The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Fighting For God's Nonviolence. (Richard Murray's approach.)


#1

[Admin note: Richard Murray has made his 2014 book, which the article ref’d by Hermano below presages, available for free download later in this thread. It can be downloaded here]

Certain Bible passages inarguably present God as violent. And people everywhere are troubled by the idea of a God who must resort to violence to accomplish his will, and to be appeased. As you know, some people altogether reject the Bible and/or the God of the Bible, because therein God appears bloodthirsty; e.g., in the Old Testament, the Genesis Flood; in the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira, the Book of Revelation.

I grew up thinking (at least subconsciously) that God was bipolar, or maybe even schizophrenic. He was loving and gracious, but could become angry and violent. However, I finally noticed that it is actually Satan who has the power of death, not God (Hebrews 2:14, John 10:10).

Satan = stealing, killing, destroying. Jesus = life abundant.

With the Bible as our standard, how can we successfully contend that God is nonviolent? Among members of The Evangelical Universalist forum, I note support for the writings of René Girard, the esteemed French-born philosopher. I am a newbie in this forum, but I question whether his explanation of God’s nonviolence is the correct alternative.

In brief, if I am getting it right, (I’m not well-read on him), Girard teaches that the cause of violence is attributable neither to God nor to Satan, but only to human sinfulness:

“…The scapegoat mechanism is the origin of sacrifice and the foundation of human culture, and religion was necessary in human evolution to control the violence that can come from mimetic rivalry, and [the] Bible reveals these ideas and denounces the scapegoat mechanism.” (From Wikipedia. And here is a short discussion on Girard’s “Theory of Violence, Religion and the Scapegoat” at jeramyt.org/papers/girard.html)

Furthermore, I understand from Michael Hardin and Kevin Miller that “Girardians” do not recognize Lucifer/Satan as a literal person, possessing a mind, will, and emotions. Angels like Gabriel and Michael as real people? Yes. Fallen angels as real people? No. I also understand they believe all evil in the world originates in the human heart. (Am I right on that?)

I think we depersonalize “The Satan” at our peril, and that we should seek alternative explanations in order to contend for God’s nonviolence.

So if the Girardians—whom I respect for upholding God’s goodness—are wrong about Satan, how else might we interpret Bible passages that present God as violent? I believe there is another approach to this problem that will make the great news of UR even greater!

Accepting that Satan (‘the prince of the power of the air,’ ‘the god of this world,’ ‘the evil one in whose power the whole world lies,’ etc.) is indeed a real spirit being and a genuine person, what if, through ignorance, the writers of Scripture sometimes confused Satan’s voice and actions with God’s voice and actions?

I am requesting you to please first read, and then focus your comments on, the following mind-blowing defense of God’s nonviolent goodness:

“SATAN: Old Testament Servant Angel or New Testament Cosmic Rebel?” published by the Clarion Journal, and found at http://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2013/11/satan-old-testament-servant-angel-or-new-testament-cosmic-rebel-by-richard-murray.html

Author Richard Murray is a criminal defense attorney outside Atlanta, and holds a Masters of Practical Theology from Regent University.

I am sure we can agree that blaming God for satanic oppression, e.g., disaster, poverty, sickness, is an error of misattribution. Effective spiritual warfare must begin with purging from our understanding of God all that is angry, violent, unloving, or legalistic; in short, we must purge Satan out of our view of God.

We can do this by means of what Murray calls “The Jesus Hermeneutic." Simply put, this hermeneutic holds that all Scripture must be interpreted according TO and BY the revealed nature of Jesus. The revelation of Jesus IS the revelation of the nature of God.

A note to Girardians:

Richard Murray has publicly debated his friend Michael Hardin on the ontology of Satan.

Please visit Murray’s Facebook page at facebook.com/richard.murray.1840,
and his web page at thegoodnessofgod.com/

A note on the views of Greg Boyd:

Last summer, I sent the original version of the Murray article to renowned theologian Greg Boyd (an annihilationist), and he kindly but succinctly responded:

“…My own approach (in the forthcoming Crucifixion of the Warrior God) to this problem isn’t all that different from Murray’s….”

I am not well-read on Boyd either :slight_smile:, so I hope his new book will indeed be in line with, or at least acknowledge, Murray’s approach/revelation regarding God’s nonviolence.

