November 26, 2006

teaching with authority/david

Why he even gives his orders to evil spirits and they obey him!

I notice a parallel with my favourite passage in Mark. The calming the sea miracle recorded in 4:35-41 -- which opened my kwakersaur blog 2 years ago -- ends with Jesus' very disciples saying:
Who ever can he be? - even the wind and the waves do what he tells them!

Now that I've read Berkhof and Stringfellow as well as Wink I can see clearly that evil spirits and forces of nature were not seen as significantly different kinds of critter to Jesus' contemporaries. These were the powers and principalities, the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil (Ephesians 6).

But that just nuances the core issue for me. The crowds (and later is very disciples) just don't get it. They accept him as a teacher, they are amazed at his miracles, they don't get that he has authority over the forces which oppress their lives.

Authority is important here. It maps to my earlier discussion with crystal on omnipotence. In these stories (unlike for example the story of the woman healed of a blood issue, Mark 5:24-34) it is not some supernatural power that Jesus has that allows him to work miracles but a superhuman authority. He doesn't impose his will in some psychic power kind of way. He speaks, and the forces of destruction submit.

I know I sometimes split hairs in these scripture studies but I think this time the distinction is important. Its important in a political way. Judea is occupied by two Roman legions; it has become a province of a world empire whose emperor demands worship as the incarnation of a god. Jesus' power is not the power of an individual centurion with simply a bigger nastier sword. It is the authority of a world emperor, who commands and the individual centurions obey. Indeed, he commands even those in rebellion against him, and they obey.

It is significant in another way. One I have not integrated into my spirituality as yet. It is implicit in Mark's second prologue:
These signs will follow those who do believe: they will drive out evil spirits in my name; they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous it will do them no harm; they will lay their hands upon the sick and they will recover.

It is explicit in the gospel of John:
I assure you that the man who believes in me will do the same things that I have done, yes, and he will do even greater things than these, for I am going away to the Father. Whatever you ask the Father in my name, I will do - that the Son may bring glory to the Father. And if you ask me anything in my name, I will grant it.

You will find trouble in the world - but, never lose heart, I have conquered the world!

Since Jesus' power is an authority over the forces that oppress us, then we too as his followers have such authority. I have not figured out how to exercise that authority. And I have not figured out how to integrate it into my basic spirituality, which is one of consecration and kenosis: not my will, but thy will be done.


At 6:49 AM, Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Actually, evil spirits (a particular form of mental/emotional derangement) and forces of nature aren't seen as significantly different kinds of phenomena by mainstream scientists, either: they are both physical phenomena obeying the same set of physical laws.

It's worth noting that the expulsions of demons, the healings, the calming of storms, the immunity to poisons, the raisings of the dead, and all the other miracles referenced in the Gospels, are instances -- alongside the forgiveness of sins -- of Creation being restored from the fallenness it acquired with Adam's sin to the perfection God originally intended. This was the true point of Christ's miracles: only God can restore the Creation from the fallenness God Himself imposed on it. Thus Christ's miracles were demonstrations both of Who he was and of what God was now desiring for the world.

We get demon-possessed people here on the Web. I think you might have had one on your Kwakersaur blog, shortly before you shut it down: the person whose repeated postings you repeatedly deleted. I have often wished the Spirit granted me the power to evict the demons from such people. I do accept, though, that this is not the Spirit's current plan for me.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger forrest said...

There's a wide range of phenomena that could be described as examples of "evil spirits" at work, including not just what we call "mental illness" but also some of the delusions that afflict "normal" individuals and the groups they belong to, whether nations or churches or various specialized cliques among those "mainstream scientists." (Thinking particularly of the contemporary mania for ascribing all mental phenomena to brain-related, hopefully genetic, causes. You won't find a computer expert trying to reduce all computer problems to hardware failures; so why is an analogous absurdity dominating the mental health industry?) It isn't just a matter of human error (which requires no explanation) but of persistent, obsessive human errors, the unacknowledged thumbs on the scales of reason.

