Question: Does all sin come from the Devil?
Just something that was raised in a conversation last night. Can we blame all sin on the Devil, as the root cause, or are we just as much to blame in our human selves? I initally thought, yes of course it all comes from him, because after events in the Garden of Eden we all carry that sin from the original sin. But do we assume that the serpent in the garden was an embodiment of the Devil or a symbolic representation of him? Can we? Or was the serpent merely used by the Devil to do his evil work? And even so, are we giving too much credit to the enemy by saying that all our sins come from him?
As humans we carry the legacy of that original sin with us, whether we sin for ourselves or not, (not that I have ever met anyone who has not siined for themselves!) so by default we are sinners. But from that, are any sins we carry out now derived from that which we hold inside us as the original sin? or are they merely our own human reactions and responses to external factors and forces on our lives? Can one separate the two?
I am not sure now whether it is as obvious as I first thought!
Love to know other thoughts…
Lesley FellowsMay 4, 2010 at 3:44 pm
Mmmm…. well… seeing as I don't believe in the Devil and I don't subscribe to the theology of original sin then I guess I think it is our human selves, although that is mitigated by our background, our experiences, our personalities and whether someone has just offered us a chocolate bar and a glass of Chianti 🙂
Alan CrawleyMay 4, 2010 at 3:54 pm
Irenaeus had a different take on things.
Lesley FellowsMay 4, 2010 at 4:05 pm
Different take to who?
JulesMay 4, 2010 at 5:10 pm
Lesley, out of interest, do you believe in any force of evil? as in something that can adversely affect us as humans?
Alan CrawleyMay 4, 2010 at 7:33 pm
Different take to the fall. Suggesting that evil comes from God – which as we were taught in theodicy it must have done somehow as if God created everything He must have created the evil we see (unless it isn't evil, but only appears so).
Lesley FellowsMay 4, 2010 at 7:36 pm
Umm.. tricky question..
I have been a Christian 26 years now and believed in the Devil up until my abyss experience, say 8 years ago..
When I went through the abyss it was as if I threw all the Christian clothes in my wardrobe that I had acquired over the previous 18 years and had a sort out – some were just plain wrong, others didn't fit etc.. I have been pretty careful what I put back in and the 'devil' stuff is still on the floor, undecided. It is difficult because I did have an experience with a 'demon' early in my Christian life that perhaps causes me to think such things exist, on the other hand, I have been so much happier, freer and psychologically healthy since the Devil has gone from my belief system, plus much more able to be unafraid and take responsibility for my own behaviour.
So I am undecided but I can't imagine ever believing in a force of evil again. I do think there are psychological forces that act in such ways and I have known two narcissists who present as evil.. but I explain that in psychological terms.
Lesley FellowsMay 4, 2010 at 7:38 pm
Thanks for the history of theology lesson 🙂 So what do you believe, or are you sitting on the wall?
JulesMay 5, 2010 at 11:45 am
thanks for that. As I'm sure you are aware mamy of my clothes are still on the floor… (actually they literally are too…!)
So… another question, those who present as evil, why are they that way? Do you not think that there could be something behind it – other than human life experiences? What about people who have been 'set free' from addictions/illness/'demons' ? How would you explain this? Can't just be mind over matter can it?
You see, pre-my renewal of faith I didn't really believe in the Devil either but in that whole process it's one of the big things that has made me really understand it all, that there is a force of evil.
Also what about withcraft/curses etc? Do you believe that these can actually be used for evil? and if so where does the power behind them come from?
BTW I'd be interested to hear about the demon experience.
and yes, come on Alan – whats your view?!
Alan CrawleyMay 5, 2010 at 1:23 pm
With my belief in the via negativa, discussed here I do not believe in a God who can be proven to be interventionist – and hence in the same way do not believe in an interventionist Devil. However, I can accept that talk of the Devil is a helpful metaphor for evil.
For me evil comes about as part of the Free Will argument in theodicy. If you accept that God made everything then He must have made evil too – so there must be a reason – which leads to the "Best Possible World" argument. However, I don't believe these in total – there has to be some mystery for me – and so whilst the rational part of me would argue against a devil there is a part of me which doesn't know!
As for witchcraft etc – for me the power comes from the power that we give to them.
