I know the title is pretty inflammatory and I’m deliberately exaggerating this part of what was taught in Sunday school today because it’s one of those things about the Church that really bugs me.
Here’s what started it all off:
Give some ways Satan supplies us with reasons and circumstances to justify ignoring God’s counsel?
-from Sunday School class notes
for August 10th
The context of this teaching is Pastor Randy’s sermon on Acts 27:13-44 and particularly the circumstances leading up to the fateful shipwreck of Paul and his traveling companions on the island of Malta. Dean, the Sunday school teacher, is focusing on Acts 27:13-15 and the moment when everyone on board ship realized that they should have listened to Paul’s advice and not tried to push on from Fair Haven to Phoenix (Crete).
Coincidentally (or not), on Saturday I was reading Ismar Schorsch’s commentary on Torah Portion Vaethanan from his book Canon Without Closure: Torah Commentaries called “The Locus of Evil in Judaism.”
Schorsch wrote his small article in July 1996 and recorded two tragic events that had recently happened. The first one is:
On the first anniversary of the bomb blast that erased 168 lives in the Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, the New York Times ran a front-page photograph of Jannie Coverdale, who had lost two grandsons. She posed between twin beds, each covered with stuffed animals, holding a portrait picture of each boy toward the camera. Beneath the photograph, the Times quoted her as saying: “A year ago this week, Satan drove up Fifth Street in a Ryder truck. He blew my babies up. He may have looked like a normal man, but he was Satan.”
-Schorsch, pg 592
And the second one is:
When Susan Smith in South Carolina sent her two small boys to their watery death strapped into the child safety seats inside her Mazda, her minister, Reverend Mark Long, speculated that she was witness to two presentations that night: “God made her a presentation and Satan made her a beautiful presentation.” After weighing them in her distraught mind, she opted for Satan’s.
I don’t know about you, but when I read this, the “red alert” alarm started going off in the back of my head, but maybe not for the reason you think.
In moments of numbness, I envy the clarity and conviction of these statements. The explicit dualism seems able to account for the ubiquity of evil, that tragic aspect of human experience that defies comprehension — as in the words of the young Augustine before his conversion, “I sought whence evil comes and there was no solution.”
I was caught somewhat off guard in Schorsch’s apparent agreement with such Christian sentiments, however understandable they may be, but then he added:
Yet this view is also thoroughly un-Jewish.
Christianity and Judaism have fundamentally different perspectives on the nature of the origin of good and evil, and Judaism does not embrace what Christians call “Original Sin” or “the Fall” in any aspect. I won’t try to present a detailed analysis here, but I do want to offer the part of Schorsch’s commentary I presented in class:
The Torah never speaks of Satan, for that would compromise its austere monotheism as affirmed by the Shema, but only of a heart that is hardened or uncircumcised. The culprit lies within.
-ibid, pg 594
The class became momentarily confused after I stopped talking but quickly reoriented around Dean’s original question and started describing all the bad things Satan has done to them. I even added the following for good measure but it didn’t help:
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
–James 1:14-15 (NASB)
While other parts of the Apostolic Scriptures refer to the Adversary, here James (Jacob), the brother of the Master says “when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust,“ not by Satan or some evil external force that enticed him.
This was the only item in the Sunday school notes I intended on addressing and seeing how my point fell flat on its face, I decided to remain silent for the rest of the class time. But when discussing Acts 27:27-32, one of the questions was:
What proper role do our efforts play in God’s will for us?
Fortunately, people were able to articulate that we actually do have a role, we have things to do, we have stuff we must achieve, even though God doesn’t need our help. We are responsible.
That’s what I was trying to say. One of the fellows in class referred back to my comment when discussing “our efforts” and I was grateful. Someone got it.
It’s just that the Adversary gets a lot of credit, too much in my opinion, when things foul up in the life of a Christian.