So restoring the condition of original, unfallen Creation--could be as simple as taking one's thumb off the scale. One honest observer--Jesus for example--just looking at that thumb and recognizing it for what it is. Wiley Coyote looks down, and finding himself way out in the air over the nearest cliff, falls. Or a deranged person, seeing and hearing Jesus, just can't maintain the elaborate structure of mental obstacles that has trapped him on his own mental squirrel-wheel for so very long.

Some cases are harder than others. Jesus couldn't do a thing for the reasonable or righteous. Except to "let them do their thing and then watch him die."*

Two thousand years and it's still too simple for us to see. (I'd show you if I knew what it was, myself.)

*(as in Country Joe & the Fish's song about 'Sweet Lorraine,' back in the days.)

At 5:10 PM, Blogger david said...

Actually, evil spirits (a particular form of mental/emotional derangement) and forces of nature aren't seen as significantly different kinds of phenomena by mainstream scientists, either: they are both physical phenomena obeying the same set of physical laws.

The difference between what you can mainstream scientists and the ancients is my distinction between power and authority. For physicalists influence and authority is essentially a form of power -- everything is causality. For the ancients power and energy are essentially forms of influence and authority -- everything is relational.

At 8:10 PM, Blogger forrest said...

I probably read more actual science than most people, and outside some very specific contexts, I'd have a hard time saying what a "mainstream scientist" is and how he's supposed to see things.

There's the notion of a scientific method--which is being scrupulously applied by the guy who investigates things like "Do pets really 'know' when their owner is on the way home?" and "How do we know when someone is looking at us?" And then there's all that raw newage that gets attributed to "quantum physics" (which may actually be believed by some quantum physicist--who knows?--but doesn't have much to do with it.) Basically, there's the working assumption of the game of science: "Let's see what physical mechanisms we can find and explain in nature"--which somehow gets stretched, in some people's minds, into the dogma that "Only physical explanations need apply!" (But many many people know, of their own experience, that the world doesn't really work that way.)

Similarly, there are a wide variety of beliefs held by various "ancients." Okay, we're talking about what their typical world-view was like, and how ours differs from that, and whether it should... Hmmm.

Authority was less impersonal; if an official had power, it was not because he worked for the government but because he was the friend and representative of someone closer to the top, and thus could dispense favors (or troubles) to those beneath him.

So Jesus, in this model of authority, has power, because of his relation to God, to order the various elements of the world about, not by superior strength or knowledge of their ways, but by his hierarchical relation to them?

There's causation in personal relationships, too--unless you want to imagine that whatever happens can be unrelated to whatever went before.

I'm missing one point or another here. God has power to cause whatever happens. But He doesn't usually make the peppers in my garden appear, "Zap!" nor does He order them to "Become ripe right NOW!" nor (I think) does He ask them if they feel like ripening yet and when they'd like to get on with it. He does things in a way that lets the present develop out of the past in a "natural" manner. Which does not tie Him to being the mere enforcer of "deterministic" "natural laws", but does impose an artistic constraint: "No discontinuities, usually"--which He is not required to honor, except that too many exceptions would make the whole past/present/future schema rather moot.

I find that the physical events which God manifests, to and around me, are in some sense appropriate to the mental/emotional-&-spiritual things that I "do" (although those "internal" events are equally manifestations of God's activity.) Does it make sense to break the series of such events into causal chains? It's all "personal," in one sense. But not at all arbitrary.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger david said...

One distinction between power and authority -- authority requires at least a passive consent/compliance. God is omnipotence, yet God does not (or at least rarely) acts with the zap! fiat. Authority requires the acknolwedgement of those under authority -- God to be God needs our complicity.

At 12:33 PM, Blogger forrest said...

"God said to Abraham, 'Kill me a son.'

Abe said, 'God, you must be putting me on.'

God said 'Abe.'

Abe said 'What?'

God said, 'You can do what you want, Abe, but

next time you see me coming, you'd better run.' " (Bob Dylan)

How much complicity does a 2X10^6 lb Gorilla really need? Even if it's well behaved, and loves us... It's our Daddy, and it loves us. If we're not up to giving "informed consent", we might just get a ride to the vet anyway! Not being rude, just looking after us.


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