Lesley FellowsMay 5, 2010 at 2:25 pm
Those who present as evil, really evil, I believe are generally suffering from anti-social personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder. They have possibly been exposed to extreme abuse and cruelty and to survive have put a mask up of 'I don't care about anyone else' or 'I need to look after number 1, sod the rest of them'. Inside there is emptiness and self hatred but the true self is hidden, and buried, only the false self shows. In time the real self is no longer there at all.. sadly.
Set free from addictions – I was with an addict for 26 years so I understand addiction pretty well. I believe it is something to do with the part of the brain that experiences the boost from dopamine. We all like dopamine – when we each chocolate or have sex or smoke a joint or whatever, it triggers this and we like it. Addicts seem to need a constant supply of dopamine.. I believe it truly is a disease. The best way of dealing with it is the 12 step programme, the worst way is when people get 'healed' in a Christian group. They drop out of the programme, they are 'better' for a while, but they are still an addict, and in fact they are still 'using' – it is just that religious groups and worship services can trigger the dopamine supply, especially if it is pretty hyped. Addicts are brilliant at swapping one addiction for another.
I don't know about illnesses – can you give me an example? I do believe the brain is very powerful.
I'm with Alan that we give the power to witchcraft and curses, although there may be something in the Jungian beliefs of the collective unconscious… so groups can suffer because of the evils done long ago in a place because somehow we are all connected..
I would be interested in your journey of understanding of evil and the difference it has made to you.
I'll post about the demon experience tomorrow.
JulesMay 5, 2010 at 2:32 pm
hmm… ok I think I like the idea of the via negativa – mostly. I certainly agree that God is so godly/divine/mystical that we cannot possibly define what 'God' is and as you say, there has to be some mystery. But I do have issues with some aspects, eg:
'God is divinely simple (one should not claim that God is one, or three, or any type of being.)'
but the Trinity, the three in one ideal, is central to Christianity so how can we not use that as a descriptive reference to God?
I can accept that God also made evil or a lack of good – as in the free will argument; that in order to have strong faith and to believe we need to suffer.(as Paul says, 'when I am weak, then I am strong'). Indeed one could almost say that without 'evil' what need would there be for a 'good' God? but thats another post entirely.
However I can't get past this idea of an actual presence of evil though. Partly from hearing and reading thigns but mainly from scripture which talks of an actual Devil in person. Even if I accept that much of the bible is symbolic, this I can't get past. I think this might be one of those things that hangs on the wardrobe door for a while…
and although we've gone off the original question about sin, here's another thing thats bugging me: what about hell? the afterlife? presumably neither of you believe in hell either? and if not then what about heaven?
Sorry, questions, questions… how long does stage 4 go on for? someone help me out here!
JulesMay 5, 2010 at 2:34 pm
Hi Lesley. sorry we must have been typing at the same time, will think on what you said and reply in a mo, thats if these customers go away… 🙂
JulesMay 5, 2010 at 2:48 pm
Ok, I can see that mind altering disorders and mental health issues can make one seem ‘evil’, but where did the original bad thing come from? I mean, so people with these kind of issues probably have them due to an experience that happened to them usually in their formative years (although I do have a friend with schizophrenia who I seriously doubt suffered any great childhood issues). But what about those people who caused the suffering upon them – did something awful happen to them? And their parents before them and before them? Where did it all come from if not an original sin or evil?
Yes I agree about the addiction thing that some addicts would just replace one thing with something else, including Christianity – I have even described getting faith as like an addiction. Our curate used to work in a church in London and made exactly the same argument. I also have been close to someone who has had an addiction for over 20 years. But there are plenty of cases where this doesn’t happen – where the individual stays off, and stays with God – have you read David Wilkersons ‘The Cross & The Switchblade?’ It’s fairly old now but an amazing true account of God working in inner city New York.
In terms of illness I mean people being healed from serious illness. I have to admit to not knowing anyone personally to whom this has happened but of course I’ve heard plenty of accounts, some more believeable than others. But I really meant in terms of whether the Devil can present in someone with illness symptoms that can be released – I guess like a manifestation of a demon. A close friend of mine was present when a demon was cast out of someone and his account of it is totally convincing. This goes on to my journey of understanding of evil – which I’ll post about separately as this is getting quite long!
Lesley FellowsMay 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm
I'll look forwards to your next post 🙂
I must admit that I am now dubious about my own first hand account, things can seem very different in memory to the way they are in reality. I used to live in America and remembered the MASSIVE scary hill I used to bravely cycle down. When I went back to the house years later it was seriously hardly an incline.