I know this is a ridiculous example, but it appeared in my local newspaper and I think deserves a mention:
Last December, Alexander Gonzalez Garcia blamed Satan for causing him to molest a 12-year-old girl in a storage room at the Nampa Seventh-Day Adventist Church where he served as a deacon.
from “With church response: Ex-deacon in Nampa sentenced to prison for molesting girl”
The Idaho Statesman
No, I don’t think anyone at the church I attend would fail to hold this person responsible for his acts of sexual abuse and go directly to Satan, but I don’t doubt they’d see Satan as involved.
But whatever happened to personal responsibility? Whatever happened to being accountable for your own sins. Whether you are tempted by an evil supernatural entity or your own human character flaws are getting in the way, the result is the same. You have a choice to make. You either choose God’s will or your will.
Pastor Bill was in Sunday school class and when I mentioned looking at the guy in the mirror rather than pointing the finger at Satan when life turns to doggie doo, he looked momentarily startled and said we had three enemies: Satan, the world, and our sin nature. I popped right back that it was our own nature that’s our first and worst enemy. I think he nodded “yes,” but I’m not sure. Christianity pays a lot of attention to an entity we’re supposed to stay as far away from as possible. Maybe we’re giving him more credit (and along with it, more “glory”) than we ought to.
Instead of focusing on the author of evil in our lives, how about we cleave to the author of all that is good.
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
–James 1:12 (NASB)
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day.
–Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (JPS Tanakh)
…but also the appearance of the Shema in this week’s parashah. I wish to draw your attention to but a single phrase — al levav’kha, “upon your heart” — at the end of verse 7 in chapter 6.
The function of the verse is to speak of the heart as the locus of our unbounded love for God. More concretely, we are instructed to articulate that love by embracing God’s commandments. Our lifelong challenge is to internalize a set of beliefs, values, and actions that is not self-generated, to take what feels alien and unnatural for us and make it our own. The words “upon your heart” identify the scene of battle. It is within the hidden confines of the human heart that our impulses frustrate our ideals. The blood-stained pages of history are but a mirror of our conflicted hearts. To quote Jeremiah, “Most devious is the heart; it is perverse — who can fathom it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
-Schorsch, pg 593
I regret that it is not appropriate for me to recite the Shema daily or even on Shabbat because Schorch is describing a human battle, not just a Jewish battle. But God has promised the House of Judah and the House of Israel that one day it will be possible for them to win that battle.
“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
–Jeremiah 31:33 (NASB)
Through a rather long and not easily understood process, I have learned that the New Covenant God will make with Israel, that is, the Jewish people, will also apply its blessings to the people of the nations who cleave to the God of Israel through faith in the Messiah who Paul called “rich root of the olive tree.” (Romans 11:17)
I look forward to that day when my heart will be circumcised and His Word will be written on it. I grow so very tired of having to deal with myself every day as the person I am. The battle is hard, and it’s been going on far too long, and I only have myself to blame.
35 thoughts on “What I Learned In Church Today: The Devil Made Me Do It”
Hope all is well James! I totally agree with your article. It’s still a struggle trying to explain this to my family, we come from a strong evangelica baackground. It’s almost like satan is omnipresent and he is always being rebuked for just about anything….. it’s weird. Without realizing it, most Christians believe that satan is an opposing god which would be heretical!
Our worst enemy is ourselves, we must choose daily to live according to G-d’s standard and not that of our own selfish ways and lust. That is what living a crucified life is all about.
Great article again brother James! Peace!
Thanks. Yes, I agree. It’s tough to get this message across.
When you say ‘Torah’ you are referencing the first five books, right? I ask that because Job clearly speaks of an adversary/Satan. I have also understood that the serpent in the garden is Satan.
In 2 Cor. 2:11….so we will not be taken advantage of by the Adversary(Satan)-for we are quite aware of his schemes. One day when I read that I responded, “L-rd, I am not aware of his schemes. Help me to understand.” thought-what does satan want?( Isaiah 14:12-14) worship. Satan is the master of religion. He knows how to counterfeit the truth. Power. What satan can’t get through deception, he will get through force. Government is force/power. Notice satan offered the kingdoms of this world in the temptation in the wilderness.