¡Dios los bendiga!

Hermano


Summary of "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus" by Jeremy Myers
How should we treat and approach the Bible?
God Is A Monster At Times
Anyone familiar with "hyper-grace"?
A View of Noah's Flood, Perhaps of Interest to Universalists
Are Christians allowed to fight?
Fascinating videos, particularly the Bible's Ages one!
Is God Violent, Or Nonviolent?
Is God Violent, Or Nonviolent?
Is God The Author Of Evil?
Sodom's Sin and Restoration
Spanking in the Name of Jesus/God
Is God Violent, Or Nonviolent?
Surprising Fire
Is God Violent, Or Nonviolent?
The Purge: Election Year, Hypocrisy, and The Nature Of God
#2

On the Theos forum, I have been arguing with Steve Gregg for years as to whether God kills people, etc.

Here is one of the most recent threads you may want to examine, entitled “Who incited David to Number Israel”. I posted this title on this forum also, but didn’t receive a reaction like this:

theos.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=68&t=4816


#3

Yes, I agree with what you say in that thread, Paidion.
In “SATAN: Old Testament Servant Angel or New Testament Cosmic Rebel?,”
clarion-journal.com/clarion_ … urray.html
Murray discusses the view of scholar Jeffrey Burton Russell about that very incident of David numbering Israel. As you will see there, he says precisely same thing as you.


#4

Hi again Hermano – I’m sorry I respond with such boring posts to you. A warm welcome to EU – and it would good if you’d consider doing an Introduction thread to touch base with us here. I have read Richard Murray’s article closely and agree with a lot of what he writes. I note that Mike Hardin - who I have great respect for - has placed two podcasts dialogues with Richard at’ Preaching the Peace’ – so he’s obviously open for dialogue here (unfortunately my Computer is not reproducing those podcasts too well).

My gut instincts are that Richard is saying something important but I want to see plenty of debate about his ideas. Regarding this site – I don’t believe that God is violent and I do believe that Jesus reveals the gracious nonviolent love of God. Some others think as i do. Yet others have a different view and the last time we debated God and violence and the Bible in detail there were some ferocious and upsetting disagreements. So I see the need for caution and tolerance.

Likewise there are people on this site who believe in a personal Satan and others who do not. I am agnostic about whether Satan is personal or impersonal. For starters it strikes me that evil is the opposite of ‘personal’ which is about relationship and affirming the personhood of the other. I’m prepared to believe that evil is something beyond human personality and in that sense when it is redeemed it will be subjected to the requirements of loving relationship again – so in this sense the Satan when redeemed will regain personhood again. But evil is also without positive existence and is ultimately banal despite the terrible harm it causes. But I still find it difficult to affirm that Satan is a person in the sense that I normally use the word. I don’t think this puts me in danger of trivialising evil or of believing that I can act violently in the name of a violent God however.

Regarding Girard -

I remember somewhere Girard saying something very similar to C.S. Lewis about the balance in our beliefs about Satan should be between believing in him too much and believing in him too little.

Girard gives us anthropology rather than a theology; about how human desire works and often can cause rivalry/conflict, violence that results in evil. Although Girard does see Satan more or less symbolically, there is no reason – as far as I can see – why a person who believes in Satan as a person could not make use of Girard’s insights. Girard looks at the psychological and cultural mechanism of rivalry in desire, and how this results in the evil of the primal murder and the scapegoating mechanism. Richard Murray makes theological statements about the spiritual source of evil. IMHO they could be complementary views as opposed to alternatives. I could be wrong - but I know that there is not a single, kosher Girardian view on theological questions.

I think some of Girard’s writings do seem to be running with an original sin Augustinian anthropology. He has been critiqued regarding this by other writers such as Rebecca Adams who is a scholar who participates in Girard’s Colloquium on Violence and Religion. The Girardian consensus seems to be more like the Eastern Orthodox view that we are not born wicked but we are born into a world where there is much wickedness that to a greater or lesser extent we become enmeshed in.

Also it seems to me that because of the fruitful dialogue between Giradians and Walter Wink that Geoff has talked about – and for other reasons –
Giradians do believe in structural sin which is far bigger than individual human choices. :slight_smile:


#5

Good thread - I think this could bring about some very interesting discussion!

