners with – those who are called according to God’s purpose.

The contract

Years ago I read Renegotiating the Church Contract (author: James Thwaites) which gave an insight to how within the church there is often an unwritten contract between leadership and followers. This is more true within the charismatic and non-denominational brand of churches where the emphasis is on moving ahead, so ‘leaders’ are vital (my background). It is part of what is getting unravelled at this time, and the nature of unravelling is not a lot happens for a while as ends are pulled, then at a certain moment something gives and then the whole process speeds up enormously.

A sect is not a bad thing, for even followers of the way were sociologically a sect within Judaism, but it is when cultic elements make their presence and become established that the problems begin in earnest. Cults are deviant, but cultic elements can be present in all kinds of orthodox movements (and of course are often present in ‘secular’ corporations).

I am convinced that someone with 5% discernment could enter many organisations and without being given clues about the structure could soon establish who is part of the leadership, the aspiring leadership and the followers. I have sat in the distance observing some movements – one in particular that has entered the great unravel currently – and even from a distance can see that there was an unwritten contract in operation. Leaders who hold to a world view of the dangerous, evil world with a certain amount of conspiracy thrown in; followers who carry deep anxiety about the world so need to find safety which they find in the strength of the leaders who also helpfully carry something of an inside track on the path to the future. Made for each other. Make sure the ratio of leaders to followers continue at a level where the honour flows.

Same story over again and again. ‘We want a king… a king who will fight our battles for us’. Well there is a price to pay for that contract. This contract operates within the church and as it takes root it often then sets in motion something very unhealthy in the church / political realm.

I believe ‘the heart after God’ that was sought for in the successor to David is not so much the person who can pick up the harp as the one who will bring that contract to an end – to do so we might need to pick up the harp, write poetry, be reflective, rather than pick up the sword, shed blood and boast. Finally there was one who did just that, the son of David, the king of the Jews, the one who took all that to the cross:

Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (Matt. 27:37).

Jesus broke the contract, and from the depths ascended on high to pour out gifts, so that the entire body might come into a fullness. That fullness is not getting to the heights and forgetting the depths, it is filling all things from the depths to the heights. In that way the contract disappears.

Leadership is a gift (and it is difficult sometimes to get new words when old words have been filled with a different meaning) but when any level of cultism invades that gift – in whatever realm – the gift will only serve the system not the filling of all things. Cultism (like the desire for the king) flourishes in that in-between space; the ego within the ‘king to be’ needs to be suppressed so that s/he is not finding the baggage as a temporary hiding place but remains there till the ego gives way to sober self-identity; the desire for security within us all has to find a place of settlement that reluctantly knows we will have trouble but can find stillness within for Jesus has overcome

‘Not so among you’. Could it be?

Sects, cults, -ish and -arians

So if the article does not get your attention I hope the title does! I have an offspring who loves to tease me… dad of course we grew up in a cult, ‘I don’t think it is normal for the father to be casting out demons in the front room while we eat our dinner in the other room’. Still trying to work out who she means by ‘the father’. Please help me identify this strange character.

Sect… a sect is that which shares the beliefs of the wider community they are a part of, but they believe they are more faithful to that view. Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes all believe in the God of Israel but which the challenge was as to which of the approaches was the most faithful. Those Sadducees were just too liberal for the Pharisees, then within the Pharisees there were different schools – Hillel or Shammei, so of course not all Pharisees were in agreement. And the Essenes (assuming they are at Qumran) had had enough with that old Temple stuff, they were the true prophetic pioneers. Then comes the Nazarene followers… Sects have an ability to multiply!

Cult… deviant on core belief issues. Mormons – though when Mr Romney was a front runner it looked for a time that Mormonism might just be brought in under the ‘Christian’ label. A little fickle, methinks. JW’s, Seventh Day Adventism… the list goes on, but in the spirit of the member of my family, how far ‘off’ qualifies? Life in heaven in an eternal worship meeting? Penal substitutionary atonement? Any belief that holds to Christendom as the kingdom of God?

Secterian… now we are looking at an attitude toward others. I will separate myself from you because I judge you as in error. Thank God when I met all kinds of believers in churches that were ‘compromised’ in the 90s I soon realised that there were many rooms in ‘God’s house’ and I was no longer so sure that mine was not on the outskirts of it all! Now I meet all kinds of people who profess no faith I am on a different challenging path. All healthy for me. As I said to my professed atheist neighbour (and a softening one!) I with my faith might just be needing you more than you need me. A journey for him and for me.

Cultish… It is possible to part of main-stream and cultic. A cult is deviant belief-wise, but something cultic is deviant practice-wise and particularly with a focus on leadership structure and style. A common feature in a cultic scenario is the ‘hermes principle’ where there is no direct access to the leader (‘main gods’) but that there is a ‘Hermes’ character in place to interpret the god(s) and who has direct access to the divine counsel. [Paul and Barnabas encountered this, and many ‘apostolic’ movements embody this, hence many have a ‘Hermes’ figure system in place.]

I am still pretty much on the ‘sect’ trajectory… partly due to my understanding that it is only in the second half of life one becomes reflective. I am still ignoring all the blooded noses I have manifested to possess much ability to reflect. I am still running up the next hill proclaiming ‘this is the one’ only to find the answer to all things was not there… but the next mountain will definitely be the one. I don’t think though I am sectarian.

A cult… if it means to be deviant from the main core of our faith. No, No, No. Never possible! And cultic… I think I am innocent of that one or of giving my allegiance into something that is main stream but cultic.