Please do not misunderstand that I am anti-government. G-d gave us government for the sake of order, but that doesn’t mean satan doesn’t seek to own it and control it. No, most sins are of our own evil inclination.
Hey, some Catholic leaders tried to blame the world (maybe that was their go-to as priests shouldn’t be susceptible to Satan) for their child molestation problems [and cover ups of that]. Yet, it was still argued they should be left to handle their own situation as it was a Church matter (theoretically not for outsiders to have anything to do about).
@Cynthia: When I quote Schorsch who says the Torah doesn’t mention HaSatan then yes, I mean the Pentateuch for the first five books of the Bible (though Schorsch is probably factoring in Talmud as well). The Jewish point of view on the serpent in the Garden is somewhat different than in Christianity, since the serpent is only directly associated with the Satan in the Apostolic Scriptures.
The Book of Job mentions the Adversary but of course, Job himself was unaware of the transaction between God and Satan at the beginning of the book. From Job’s point of view as well as his companions, they were trying to find a source directly connected with Job’s behavior to explain his problems.
In the end, when Job questioned God about it, God’s basic answer was that He doesn’t owe His creations an explanation.
My message in today’s “meditation” is not to deny the existence or influence of the Adversary, but to refocus our attention on our personal responsibilities for our behavior. When things go wrong, the first place we should look is in the mirror. After that, we can look elsewhere.
@Marleen: Sin is sin. Yes, we can be tempted by an external influence but we also are imperfect creatures who are capable of disobeying God and hurting other people all by ourselves. Just look at David and Bathsheba. There’s no mention of Satan influencing David and causing him to sin in multiple ways. It was all David’s doing and David’s responsibility.
The Hebrew word “satan” literally means “adversary” and in Jewish thought one of the things we struggle against every day is the “evil inclination,” also known as the yetzer hara. The yetzer hara is not a force or a being, but rather refers to mankind’s innate capacity for doing evil in the world.
Judaism is so strictly monotheistic that the rabbis resisted the temptation to characterize anyone other than God with authority. Rather, God is the Creator of both good and evil and it is up to mankind to choose which path they will follow. IMHO using the ‘Satan made me do it’ excuse is just lack of responsibility for our own choices.
Yes, but trying to explain all that to an Evangelical audience tends to make them “uncomfortable,” Pat.
G-d is in total control. Even in the story of Job, satan can only do what G-d allows him. The real battle is right within ‘ourselves’, the battle against our own urges and evil inclination. “Choose this ‘day’ whom you will serve”,… yes, we must choose today, everyday to serve G-d.
To quote Dennis Prager, “The greatest struggle in life is with yourself.
I agree with you and Prager.
Sunday School student: “The devil gets his hand into everything, just the other day during a storm when I was writing a paper for class that was due tomorrow on my desktop, the power shut off! I knew it was the devil. He didn’t want me to complete my paper”
James: ” Interesting, if I can ask, how did you know it was the devil and not possibly a lightning strike due to the storm?”
Sunday School student:” Well I figured Jesus threw satan down from heaven again because He said ‘I watched satan come down like lightning'”.
James: “Ahhh I see, I’ll “meditate” on that…………”Today in church I learned, satan stops people from finishing papers from class …….”
In all seriousness: Here’s a helpful way I explain evil and its purpose, much like how a child would explain it.
the evil “He” creates is for good
the swimming pool has nice water,
the swimming pool has chlorine
water is good to swim
chlorine is good to water
chlorine is good to swim in the swimming pool
chlorine is evil to drink from swimming pool
chlorine is good to water
water is good to drink
chlorine is salt
does it make any sense?