I don’t think that’s quite an accurate way to put it. Rather, what I would say is that Girard identifies the Accuser with the Scapegoat mechanism - Satan is the Scapegoat mechanism. Here I pause to bring up another statement so I can clarify before presenting a more accurate picture:

Now, if you’ve followed my Satan series (thread here), you’ll understand that I also do not feel Satan is meant to be taken as a literal separate personality with his (her?) own will - but rather I think “Satan” is a symbol for a corporate personality. You know how American’s talk about “Uncle Sam” as if the nation of America is a person? And we have drawings of a man with a red and white striped top-hat and red-white-and-blue vest and pants? Do we believe this is a literal separate personality with his own will? No - but this is a symbol that is useful for talking about the corporate personality of America.

I think that when we become to concerned with arguing over whether Satan is a personality that we can isolate and locate in one specific place or other, we are kind of missing the point. I am not really “atheistic” about Satan as “existing” so much as I am agnostic about it - I don’t think it’s likely that Satan is a separate personality, but I also don’t think it matters. That’s not the point of the Satan myth, and I think that if you become too focused on arguing whether or not Satan is a separate personality you’re going to be missing the point of spiritual warfare. The point of spiritual warfare is to fight against the Accusing nature which scapegoats others while pretending that the one doing the accusing is perfectly righteous. And that’s really the point of my whole enormous blog series boiled down into a very short statement.

Is it possible that there is a literal being named Satan? Sure. I don’t think it’s likely, but I have not eliminated the possibility, just as I have not eliminated the possibility that Aliens have actually visited the Earth at some point or other.

But please note that I am not throwing out all the passages where “Satan” appears in the Bible - rather, I am arguing for a view that considers the possibility that they are not meant to be taken literally, but rather as a symbol pointing to a greater truth. In essence, I am saying that “Satan” in the Bible is a signpost, and what people who argue that he must be a literal being with a separate personality are doing is focusing so heavily on the signpost that they are missing what it is pointing at.

You go on to say:

Absolutely! I would agree with this! I have argued in the past against inerrancy on my blog (here, here and here), and instead the way I think about the Bible can be summed up with the term “Progressive Revelation”. I think of Ultimate Truth as infinite, and thus no finite being can contain it within their brain. So if any finite being claims to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what Ultimate Truth is, they are very unlikely to have grasped it. Rather than seeing it as a destination, we must see Ultimate Truth as a journey. And so I think of the Bible like a scatter plot - if we focus on any point in the Bible and say “this is truth”, we will most likely miss the point. Rather, we need to see it as an arrow pointing to the infinite destination.

Absolutely - I totally agree with this, or what has also been referred to as interpreting the scriptures through “The Jesus Lens”.


#6

I should have also clarified - I don’t necessarily believe Michael and other angels were meant to be taken literally either…

Neither do I believe in “gods” - which by the way are all over the Old Testament, and even Paul leaves the possibility open in certain passages, interestingly enough.

:wink:

I hope those statements are intriguing. The whole subject of angels and demons is really fascinating once you get into it. One of the most intriguing things I discovered when I first started questioning this is that “Satan” as a character appears only 3 times in the Old Testament - with the first appearance being in a book written during Israel’s exile. So this is very late in the game. Furthermore, 2 of these instances are highly symbolic, and the other presents a direct contradiction.

And what’s really intriguing is that modern Jews do not believe in Satan as a literal being.

From judaism.about.com/od/judaismbasics/a/jewishbeliefsatan.htm:

From jewishanswers.org/ask-the-rabbi-2566/the-jewish-view-of-satan/?p=2566:

I hope that is as fascinating to you as it was to me.


#7

Thank you so much for the thoughtful comments, and the very courteous tone, my dear brethren! I counter-offer the following verses to the reasonableness of Girard’s views on evil. (This is the direction I want to move in, and I believe that you do, too. HOWEVER we can’t “freely give” these concrete actions to those around us in need until we first “receive”):

Matthew 10 Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness… As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. ***Freely you have received; freely give. ***

Mark 16 These signs will accompany us: In Jesus’ name we will drive out demons; we will speak in new tongues; we will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
In part, I am responding to Geoff’s (fatherlearningtolove) earlier statement:

“I think that when we become too concerned with arguing over whether Satan is a personality that we can isolate and locate in one specific place or other, we are kind of missing the point.”
…because, of course, evil spirits (not specifically Satan) must be successfully isolated and located in order to bring about deliverance to the afflicted.