I have read the cross and the switch blade, and I have heard accounts.. But if I doubt my own experiences now, how can I begin to evaluate those of others? Our brains are brilliant – they interpret – they see faces in the bushes to help us avoid enemies, our eyesight comes to us through a complex set of interpretations.. we can be sure that the testimony is earnest, but can be so sure it is accurate?
Lesley FellowsMay 5, 2010 at 3:37 pm
Sorry – really horribly tired today so not answering all your questions very well.. this probably answers your question about my after life thoughts:
And where did the first bad thing come from – well we make bad choices – I've smacked my kids when I didn't know better and regretted it.. doesn't mean I am inherently evil and inclined to sin – just that I was tired and desperate.. doesn't mean that the devil tempted me either..
Alan CrawleyMay 5, 2010 at 5:04 pm
I have no doubt that people can recover from serious illnesses in ways that science cannot explain, however, if we believe in a God who wants to remain hidden so that He relies on faith (see here) then intervention is unprovable. Intervention also has problems as it leads to the question about people who are prayed over and do not get better. What happened to them? Did they not have enough faith? Did God say no? Bishop Jack Spong's first wife died of cancer and lots of people said that they would pray for her. He said that he was uncomfortable at the idea that God might save her because he happened to know more people than the dustman whose wife also had cancer. And as for people who pray for parking spaces – I refuse to believe in a God who finds his favourites parking spaces but allows others to suffer in pain and agony.
As for Hell. I am the friend who said that if God sends people to hell I would rather be there with them than in heaven with that kind of God! I am a universalist – could you condemn one of your children whatever they did? If you can't why can God?
Alan CrawleyMay 5, 2010 at 5:11 pm
Whoops – and I missed a couple of bits!
The Trinity – there is a saying that more heresy is preached on Trinity Sunday than any other day – by accident! The Trinity is complicated – if you can explain what it means (and clovers and tripods etc don't) simply then good for you.
Stage 4 – I think I was going through the transition for 20 years – I had a bad experience when I expressed some doubts and was told that the church would be better off without people like me – so I kept my head down. For me the start of the end was when I was asked to speak on Good Friday and felt I had to say where I was – and I expected to be thrown out afterwards – instead I was welcomed and that "allowed" me to start looking at things that I had avoided for all those years. There was then about 6-9 months of working through it until I knew I was called.
JulesMay 5, 2010 at 6:33 pm
oh great, hope I don't have another 19 years to go… 😉
in terms of Trinity the best way I have heard it talked about is like water. Water can be liquid, gas (as steam) or solid (as in ice). So one thing can be 3 things. very simple and kind of makes the point without being too deep, if indeed at all deep.
I'm not ignoring the other points, just mulling them over..
SuemMay 5, 2010 at 8:38 pm
I don't know if I believe in a "personal devil" who is an "entity" as such. I do believe in pure evil though and that a force/ source of pure evil exists. To me, evil is the opposite of all that is Godly, so literally the "anti-Christ".
Can good exist without evil as the other side of the coin? I guess not. But then, evil could never be defeated and "every tear wiped away" – and I am kind of counting on that promise and that hope of a paradise!
You see, that's the problem with theology – it takes you so far and then you say "dunno really"….well, I do anyway:)
Alan CrawleyMay 5, 2010 at 9:35 pm
Our theology lecturer told us that he wouldn't give us a good mark for saying "its a mystery". However, what I discovered was that if you worked through everything, and then said "its a mystery" he would give you a good mark!
Mystery = jargon for "dunno really" 🙂
JulesMay 6, 2010 at 11:05 am
LOL!! well ultimately I guess none us will really know until we kick the bucket….!!
Lesley FellowsMay 8, 2010 at 11:02 am
Been a bit poorly so haven't posted as I said I would.. but I have put something up about my thoughts about the Devil tomorrow..
It turned into such a long post that I didn't include my demon experience so I'll put it here.
I was 14 and went to a church where odd charismatic things were happening. I heard a strange voice and saw a group of people clustered around a man. His face was contorted in a way that I felt impossible and he looked demonic, he spoke in a voice that was not his own, in my opinion. But when I look back, what did I really see? I know that I can remember things differently than they really were, perhaps I was spooked and my imagination did the rest. Also, subsequently, I have heard a person in a 'state' who was schizophrenic and his voice sounded 'demonic' too…