The “Sah-tan” is a limited being that is used solely for the Divine plan. Much like Gabriel is a limited being solely for the purpose of the Divine plan. Nothing more nothing nothing less. The 3 visitors who came to Avraham show you how divine messengers operate. One was sent to Speak to Avraham, The other was sent to save Lot, the other was sent to Destroy the judged cities.
Obviously all beings wether good or evil have different levels of “power” or “authority” not all are created equal. No different as seen on earth. The sah-tan could be considered the General of the Army (This highest rank available in the US Army) but the GoA is outranked by the President of the USA.
Kudos to you noble james for sticking with this church adventure to be a light to those who can’t see.
It’s interesting that you put it that way, Bruce.
One of the guys in class said that at work, his computer sometimes slows down and he takes it as either a sign from the Holy Spirit that he’s worked too long and needs to go home, or that Satan is trying to prevent him from getting his work done.
When he said that, I added something like, “or there’s something wrong with your computer.”
I also mentioned that classic phrases attributed to Freud: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
I also would like to clarify my last comment, I didn’t make that statement to appear as a know it all or that the church is dumb or so spiritualized beyond the point of no return. I DON’T know it all and I would be arrogant to portray such……..
It could be the memory on the individuals computer, if they have memory intensive applications open and not adequate memory the system will bog trying to re-allocate resources, which will effect system resources.
What’s more interesting is that we or that student couldn’t discern between a force of evil a force of good or just discern that the computer could be the problem. The being Sah-tan is well versed in Scripture but its failure is that it cannot properly convey the message of scripture. Sah-tan is the inventor of the lie (John 8:44) and misuses scripture (at verse 6) citing Psalm 91:11-12 out of its context. Anyone who uses scripture out of context can be considered a sah-tan. Peter was a sah-tan at one point.
The reason you tripped walking down the side walk, was because an angel slapped you in the back of the head… 😛
Each of us gets tested and tempted on a regular basis. If it were not so, Yehoshua would not have included in His prayer example to the Disciples…”Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil…”
I know there is an Adversary that loves to put thoughts in my mind that get in my way…but it is my job to battle that thought. Thus are we strengthened through testing and temptation by resisting the ideas put into our minds.
I also know that YHVH is in control of that Adversary, and that I can ask for help and deliverance. But the Adversary is still a reality…a fallen servant of G-d, who winds up in the Lake of Fire.
Don’t completely undermine the reality of evil.
“The Jewish point of view on the serpent in the Garden is somewhat different than in Christianity, since the serpent is only directly associated with the Satan in the Apostolic Scriptures. ”
Which raises the question – do we base our beliefs on “the Jewish” point of view” or on the “Apostolic Scriptures” (written by the Jewish Apostles of the Jewish Messiah)?
@Questor: I’m not. I’m just trying to balance the scales.
@Onesimus: Your question is worded such that it could be interpreted as Jews don’t have a good understanding of the Bible but Christians have an understanding that’s so perfect that we always know what the Bible really means. The reality as I see it is that both Judaism and Christianity tend to filter scripture through an interpretive matrix based on institutional traditions. We spend all our lives struggling to understand God and straining to hear the tiny whisper of the Holy Spirit against all the background noise of our human natures.
I wasn’t kidding when I said I can’t wait for that circumcised heart and the fullness of the Spirit to be poured out over me.
Evil is absolutely real, and it is personified in Satan. He does things and has an agenda. But we’re the ones who make the choices. We do the things, we respond to the temptation. God doesn’t make us do anything, and Satan is not the equal and opposite of God, so he definitely doesn’t control us. We can open ourselves up more and more to his evil influence in the choices that we make, but the responsibility is still on our shoulders. Totally with you there.
Related to this, I do think that it’s important to ask God for discernment and strength in dealing with Satan. Again, he’s not the equal of God; he not omnipresent, omniscient, etc. But he does do all he can to scare and hurt us. When that happens, we need to turn to God and ask for His protection and a reminder of His real presence and activity in our lives.