BTW, would someone please react to Murray’s new way of reading the Old Testament called “The Bracket of Truth”?? I have honestly found it life-changing. (It is found in Murray’s article, “SATAN: Old Testament Servant Angel or New Testament Cosmic Rebel?” which I am requesting everyone to read, at
clarion-journal.com/clarion_ … urray.html )

Mil gracias. Hermano


#8

It gets a bit difficult to speak about a single unified Jewish view on many subjects, not least of which is the Satan, and that would be just staying with orthodox and ultra-orthodox circles, there are (and were among 2 Temple Jews) and wide variety of views, so some don’t view the Satan as a literal being, some do, and then there are many variations around that. Judaism doesn’t do theology in a way exactly the same as Christians do, though the central concepts of creational monotheism, election and the eschatology that comes from that tend to dominate views and discourses on the subject.

But with Christians it’s a bit more complicated then that, and leaves many views, but as I see not Scripture isn’t to be taken alone and each voice given equal weight, rather it all is both part of a whole which not only culminates in the full revelation that is found in Jesus Christ as the climax of the narrative of Scripture, but that it all comes through Him and is only understood through, in and by Him which then re-frames everything coming before, giving it it’s true light and perspective. As the cornerstone He brings illumination to previous views, ideas and concepts held previously are re-framed, turned around and understood in new and even completely different ways to how Israel had though of such things and their picture of God is given a more fuller and revolutionized understanding of things. This has it’s implications for understanding the Accuser, and both the NT and the early church tradition on the whole has tended to see it as at least at least in part referencing to a actual conscious being of some kind, or quasi-personal being if some prefer the terminology that some such as NT Wright like, though of course it was also intertwined with ideas of how it worked through human structures of government, society and people, and can be seen to refer a kingdom or influence as well. This would be the full revelation that has to griped with, not just different voices in Scripture or other sources in isolation but the total picture. And I am reluctant to leave the wisdom of the early Christians and church tradition on these matters, while not ignoring either knowledge or discussion into the complexities that surround these ideas. Particularly when I think to the increasing unknown aspects of reality, of multiple other possible dimensions to our universe, and that doesn’t take into account the complex interaction of the spheres of heaven and earth, of the seen and unseen, and how they connect and and interact, makes me even more cautious to dismiss the angelic or demonic as not being in some way actual entities.

Though I would also not agree to follow to argument as far as this article by giving the Accuser to much power, I think I’m somewhat cautious of dismissing the Satan and demonic as real entities just as much as I’m cautious of those who see the devil behind everything that goes wrong as if it were an equal to God (and I think I’m more comfortable with the former rather then those who would cast demons out of everything :wink: ). But while it seems there is much to be gained from mimetic theory and views derived from Girard but my feeling is it’s a little to much of reducing what is happening down to the symptoms alone and how accusing, anti-creational forces work, similar to saying a fever is all there is to a illness and forgetting the bacterial or viral infection. So while I think it is part of a number of useful tools to giving greater understand on how these things work through human structures, societies and people, I don’t think they can be reduced down to just them, and it certainly isn’t an either/or situation, but I do think there is much more to it then just those functions, as there is more to an infection then just the effects and symptoms.


#9

I think you’re misunderstanding me. Let me point you back to the passages you quoted so that I can clarify my position:

Note that in both of these passages, “demons” are connected with disease and sickness. Is it so unreasonable to also question whether or not demons could be that ancient culture’s way of talking about psychological sickness?

Identifying the psychological issues is, true, a way of isolating what it ailing the afflicted. But it is not the same thing as saying “a mysterious and invisible personality has done this to you”, but is rather a way of trying to understand what circumstances (or even physical issues, such as a chemical imbalance) have led to a person’s afflictions so that we can release them from that bondage. I think that when we think of demons as invisible personalities, there will always be fear. But when we understand how certain scenarios lead to psychological issues through the pain of those circumstances, we can find real freedom from those ailments - because we have isolated the behavior which led to them, and so we can avoid that behavior in the future. But when it’s an invisible personality, we never know when it will strike.


