RE: Coercion

From: Gough, Joshua <xzg3@cdc.gov>
Date: Mon Apr 19 2004 - 14:16:10 EDT

Why should we see ourselves as positioned at (or near) the top of the
mountain in a universe that has yielded no signs of other intelligent
life?
It has never stopped anyone serious from speculating about why we
don't detect them.

My observations are not about seeing humanity at the top of any
mountain. They are about what can be observed now in the present day and
age. When looking at history, we cannot prove anything. We can only make
estimations about what is most likely to have taken place. I think your
idea about speculation is a good one, because it was speculation and
skepticism that lead to our modern day and lead to diagnoses that
pointed to non-supernatural demonic reasons behind mental illnesses. I
would be very saddened if as we progress into the 21st century there
exist more belief in demonic forces causing mental illness.

Admittedly, it is of little use to speculate on the mechanisms of
transfer
between humans, spirits and swine, but one must also wonder if a
Christ in a tangibly active earthly ministry would not provoke such
observables. There is no denying that Jesus _could_ have been a
mere charlatan, nevertheless, we are left with an account, and a
Christian
accepts on faith the honesty of the witness: irrespective of what may
seem parsimonious to presume in the minds of others.

I disagree on this. What is at issue is the very nature of the universe.
If the story is literal, then Christ moved supernatural beings from one
physical host to several others. There could be two ways he did this.
The first way requires that we view the story totally literally in that
the man was possessed by separate beings and Christ moved them from him
to the pigs. The second way would be that Christ, the divine controller
of the cosmos, made the man appear to be demon possessed, and
orchestrated the entire thing through his own divine action. If we are
skeptical of the claim there are several possibilities. One is that it
was staged by Christ and one of those tending to the swine. Another is
that it is fictional, meant to illustrate some theological message not
dependent on a literal reading.

To accept such an account as literal in a day when there exists
absolutely zero documentary pieces of evidence of this type of thing
occurring is not feasible to my mind. To do so, I would be forced to
conclude similar things about other miracle stories from non-Christian
stories, unless I am to assume as a pastor told me that "demonic" forces
did it. This is a "demon of the gaps" theory that I find reprehensible
and irresponsible to say the least. The events of 9/11 were murderous
acts by men. Those militant martyrs of Islam are not in heaven right
now.

This "demons did it" recourse forces us into a corner where there are
several possibilities as I can envision it. If demons are responsible
for the supernatural activity outside of Christianity, and angels
responsible for the good stuff, then why are so many of the things
attributed to Satan so purely reducible to physical causes? I cannot
believe that Satan is behind the 9/11 attacks except as a
personification of evil. If I am to assume that demons are real, as the
Jesus of several Gospel accounts believed and interacted with, and I am
to believe that the "young man" who was in the tomb in Mark, but became
an "angel" in other gospels are real, then what am I to make of this
great "spiritual war?" I am to assert that there exists a tenuous
balance between Satan and God such that miraculous manifestations of the
demonic never be captured on film irrefutably. Instead, they manifest
through actions of men which are otherwise reducible to physical laws.
The Satan of the gaps gets smaller and smaller the more you think about
it.

The other possibility is that demons and Satan do not exist literally
and that the stories about Jesus "casting" out demons is not literally
true.

I do not have a predisposition to unbelief in the supernatural. I have a
predisposition to believe in the natural until otherwise proven
different. Absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence, but
surely presence of evidence is evidence of presence.

-Josh

 
Received on Mon Apr 19 14:17:13 2004

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