Satan is a defeated chump. We need to remember that. Jesus won!
James, you earlier made the distinction between Jewish thinking and what is contained within the (Jewish) Apostolic writings. Clearly those Jews who reject the legitimacy of the (Jewish) Apostolic writings will have limited understanding of the whole revelation given by God. So why heed that limited Jewish understanding above the further revelation of the (Jewish) Apostolic writings?
And again you bring up that stuff about “interpretive matrix based on institutional traditions” and you then say something about “straining to hear the tiny whisper of the Holy Spirit…”
In the past I’ve tried and tried again to make this clear….
How small is God? How small is He that He can’t make Himself known to those who truly desire Him and his truth? Is He totally incapable of being heard above all other distractions by those who want to hear Him?
It is not a matter of Him being unable to be heard – it’s more a matter of whether we want to hear or whether we prefer those other distracting voices above His.
If anyone continues to give heed to an “interpretive matrix based on institutional traditions” their understanding will continue to be affected by it.
If you genuinely “can’t wait for that circumcised heart and the fullness of the Spirit to be poured out over [you]” then ask Him for it NOW – don’t keep thinking of it and expecting it to be something future..
There have been apt of comments since, so this might be lost in the tide,but, James, I just thought it was weird they wanted to blame the world when they think they are masters of the world.
Not “apt” (where’d that come from, sheesh)… “a lot” of…
Reviewing the apt or many comments, I’m not sure there has to be a “the” — in fact I’m sure there doesnt have to be and isnt. But an aim at balancing, as you put it, is appreciated.
@Marie: I don’t deny the existence of supernatural evil in the world, I simply want to point out that human beings with our sin nature are quite capable of messing things up on our own. I am deeply concerned that some Christians avoid taking personal responsibility for their behavior by blaming in external tormentor all of the time.
@Tim: God can make Himself well understood but I don’t believe he overrides the nature of our own humanity. If He did, then all believers would believe exactly the same things in exactly the same way. The fact that we do not means there must be some “interference” between what God is saying and what we are hearing.
@Marleen: As Shakespeare once wrote, the fault is not in the stars but in ourselves.
As per this last response to Tim, even if there are people who do understand what God is saying, there will still be people who don’t have clarity for any variety of reasons. I don’t think the fact that people disagree or there are multiple congregational styles or denominations is reason not to believe God is available. Let God be true and anyone else a liar [a theoretical statement not meaning everyone is a liar].
I do think the point is very important, to start, that even if you still believe there is confusion all around and you can’t be sure of things, or no one can, it’s not really fitting to counterpose “the” Jewish way of thinking against another Jewish way of thinking (as if the other isn’t Jewish). This demotes those Jews who value it as not really Jewish people. And, on another level, it doesn’t actually go with not being sure.
you said, “Evil is absolutely real, and it is personified in Satan. He does things and has an agenda. But we’re the ones who make the choices. We do the things, we respond to the temptation. God doesn’t make us do anything, and Satan is not the equal and opposite of God, so he definitely doesn’t control us. We can open ourselves up more and more to his evil influence in the choices that we make, but the responsibility is still on our shoulders.”
I’m not trying to make this difficult or anything but i must stress again that satan ‘cannot’ be tempting you and me at the same time. He’s only one being and therefore can’t be everywhere. Our worst enemy is our own evil inclination for we have free choice. How do we know if satan is tempting us every time something goes wrong or some unfortunate evil happens?
“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” -James 1:14-15.
I do believe that is why this ancient Adversary is sometimes depicted as the leader of an army of additional disobedient angels (aka “demons”), who cooperate to promote an agenda of deceit among humans, effectively “whispering into the ears” all manner of false beliefs. This is the sort of worldview that appears in “religious fantasy” apocryphal books like Enoch and is referenced in a few instances in the apostolic writings. While these references should not be taken as if they were meant literally, as if that worldview were actually true, they do represent a popularly familiar notion in first-century Jewish culture, much as modern culture is familiar with references to various sci-fi series like StarTrek and Stargate, or the StarWars films. Nonetheless, they represent a first-century pop-philosophy explanation of the problem of temptation and the human tendency to deny personal responsibility for the selfishness that brings forth errors and unsuitable desires.