So to all my offspring… no you did not grow up in a cult… and I am still focused on the front room activity (maybe – the jury is out) with a little more wisdom.

I am pretty stubborn but my defence is ‘I am where I am because of the journey I took and am far too young to harbour regrets’. That might render me not too smart, but am naively happy on the way.

The cross changes what?

A certain UK pastor was slammed a few years back for claiming that if one explained the cross to an ordinary run of the mill person as ‘God punished his Son so that he might not punish you (if you believe)’ the response would be that one has just described ‘cosmic child abuse’. There are nuances on the above presentation but something akin to that is standard for many evangelicals. Sin, guilt, justice, wrath, hell one side of the equation… Jesus in the middle being punished in our place… we can cross over.

What does the cross change? It certainly does not change God, it does not move God from wrathful to forgiving. In simple terms God does not need the cross in order to forgive us. ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’, Paul wrote. The cross does change us, but not in the simple way of being an example that we ‘see’ and then are moved by that love – the so-named moral-influence theory. It does that but that is not to touch the core. It certainly changes our subservience to the powers, the devil, sin as a power and death. Outpoured love sucks up all that is wrong, all rebellion, all domination. The cross – expressed as ‘Christus Victor’ – seems to centre there; but not one power proving to be bigger than the other (God is bigger than Satan) but as love conquers all.

God is love. Love is not simply an attribute of God but God is love. True love, love that gives, that flows for the other. The Trinity is love, a flow of love for the other; hence a hierarchical approach to the Trinity does not work. Love is eternal… Genesis 3 might be myth, but so deeply true – sin is not eternal (and even if we posit a pre-Satanic fall we still come to the same conclusion that sin is not eternal). It has a beginning and an end, sin is temporal. Although ‘battle’ as we understand is focused on ‘power and strength’ the key to overcoming in any situation is not to give up. Love does not ‘give up’, love is eternal, and the powers whether they be personal (Satan and demons) or personified (sin and death) are exhausted, nullified in the face of the cross.

The cross is the expression of the eternal nature of God within creation. That which had no beginning is expressed with a beginning – the Word became flesh; that through which (whom) all creation came became part of the creation. God becomes human. The cross is not a temporary fall of God from the place of power, but the temporal manifestation of the eternal God of love – hence ‘slain before the foundation of the world’.

The cross changes creation. The temporary sickness / poison within creation is drawn out to that event in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. The after-results are still taking place. Maybe we see those after-results clearly when someone finds faith, but so much more than ‘Jesus died for me on the cross’ occurred at the cross. Every healing is a sign, every deliverance a pointer… and as we move beyond a greater Power over power to the presence of love, one wonders what can happen. I am all for confrontation and have enough bruises to illustrate that approach… but if I (and a few others (ekklesia)) could align with the eternal nature of the cross the inevitable response would be a manifestation of resurrection.

There is a before and an after with the cross. Forgiveness of sins is part of the before (after all God even covered the sins of the first murderer, not demanding justice or compliance to ‘the law’) in the sense of forgiveness for what someone had done that was wrong. There is an after to the cross… an empty tomb, death conquered.

The cross changed creation. By faith I was told one received the forgiveness of sins… maybe by faith I need to see the boundless possibilities of the cross, possibilities that one day will be a reality. I see a new heaven and a new earth.

Something and nothing

Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Cor. 8:4,5).

What exists? Does Satan exist? Demons? Principalities and powers? Maybe / maybe not. Let me assume for a moment that the devil is not a ‘personal’ entity. I can certainly understand the arguments for that position, yet regardless of the position taken the conflict is real; if demons do not exist as personal entities our commission is still to cast them out! I have had personal visitations from powers that have manifested in personal form and I remember one from my first visit to a particular nation. Manifesting in personal form I still remember the eyes, the stance with NO nervousness nor intimidation she informed me of where she was situated and what she controlled and nothing was going to change! The experience was real, the after-effects were real enough, certainly when I was literally evicted from the country, escorted by four armed guards back on to the airplane; I was, and remain, convinced of the reality of the conflict. But did ‘she’ exist as a personal entity? And if so from back in time as one of the devil’s fallen angels?

There are so many experiences, but theologising from experience is never wise… nor is developing a theology without reference to experience.

In writing about what I believe it becomes evident that there are many, many gaps as I do not have things tied up. It does seem certain to me that there are beliefs that ‘create’ powers. This creative power is very evident in the more extreme form of conspiracy theories that abound. In believing something I give power to the thing I believe exists, even if it does not exist. Paul seems to be wrestling with this aspect. There are no gods beside the one God… but there are gods and lords.

Earlier in 1 Corinthians Paul has said that,

God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to abolish things that are (1 Cor. 1:28).

‘To abolish’ (καταργέω) carries a wide range of meaning from literally to obliterate / annihilate through to render inoperative. That leaves us some possible options. And my non-dogmatic response is that there are spiritual entities (or at least the presence of spiritual presences that manifest as entities) that we ‘create’ through our beliefs, and beyond that there probably are ‘fallen spiritual beings’ that exist and get attached to what we create, behind which seems to be ‘the Satan’. [The story of the demons going in to the pigs seem to suggest that they were at some level ‘beings’ independent of the Gadarene gentleman.] So perhaps the wide range of meaning seems appropriate. Abolish what we create, thus giving no / less space for spiritual powers (demons) to operate thus rendering them inoperative.

Beliefs get us so far… our stance (‘stand’ being such a strong word in Ephesians 6) and our prayers are there to bring solutions that our beliefs might never be able to do.