#10

I have read quite a bit of this last night, and agree with much of it… Though I do have some reservations, though I cannot quite form them into words.

As far as the demons being sickness, I am not sure I agree. If these are deeply rooted psychological issues (negative deeply rooted thought patterns), I don’t think Jesus would be able to ‘cast’ it out in that sense. I mean, he is God, so he can do anything. But that would mean that demons can be defeated by talking things over in therapy, or by the power of God. I tend to doubt both avenues would free someone of ‘demons’. If we are talking about demons in the abstract, perhaps. That said, I would suggest the opposite… Perhaps mental illness are demons! We can only see and measure the physical, so as enlightened as we are in this age, we still only see the visible.

It is the same argument when people say the brain chemistry causes depression. Or, maybe, depression and negative thought patterns cause brain chemistry to go off balance? I tend to think that is the case. But I must admit, it is a bit of chicken or the egg.


#11

I have a few thoughts for you to consider. In one section of my series on Satan (which begins here if you’re interested), I noted that in Matthew 17:14-23, we are told in some translations that the boy Jesus “casts a demon out of” is an epileptic, and in others a lunatic. There is an interesting history behind this - suffice it to say that for many centuries, epilepsy was interpreted as demons at work. We now know, scientifically, that seizures are cause by a central nervous system disorder (neurological disorder) in which the nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed. I noted in that section of my blog series on this topic:

Furthermore, you question therapy as a way to “exorcise demons”, and you seem to feel that this would diminish God’s power. But what if we consider the fact that I John 4:8 and 16 declare that God is love? The apostle Paul felt that Gentiles who have never studied Torah but act in ways that are in accordance with it show that God’s law is written on their hearts (see Romans 2:14-15) - my point being, is it not possible that even though a therapist might declare that he or she “does not believe in God”, when they patiently deal with one who suffers from psychological ailments, is it possible that this is God working through them without them even knowing? After all, could we not call their patient efforts a form of love? And if God is love…


#12

I totally understand where you are coming from, and have had those thoughts, but what holds me back is the demon called ‘legion’. Here is the sticking point for me.

  1. The demons talked to Jesus (ok, sure, maybe voices in their head?)
  2. The demons identified Jesus as ‘The Holy one of God’ (Not sure someone with a mental illness would come up with this)
  3. The demons were terrified of being tormented before the appointed time (Hard to picture someone with a mental illness doing this)
  4. The demons went into the swine and drove them crazy (this is where the rubber meets the road. If this were an illness, it would not transfer to swine like that).

Point 4 is the most compelling reason for me to believe that demons exist.


#13

Oh please please please read my blog section about that story! That story is fascinating when you start to get the background on it. It’s full of military terms - “Legion” being one of them. Try to imagine it this way - say I told you a story about a holy man who went to Vietnam, and met a demoniac. He asks the demon to state its name, and it says “my name is Napalm.” Or say I told you a story about a holy man who went to Afghanistan and met a demoniac, and he asks the demon to state its name and it replies “my name is Drone Strike.” Now you can understand how the contemporary audience of the gospels would have heard that story.

Even when the “demon” is cast into the pigs - the word used for “herd” would probably be better translated as “troop”.


#14

Hi, Hermano. Welcome to the forum!

I know you want people to focus on the article you keep linking to – and that’s okay – but this being the internet, you should get used to disappointment about that. :wink: Members tend to pass through and catch upon threads or briefly run down them and maybe spend what time-budget they have replying to points discussed in the thread.

Going off-thread to read an article and then to come back and discuss the article, isn’t unreasonable, but it takes extra time and effort that people may not have psychologically budgeted at the moment but which they think they might do later, or that someone else might do.

I’m only saying, don’t feel bad if people somehow never get around to reading and commenting on the article.

Also, I’m just passing through with a limited time and attention budget, so I haven’t read it yet either. For example. :mrgreen: But I did think I should spend a few minutes explaining why you may or may not get replies even though you’re reasonably asking people to focus discussion on the article. Could that have been time spent reading the article, instead of comments so far, and then writing up a few short paragraphs like this? Maybe! – but from an attention-budget perspective, psychologically it seemed to me that I would ‘only’ have time to do this, while who knows how much time and effort I’d need to do the other?