However, I believe that Yacov ben-Yosef expressed a more accurate explanation in the verse you cited (Jam.1:14-15).
James said: “Tim: God can make Himself well understood but I don’t believe he overrides the nature of our own humanity. If He did, then all believers would believe exactly the same things in exactly the same way. The fact that we do not means there must be some “interference” between what God is saying and what we are hearing”.
Yes James, there is “interference between what God is saying and what we are hearing”
People drown His voice out with countless other voices. They prefer to have someone else to do the explaining and interpreting for them instead of putting their trust in God and seeking Him themselves.
It is a choice. Do we REALLY want the truth or are we satisfied to have the truth filtered through “interference” so we receive a distorted version of it?
PL said: “and is referenced in a few instances in the apostolic writings. While these references should not be taken as if they were meant literally…”
Of course not – why take anything in scripture literally when we can twist it into an allegory, or a symbol, or something else that means anything other than what is actually being said.
Why accept scripture’s clear meaning when we can obscure it or dismiss it by turning it upside down and spinning it round three times until it can be made to fit a preferred theological viewpoint?
My dear “O” — You asked why some passages of scripture are not to be taken at their literal apparent face value. The answer is quite simple: these writings are not as simple as they sometimes appear. There is a cultural background that influenced how this literature was constructed. And Rav Yeshua himself was a rabbi who used metaphor and story in order to convey his messages, some of which were deliberately obscure in order to require his listeners to think. They would not understand his message if they listened only superficially; but only if they really wished to examine what he said and why he said it in certain ways would the purpose of it become clearer. So it is also for us, living thousands of years distant, in another place and time and cultural milieu entirely. Modern Jews are perhaps a little less distant, if we have immersed ourselves into our traditional culture and literary environment. But even we must work at grasping some of this meaning, using all the analytical and cogitational and meditational tools at our disposal.
Someone with no knowledge of the fictional StarTrek universe would not understand that stories of the early history and social development of Vulcan were not to be treated merely as entertainment with some intellectual value. They would be quite mistaken to think of them as someone’s literal history, or that artifacts such as the “Kishara” actually exist. But these stories reflect a literary genre in which human attitudes and behavior are examined indirectly, and modern conversation is sometimes laced with informal or indirect references to events or persons in such literature, because they provide convenient illustrations of some point. So it is also with some of the apocryphal literature that is informally referenced in Rav Yeshua’s invocation of a post-death scenario of Lazarus and the rich man who wished he could cross a great abyss to bring him a drop of water or to warn his still-living relatives.
Recognizing and analyzing such aspects of the apostolic literature is not twisting or distorting them to fit some pre-conceived theological agenda. It is rather a matter of “rightly dividing the word of truth” (cif: 2Tim.2:15 KJV). I am not advocating an Augustinian revisionism or spiritualization of references to literal (particularly Jewish) realities into mere universalistic allegories. To paraphrase Freud: sometimes a cigar is just a cigar [rather than a phallic dream symbol]. But we cannot dismiss the existence of symbolism and metaphor where they do appear.
PL said: “But we cannot dismiss the existence of symbolism and metaphor where they do appear.”
Of course not – but scripture is very clear when such things are being used (if they are not already very obvious, such as Jesus saying “I AM the door”.) – and very often scripture will give the interpretation of what those symbols/ metaphors mean,
The clear danger comes when we claim “it’s only a metaphor/symbol” when the clear meaning contradicts something we want to believe.