So don’t feel bad. People aren’t being intentionally perverse about avoiding the article you keep requesting commentary and discussion on. They want to chew over and discuss some of the things you’ve said, though, which is better than nothing. :slight_smile:


#15

I checked out your blog and read it. It is plausible, and it showed me a new perspective I have not ever read before. I’ll need to further reflect on this viewpoint. I can see you have quite a few other posts, I’ll check them out as time permits. Thanks for sharing.


#16

A few thoughts for all posters here :slight_smile:

Raise the dead is obviously figurative – now there have been some wild sects that have actually dug up dead bodies and claimed that they were going to come back to life by power of faith. But there have been no verified successes and a number of verified failures. Jesus it talking about raising people from a state of spiritual death to spiritual life surely? A similar mistake has been made by those who are literal about the imagery in the Great Commission of those of true faith being able to walk on serpents and drink poison and live I think.

Cleanse those who have leprosy – again this is difficult to interpret. We actually have a cure for leprosy today and I don’t think it would be necessary for any mission to Africa not to dispense the vaccine but instead rely on faith healing. Anyway some argues that the term for leprosy is uncertain and perhaps a form of psoriasis was meant. The cleansing of the leper came about by the embracing of leper and no longer seeing them as unclean – so this has a more general meaning about not casting people out as unclean but embracing people – especially those who are defined as outsiders in our society – as sisters and brothers.

Driving out demons – well I agree with Geoff’s analysis here. The phenomena of demon possession is not the same as ordinary mental illness. It still happens – especially in countries where there is great oppression – and it is about the human tendency to cast fears and guilt upon a vulnerable person who then is ostracised and experiences a terrible fragmentation. The person speaks with many voices because they carry the sins of their community. The person has forgotten their own name.

The Early Church fathers had a nuanced idea of disease. There were afflictions of the body – to be rued by good diet and whatever remedies had proved successful at a time when medicine was fairly primitive (although surgery was relatively sophisticated). There were afflictions of the psyche – mental and emotional – that were to be cured by a ministry of deliverance. There we afflictions of the spirit which could only be cured by the nurturing of the virtues. And there were afflictions that crossed the categories. Demonic possession was seen as an affliction of the psyche and demoniacs were to be treated with great kindness and gentleness and a rite of healing performed over them. It was only later in the Western Church that exorcism became associated with terrible violence against the person being exorcised.

If Richard Murray is correct – that we are possessed by our violent notions of God that we should rightly attribute to the Satan – then we’d need to be casting out demons from some of the more violent Christian internet stars who preach a violent God. I wonder how he suggests we should go about this apart from debating with them in a spirit of confidence – but also with as much compassion and politeness that we can too?


#17

(Bingo, Jason! But I just don’t want to throw in the towel.)

Friends, I don’t pretend to have adequately introduced Richard Murray’s approach in any way, shape, or form. But this is the most important article I have ever read. Please allow Murray to speak to you. It will be worth your time!

If you haven’t read it yet, I am asking you to prayerfully take a look. (I hope that doesn’t sound patronizing; I’m just making a heartfelt exhortation. And thank you for reading it, Sobornost.)

The goodness of God is a progressive revelation that will go on forever; and with God as my witness, I think Murray hits the bull’s-eye, and dramatically advances this revelation.

Many have rejected the God of the Bible; obviously I think Murray’s approach is crucial in getting those people–fearful people, hurting people, thinking people–to take another look.

“SATAN: Old Testament Servant Angel or New Testament Cosmic Rebel?” By Richard Murray.

clarion-journal.com/clarion_ … urray.html

PS I would be happy to upload it as a Word document, if someone will explain how…