Tim, the first and greatest source of interference between a person and God is the person. Granted, we can be mislead by bad teachers, leaders, and authors who push bad theology and doctrine, but not all teachers, leaders, and commentators are bad.
Let’s consider you for a moment. Assuming you practice what you preach, then you are a spirit-led Christian who rightly interprets scripture through the Holy Spirit. You also blog. No one blogs unless he or she wants their blog to be read and believes they have content worth sharing. I can only believe you want to share the insights about the Bible you have gleaned through the Holy Spirit. If you think that people should only have a Bible and the Holy Spirit, then why bother to read blogs? Why bother to have group Bible studies? Why bother to even talk to each other about the Bible? What if we are mislead in those interactions and conversations? Egad!
Like I said on another blog regarding the inspiration of the Holy Spirit vs Christian community, “Is it too much to ask for both?”
“If you think that people should only have a Bible and the Holy Spirit, then why bother to read blogs? Why bother to have group Bible studies? Why bother to even talk to each other about the Bible? What if we are mislead in those interactions and conversations?”
James I don’t know how many times that I have to give you a reply to those kinds of question and their inference. I have said that fellowship and interaction with other believers is essential. And I said EXACTLy that on the other blog you refer to. To quote what I said there:
”Christian fellowship is important, whether that involves being part of formal church gatherings or meeting informally with other believers in the name of Jesus – GENUINE INTERACTION with other Spirit led believers (not merely attending church services) helps us to keep each other on track instead of veering away into our own strange beliefs.
The Spirit will not contradict Himself by teaching contradictory things to different people”
My objection has always been to the practice of NOT addressing scripture PERSONALLY. I object to the practice of ONLY addressing scripture via the teaching of others, whether it is via commentaries, study bibles, sermons or any other teaching. If you avoid reading and studying scripture for yourself WITHOUT constantly referring to a commentary or some other “interpretive” aid then you are guaranteed to be misled sooner or later.
My objection is to people trusting all of those human resources INSTEAD OF trusting the Holy Spirit to teach them.
Read the Bible by itself, without referring to commentaries etc., ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding of what you are reading in scripture and be prepared to wait for that understanding. Don’t try to shortcut everything by rushing to find a book or a sermon to give you answers NOW.
And when you believe you’ve come to some understanding of what you’ve read, wait for confirmation or correction of that understanding – which can come from a variety of sources, often from that above mentioned interaction with other believers.
The difference is starting with scripture without the influence of other people’s opinions, and trusting that GOD is able to open up scripture to you through the Holy Spirit as HE promised.
I don’t deny that there is an actual entity whom G-d created named hastatan (the adversary), nor do i deny the existence of demons which are Biblical and both Jewish commentators as well as Christians validate this fact. For example, the Talmud is replete with references to sheidim (demons). The Rabbonim even had conversations with them (see Chullin 105b), provided a way to see them (Berachot 6a), overheard them (Succa 28a) and established laws bassed on their existence (Berachot 3b and Pesachim 100b).
“Our Rabbis taught: Six things are said concerning demons; in regard to three, they are like the ministering angels; and in regard to three like human beings. In regard to three they are like ministering angels: they have wings like ministering angels; and they fly from one end of the world to the other like ministering angels; and they hear from behind the Veil like ministering angels. And in regards to three, they are like human beings: they eat and drink like human beings, they propagate like human beings, and they die like human beings. – (Hagigah 16a)
“Our Rabbis taught: there are three reasons why one must not go into a ruin: because of suspicion of falling debris and of demons [sheidim]… To one [person] an evil spirit may show itself and harm him; to two it may show itself, but without harming them; to three it will not even show itself.” (Berakoth 3a)
Above I sadi: “The clear danger comes when we claim “it’s only a metaphor/symbol” when the clear meaning contradicts something we want to believe.”
I should have added:
OR if the clear meaning tells us something we don’t want to believe.
Appealing to “it’s a symbol/metaphor” can be a convenient way of avoiding uncomfortable truths.