Hermano


#18

Hermano,

I’m not going to speak for Michael H. or any other Girardian/mimetic theorist, however, my interpretation of mimetic theory leaves no room for Satan (“ha-Satan” or “the satan/accuser”) as a personal being. According to Girard, Satan is essentially the pointing finger of the scapegoating mechanism. Furthermore, echoing Walter Wink, the “principalities and powers” mentioned by Paul essentially represent the same thing–the mechanism by which we build culture through the sacrifice of scapegoats. Jesus enters this sacrificial machinery to turn it inside out. The goal is to build a new community (the Kingdom of God) that no longer requires the sacrifice of innocent victims, b/c Jesus has essentially become the last victim. A scapegoating culture requires a never-ending stream of victims, b/c the victims cover up the guilt of the community by projecting it onto the scapegoat. Jesus reverses this project by revealing rather than masking the guilt of the mob. So when we gather around Christ–the victim–rather than feel justified, we acknowledge our membership in the mob that killed him. Christ reveals our guilt so we can confess and be set free of it. Hence, from a Girardian perspective, there is no room for violence within Christian community either, b/c violence is revealed as a false foundation for civilization. As Marshall McLuhan put it, “All violence is a search for identity.” I would revise that and say violence is a substitute for identity.

Going a step further, if Satan is the pointing finger of the accuser, then from the perspective of mimetic theory, the Holy Spirit becomes the counterpoint–the voice for the defense. According to Girard, like Satan, the Holy Spirit is essentially depersonalized and becomes the awareness of the scapegoating mechanism that undoes the violent foundations of human culture. The more aware we are of scapegoating, the less power it has over us. I realize this strays a long ways from traditional evangelical Christianity, but it’s certainly a fascinating perspective on the gospel. And before you reject it based on what I’m saying here, know that I’ve only scratched the surface. You’d really want to read Girard or some of his more prominent disciples on this to see how he unpacks it.

I’ll add one final note re: angels and demons to say that my understanding of mimetic theory doesn’t really leave any room for such beings either. However, I recognize that many people working from a Girardian perspective see things differently. But I will say that this is a far larger issue than whether or not Satan, angels, or demons are in any sense real. My views on these things grow out of a wholesale revolution in terms of how I regard the Bible and the function of religion period, something I have been undergoing ever since I made “Hellbound?”


#19

My argument with Steve Gregg has been pretty hot and heavy. What do you all think about this exchange?

theos.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=44&t=4813

theos.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=68&t=4816


#20

Welcome back, Kevin! Good to see you!

I think it’s a good idea to let our few Girardians (of various sorts?) on the site deal with that side of things – only a few of us actually follow his work (myself not included), though naturally there may be overlaps.

This doesn’t mean the article Hermano keeps linking to for convenience would be of no interest for non-Girardians, of course; and the question of divine non-violence is rather a separate issue either way. Some of us on the forum argue for that in various ways (along Girardian routes or otherwise), others (like myself) find an affirmation of violence from God to fit scriptural exegesis better; and either have no philosophical problems with it (which might affect how the scriptures should be exegeted, and I certainly agree there are proper ways to do eisegesis interpreting texts by appeal to meanings established elsewhere – not necessary by appeal to scriptural data elsewhere either), or else think the most coherent and accurate philosophy even points to some level of violence to be expected by God. And of course there are degrees along that line as well.

As an administrator, however, I will ask participants to keep in mind that the question of violence is naturally an emotional one, and may moreover involve “trigger” problems for people who have themselves suffered traumatic violence; a problem which can easily be lacerated (so to speak) if God is proposed to be the authority or direct actor of violence. At the same time, people on either side of this topic may be prejudiced by their experience (and perhaps even their internal environment, whether physical or more mentally psychological), to bias in favor of one or the other side which may lead to an improper assessment of evidence or to an invalid application of principle logic. Victims of violence themselves may bias either way – some agitating for vengeance (‘Others should suffer what I or others have suffered’), others agitated by remembrance or empathy for suffering (‘no one else should suffer what I or others have suffered’). Yet again, though, even bias to the point of distorting an assessment does not necessarily invalidate all points which may be insisted upon by either side (or sides).

In short, everyone play nice, or this thread goes to the “Sensitive” category and/or may be eventually locked. :wink:

But if it comes to that, that doesn’t mean the ad/mods are trying to stifle ‘the truth’ of one or another side or are trying to persecute one or another side. We’d only be trying to tamp down an emotionally destructive spiral by “phimerooing” it – like Jesus did to the tornado on the Lake of Galilee. Which is also exactly how He treated demonic possession. Which might be a point of data worth discussing either way, by the way.